Israel-Palestine Specialist, Former Kerry Advisor Gives Speech at Pitzer

David Makovsky, former
advisor on Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace negotiation team, gave
a speech Feb. 10 about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Pitzer College’s Benson
Auditorium. The speech was followed by a Q&A session moderated by
Claremont McKenna College Associate Professor of Religious Studies Gary

Makovsky, one of the world’s leading experts on the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, first became involved in the Middle East as a
journalist in the 1980s. He now
works at The Washington Institute, where he is the director of the Project on
the Middle East Peace Process. Makovsky
spent most of last year as a senior advisor on
Kerry’s team to negotiate a peace agreement
between Israel and Palestine.

The event
was part of a statewide tour of ten colleges and universities sponsored by the Israel
on Campus Coalition (ICC), which, according to its website, is “a national network of students, faculty, and professionals dedicated to strengthening the pro-Israel movement on campus.” In preparation for the visit, the ICC worked closely
with Claremont
Progressive Israel Alliance, a 5C organization founded
this semester by Will Townsend PZ ’15.

In an interview with TSL before the event, Makovsky shared his impression of the
Claremont Colleges.

“Claremont has a very good reputation,” Makovsky said. “It’s
important that the vibe on campus be one of really trying to be part of the
solution rather than part of the problem. Whether it’s faculty or students, the goal should be to have more light and less heat.”

speech focused on Makovsky’s past work with Israel and Palestine and what to
expect in the future.

advocated for a two-state solution and laid out five core issues he feels
need to be addressed if a lasting peace is to be reached between Israel and
Palestine. Those issues are border agreements, security arrangements,
Palestinian refugees, the city of Jerusalem and mutual recognition. He said
that while he believes major progress has been
made recently on the issues of borders and refugees, security remains the most
difficult challenge.

Townsend, president of Claremont Progressive Israel Alliance,
said that the organization is a space for “pro-Israel students who also
identify as liberals.”

club’s main mission is to fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
movement, which argues that increased
economic and political pressure makes Israel more defensive and less willing
to negotiate with Palestine.

Townsend characterized BDS as “a movement to
demonize Israel.”

“It’s fine to criticize Israel
– that’s how a democracy should function – but they shouldn’t view Israel just
from the political realm,” Townsend said.
“They shouldn’t conflate politics to the existence of Israel.”

Townsend said about 52 people attended the talk. After
the speech, Makovsky responded to questions from the audience, which had been asked to submit
written questions.

Solomon PZ ’18, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine, said that he
found the speech to be a
“biased, one-sided portrait of the conflict,” and was disappointed that
Makovsky didn’t talk more about the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, which resulted
in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, many of them noncombatants.

Rosenthal CM ’15, former
president of Claremont Students for Israel
who now advocates for Open Hillel, a national campaign to give a voice
to Jews who are not pro-Israel, said
Makovsky’s proposed border changes would limit Palestinian access to important
Muslim holy sites.

ended his speech on an encouraging, positive note.

“We can’t
give up,” he said. “If Israelis and Palestinians can sit together [like they did at the
peace talks last spring], we should make sure that at American campuses we can
sit together, Jewish Americans [to]
Muslim Americans.”

Update: This article was updated Feb. 17. It originally indicated that David Makovsky supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

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