By: Steven Overly
ANNAPOLIS – As the worlds eyes turned to the state capital yesterday, Israeli and Palestinian leaders met here to explore possible steps toward resolving the nations conflicts peacefully.
The conference caught the attention of Jewish student groups on this campus, at least two of which sent student representatives to rally behind their respective stances on the countries deep-rooted issues. Both the Union of Progressive Zionists – a student activist group that tends to promote peace with concessions on both sides – and the Zionist Organization of America sent students. The Zionist Organization of America also supports peace but typically with a pro-Israel bent.
Four students from the universitys chapter of the Union of Progressive Zionists were among a chanting crowd that waved signs reading: Peace is Pro-Israel and Two States for Two Peoples outside St. Annes Church.
Theyre talking together, said sophomore Ari Brian Schwartz, a sociology major at the rally. They dont usually talk together. Thats amazing.
Speakers from the Union of Progressive Zionists addressed the crowd, advocating the formation of separate, autonomous states for Israel and Palestine. Aimee Mayer, a sophomore and co-president of the universitys chapter, also addressed the crowd.
She urged Jews here and across the country to use the peace talks as a springboard for discussions about taboo topics such as finalizing each countrys borders and deciding who should occupy the holy city of Jerusalem.
Were trying to make this something more than just a mere photo-op, Mayer, a government and politics and psychology major, told protesters.
A lot of the big issues that are being talked about today cant be talked about in the Jewish community, Mayor added yesterday.
To start those conversations in a comfortable environment, the university chapter plans to host a game of Taboo in front of the Stamp Student Union today, where students can play the card game with terms related to the Middle East conflict.
Freshman Yonah Meiselman helped demonstrate the game for the crowd at yesterdays rally, which he attended in hopes of dispelling the myths about his Zionist beliefs.
I really dont like the idea that peace and Zionism are mutually exclusive, said Meiselman, a mathematics major. I like the idea that negotiation is possible without compromising our beliefs.
Closer to the U.S. Naval Academy, where the actual conference was held, a much more rambunctious protest was brewing with people from different points of view.
Some were chanting loudly at news cameras and waving signs that read, No concessions for racist Israel and The world does not need another Arab terrorist state. Approximately 20 students from the campus chapter of the Zionist Organization of America attended that rally but said they were much more subdued than other protesters.
I dont think that shoving is going to accomplish anything, said sophomore Dov Lerner, one of the chapters presidents.
Ilana Frankel, a sophomore government and politics major, said the campus group danced and sang songs about peace to show support for the talks in a respectful, civil manner.
What hurt me the most is there were many Jews there today who were just screaming at each other, she said. I would never want to go to a rally and protest peace.
But while Lerner and Frankel said some concessions need to be made to establish peace, both adamantly opposed Palestinian control of Jerusalem.
They added that Palestinian leaders need to take steps to stop terrorism toward Israelis.
In terms of settlement, its premature to talk about it now when the Palestinians have not shown any concrete evidence they want peace, Lerner said. Its either too early or irrelevant to discuss these issues.
Leaders of Arab organizations on the campus contacted for this story said they did not plan to send groups of students to the protest.
Senior staff writer Ben Slivnick contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org