Campaigns host joint Middle East debate

May 25, 2010, 1:03 a.m.
Campaigns host joint Middle East debate
Yishai Kabaker (left) and Fadi Quran (right) discussed the history of conflict in the Middle East and the University-related debate over divestment. The event was jointly sponsored by CRH and IFP. (Courtesy of Chloe English)

After weeks in the campus spotlight, the debate over divestment from companies in the Middle East region came to a head on Monday at a discussion jointly sponsored by two opposing campaigns. Fadi Quran ’10, an organizer for Campaign Restore Hope (CRH), and Yishai Kabaker ’10, an organizer for Invest for Peace (IFP), debated the history of conflict in the region as well as possible solutions and ways for students to get involved.

The debate came as the final of three events co-sponsored by the two groups. Quran spoke last Sunday about his experiences growing up in the West Bank; Chaya Gilboa, a visiting fellow at UC-Berkeley, spoke last Monday about her experiences in Jerusalem during the First Intifada.

Law professor Allen Weiner moderated the debate between Quran and Kabaker, who spent the first part of the debate considering the wider picture of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the region, touching upon Israeli and Palestinian policy approaches to conflict resolution.

Kabaker, who advocated investment, said that despite several compromise offers and United Nations resolutions, Palestinians have not sought to establish their own state but have instead tried to undermine Israel.

“The Palestinians, by going through militant institutions, rather than through grassroots campaigns, usurp the ability of the Palestinian people to accomplish peaceful means,” Kabaker said, emphasizing what he called “the rejection of numerous Israeli peace offers.”

“The Palestinian people have not worked to build a state for themselves,” he added. “They’ve worked to undermine the Jewish state.”

Quran, in response, said the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations have not allowed Palestinians the opportunity to establish a peaceful state.

“Certainly, Palestinian policies do need to be changed,” he said. “But to say that Palestinians have not built their country and instead focused on destroying Israel is false. Israel prevents Palestinians from building a state through the policies they implement.”

Kabaker, in turn, spoke in favor of a two-state solution with “high standards” for Palestine’s actions.

“They need to learn to accept a Jewish state as their neighbor,” he said. “They don’t need to love us, but they need to tolerate us.”

On the topic of options for student involvement, each speaker emphasized the basic goals of their respective campaigns. CRH aimed to ensure that Stanford does not invest in any companies that are aiding human rights violations and IFP encouraged students to invest in non-profits that help habitants of the region.

“Ultimately, the motivations for divestment is in de-legitimizing Israel, which does nothing to benefit the Palestinian people,” Kabaker said. He said people should instead invest and “put their money where their mouth is” by building up individuals.

Quran disagreed, saying the cause of conflict needed to end before reparations could begin.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to give a Palestinian woman $50 to open a supermarket and then give a company $50,000 in American investments that might help the Israeli military,” he said.

In the question-and-answer session that followed, CRH organizer Mohammad Ali ’10 said he was still unsure “why divestment and investment are mutually exclusive,” and asked why Kabaker found divestment hurtful.

“The divestment tactics used here are focused against Israel,” Kabaker said. “By bringing up this debate every two years, you’re bringing up the language of ‘Israel is apartheid,’ ‘Israel is a criminal state.’ You should instead focus your message toward Israelis.”

Weiner also called on Lee Ross, a psychology professor, who spoke in favor of increased dialogue.

“I think one of the things that tonight illustrates is that all sides are right,” Ross said. “Both sides have a legitimate position.”

According to Chloe English ’13, who is involved with IFP, this is the last joint event that the two campaigns will put forth this school year. She said she was pleased with the debate’s ability to “get people talking” and called it a “productive dialogue.” Other students agreed with the debate’s accomplishments.

“I was impressed that [Kabaker and Quran] managed to sit and talk to each other,” said David Sabeti ’11. “I was frustrated that they got stuck in the ruts of their respective talking points, but I think that was a little unavoidable.”

Ellen Huet is currently a senior staff writer at The Daily; she joined the staff in fall 2008 and served one volume as managing news editor in fall and early winter of 2010-2011. Reach her at ehuet at stanford dot edu. Fan mail and sternly worded complaints are equally welcome.

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