SATO brings Palestinian perspective to Middle East debate

Since the declaration of Israel as an independent state in 1948 there has been an ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians over territorial disputes. We all know the story, or so it seems. Swarthmore’s Students Against the Occupation, SATO, is sponsoring a week of events dedicated to the telling the Palestinian perspective of the story, which they say is not often communicated.

SATO was founded a few years ago, and was initially very popular, according to Sa’ed Atshan, one of the organization’s leaders. There would be four to five events hosted per semester and every even would be packed. “One event had the entire science center lecture hall packed and people sitting on the floor,” says Atshan. People were interested in the conflict and wanted to know more about it.

Since then, interest has been dwindling. This happened for a few reasons. For one thing, people seem to think that the Gaza withdrawal has solved all the problems, Ashtan said. Other events in the world community, such as the conflict in the Sudan and hurricane Katrina, have also contributed to people’s attention shifting away from this issue.

Recapturing the Swat community’s attention is one of the main goals of the coming week’s events. Also, according to Atshan, “The media give you only one perspective and it’s important to get a deeper analysis and read behind the lines.” He then goes on to note that, “People’s tax dollars are going to Israel and this is unconditional aid… it’s important for people here to know where their tax dollars are going.” Also, though the conflict is thought to be only between Israel and Palestine, the U.S. is very much entrenched in it and therefore it is important that we know what is happening.

Events scheduled for the next week include a talk by a group of Israeli women speaking on behalf of both sides of the issue, a documentary showing the impact of the conflict on children in the area, a lecture on the Gaza Withdrawal and what it really means, and a documentary showing the differing views of American Jews on the matter.

One of the most important goals that SATO is trying to reach however is to promote their vision of peace and of their hope that both groups can live together. The group emphasizes that just because they are a pro-Palestine organization does not mean that they are anti-Israel. Hopefully, the week will promote a cultural dialogue often absent in the discussion of these issues.


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