Famous peace activist Dr. Gershon Baskin spoke about his experience with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a lecture hosted by J Street U and Wes for Peace.

Student groups J Street U and Wes for Peace hosted social and political activist Dr. Gershon Baskin on Tuesday, Nov. 11 to speak about his analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lecture, titled “Is Peace Possible?”, focused specifically on the recent violence in the region this past summer and Baskin’s vision for peace going forward.

Baskin is the founder of the Israel-Palestine: Creative Regional Initiative, a think tank managed both by Israelis and Palestinians, and a columnist for The Jerusalem Post. Baskin was also the back-channel negotiator who secured the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli sports columnist held in captivity by Hamas for five years.

Baskin explained that in 1974, after spending a year in Israel on a Zionist youth program called Young Judea, he decided to move to Israel permanently. He realized that during his year in Israel he didn’t know anything about Palestinians, prompting his research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The majority of the Palestinian people at that time were opposed to a two-state solution. In addition, only 2 to 3 percent of the Israeli population supported the idea of a Palestinian state next to Israel, and those few were considered traitors.

Shortly after moving to Israel, Baskin began working with Palestinians to reach a two-state solution. He says he approached his work with an open mind and a willingness to listen to the Palestinian people because he believed both sides were at fault in the conflict.

“I said, ‘It’s not a conflict of us or you. It’s a conflict of us and you, and the question is how,’” Baskin said, speaking of one of his statements to the Palestinians with whom he worked. “And I proposed that the conflict is about seven core issues: Palestinian statehood and the nature of its sovereignty; the borders between the two states; the future of Jerusalem; the issue of Palestinian refugees and their rights; the physical link between the two Palestinian territories in West Bank and Gaza with Israel in between; the issue of natural resources, mainly water; and the nature of economic relations between the two governments.”

He called this conflict between two national movements over a piece of territory a “territorial expression of identity,” meaning that each side is willing to fight to have a piece of land it calls its own.

However, Baskin said he believes that there is no military solution because Israel could defeat Hamas with its firepower. In his opinion, the only solution that could bring regional alliance for security and stability is Israel accepting the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002 and creating the State of Palestine. For this to happen, he believes an Israeli leader needs to support the State.

“I as an Israeli cannot comprehend why I [would] want my neighbors to suffer,” Baskin said. “I as an Israeli want my neighbors to be happy, peaceful, and prosperous. And I actually have an enormous amount of power to make it happen, but not full power.”

Jared Fineberg ’17, a member of J Street U and one of the key organizers of the event, expressed his admiration for Baskin’s unwavering support of the two-state solution.

“Despite decades of bloodshed and failed peace initiatives, Dr. Baskin manages to see how both parties can learn from their mistakes,” Fineberg said. “As long as activists like Dr. Baskin keep sharing their vision for a viable two-state solution, there is hope of ending the Israeli occupation and for a lasting peace for both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Cyrus Nury ’16, a leader of Wes for Peace,expressed how Baskin’s talk gave him a new outlook on the conflict.

“I’ve always maintained a neutral stance on the Israel/Palestine issue,” Nury said. “I’ve never really been pro-Israel, but I also haven’t been pro-Palestine, but I think [Baskin] did a really good job giving a non-biased perspective of the history of the conflict as well as his suggestions [about] the issue.”

Caroline Monahan ’16, the other leader of Wes for Peace, explained the significance of having Baskin speak on the issue on behalf of the student group.

“We were eager to help bring Dr. Baskin to speak to the Wesleyan community,” Monahan said. “We think it is important to listen to all theories of peacemaking in order to come to our own conclusions about how we can bring about a world free of war.”

Wes for Peace is a new student club run by Monahan and Nury that encourages thoughtful discourse about potential alternatives to military intervention, particularly when the U.S. is involved. The other student group involved in the lecture, J Street U, is the student organizing arm of J Street, a national movement that advocates for a two-state solution through vigorous American leadership and that attempts to change the conversation about Israel within the American Jewish community.

Fineberg gave his opinion on what he feels is the only way Israelis who support a two-state solution can bring a voice to their thoughts.

“If the unrepresented majority of Israelis who support a two-state solution can mobilize towards electing a government committed to forging a lasting and dignified peace with Palestine, peace is indeed possible,” Fineberg said. “But doing so will be a difficult political fight against an entrenched right-wing regime committed to maintaining power, and we need to do everything we can to compel liberal Israeli leaders to take up the mantle of the peace process.”

  • BigSticksWalkSoftly

    Most Israelis, Palestinians, and the rest of the world can visualize a healthy and productive 2 state solution.
    But thanks mainly to Israeli and US Congress intransigence (go figure) the window for a 2 state solution is probably shut.
    Too little too late.
    The only solution is a one state solution. Full civil and human rights for all.
    You can thank the colonial settlers and their handlers who are
    illegally occupying hilltop (with Israeli and American subsidies) suburbs on stolen land
    in the West Bank, while placing Palestinians in those regions in apartheid bantustans.
    Not to mention the Palestinian refugees and Israel’s refusal for their return to their homes,
    the lack of establishing clear and expressed borders by Israel enabling them to steal more land,
    the status of Jerusalem including the Jim Crow discrimination of Palestinians by Israel,
    and the total theft of water resources and economic monopoly Israel has over the Palestinians.
    I could go on

    • Anonymous


      Modern Muslims have religious conflict with: Hindus in Kashmir;
      Christians in Nigeria, Egypt, and Bosnia; atheists in Chechnya; Baha’is in
      Iran; Animists in Darfur; Buddhists in Thailand; each other in Iraq, Pakistan,
      Somalia, and Yemen; Jews in Israel; Why is Islam involved in more sectarian and
      religious conflicts than any other religion today? In fact, why is Islam the
      only religion in conflict with every single one of today’s major world

      But you think belligerent pugnacious Islam has legitimate grievances in this
      constant conflict, and that, for example in Palestine, Islam is just defending
      its own reasonable interests?

