Ali Abunimah, a commentator on Arab-American and Middle Eastern affairs, addressed the options of peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict before a receptive crowd of UI students and community members on Wednesday night.
The mood was somber as the social-policy researcher dedicated his speech about the merits of a binational state to those who have died in skirmishes between the two groups, including several Iowans.
“I feel a great sense of responsibility that what we say here tonight - everything we say is in seriousness - so much is at stake,” he said.
Denouncing Israeli policies such as the construction of the separating wall and creating “settlement blocks” of Jewish settlers, the Palestinian-American said that Israel has rendered the idea of two separate states impossible.
He also condemned “illegitimate forms” of Palestinian violence, such as suicide bombings as “resistance that stands in the way of peace.”
A binational solution, which has been proposed off and on since the 1920s, would create a secular state in the Palestinian territories shared by Jewish and Arab populations. Occupied territories would be annexed to Israel, with Palestinian residents gaining citizenship and rights equal to current citizens.
Abunimah stressed that although a binational state may be “too remote, too utopian,” a
resolution to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is necessary now more than ever as the Arab population becomes a majority in the territory. He called upon the responsibility of the Palestinians, Israelis, and the United States to make peace, urging the end of U.S. military aid to Israel.
“We often see the world as full of conflict, but it is easy to forget that the world is full of reconciliation, too,” he said.
An outspoken critic of international and U.S. media, the frequent newspaper columnist spoke before the event about media prejudice against Palestinians - the reason he co-founded websites concerning Middle Eastern political and social issues.
“We felt there was a major gap in the media, particularly in the United States, when it comes to Palestinians,” he said.
UI senior Giancarlo Diviacchi said he had a tendency to see things from an Israeli point of view before the speech.
“What [Abunimah] was talking about makes sense,” Diviacchi said. “I’m not as biased toward the Israelis as I was.”
This kind of open-mindedness was what co-sponsors People for Justice in Palestine, the UI General Union of Palestine Students, and Iowans for Peace in Iraq had hoped for.
“We want to build awareness in Iowa City about a peaceful solution to Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” said Yaser Abu Dagga, a UI alum and member of People for Justice in Palestine. “Peace is a wonderful thing to accomplish.”