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Local Jews to participate in Palestinian conference

"We determined that as an organization we would rather be building bridges with people than building walls."

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This week the Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference will be held at Duke University. The conference has stirred the passions of the Jewish and non-Jewish communities at Duke, locally and across the country. Petitions have been circulated and signed, letters of protest have been sent to the university and organized response programs have been publicized. I do not subscribe to all the guiding principles of the PSM conference. But that in no way undermines my belief in the right of PSM to organize and convene a conference to facilitate their campaign to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I am currently part of an organization, Jews for a Just Peace, North Carolina (JFAJP-NC) that has endorsed the conference and is offering a workshop entitled "An American Jewish Anti-Occupation Perspective." JFAJP-NC is a local group of Jews who came together to offer an alternative voice to that traditionally heard with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All members have agreed to the following mission statement:

Jews for a Just Peace North Carolina is committed to a just and peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We call for safe and secure states for Israel and Palestine, reached through a cessation of violence against civilians, respect for human rights, and an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Beyond this we represent a diverse array of perspectives on the other issues surrounding the conflict as well as the best path toward its end. JFAJP-NC chose to endorse and participate in the conference despite individual members' strong reservations regarding the central issue of the conference--divestment and, more importantly, the failure of PSM to take a stand against violence against civilians.

Some members have also objected to the double standard of some Jewish groups that insist that Palestinian groups condemn the killing of innocent civilians by suicide bombers but refuse to insist that Israeli groups similarly condemn the killing of innocent civilians by the Israeli military or settlers. Despite our points of contention with the PSM and some Jewish groups, we determined that as an organization we would rather be building bridges with people than building walls. That is why we have welcomed opportunities to engage the Jewish community and why we want to take advantage of this opportunity to engage people attending the PSM conference.

JFAJP-NC will be at the conference to listen, to promote dialogue, to open the door to debate, to offer alternative perspectives, and to find a path for those in support of peace, justice and human rights to work together. This is not an issue of being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli, but pro-peace, pro-justice and pro-human rights for all people.

Peace will not be accomplished through the spreading of misinformation, the hardening of stereotypes, the threatening of a host institution, or the discouraging of participation. If peace is ever to be achieved, that means listening to, talking with and challenging the other. It means attempting to understand the opposing perspective, to feel the passion, the hurt and the anger. The path to ending the cycle of violence involves active listening, participation, interaction, education, dialogue, debate and understanding. What is needed is a willingness to move beyond the pain and anger, beyond the rhetoric, in the hopes of a future in which both Israelis and Palestinians live in peace and security.

I would encourage all to attend the PSM conference. Don't miss this unique opportunity to get involved.

The Palestinian Solidarity Movement conference is Oct. 15-17 at Duke University. The Freeman Center for Jewish Life at Duke will hold a concert and rally against terror on Oct. 14 and workshops, lectures and a teach-in on Oct. 15-16. For more information, go to Duke's Web site on the conference at www.dukenews.duke.edu/psm/index.html.

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