      No, not at bottom. At bottom what we have in Islam is a violent,
      expansionist totalitarianism. That’s why Islam is in conflict all over the
      world with every other religion.

  • Anonymous

    In July 2012, IsraelNationalNews.com enumerated several
    vital facts reflecting J Street’s consistently anti-Israel posture. These
    included the following:

    J Street’s political action committee (PAC) receives funds
    from the Saudi Arabian embassy’s attorney, Nancy Dutton.

    J Street receives more than $10,000 per year in
    contributions from Genevieve Lynch, a director of the National Iranian American
    Council, which is a pro-Iranian lobby.

    J Street’s PAC has received tens of thousands of dollars
    from one of the leaders of the Arab American community, Richard Abdoo.

    J Street’s PAC repeatedly took contributions from a Turkish
    American, Mehmet Celebi, who had helped produce Valley of the Wolves, a
    viciously anti-American and anti-Semitic Turkish film.

    J Street recently sponsored a speaking tour for John Ging,
    head of the Gaza-based UNRWA, an entity whose raison d’être is to perpetuate
    the Palestinian refugees’ status, thus encouraging their “right of return.”

    J Street’s visit to Israel in February 2010 was co-sponsored
    by an anti-Israel group called Churches for Peace in the Middle East, an
    organization which supports the boycott, divestment, & sanctions (BDS)
    efforts against Israel.

    Anti-Israel U.S. Arabists are attracted to J Street, sitting
    on its advisory board or contributing to J Street’s PAC. These include Ray
    Close, former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia and then advisor to the head of
    Saudi intelligence; Lewis Elbinger, State Department foreign service officer;
    Nicole Shampaine, director of the State Department’s Office for Egypt and the
    Levant; Ted Kattouf, former ambassador to Syria and the United Arab Emirates;
    Robert Pelletreau, former ambassador to Egypt, Tunisia and Bahrain; and Philip
    Wilcox, former U.S. consul general in Jerusalem, and president of the
    Foundation for Middle East Peace.

    Daniel Levy (Jeremy Ben-Ami’s partner in founding J Street)
    stated at a conference in Abu Dhabi that “the creation of Israel” was “an act
    that was wrong.” Levy also defended the Goldstone Report, which was very
    critical of Israel’s 2009 military operation in Gaza.

    J Street welcomed BDS lobbyists to its national conference,
    where BDS ran a session on strategies and justifications for boycotting Israeli

    In January 2012, J Street in Jerusalem held a special
    meeting to honor Israeli soldiers who refused to obey the orders of their

    In March 2012, J Street lobbied the U.S. Congress against a
    resolution condemning the blatant incitement and anti-Semitism in Palestinian
    schoolbooks and the Palestinian media. Moreover, J Street refused comment on
    the Palestinian Authority’s school curriculum which openly promoted the violent
    struggle to “liberate” all of “Palestine.”

  • Anonymous

    In his History of the Jews in Christian Spain Yitzhak Baer tells us that
    Abner of Burgos, the apostate cited at the beginning of this essay, not only
    devised a plan for terrorizing and destroying the Jews which “the enemies of
    Israel were to carry out in its entirety in the year 1391.” “The aging
    fanatical apostate who wrote these diatribes,” Baer adds,” launched his holy
    war himself, not only in words but also in deed.” But our new apostates need
    not work so hard: they can rest content with being accessories to, rather than
    perpetrators of, murder. The machinery for destruction of the state of Israel
    is already in place. It exists not only in Iran, whose leaders explicitly call
    for wiping Israel off the map with nuclear weapons that they are now almost
    certain to obtain. The neighbors of this tiny country would be delighted to see
    it reduced to sandy wastes, as would countless citizens of the Dark Continent
    (Europe, that is) who cannot forgive the Jews for the Holocaust. If many
    Iranians and Europeans still deny there was a Holocaust, that is because, as
    the courageous German scholar Matthias Kuntzel has observed: “Every denial of
    the Holocaust contains an appeal to repeat it.” The BDSers may be obtuse,
    craven, morally bankrupt; but they would also have to be deaf, dumb, and blind
    not to recognize the link between their efforts and the murderous intentions of
    those who regret the Holocaust only because—for a time—it gave antisemitism a
    bad name.

    There is yet one more calamity that has been brought closer by
    the reckless Jewish promoters of BDS, a calamity that one might have expected
    at least the Jewish Studies professors among them to think about for just a
    moment. “In only one respect,” wrote Hillel Halkin in 2007, “are things [now]
    worse. In the 1930’s the Jews were a people that had lost a first temple and a
    second one; yet as frightful as their next set of losses was to be, they did
    not have a third temple to risk. Today, they do. And in Jewish history, three
    strikes and you’re out.”