New 5C Branch of J Street Addresses Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Student organizations at the 5Cs are addressing one of the most salient foreign policy issues of the past century. There are currently three official student organizations at the 5Cs pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, each with a different perspective on the issue: Claremont Students for Israel, Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), and the newly founded Claremont branch of J Street, a national organization that advocates for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Sage Lachman PZ ’16 and Malia Bence PZ ’16 are two students involved in bringing J Street to the 5Cs.

“There’s definitely quite a polarization in the dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Lachman said. “It kind of seems like to be pro-Israel in the United States, you have to be anti-Palestine and to be pro-Palestine, you have to be anti-Israel, and I just don’t really feel that that has to be that way. I believe that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to self-determine.”

The 5C chapter of J Street, which was approved to be a 5C club last week, will hold its first meeting March 11 from 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Broad Center at Pitzer College. The meeting will feature a screening of the film Is Peace Possible? followed by a discussion about the viability of a two-state solution.

“With the film, we’ll hopefully get everyone on the same footing in terms of understanding the conflict, its roots, and its history and bring them up to date now with what’s going on: understanding the borders, because that gets very, very confusing,” Lachman said.

Students from the 5Cs, including Lachman and Bence, will be attending a J Street leadership conference in Washington, D.C. over Spring Break featuring workshops, panels, and Israeli and Palestinian speakers.

“Everything that goes on there is also going to help us prepare to come back strong and hit the ground running even after our first meeting,” Bence said.

Although the three student organizations come from different ideological perspectives, they agree on one thing: Students need to talk about Israel and Palestine more.

“I think it’s definitely not given enough attention. I think that people don’t talk about Palestine and discuss the problems going on in the area,” said Harper Miller PZ ’13, a member of Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine. “It’s very easy to ignore here.”

Matthew Wolf PZ '15, club executive of Claremont Students for Israel, echoed Miller's sentiment, adding that although many Pitzer students do take an active part in the dialogue on Israel and Palestine, the remainder limit their activism to when tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are most violent.

In addition to J Street, students at the 5Cs are currently starting a branch of Jewish Voices for Peace, a national organization that supports the right for Israelis and Palestinians to self-determine.

With the Claremont chapter of J Street, Lachman, Bence, and the other members hope to provide another option for students wanting to become involved in discussion of the conflict.

“We want to provide this alternative dialogue that I’m not going to say hasn’t been offered before, but it seems like there’s Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine and then there’s Claremont Students for Israel,” Lachman said. “I know Claremont Students for Israel does definitely want to collaborate with on us on some events. They do want to offer this dialogue. We haven’t spoken to Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine, but we’re hoping to reach out to them as well.” 

Wolf also expressed Claremont Students for Israel’s interest in collaborating with the other student groups dealing with the issue.

“Something that we hope to do is to create good ties with SJP so that the groups can actually talk to each other and not see each other as the extremes that are currently being shown,” Wolf said.

Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine did not have an official comment about a possible collaboration with J Street.