University of Maryland senior Liat Deener-Chodirker, 22, was just elected to the board of J Street U, the college affiliate of the dovish pro-Israel group J Street. In her hometown of Boston, Deener-Chodirker attended a Jewish day school. She has made several trips to Israel, both to visit family and to further her education.
Which of all your Israel visits was the most thought provoking?
I went on a program called Extended Tours, a five-day trip based out of a small village next to Ramallah in the West Bank focused on engaging with all different Israeli and Palestinian perspectives on the conflict. We met with Palestinian nonviolent activists and heard their stories, each with different political views, but each so committed to peace. We heard about the water crisis facing Palestinians in the West Bank, and met with Palestinian business leaders. We visited Shiloh, a holy Jewish site in the West Bank, and met with leaders of the Jewish settler movement. We saw the tear gas canisters used by the IDF that were scattered all over the ground of the Palestinian village Nabi Saleh, a village that has been committed to nonviolent protest for decades.
How did hearing these stories make you feel?
This trip left me feeling a huge sense of responsibility to work even harder for the two-state solution and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. More than anything, I was reminded that the vast majority of people, both Israeli and Palestinian, are good people who want peace. I also ended the trip feeling a huge sense of urgency. We don’t have an infinite amount of time to resolve the conflict, because the conditions of the occupation are brutal for Palestinians to live under and people on both sides are dying far too frequently.
What is one challenge you’ve faced since joining J Street U?
Last year there was an anti-Israel protest on campus at our large pro-Israel gathering called Israelfest. And J Street U-Md. hosted an event afterward to debrief the protest. We wanted to create a space for people to come together and talk about what might have caused the protest and what feelings were on either side. What ended up happening was that students who protested, students who had mixed feelings about the protest, and students who were firmly against the protest came together in our Hillel building to discuss their various political beliefs in a respectful way. Everybody was uncomfortable for different reasons, but everybody was sitting there talking to each other — and having that conversation to me is just the first step. Dialogue is not enough in and of itself, but it’s a means towards actually creating necessary political change, and seeing that we had come this far as a chapter to be able to have this event was a moment I was very proud of.”
What do you want to do after college?
I know I want to work in the nonprofit world. I think the two things I’m most passionate about are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and racial justice in America. So I want to go into the nonprofit world in one of those two areas. But right now I’m really open to seeing what comes and figuring things out along the way.
So Ms. Millennial is in Israel maybe five times, hears form a couple of moderate Palestinians (never mind the PLA incitement, the school books teaching the students to kill Jews, the terrorist attacks and the flag of the Palestinians which shows all of Israel as Palestine), and she decides that the answers lie in blaming Israel, which is what J Street does.
When is she returning the land she lives on back to the American Indians, and moving back to a shtetl in Europe?
‘Ms. Millennial,’ as you condescendingly refer to a very smart, knowledgeable, and dedicated young women, is not blaming Israel and neither is J St. That’s not the point. what is the point is that almost 50 years into the occupation both peoples deserve to live with safety and dignity.
Does it really matter how many times Liat has been to Israel? Are you saying that the millions of Israel’s who believe in a two-state solution haven’t spent enough time in Israel? don;t know enough?