By Mack Hogan, news staff

The J Street U chapter at Northeastern held its first meeting on Tuesday, March 29 at the Social Justice Resource Center. The unofficial student organization seeks to provide a respectful space for dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

J Street U is the campus organizing arm of the national lobbying organization J Street, a group that advocates for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.

“J Street U is the progressive, political lobbying group that’s pro-Israel, pro-Palestine and pro-two-state solution,” Lindsey Bressler, third-year economics international affairs major and founder and co-chair of J Street U’s Northeastern Chapter, said.

The two-state solution refers to an agreement in which both Palestine and Israel exist independently, rather than the current situation in which Israel has influence over Palestinian affairs. Though many are in favor of this solution, disagreements between Israel and Palestine over their respective nations’ borders have become a problem.

The event focused primarily on dialogue, with small group discussions dominating the time. Moreover, rather than advocating for a specific solution to the situation, the organization decried the current climate as unsustainable in the hopes of inspiring more conversation around the issue, which Bressler often sees as “overly polarized.” The audience, however, expressed skepticism.

“I don’t think a two-state solution can happen with the current leaders. I think it will happen when someone from our generation takes over,” David Iken, a sophomore marketing and management information systems major, said. “We need a concrete framework where both societies can truly become two separate states.”

Others not only see this solution as unlikely but also disagree with it fundamentally. Sean Burns, a freshman electrical engineering major who supports Palestine and the movement to boycott Israel, says he appreciated the respect with which participants treated his views but that the meeting did not change his opinions.

“I think a polarized dialogue is necessary. In the end, the strongest voices get things done,” Burns said. “You can’t be pro-everything. You have to be anti-something to get things done.”

Bressler, who was inspired to get involved with J Street U after a discussion with a Palestinian activist in Ferguson, Mo., called Tuesday’s meeting a success. Turnout, at around 30 people, was higher than she had expected.

“I think it was awesome how many people turned out. The discussion on campus is usually so polarized,” Bressler said. “It’s important to know that you can be pro-Palestine without being anti-Israel.”

Tuesday’s meeting, she said, was only the start of the conversation. With an arm of J Street U on campus, she hopes to inspire more dialogue in the coming semesters.

“I think the meeting was productive, but we need to make sure there’s action beyond dialogue,” Austin Williams, junior environmental science and political science major, said. “There’s a very real situation on the ground, and we have the luxury of talking about it from up here in our ivory towers.”

Photo by Leah Susman