Students can help promote Middle East Peace

The following column has and is appearing in a number of APG of East Central Mn newspapers during May 2024. This includes the Sun Current,  Press & News, Sun This Week, MilleLacs Messenger, Union Times, ,and  Monticello Times,


Students can help promote Mideast peace


Some Minnesota high school and college students are deeply concerned about the Israel-Hamas War, and wondering what they can do. Having spent time in the region over the last year, listening to and learning from people with various perspectives, here are six things that students might do, potentially with assistance from families, educators, or youth group staff.

  1. Learn more about, and potentially support current efforts that people from different “sides” are taking. A great example is EcoPeaceMiddleEast,  which I’ve mentioned before. EcoPeace recently was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because of its success in bringing together Palestinians, Jordanians, and Israelis to produce more clean water and solar energy. These things are needed throughout the region.

Having worked with EcoPeace through a recent Zoom meeting, I know they’re willing to share what they’re doing. Students could contact them and potentially help organize a Zoom meeting.

The Alliance for Middle East Peace is another group that would welcome conversations with students. I met with an Alliance representative while in the Middle East last year. Members include parents of people who’ve been killed by various groups.

Huda Abuarquob, an Alliance leader, stressed the importance of “no shaming and no blaming” because “blame and shame don’t get us anywhere.”

Huda Abuarquob talking with Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker of Mt. Zion Congregation in St Paul, Mn.

  1. Read more about historical events that brought the Middle East to this point. Young people will learn that there are more than two sides. For example, Hamas has pledged to destroy Israel, and Egypt has agreed to live peacefully and work cooperatively with Israel. There also is intense debate within Israel about how to proceed.

Two free online sources I’ve learned from that present a wide array of facts and interpretations are the Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia.

  1. Contact groups with different perspectives to learn more about what actions they’re taking and how you might be involved. Earlier this year a group of people in Monticello invited me and another person to share our knowledge. I’d be glad to come to any community in Minnesota, served by this paper, to help people understand this conflict.
  2. Contact members of Congress, or join with others, to share your insights and suggestions.
  3. Reject extreme statements and assertions sometimes made in person, on social media and via news outlets. Countless examples of this can be cited. For example, I recently challenged a New York Times columnist who asserted that President Biden had provided “unconditional support for the war.”

For example, by publicly challenging Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and sending aid to Gaza via the air and sea, Biden has taken a more nuanced approach. I commented both on the Times website and social media. I did the same when an Israeli government minister suggested that anyone who supports Hamas should be “eliminated.” Students can help schools create a culture of respect for everyone, regardless of their views.

  1. Avoid and challenge efforts to intimidate others or destroy property. I think President Biden was exactly right when he emphasized: “Dissent is essential to democracy, but dissent must never lead to disorder or to denying the rights of others so students can finish the semester and their college education. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations — none of this is a peaceful protest.”

Nothing will instantly end the tragic Middle East crisis, but we can help. I’d be glad to discuss any of the above with interested readers.

Joe Nathan, Ph.D., is co-director of the Center for School Change. He formerly was a Minnesota public school teacher, administrator, and PTA president. Reactions welcome: