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‘Israel at 75’ presents a unique opportunity

Photos courtesy Leigh Gabriely and Ari Vilker

By Leigh Gabriely and Ari Vilker     4/18/23 9:57pm

Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion that has been submitted by a member of the Rice community. The views expressed in this opinion are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the Thresher or its editorial board. All guest opinions are fact-checked to the best of our ability and edited for clarity and conciseness by Thresher editors.

The initiative to reject Rice University’s Israel at 75 conference is rooted in hatred and performative anger. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is an issue that has plagued many for decades — people have lost their homes, friends, families and lives. This issue is nuanced and convoluted beyond most Rice students’ comprehension, including our own. The Baker Institute is not attempting to diminish these issues or glorify Israel’s actions over the past 75 years. By hosting this conference, it is simply acknowledging that this conflict continues to be one of the defining dilemmas of our time and one that deserves attention, especially at a center of education such as Rice University. 

By encouraging the average student at Rice who lacks deep understanding regarding the occupation to protest and boycott the conference, we are discouraging people from listening to those who are personally involved in the issue, perpetuating both hatred and the conflict itself. Why not encourage people to attend, and come with questions and criticisms? The speakers are coming from a plethora of backgrounds related to the conflict, and it is in all of our interests to listen, regardless of whether we agree with what they have to say. Among the panelists are Israeli leaders who offered unprecedented concessions of peace, current U.S. ambassadors to numerous Middle Eastern countries, esteemed Ivy League professors, and the former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. If this group of people isn’t allowed to have productive discourse, what group is? And who are we to deny them this platform? 

The urge to shut down any conversation related to this painful topic is understandable, but the opportunity to foster exciting new dialogue among this diverse group of leaders, while providing us mostly uninformed Rice students the rare chance to educate ourselves on a complex global issue from the people attempting to solve the issue firsthand, is a unique occasion that everyone involved should recognize, not shut down.

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