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Seeking Real Solutions for the Palestinians

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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced recently that he would summon the state's leadership to decide whether to resume peace talks with Israel, reminding us of the constant controversy surrounding the issue of a two-state solution. So as we look toward a potential and hopeful acceleration of the peace process, the time is apt to analyze one aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is detrimental to both sides of the debate and restrictive of progress.

Since their official recognition by the United Nations in 1948, the Palestinian people have been pressed at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as subjects of passionate activism demanding the betterment of their political and social conditions. However, the current and most commonly embraced means of attaining better circumstances for the Palestinians, a near universally accepted need, are painfully ineffective while failing the Palestinians themselves.

I'll share with you a recent example. On February 7, fierce sentiments materialized on Brooklyn College's campus in early February for a student-led rally calling for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Aiming to isolate Israel from the international community for its alleged mistreatment of the Palestinians, the BDS movement stands as one of Israel's chief deprecators on university campuses.

Demonstrations such as this one mark a staple of modern advocacy on behalf of the Palestinians -- detraction from the State of Israel. As effectual rallying points, anger and frustration have been continuously directed toward Israel by pro-Palestinian groups. But irrespective of the morality of Israel's actions, we should refer back to Mohandas Gandhi's axiom "an eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." Propping up the Palestinians on the basis of putting down the Israelis is for one unprincipled.

But of even more importance, this fostered hatred only polarizes both sides of the situation and inhibits the prospect of future peace, which is in the ultimate best interests of the Palestinians. Israel, as a strong ally of the United States, is unlikely to go anywhere, as many of these efforts to rebuke Israel are in vain. Rather, these people who commit such energy to the subject should seek to aid the Palestinians that face crude societal problems in a tangible manner.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, approximately 70 percent of Palestinians live below the poverty line of less than two U.S. dollars per day as a result of insufficient income or lack of access to essential services. Simultaneously, the overall unemployment rate between the West Bank and Gaza Strip hovers at a devastating 31.4 percent.

I challenge the activists who have devoted such time to the issue to take initiative on problems such as these in order to aid the Palestinians. They could coordinate service trips to Palestinian cities or charity drives to improve living conditions. These efforts would surely transcend those that merely rhetorically chastise Israel by offering greater benefit to the Palestinians, many of whom are faced with crude societal crises.

If the Palestinian people continue to lack the essentials to sustain a stable society with the insecurity of their economy, deficiency of their education system and multiple other pressing issues, they will not be capable of supporting a people in the first place. As a result, the political efforts for the sake of the Palestinians would essentially be wasted from the start.

The improvement of conditions for the Palestinian people is essential to the prospect of peace in the region. So let's look for both the most moral and effective means of attaining this goal. That means not just criticizing Israel, but helping the Palestinians in a palpable way.