By Will Parker ’17, Opinions Editor
One of the harshest ongoing territorial disputes in world history is the conflict between Israel and Palestine. The conflict receives plenty of media coverage, yet many Wellesley High School students often find themselves perpetually ignorant of the topic. By next year, that could all change.
Julia Pearl ‘17 plans on founding the high school’s first Israel-focused club, which will be available for students to join in the fall of 2016. The club’s official title is BAIRS, which stands for Bipartisan American-Israeli Relations Society. Pearl hopes to enlighten students on the nation of Israel. “Our goal is to spread knowledge not only on Israel’s politics but Israeli society and culture as well,” Pearl said.
“Israel is an interesting place; it’s a developed first world country with a heavy Jewish population in the Middle East,” she said. “And people don’t really know too much about it.”
Contrary to popular belief, the conflict between Israel and Palestine is not a religious war between Judaism and Islam, it is a war over land. Since the early 1900’s, Zionists (those who support a Jewish nation) and Palestinians have been fighting over the territory of Israel.
Pearl also wants to focus on how this global conflict has manifested itself on college campuses.
Israeli and Palestinian sympathizers are currently dishing it out on U.S. soil. As a harsh, violent rivalry exists between Israel and Palestine, a rivalry exists between those who support each country. Movements in support of either nation have grown into popular organizations within college and university campuses.
Pearl intends on discussing globally-inspired movements, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign. A pro-Palestine and anti-Israel group, the BDS vocalizes not only anger towards Israel and its supporters, but often anti-semitism as well.
In late 2014, multiple University of Michigan students involved in BDS posted hundreds of fake eviction notices on the outside the dorms of pro-Israel peers. The mock evictions generated a frightening atmosphere for the targeted students, who described themselves as feeling unsafe inside their own dorms.
This past year, Harvard University hosted a discussion-oriented event on the topic of Israel and Palestine. During the Q&A portion of the event, an anti-Israel Harvard Law student asked why a particular Israeli politician is so smelly – thus echoing the anti-semitic stereotype of the “dirty Jew.”
University of Michigan and Harvard University are certainly not the only two schools suffering from the plague of globally-inspired rivalry. It is nearly everywhere; either subtly or more overtly- another reason why Pearl believes discussing the issue is important.
“We aim to get high school students involved and informed about the country of Israel before they are completely exposed to movements like BDS,” Pearl said. “The goal is not to sway kids one way or the other, it’s to make sure people know what’s going on.”
A main goal of BAIRS is to dissipate ignorance through education, ultimately rendering students able to approach college campuses and the conflict in general as informed individuals. Pearl fears that new, fresh college students could be targeted, manipulated, or just confused by a small-scale war of which they are unaware.
“The best way to address something like this is to first raise awareness and inform students,” said Kyle MacKinnon ‘17, a friend of Pearl’s and assistant founder of BAIRS. “It’s really about sparking an interest and providing education,” he said.
On top of keeping students knowledgeable of the domestic reflection of Israel and Palestine’s global complications within campuses, Pearl also aims to attend the AIPAC policy conference in Washington DC.
“We plan on being one of the first public high schools to attend this conference,” Pearl said. Several highly regarded political officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, often attend. The conference allows for students, scholars, and politicians to come together and discuss Israeli affairs.
Excitement aside, the club is still in its fledgling stage. Pearl is still gathering a following, but recently acquired History teacher Ms. Emily Gordon as the club’s advisor.
With a summer’s worth of curriculum planning ahead of her, Pearl understands the importance of the material that BAIRS covers, as well as the seriousness thereof. That said, Pearl knows to keep it fun and engaging.
If interested, keep on the lookout next fall. BAIRS will be hosting discussions, organizing small scale events, and providing an education on global affairs outside of class.
“I am really looking forward to seeing any amount of newfound interest, and possibly some passion, in Israel next year,” said Pearl.