Those of us that spent hours sitting through the Divestment proceedings at UC Berkeley were uniformly dismayed at the bitter decisiveness of the issue. Good people on both sides, convinced of the justice of their position engaged for hours without accomplishing a thing. Many of us wondered- How can we take the energy and passion of these acticvists and channel it towards positive change?
Students at Stanford may have developed a workable stategy. Why not channel efforts to help the organizations in the Middle east that work to build co-existence? Why not work to strenthen the organizations that promote economic, social and cultural bonds between the people of the region? There are many. In Hadassah Hopital nominated for a Nobel Prize in 2005, Arab doctors treat Jewish Patients. Jewish doctors treat Arab patients. Consistent with its philosophy of equal treatment and equal employment opportunities for all, the Hadassah Medical Organization has always embodied the concept that medicine serves as a bridge to peace. Save a Child's heart an Israeli-based international humanitarian project, whose mission is to improve the quality of pediatric cardiac care for children from developing countries including Palestinian children. The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies is a regional center for environmental leadership. With a students from Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Israelis, and around the world the Arava Institute encourages environmental education nad cooperation between all peoples.
Students at Stanford Unniversity have taken this concept a step further, with their innovative "Invest for Peace " program.
One powerful line from the hours-long debate at Berkeley came from the Cal Chabad Rabbi. He made the point that you cannot fight darkness with darkness; you must fight darkness with light. A negative campaign against alleged abuses will only bring more negativity and damage. And, it will not address the issues or solve the problems – it will only cause further polarization and make peace even more elusive. In my experience with divestment when applied to this conflict, damage is wrought, but nothing positive comes of it. In the past, divestment campaigns helped combat apartheid in South Africa and genocide in Darfur. However, the divestment campaign against Israel is a crass bludgeon, which reduces an incredibly complex situation to euphemisms and demonizations.
Therefore, the Stanford Israel Alliance chooses to invest, and we hope you will join us. We agree that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is deep, complex, and painful. We support the Palestinian people in their desire for an independent state alongside the State of Israel. To that end, we wish to help the Palestinian people build up their infrastructure and economy, which will be the basis for a future state.
In the coming weeks, Stanford Israel Alliance will be raising awareness and support for two NGOs that are working to improve Palestinian and Israeli society. Lendforpeace.org is a microfinance organization based in the Palestinian Territories, inspiring entrepreneurship among Palestinians. The Peres Institute for Peace is an Israeli organization that builds connections between Israeli and Palestinian businessmen, environmentalists, and civil leaders to forge common frameworks between the two peoples.
Our goal is to move past the venomous rhetoric that divestment inspires and attempt to tackle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict from a positive perspective. It is our responsibility as Stanford students to help foster a more nuanced understanding of the issues, and to deal with the legitimate grievances that exist.
The Stanford model can be used by caring students across the country. Invest in Peace. Find and support organizations that work to bring people together, not ones that tear people apart. More co-existence, more interaction, stonger cultural and economic ties are the path to peace.