Comfortable in a kippa or a kaffiyeh

5th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week

Apartheid or no apartheid, what is going on across Canadian university campuses this week is not a mature and helpful way to promote dialogue and raise awareness.
In the standoffs that result year after year during this week, the people involved on both sides further alienate the public at large. For Osgoode Hall Law School students, this week means trying to avoid all the protests and counterprotests taking place around York University's campus.
Thankfully, there are no protests at the law school and no posters to be found on any of its walls. The law school accommodates all of us so that everyone who walks around feels comfortable no matter his or her religion, political views or nationality.
As Osgoode students, we find the events at York to be strange. There is no discussion taking place, but rather two sides screaming at each other.
It is no surprise that these encounters frequently end with the police being called and both sides being charged by the university. It would be truly devastating if somewhere down the line these encounters result in violence or someone being seriously hurt, if that has not already happened.
At Osgoode Hall, the Jewish Law Students' Association and Muslim Law Students' Association may have different agendas and goals but we are all friends with each other. We do not all have to agree with each other's views to respect one another.
When friends discuss politics, even such hot topics as Israel and Palestine, you are more open to listen to the other side and hear the points they are making. No megaphones, no flags, just two groups listening to what the other has to say.
Often, members of our associations have admitted that they have had to rethink certain issues and change certain opinions they held due to some of these open and collegial discussions.
Apartheid Week only seeks to divide the campus more than it already is. Whereas the JLSA and MLSA are open to working together to try to host events that speak to the students' common goals, such as finding lawyers to come talk to our groups about difficulties maintaining our religious practices in the workforce, or issues of keeping kosher and Halal at law firms, the thought of something like this taking place at York is worrying.
Additionally, Osgoode Hall offers courses in both Jewish and sharia law. One need not be of any specific nationality or religion to attend, and it would not be considered strange if anyone took up the offer.
By learning about the history and background of the other, we see that other as a human being rather than part of an ideology, and the debate suddenly becomes more humane. The way that Israel Apartheid Week is conducted only seeks to exploit the differences between us and does not focus on any of the good that we can do together or that can be achieved by having proper discourse in a responsible, academic setting.
Until the activists on both sides of the debate realize this, nothing will be achieved and emotionally charged students will continue to yell and scream at each other while not being heard and achieving nothing.
Debate is never futile, but what goes on at York's campus can hardly be referred to as anything resembling a debate. This only seeks to increase animosity between the two sides while ignoring the good that we can do together.
Let both sides cool off, and when they are ready to have a true dialogue, let it take place in a civil forum. Right now nothing is being gained, and so much is being lost.
We are thankful that the law school is a place where we can be comfortable walking around in both kippas and kaffiyehs, and where the two groups can talk and consider each other as friends.
We may be somewhat divided on the issue of Israel and Palestine, but we realize that there are reasonable arguments on both sides of the debate, and have tried to come to an agreeable position.
While this will not bring peace to the Middle East, it fosters an environment where everyone feels comfortable about who they are, something that is wholly lacking at York University currently.
Joseph Juda is co-president of the Jewish Law Students' Association at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Ahsan Mirza is president of the Muslim Law Students' Association at Osgoode Hall Law School.

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