After reading about Israel Apartheid Week and other clashes between pro-Palestine and pro-Israel groups across Canadian campuses, my school spirit swelled a little after walking past a poster for Palestine Awareness Week.
Earlier this year, police were called to escort Jewish students off of Toronto's York University campus, after the students had taken refuge in the Hillel student office because they felt intimidated by slogans chanted at a rally. In B.C., RCMP are investigating an incident at the University of British Columbia between two Jewish students and a Palestinian supporter.
Here at the University of Calgary, students set themselves apart by not participating in IAW, held in 40 cities across the world, instead promoting an inclusive environment where parties from both sides of the conflict can debate.
The Palestinian-Canadian Students' Society will feature a talk Thursday titled "Learn why Israel's occupation of Palestine is considered apartheid," but will also focus on Palestinian identity and the occupation.
Club members set up an information booth in MacEwan Students' Centre Monday and Tuesday to answer questions.
Although one executive member did say he'd like to see an IAW if the PCSS had more volunteers and if they did it in a peaceful way, several others stated the club had decided against holding IAW because they valued an environment that would foster discussion.
One student at the booth said he didn't think the club needed to have a shocking event, pointing to news coverage and UN reports about the conflict, suggesting it was better if students came to their own conclusions.
Another said that although both groups are in the advocacy business, they choose to act in a mutually-respectful way, noting that many executives of both Hillel and PCSS know each other on a personal level.
And, although not always agreeing, Hillel and PCSS even consulted each other over aspects of PAW. Hillel members will attend some of the events to challenge the speakers, a fact one PCSS member, who will help host Thursday's apartheid talk, said was great.
Despite, and perhaps because of, the hopelessness that so often surrounds the prospect of peace between Palestinians and Israelis, there is an immediate need to continue to seek a peaceful resolution. Both parties have committed atrocities and there are logical arguments on both sides about the varying degrees of fault. Yet, what's important is the urgency of children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and whole nations living in fear of their closest neighbours.
Hamas and the Israeli government could learn from the U of C's PCSS and Hillel and realize a solution can only come about through respectful discussion and compromise.
For more information about PAW visit pcsscalgary.org.