ICSR hosts discussion on Arab-Israeli conflict

Johnathan Hudgins

A small group of people participated in a public discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict Monday night in the Garrett Conference Center.

The discussion, entitled, “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: An Everlasting Conflict?,” was hosted by the Institute for Citizenship and Social Responsibility along with the WKU History Department.

Organized by, and with a historical introduction from Assistant Professor of History, Juan Romero, the discussion mostly focused on the historical basis of the Israeli state.

“History is a fantastic tool to understand where we are at this point and where we are headed,” Romero said.

Romero made it point, however, to say that history helps to understand an issue, but that it may not necessarily help to create understanding.

Romero said many Muslims and Arabs have no issue with the Jewish faith or Jewish people — the issue lies with the political state of Israel and Zionism, which itself is not a faith, but a political movement.

“The problem did not start in the Middle East'” he said.

He said that Jews in many Muslim regions, such as the predominantly-Muslim Ottoman Empire, were more integrated into society than they were in parts of Europe, especially across eastern Europe, where some Jews died while they were forced to live in ghettos.

“Probably wouldn’t call it a Holocaust or a genocide, but one death is one too many,” Romero said.

Romero continued to trace the conflict between Arabs and Israelis through the Balfour Declaration of 1917 where the British backed a national home for Jewish people, the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 and more modern conflicts.

The 2000 Camp David summit between President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, was ultimately a failure for several reasons.

One of those reasons was that the U.S. and Israel wanted to give the Palestinians 90 percent of the territory that they still had and did not address the areas that were taken by Israel and still in dispute.

“Arafat was a corrupt leader, but did not sellout his country” Romero said.

Romero said people should not rely on media reports and instead they should do their own research to truly understand the conflict, as not all of the facts are always presented in the news.

One participant in the discussion, who did not want to be identified, added that an example of what Romero said about news coverage would be that of Ron Paul and his presidential campaign.

Paul can come in second place and still the media seem to ignore him, he said.

Another participant, who also did not want to be identified, raised the issue of Iran and Israel.

​She said that she had heard that Iranian war ships had moved into the Mediterranean Sea and wanted to know what Romero’s thoughts were of the situation and how it effects the Palestinian issue.

The Iranian leadership has internal political problems that they are trying to solve by interfering in the conflict and by acting tough on Israel, Romero said.