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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Engagement, not animosity

Published: November 12, 2010
Section: Editorials

Too often in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we listen to speakers, activists, students and professors voice their opinions, yet these talks accomplish little to no progress. Both sides adamantly express their beliefs about Israel and its policies, yet refuse to yield any ground to the opposing and at times, equally passionate and informed side.

This week at Brandeis, we were fortunate to have a variety of activists speak about Israel in addition to student demonstrations on both sides.

These speakers were brought to campus with the intention of providing an outlook on the conflict and ultimately pushing students to engage in conversation and express their opinions. Yet in an example of narrow-minded refusal to listen, at a speech given by famed linguist, political theorist and MIT professor Noam Chomsky, a group of 50 or more students participated in an organized walk-out of the event.

While we appreciate that the protest was peaceful and did not pose a serious interruption to the event, we are disappointed by the fact that the walk-out took valuable seats away from other students who were interested in attending the limited-capacity speech.

We wish that groups on campus would be more considerate of each other and would respect opposing groups’ events.

Better yet, we would like to see groups on campus attending opposing groups’ events with the intent of learning and engaging in meaningful conversation. Going into an event with the intention of walking out is a prime indicator that the walkers don’t intend to be open-minded.

If these students had stayed at Thursday’s lecture, as difficult as it may have been for some, they would have had the opportunity to ask challenging and stimulating questions to a world-renowned academic whomfugu they disagreed with. Even if they disagreed with each thing Chomsky said, these students missed a valuable opportunity to confront someone they so strongly opposed on factual grounds with reasoned argument. And Brandeis once again missed an opportunity to engage in a meaningful discussion that could one day lead to action. Not acrimony.

Informed, reasonable conversation between students, speakers and even the highest political officials, with both sides coming to the table actually listening and willing to compromise, is the only way we will someday see a peaceful end to this centuries-long conflict.