NYU’s Taub Center tackles Israel/Palestine conflict in roundtable discussion

December 5, 2012

Professors, students and other attendees gathered at NYU’s Taub Center for Israel Studies last night for a panel discussion about the new book, “The Two-State Solution: The U.N. Partition Resolution of Mandatory Palestine — ESSAYS and Sources.” The panel featured professors Ruth Gavison, Ronald Zweig and Joseph Weiler, as well as Taub postdoctoral fellow Ariel Zellman.

The forthcoming book, edited by Gavison, professor of Human Rights Law at Hebrew University Law, acts as a reminder of the initial United Nations resolution.

“The purpose of the publication of the book is to remind everyone that the U.N. originally intended for there to be a two-state solution to solve the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis,” Taub director Zweig said.

NYU Law professor Weiler said the event was also a chance to re-examine the Israeli conflict through a different lens.

“[The panel] gives an occasion to revisit the Resolution, the concept behind it and its relevance to that never ending conflict,” he said. “It becomes doubly poignant given the more recent Nov. 29 U.N. General Assembly Resolution upgrading Palestine to the status of Observer State.”

Weiler introduced the panelists, with a focus on Gavison.

“It’s not easy to be Zionist and liberal and Jewish and humanist, but Ruth Gavison is somehow all of those things,” he said.

Zweig began the night by giving a brief history of the original U.N. 1947 Partition Plan and the resulting events. He mentioned the U.N.’s decision last week on Palestinian membership status.

“I agree that the decision last week was equally as historic as the decision in [1947],” he said. “The practical path to statehood is through compromise and moderation, and the Palestinian Authority and U.N. endorsed that here.”

Zellman followed Zweig, discussing the political implications of the Partition Plan and showing the Peace Index public opinion polls to demonstrate how Israeli opinions on solutions to the conflict have changed over time. He also spoke about the discursive trends in Israeli society since its foundation in regards to the two-state solution: exilic, redemptive, justificatory and strategic.

“It’s nearly universally accepted that Palestinians shouldn’t be under Israeli control,” Zellman said. “Most Israelis today accept the principle of partition as necessary. However, public opinion in regards to specific territorial concessions is much more divided.”

Gavison chimed in to disagree with some of the comments.

“Time in the Middle East and this generation both move so quickly, that sometimes Jewish memory of this conflict can be dim,” she said. “I strongly disagree [with Zweig] that this week’s U.N. decision on Palestine is a resolution or recognition of a two-state solution. The conflict is not over.”

CAS freshman Sam Barder, who attended the event, said he enjoyed the discussion and thought the panelists worked well together, offering a unique perspective on Israeli history.

“Though I was not always in agreement, the debate between [Gavison] and Professor Zwieg was intriguing, each offering their opinions of the future of a two-state solution after the most recent U.N. bill regarding the statehood of Palestine. It was an informational and interesting experience,” he said.

Rebecca Thornhill, an attendee and NYU alumna who studied Jewish History, found the discussion “eye-opening” although it did not change her original opinion on the two-state solution.

“Gavison was the more dynamic speaker and I liked her approach to history and political science. The other two were separated; I liked that she combined it all,” Thornhill said. “[Gavison] was a little bit cynical but I think that’s realistic so I appreciated that.”

A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Dec. 5 print edition. Tatiana Baez is deputy university editor. Billy Richling is a contributing writer. Email them at university@nyunews.com

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