A crowd of about 30 students gathered Wednesday night in the basement of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center to listen to a debate about the crisis in the Middle East. The debate was hosted by student-run USF radio station AM 1620 WBUL, and hosts of the radio show Bull Talk, Bobby Riley and Christine Lusher, moderated. The debate featured Isam Sweilem, a member of the Students for International Peace and Justice, and Dustin Sachs, a member of the USF student chapter of the Hillel Foundation.
Sachs began with his stance on current issues in the Middle East.
“I am passionate about this issue because I have friends and some family that live in Israel,” Sachs said. “I think that it is important that when issues arise that captivate the news media the way that this issue has in the past couple of days and the past couple of weeks, that we address it and discuss what we need to do to get past these situations.”
Riley asked the first question about suicide bombings. “Yesterday, a 10-year-old boy with explosives strapped to his body walked into an alleyway and killed people,” Riley said. “How do you defend killing an innocent child with a suicide bomb?”
Sweilem, who was representing the Palestinians, replied with a series of questions.
“I think you are asking the wrong question. You should be asking, why are 13 soldiers in somebody’s house in the first place?” Sweilem said. “Why are there 60 to 70 Palestinians dying per day and everyone is only concerned with the eight that died in yesterday’s attack?”
Sweilem said, eventually, people who are being oppressed are going to rise up and defend themselves.
Riley asked Sweilem if he thought the 10-year-old suicide bomber was a good thing.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing at all that people are being pushed to desperate actions such as blowing themselves up to defend themselves,” Sweilem said.
Riley asked Sachs how a person can justify the violence.
“How can you justify 13 soldiers going into homes and invading personal property that is not theirs?” Riley said.
Sachs justified the action by pointing out government sovereignty.
“I justify it in the same way that American’s justify going over seas to a country like Afghanistan and rooting out terrorism,” Sachs said. “Israel’s duty as a sovereign government is to protect the people, who live within their land. According to every agreement that’s been made it was the Israeli’s responsibility to protect it’s people from external and internal attack,” Sachs said. Riley asked about an article in the St. Petersburg Times that reported 150 Palestinians have been killed this week alone. Sachs said the Israeli government is trying hard not to kill innocent citizens, but to root out terrorists.
“I sympathize and feel really bad that people get killed, but when you are in a war situation, some people are killed unintentionally, and no one deserves to die for no reason,” Sachs said.
Sweilem said what the Israeli’s are doing to the Palestinians right now does not have any relations to Sept. 11.
“We as Americans are not occupying another land. We’re not killing people, killing babies or occupying other people’s homes,” Sweilem said.
He said what we hear in the media is probably not even half of what is happening in the region.
“We need to put an end to the massacre of Palestinians going on right now. We’ve seen from history of Israel that God knows what’s going on in those refugee camps right now,” Sweilem said. Both Sweilem and Sachs agreed that if international law had been implemented in 1947, there would have never been an issue. Sweilem summed up the argument very quickly.
“All we have to do is to implement international law and United Nations resolutions and this whole conflict is going to be over,” Sweilem said.
Sachs agreed with Sweilem on the issue.
“I don’t deny that. If we had implemented international law in 1947 there would have never been an issue, if both sides had agreed,” Sachs said.
Contact Kelly Icardiat firstname.lastname@example.org