by August Kissel, Web Editor
On Oct. 16, the Manhattan College Holocaust, Genocide, and Interfaith Education Resource Center hosted a panel discussion with Rabbi Ron Kronish, Sheikh Ghassan Manasra, and the Center’s own Dr. Mehnaz Afridi. The two speakers are active peace-builders in the Israeli and Palestinian conflict. The panel was packed with Manhattan College students and faculty, as well as neighbors from around the Riverdale neighborhood.
Dr. Afridi invited these two speakers specifically because they represent each side of the conflict taking place in Palestine. “I wanted to break the stereotype that it is political that no one works together, but that simply isn’t true. There are a lot of Israelis and Palestinians on the ground both in Israel and Palestinian territories who are trying to do a lot of good work and they never get highlighted, and I wanted to bring that to campus,” said Dr. Afridi.
The Palestinian and Israeli conflict has been growing topic of discussion both in the news and on the College’s campus. “It’s interesting, because 15 years ago, when I was younger, everybody was unaware of Palestine, and Palestinians were seen as really negative and like they were terroristic, and now 15 years later it’s kind of changed, where Palestinians are seen as people who just want a claim to land. It’s more complicated than that when people then become anti-Israeli they don’t understand why Israel exists and they don’t know anything about the Jewish diaspora and people actually are more prone to be on the side of the victim, which are the Palestinians,” said Dr. Afridi.
The two speakers each had fifteen minutes to explain their stance on the conflict and their work within the conflict, and then hosted a Q&A at the end of the discussion for students to ask questions about the process of peace-building.
Rabbi Kronish began his talk by explaining his process of peace-building between the Palestinians and the Israelis. He and his team create dialogue between community leaders of each side of the conflict. They do this by having either side of the community study each other’s religious texts and so that they may get to know each other and begin to take action together. “Our job, for those who are creating dialogue, is to keep hope alive in a time of great despair,” said Rabbi Kronish,
Sheikh Manasra spoke more about personal experience growing up in the conflict and how through this experience he learned that in order to build peace one must “look into the eyes of the other,” and how through this knowledge he came to learn that peace-building and forgiveness can be learned through dialogue and awareness of the other.
The work and dialogue of the panel matches much of the mission of the HGI Center on campus “Our mission is to encounter the other and to understand that there are victims and there are perpetrators but at the same you have to break out of that cycle. We look at how you break out of that cycle even though we have been victimized by the other,” said Dr. Afridi.
If a student is interested in learning more about this specific issue they may look into the Anti-Desamation League recommended by Dr. Afridi, the College’s HGI Center and keep an eye out for other MC events that open to all students.
Below is a link to the entire panel discussion on the HGI Center’s website.
And below is a link to a basic breakdown of the conflict.