Iowa Hillel aims to spread Israel conflict awareness


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With a recent escalation in Middle East tensions, one local organization is working on bringing awareness to campus in a simplified manner.

Iowa Hillel offered individuals the opportunity to write letters to U.S. senators and congressmen thanking them for supporting Israeli efforts Monday afternoon at the IMU River Room.

Acting as a platform and voice, the Jewish student-oriented organization aims to help individuals looking to become educated on the religious, political, and environmental background of Judaism.

UI sophomore and Hillel Co-President Sammie Marks said the event was important to educate people on Israel’s behalf, because national news stories often portray Israel as a terrorist nation with biased headlines.

“It really kills me to see the twisted words of American newscasters,” she said. “There has been an outpouring of support by American Jews and non-Jews for Israel and its right to defend itself. Most politicians realize that Israel is an important proponent of U.S. foreign policy, but at the same time, I don’t think it’s up to the United States to solely decide what happens in the Middle East.”

She said although the Middle Eastern tension is not new, the increasing numbers of rockets launched into Israeli territory is cause for concern and the country has the resources to go to war if necessary to defend itself.

Iowa Hillel Executive Director Gerald Sorokin noted the cease-fire that occurred last week between Palestine and Israel may not have occurred without U.S. involvement and strong lobbying powers were the main reasons behind it.

“We have a great and long-standing relationship with Israel for military backing,” he said. “The U.S. is Israel’s sole defender among the United Nations council.”

UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said many countries paint a red target on Israel’s back and there is only so much that the country can take. He contended that there are three main reasons Israel is hated as a country: the one-sided information that is often reported in the news, the casting of Palestinians as victims, and a continued anti-Semitic bias.

“Israel is often looked at as the ‘bad guy,’ but Palestine hasn’t exactly been open-armed and welcoming,” he said. “Many other countries want to see Israel wiped off the map.”

According to the Associated Press, the United Nations will vote Thursday on a Palestinian resolution that would raise the status of the territories from an observer to a nonmember observer state.

The move would reaffirm “the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967,” according to a draft of the resolution.

The draft also expresses “the urgent need for the resumption and acceleration of negotiations within the Middle East peace process” to achieve “a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides that resolves all outstanding core issues, namely the Palestine refugees, Jerusalem, settlements, borders, security, and water,” AP reported.

UI junior Taylor Axelson approves of the U.S. involvement in the Middle East but emphasized the importance of limiting its actions. To her, the situation closely resembles conflicts that often result on children’s playgrounds, in which Israel is a small, weaker child and the United States is the larger, protective counterpart.

“I think it’s good that the U.S. has the ability to intervene between countries, but I think that we need to control our interference,” she said. “At the same time, I don’t think that Israel, or any country for that matter, should be bullied.”

UI senior Ellen Shroyer said she supports the current state of U.S. involvement in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict but also spoke of the importance of having an educated general public before further actions are taken.

“I believe that the U.S. should remain in the same stance on supporting Israel as we do now, but I don’t think we should increase or decrease the involvement,” she said. “It’s hard to speak on behalf of other students, but I don’t think in general, we are educated enough to take a stance.”

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