Editorial | A call for constructive conversation
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2012 14:04
For the past several semesters, two student groups with very different viewpoints on the same situation have consistently clashed on campus. Tufts Friends of Israel (FOI) and Tufts Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) have proven themselves to be some of the loudest student organizations on the Hill. But in their desire to be heard, both are utilizing tactics that drive students away from discourse and are accomplishing little beyond inciting anger in members of the rival group. It’s time for this to stop.
Both groups consistently address extremely contentious issues of global importance, but rather than focus on the issues, SJP and FOI seem content to wallow in an environment consisting mainly of petty exchanges about the other group’s faults, rather than the actual issues at hand. Their current behavior indicates that both place far too high a premium on petty campus politics.
Neither group is immune from thinking small instead of looking at the big picture. While members of both groups say they desire dialogue, both groups have taken actions that do nothing but stifle it, whether it’s the denouncement by one group of a speaker the other group brings to campus, or debates about loaded terminology and advertising.
It’s certainly true that members of both groups have committed errors, and they can be legitimately criticized for them, but most of these criticisms will not help build a more civil dialogue. The subjects actually debated are petty compared to the actual issues at hand.
All the debate in its current form manages to do is alienate the rest of the community. Thanks to Tufts’ tight-knit campus, many students likely know members of both groups. But when all such students see is debates over the wording of an ad or the tone a student used to address a speaker, they are more likely to run away than to stay and learn about the major issues being brought up in this issue.
What Tufts has right now does not resemble dialogue. Instead, we have two groups shouting at each other in separate echo chambers, never being heard by their critics or the campus at large.
In order to improve the state of discussion about the Israeli-Palestine conflict, both FOI and SJP need to discuss the actual issues and avoid focusing on the perceived offenses perpetrated by a rival Tufts student group. They need to agree to cosponsor events that encourage discussion and make a point to strengthen their own arguments, rather than focus on putting down those of the other group.
No matter how constructive dialogue about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Tufts becomes, it’s key that both groups remember that decades-old international issues aren’t going to be solved on a single American college campus. The best both groups can hope to do is educate Tufts students -- many of whom might be going to work in international affairs fields -- about the essence of the issues, but neither SJP nor FOI is going to be doing much educating if venomous and dismissive dialogue drives away potential audiences.