Student impressed by AIPAC’s commitment to peaceby jessica reiter
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The March 14 op-ed titled “When will AIPAC start cheering for peace?” discussed the 2014 policy conference held in early March, which I attended as one of 2,300 students and as AIPAC’s campus liaison at U.C. Davis. This was my first policy conference, and it was an inspirational, life-changing experience for me.
I learned about AIPAC’s initiatives to build coexistence, heard people on both sides of the issue talk about how they are working for peace, developed a better understanding of the complexities and strengthened my understanding of the current peace negotiations.
A highlight was seeing two teenagers, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, talking together onstage about the importance of peace, coexistence and the dream of a brighter future for their respective peoples.
Recently, AIPAC has been accused of presenting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that dehumanizes the Palestinian people, which is not what I observed at the policy conference.
Instead, AIPAC offered different perspectives and initiatives, including many people-to-people peace efforts. One remarkable panel on civilian coexistence featured Yarden Leal-Yablonka of the Peres Center for Peace; Robi Damelin of the Parents Circle–Families Forum; and Ali Waked, an Arab Israeli who is deputy director of Merchavim–the Institute for the Advancement of Shared Citizenship in Israel.
I also heard the moving story of Robi Damelin, a mother who personally understands the human costs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Her son was on reserve duty when he was killed by a Palestinian sniper, and she now participates in a forum for hundreds of Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost close family members in the conflict and who are working to promote reconciliation and a just solution.
I also heard perspectives from speakers such as Ghaith al-Omari, executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, which is committed to strengthening Palestinian-American relations. Al-Omari has served in different senior positions in the Palestinian Authority, including foreign policy adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. With his background and experience, al-Omari offered the Palestinian view of prospects for peace in the current negotiations.
I witnessed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stand in front of 14,000 members of the pro-Israel political community and call for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, which the audience answered with a rousing standing ovation.
Some students may not care much for Israel, and others may care a lot for Israel. I was simply impressed that America’s pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is committed to peace, coexistence and a two-state solution.
Jessica Reiter was raised in the North Bay and is a second-year student at U.C. Davis, where she is the AIPAC campus liaison.
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