Group discusses Mideast conflict

For Israeli Neta Retter and Palestinian Ghadeer Tarazi, both UCSD students, the word “”terrorism”” brings to mind different emotions.

“”Terrorism means I can’t go home,”” said Retter, a sophomore at Eleanor Roosevelt College. Retter moved from Israel when she was five years old and used to visit her grandfather every summer. Because of the recent violence, her grandfather has told her not to come.

Similarly, Tarazi, who was born in Jerusalem and lived in Ramallah through high school, said that because of security checkpoints, her ability to either enter or leave her home in the West Bank is constrained.

“”I can’t go in, I can’t go out — That’s terrorism,”” said Tarazi, an Earl Warren College junior.

Seeking a common ground, Retter and Tarazi were two of about 25 participants at the April 30 meeting of Students for Coexistence Through Dialogue, a group that seeks to foster discussion among students interested in talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Zeina Hindiyeh, a Roosevelt senior and one of the group’s organizers, said the group was created in response to a need for open dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“”We would always see the tables on Library Walk,”” Hindiyeh said. “”It was always one side against the other, but it was never people being able to communicate. So we wanted to be able to create a space where they could actually have those kinds of conversations.””

The idea for the group was based on similar dialogue groups that meet across the nation and in San Diego. At UCSD, the group held its first dialogue in winter quarter. There have been two dialogue meetings since the first, and there are plans for a fourth.

The meetings are guided by several moderators, who insist that participants treat the meeting as a dialogue rather than as a debate.

Kaplan, a freshman at ERC, said the meetings to date have been characterized by respect and understanding.

“”For the most part, people are listening and not cutting each other off,”” Kaplan said. “”Everyone comes away sort of frustrated but yet feeling really good, because it’s a heated issue, but by sharing — people just feel better at the end.””

For Hindiyeh, the most surprising characteristic of the dialogue is the civility among the participants.

“”I think I was a little more surprised that everyone was so civil,”” Hindiyeh said. “”No matter how opposite people’s views are, they’re still at least able to talk to each other. I mean, the fact that people have been so good about being able to hear stories and not just get bogged down in arguments has been really surprising to me at least.””

Participants Retter and Tarazi each said they enjoyed the dialogue.

Retter, whose first meeting was the one on April 30, said the dialogue was better than what she expected, although she had some criticism.

“”I think my major criticism is that people did end up addressing certain people and reacting to what people said, which I think goes against what is expected,”” Retter said. “”But I would say on the whole it was incredible because everyone said, ‘Wow, I haven’t thought of that,’ or at least that’s what I personally pulled out of it.””

Tarazi said the group reminded her of Seeds for Peace, a summer camp in Maine that brings together Israeli and Palestinian children in order to foster dialogue between the two groups. She participated in the program when she was 15-years-old.

“”It is great there is something like this at UCSD that you can come and speak about your frustrations and there are people who are actually interested to hear them,”” Tarazi said.