A Palestinian-Israel conflict broke out yesterday during an Israel Block Party

UT students have a place in resolving this conflict

Israel-Palestine relations have always been strained globally but recently UT became a center of clashing loyalties.

On March 30th the West Mall became home to an Israeli Block Party promoting Jewish culture. Free “Keep Israel Weird” shirts were handed out, food booths were set up and adorned with the Israeli flag and there were even camels present. Students were talking about how the culture impacted their life and how Israel was needed in the worldwide platform. The entire event was generally upbeat and at first glance, looked like many of the other student fairs often present on the UT campus.
However, directly opposite the fair, a large congregation of Pro-Palestine students gathered to protest the event and draw attention to the inequalities present between Palestinians and Israelis.

One student was speaking in front of the crowd. He was from Palestine and in his speech he spoke of how his family members and families he had known had been killed by the attacks on Gaza. Loud cries of “Viva La Palestine” occasionally swept the crowd and worked as a stark contrast to the positive atmosphere of the Israel Block Party.

The two opposing sides coincidentally also reflected their respective global states. The Israeli side was clearly better funded, organized and attracted more attention. The Palestine Solidarity side was less organized, had minimal funding and was significantly less populated than the Israeli side. While this holds no impact on either side’s view, the very obvious distinction was a bit jarring and raised an important question about the conflict.

Can separate ever really mean equal?

American legal history has long shown that the doctrine of “separate but equal” is untrue and creates a system of institutionalized racism. So while, we might not have “separate but equal” laws today, the effects of that thinking still reside in US society. Having Palestinians separate from Israelis cannot ever be a form of equality because the separation itself implies a system of inequality. The very fact that the Palestine Solidarity Committee stood on the other side of the Israel Block Party shows that we, both as a university and as a society, have work to do.

I am not trying to side with either part of this conflict: this is an extremely complicated issue and both sides have valid points. However, it’s important to realize that bringing the conflict to a University platform is a huge step forward in improving global relations in the long run. Only when people take an active interest in changing their world can real improvement happen.

As college students, we are often dismissed for our youth but clearly older views do not always mean better. (Current Israel-Palestine relations indicate as much.) Our youth is what makes our opinions so necessary in this conflict because we bring new voices to an old conversation. During the entire event, I saw multiple people from both sides discussing why they supported each side. These conversations are so important because they open up new ways of thinking and could eventually lead to finding a conflict resolution.

As much as we complained about the two sides blocking our path to classes, the demonstration got students talking about the conflict which is what we need. Open and honest communication is the only path we have to peace.

UT Austin