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Peace Now U of T: A new club inviting meaningful discourse on the Palestine-Israel conflict

Co-founder of the club Alex Rose shares his hopes for the university
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ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY
ANDREA ZHAO/THE VARSITY

Peace Now is an Israeli organization demanding a resolution to the Palestinian and Israeli conflict by way of the successful implementation of a two-state solution. 

Recently, the organization has established a chapter at U of T. The club held its first event on February 13, hosting Chen Alon and Sulaiman Khatib. Alon and Khatib are members of Combatants for Peace (CFP), a Palestinian and Israeli organization fighting for peace in the region through nonviolent means. 

Fourth-year student and co-founder of Peace Now U of T, Alex Rose, spoke with The Varsity to share his motivation and hope for the new club.

Rose contacted the Canadian Friends of Peace Now, the Canadian chapter of Peace Now, in May 2021 to begin discussions about setting up a chapter at U of T. 

Prior to his enrolment at U of T, Rose was a journalist at the Canadian Jewish News. During this time, he was inspired by a meeting with the executive director of Peace Now, Shaqued Morag. “I felt like [Peace Now’s] way of looking at the situation was the one that resonated with me the most and gave me the most hope,” said Rose.

He wished to bring this club to campus because it presents what the people “in the middle” want, rather than the louder and ubiquitous arguments used by people on opposing sides of the conflict. Rose stressed the need for “a strong voice speaking out, saying that we believe in dignity, respect and freedom for everyone.” He added that it was important to explore avenues of resolution for all those involved in lieu of picking a side.

From his own observations, Rose thinks that, oftentimes, discussion pertaining to the conflict establishes Israelis and Palestinians on opposing sides. Peace Now, which is a predominantly Jewish group, “respects everyone’s narrative and perspectives.”  

The goal for Rose has been “to try to help introduce the Palestinian perspective into Jewish discussions around Israel on campus.”

He continued, “People use the metaphor of bridge building… the first thing we can do before we can really even start building the bridge is laying the foundations on either side. And both sides need to want to build the bridge and I’m someone on my side who does.”

Rose explained that while Peace Now identifies as a Zionist organization, anyone may join. He understands that this may not be something all Palestinians are comfortable with, but he nevertheless hopes for this club to be “the beginning of a more open, understanding, respectful discourse.”

Rose identifies a severe deficit in different groups’ understanding of one another due a lack of knowledge about one another. It is common for people to think a more understanding world, according to Rose, is one that understands them better. While he used to agree, he now recognizes that it would mean more than that: “If I want a more understanding world, I have to try to understand other people better,” he explained.

Regarding plans for the remainder of the semester, the club plans to host a screening of the CFP’s documentary Disturbing the Peace.

Rose also has an idea for a series he plans to call “What the land means to me,” in which people associated with the conflict through nationality or other ties to the land “share why [the land is] important to them in their family, their heritage, [and] their tradition.”

He added, “I think it’s better for everyone if at least we learn more about why people care so much about the things they fight for.”