Zionism panel teaches students about world issues

Michael Roccia
Staff Writer

The University of La Verne’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life hosted a Zionism discussion with Jonathan Reed, professor of philosophy and religion, and Jason Neidleman,  professor of political science, in the Ludwick Center last week.

Reed and Neidleman hoped to give the 45 people in attendance a better understanding of the topic and its relevance to the current conflicts in the Middle East.

Reed talked first about what Zionism is and how it truly began. Reed explained that he is also an archaeologist, which molds his perspective. In about 15 minutes he presented thousands of years of Middle Eastern history, and he explained that understanding archeology tells a story as well.

“The reason understanding archaeology is important is not because it settles the current situation, but it helps people assess radical claims by both extremes,” Reed said. “Things like, ‘that other side was never here.’ I think archeology and DNA demographics complicates the issue and creates much more of a gray world than a … black and white world.”

“The situation in Palestine and Israel is horrific,” Reed said. “We’re going to live with the consequences of these events for generations… I hope we share different perspectives, and I hope people will attend and think about it.”

“My hope is this isn’t one single panel,” Reed said. 

Neidleman talked about the modern Zionism movement that began in the 19th century and how politics played such a crucial role in developing it into what we see today.

With everything going on in the world, he wanted to make sure people, and specifically his students, understand what the movement actually is.

Simply put, Zionism is a movement to recreate a Jewish presence in Israel.

“I was talking to some students before class about Israel, Palestine and I used the term Zionism a few times,” Neidleman said. “One of the students raised his hand and asked ‘What’s Zionism?’ I thought, ‘wow, okay we should have a panel just to educate people on what this thing is’.”

Neidleman said he wanted people to gain an understanding of the historical origins and the present realities they are facing, and to emphasize the humanity in the situation. He wanted people to understand both sides of Zionism and the people it affects in the context of the ongoing war.

He paraphrased a quote from Edward Said, a famous Palestinian writer.

“He said, ‘We need to kind of see the world through the perspective of the other’,” Neidleman said. “If we do that, we’re able to humanize even people that we see as adversaries. And if we don’t do that, if we fail to do that, we guarantee that there’ll be a cycle of violence and dehumanization. And that’s what we’re in right now.”

Raymond Moreno, a junior philosophy major who attended the Thursday talk, said he learned a lot.

“I think it’s pretty important to stay informed about current events in the world,” Moreno said. “And so coming to a panel like this is very important in being informed.”

Sophomore political science major Rania Kartouch, who also attended, agreed.

“I … found that this way made it fairly easy to understand and so you’re able to learn things rather quickly.”

The discussion lasted about an hour. Reed said he hopes that this panel is just the beginning of such dialogue among the University community.

Michael Roccia can be reached at michael.roccia@laverne.edu.

Michael Roccia is a junior communications major with a concentration is public relations. This is his first semester as a staff writer for the Campus Times.

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