Published in the Stanford Daily, Stanford University, 13 November 1997
Arabs, Jews join forces
Student groups plan coordination
by Patricia Soung
The Organization of Arab-American Students in Stanford and Stanford Israel Alliance have forged a new collaborative relationship to address issues pertinent to both groups, especially relating to continuing violence in the Middle East.
The groups will be sponsoring a speech by Palestinian scholar Fouad Moughrabi next Thursday in History Corner -- the first product of their coordinated efforts.
The talk will focus on the day-to-day lives of the Palestinians and the possibility of peace among the religious and ethnic groups.
The decision to plan some joint events is unprecedented.
Doctoral student Nabeel Ibrahim, president of OASIS, admits, "What we're doing is really controversial." Already, some students, including those involved with the two organizations, have questioned the alliance. However, Ibrahim describes this inevitable opposition as a motivating factor to increase cooperation.
"Our goal is to provide mutual trust and understanding. (The opponents are) not going to understand unless we educate them," Ibrahim said.
Junior Maia Daniels, chair to SIA, has also been confronted by Jewish students doubtful of the interaction between the organizations. For instance, Moughrabi is expected to be controversial since he will discuss actions committed by Israelis against Arabs, Daniels says that "many of the Jews just don't want to hear about that."
Daniels attended a conflict resolution program called "Seeds of Peace" this past summer with 180 young teenagers from the United States and the Middle East. She witnessed that "Jews and Arabs had much more in common than either group had with the Americans. There is every reason for them to get along. It's just a matter of educating the other side."
She further explained that the general public fails to comprehend fully the conflicts between Arabs and Jews. After attending the program, at which Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke, Daniels noted, "These kids have been educated and brainwashed to hate each other."
Ibrahim agreed with the need to work together in the face of an ailing peace process in the Middle East. He stressed working at a grassroots level to eventually decrease tensions between Arabs and Jews. Because many Jews and Arabs live in the Bay Area, Ibrahim and Daniels said they feel Stanford is an ideal environment to deal with existing hostilities and conflicts.
In the past and present, OASIS members have experienced firsthand anti-Arab sentiment, often the result of negative media portrayal, Ibrahim said. During the Persian Gulf War, the group disbanded under pressure and opposition for other students. Two years ago, the group reformed.
Only last year, Ibrahim recounted, a woman spat on the OASIS table set up at the annual activities fair during Admit Weekend for prospective freshmen. Other students have been told that all Arabs are terrorists.
Both Ibrahim and Daniels said they hope that their groups can dispel such stereotypes by working together to educate others. This Saturday Daniels and Ibrahim will attend a "living room dialogue group," featuring Dennis Ross, the U.S. Special Middle East Coordinator. In a comfortable setting, the discussions will promote an exchange of thoughts on issues and controversies surrounding the Arab and Jewish communities. OASIS and SIA also plan to openly voice concerns by writing letters to The Daily.
Underscoring all their efforts is the aim of educating interested students about political, cultural and social issues pertaining to the Middle East. Daniels said she believes that "the future leaders of America need to know about this issue" so that effective measures can be taken to achieve peace.
OASIS and SIA also plan to protest the screening of "G.I. Jane" at Sunday Flicks on Nov. 23, believing much of the language and portrayals of Arabs to be offensive, false and unfair.
For more informatin about the Stanford University campus activities please contact:
Nabeel Ibrahim -- 650-964-4625 -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Maia Daniels -- 650-497-0701 -- email@example.com
Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group
1448 Cedarwood Drive, San Mateo, CA 94403
Voice: (650) 574-8303 -- Fax: (650) 573-1217
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