If there’s one thing this world has no shortage of, it’s opinions on the State of Israel. There are vocal proponents and vocal oppositions. The spectrum of opinions on Israel’s existence ranges from “shouldn’t exist at all” to “unconditionally” and yet, as with most political things, the middle of the spectrum is largely ignored. Although it may be the least-recognized group of advocates, that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. This is why the need for J Street U on UF’s campus is so pressing. The Middle East is, and always has been, a hotspot for political and religious tension. Ignoring this tension in favor of one group or another is illogical and unproductive. J Street U aims to change this.
So what is J Street U? J Street U is the student-organized arm of J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace, nonprofit, moderate advocacy group that works toward ending the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts peacefully and diplomatically. Unlike other groups on campus, J Street U rejects the notion that being “pro-Israel” inherently makes a person incapable of being “pro-Palestinian,” but rather focuses on advocating for justice, human rights and democracy for people on both sides of the border. J Street is redefining what it means to be pro-Israel in America. J Street, and J Street U by proxy, is redefining American political dynamics by mobilizing support for a two-state solution. J Street offers a unique perspective because it maintains that one can actively support and criticize Israel. In short: being pro-Israel doesn’t require supporting every policy of its government.
If you’re looking for an alternative to the more radical left- and right-wing groups on campus, you’ve come to the right place. The UF chapter of J Street U has a couple of events coming up that are the perfect opportunity for students to get involved and make an impact on our campus and, hopefully, our world.
This upcoming week, Jodie Rubenstein, the DC Metro and South campus organizer for J Street U, will be heading our way to talk about the conflict and how to diplomatically discuss it. J Street U is having an event Wednesday to give our chapter and potential members the opportunity to get to know Rubenstein, J Street and our values and position. On Wednesday, J Street U will be hosting an information session with Rubenstein about the conflict and J Street. This event will be held at La Casita, the Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures at UF, on University Avenue.
On Feb. 27, J Street U will be collaborating with UF Hillel to host Avi Schaefer Shabbat, which seeks to promote discourse about Israel within the Jewish community and the interfaith community. Avi Schaefer Shabbat promotes cross-cultural understanding and discussion, as well as provides a variety of viewpoints on the conflict. The Avi Schaefer Shabbat will feature Ari Shavit as a speaker. Shavit is an Israeli journalist who writes primarily for Haaretz, and his work has appeared in The New Yorker. He is the author of the 2013 book “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel.” His book was not only a New York Times best-seller, but also won the Natan Book Award. “My Promised Land” was also named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times and The Economist.
If you have an opinion to voice on this conflict, if you want to learn how to do so or if you simply want to learn more about Israel and the Middle East, J Street U is the perfect organization for you. Please feel free to contact us at JStreetUF@gmail.com if you have any questions or simply want to learn more about the conflict.
vice president of UF chapter of J Street U
UF English and political science junior
[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 2/10/2015 under the headline “The Need for Moderation"]