OPINION: Why I WILL be attending Columbia University this September

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OPINION: Why I WILL be attending Columbia University this September

'When individuals and groups from both sides engage with each other about our collective future, magic can happen and bridges are built', writes Josh Drill

Columbia University student protesters camped on campus to call for divestment from Israel, April 28, 2024. (Philissa Cramer)
Columbia University student protesters camped on campus to call for divestment from Israel, April 28, 2024. (Philissa Cramer)

After the NYPD (New York Police Department) cleared violent and destructive anti-Israel protesters from Columbia University’s Hamilton Hall, friends and family reached out to me to ask if I’m sure about my decision to study at Columbia this fall. It’s a fair question.

I am deeply concerned with the rise in antisemitism on campuses worldwide, as well as the troubling videos and photos that I’ve seen from Columbia University. These events, however, make me want to study there even more.

The extremism in the public space at Columbia University strengthened my belief that change must be made there. Columbia, like the rest the world, is divided into “Pro-Israel” and “Pro-Palestine” camps which does not further peace nor justice. Instead, we need to focus on being Pro-Peace and taking active steps that promote peace rather than obstruct it. By staying open to and insistent upon Israeli and Palestinian dialogue and strategic planning, we can create a better future for ourselves.

There are many Palestinians and Israelis who simply want peace and justice, yet we don’t hear their voices. It’s not because we don’t exist. We exist. I am one of them, and I know many peace seeking Palestinian and Israeli leaders personally. However, due to the spiral of silence, some of them don’t share their opinions and perspectives for fear of social ostracization, and in turn, society doesn’t hear their messages of peace. This deafening silence in the public space empowers extreme positions and prevents the emergence of innovative solutions to the conflict.

In the Middle East, this is changing however. With more peace initiatives popping up all over Israel and Palestine, peace activists like myself are feeling more emboldened to make our voices heard.

Josh Drill

When individuals and groups from both sides engage with each other about our collective future, magic can happen and bridges are built. Amidst the extreme headlines that are capturing global attention and creating havoc on campuses, real voices of Palestinians and Israelis are joining together and calling for a new way forward. As the Israeli/Palestinian peace camp awakens and gains momentum (although you may not currently feel it), it strengthens my capacity to offer hope.

The way out of the cycle of bloodshed is not through additional violence. The only way to stop this deadly conflict is peace. Through reconciliation, an act of intellectual bravery, we can broaden our perspectives and prioritize collective peace over our personal or group interests. We’ll learn that each narrative has its place as the experiences and realities of both sides occur simultaneously and in parallel.

As I prepare to enter Columbia for my master’s degree in Strategic Communications, I am hopeful that through conversations around values with fellow students we can learn to reconcile over different narratives. The path to peace and justice is undoubtedly challenging, but it is the only path that will stop the violence and trauma for generations to come.

Some may ask “will the conflict ever end?” but this is the wrong question to ask. Every conflict, like a story, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The correct question to ask is “When will the conflict end?” Of course, we can’t know the answer to that, but our actions and the words we use push the needle. Even if we don’t directly feel the impact, the waves that we are creating are already on their way to the future.

  • Josh Drill is a leader of the Israel Change Generation Movement
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