Student organization launches to promote Palestinian-Israeli peace

The group met Wednesday and planned events for the semester.
Saleem Alhabash, president of the Palestine Israel Peace Association, addresses PIPA during an informational meeting Wednesday in Strickland Hall. PIPA seeks to create peace in the Middle East and encourages nonviolent action.

The Palestine Israel Peace Association, a new student organization designed to promote peace and understanding in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, will organize related events this semester.

"We want to conduct activities that humanize the sides of the conflict, not dehumanize them, as we see in the media," President Saleem Alhabash said at the first PIPA meeting Wednesday. "We're advocates of peace, and we're trying to do that in an unconventional way, to bring a new perspective by integrating music and culture into the discussion."

The events PIPA has planned so far include a documentary screening, a possible music performance and a speaker.

In April, PIPA will hold a screening of "Slingshot Hip Hop," a documentary about Palestinian hip-hop groups and how their experiences shape their music. PIPA also might bring DAM, one of the groups featured in the film, to perform at MU, Alhabash said. He played the trailer at the meeting.

Spokeswoman Samantha Andrade said PIPA hopes to promote a peaceful resolution by delving into Palestinian and Israeli cultures.

"We want it to be about the conflict, but we want it to be both sides," Andrade said. "I think to do that you need to incorporate culture because then you see who people are and how that's affecting them rather than what's affecting them."

In mid-April, Sandra Tamari, a nonviolent activist who went on the Gaza Freedom March, will give a lecture hosted by the Mid-Missouri Fellowship of Reconciliation and co-sponsored by PIPA, Alhabash said.

PIPA evolved out of an effort to continue dialogue after a February 2009 panel discussion about the conflict, Alhabash said. He said about eight people met throughout the fall semester to help organize the launch of PIPA.

PIPA faculty associate George Smith said many leaders of Boone Tikkun, a primarily Jewish organization supporting peace and justice in the conflict, became involved in PIPA.

PIPA faculty associate Ted Koditschek said Boone Tikkun is inactive for now. Instead of disbanding entirely, it has evolved into PIPA, he said.

"I think the organization ran its course in the sense that we did some good things but got to the point that we weren't making a lot of progress," Koditschek said. "We were looking for some new approach, and so we were very encouraged when we heard there were students creating this organization."

To increase students' understanding of the conflict, PIPA will present the history behind it, Andrade said.

"You need a background to understand what's going on now," Andrade said. "And then tackle the current issues, so you can understand why things are happening the way they are and are going the way they have been."

Alhabash, a doctoral student who grew up in the Ramallah, Palestine, and worked as a managing editor for The Youth Times, said there is no single perspective to capture the truth about the conflict. PIPA hopes to fight stereotypes by presenting a multitude of stories, Alhabash said.

"There are different stories that need to be taken into consideration before anyone can make an educated opinion about it," Alhabash said. "You cannot just rely on the ideas you had before. In order to really understand the conflict, one needs to dig deeper into what people are thinking and who they are."

Alhabash said PIPA is seeking additional officers, such as events coordinator and advocacy and education chairperson.

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