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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Revived J Street U Calls for Two-State Solution

To increase dialogue about the Arab-Israeli conflict, a group of Georgetown students revived J Street U, a pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy group, this semester.

Although a chapter of J Street U was established at Georgetown in the fall of 2011, the group became inactive this fall after many of its members graduated. Scott Stirrett (SFS ’13) said that he hopes to re-establish the organization’s presence on campus before graduating in May.

According to Stirrett, J Street seeks to expand nationwide conversation about what it means to be pro-Israel in the United States and supports the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Molly Wartenberg (SFS ’16), who grew up surrounded by heavily pro-Israel relatives and felt conflicted upon learning about the actions of the Israeli government, said that the unique message of J Street U appealed to her.

“J Street says that you can be pro-Israel in that it has the right to exist without being pro-Israel in the sense that you agree with what its government is doing,” Wartenberg said.

When current President Jake Sorrells (COL ’16) approached Wartenberg earlier this year about the idea of reviving J Street U at Georgetown, she was instantly interested in the organization.

“As he was telling me more about what J Street does, I became very excited because I didn’t realize that there was an organization out there like this, that I wasn’t an outlier and [that] other people felt the same way,” Wartenberg said.

Although members of J Street U have reached out to other campus organizations, including Students for Justice in Palestine and the Georgetown Israel Alliance, they say the organization’s message is distinct.

“I feel like you have two polar sides, with Georgetown Israel Alliance and Students for Justice in Palestine,” Wartenberg said. “I don’t think there’s much dialogue and common ground. I see J Street as a good, moderate place for discussion about the conflict without disrespecting other people’s views.”

Sorrells agreed that his organization has a narrower focus than GIA.

Stirrett said that although J Street U’s work is consistent with GIA’s, J Street’s distinct status as a separate group allows it to focus on a two-state solution.

“We definitely have a very positive working relationship with GIA. GIA is a great organization, and we very much think that we have complementary goals,” Stirrett said. “They do some political advocacy in terms of pro-Israel, but J Street U has a more specific focus on ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a two-state solution, which is probably something GIA advocates for as well, but it’s not [its] main burning issue.”

“Both J Street and GIA are very much about supporting and celebrating Israel,” Sorrells added.

However, GIA Co-Vice President Nitzan Gabai (SFS ’16), an Israeli-American who served in the Israel Defense Forces, disagreed with the strategies J Street uses to achieve its goals.

“The main idea of J Street is that it just has its own specific premise on social issues within Israel and social justice within Israeli society, solving all of the inequalities and problems that exist right now in Israel, and [it wants] to do that through lobbying and pressure from U.S. government officials,” Gabaisaid. “While I definitely want those changes that J Street is talking about to happen, I just believe that they should come from within the country, from within our own sovereign government.”

Despite the groups’ differences, Stirrett said that J Street U has a solid foundation to build on.

“I think it’s encouraging now that we have about two years of programming history,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to prove that this is not just a one-semester organization but something that can last longer.”

J Street U has held one general interest meeting so far that drew approximately 20 attendees. The group’s leaders hope to focus on building personal connections with other members of the organization.

“The first time around, we didn’t really focus too much on establishing a real community and building relationships with individuals … to really foment that group so we have a launching pad in the fall,”Sorrells said.

Georgetown J Street U also played host to the national organization’s regional workshop for the southeastern United States in February and sent several students to the J Street U national student conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this year.

Stirrett is confident that the future of J Street U is bright.

“I think that J Street U will continue to grow in size,” he said. “It provides a really important and valuable voice in the Georgetown community.”

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