Content with my Internship
Elizabeth Goldstein is a participant in the RAC's Machon Kaplan summer program for college students. She is a student at Hampshire College and an intern at Americans for Peace Now.
This year, Hampshire College made the news when Students for Justice in Palestine, a large club on campus, advocated for divestment from six companies that supported the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The club, which I consider myself a part of, chose the companies for divestment because they aided directly in actions of the IDF that go against international human rights laws. However, Hampshire has a problem with mob mentality and poor communication, and as per usual this campaign got out of hand quickly, upsetting many Jewish students on campus. Due to Hampshire's place in a five-college consortium, this controversy also involved students at UMass Amherst, Amherst College, Smith College, and Mount Holyoke College.
I was in an uncommon position, both supporting divestment from occupation and understanding the problems with communication with the Jewish students on campus. I began trying to bridge the gaps, passing information back and forth, and relying on help from a friend at Smith College who was also at the peace-building institute in the Negev with me. It was difficult for us to go from sitting with Israelis and Palestinians communicating effectively on how the conflict directly impacts them all to come home to American students arguing incessantly about the best way to help solve the conflict thousands of miles away (geographically and emotionally, for some).
This summer I am taking my previous experience in advocacy work to my internship at Americans for Peace Now, a progressive Zionist organization which is pro-two state solution and anti-settlements. This internship has given me an opportunity to continue doing what I do in a new space. My experiences this past semester helped me begin writing a helpful guide to living on a campus polarized by Israel issues that should be available through campus Hillels next year.
One of the frustrating aspects of doing advocacy work for Israeli-Palestinian peace is that there is often a lack of effective legislation in Congress. Americans for Peace Now thus focuses on education and awareness-raising. Sometimes I wish I could spend every day attending briefings and hearings and creating new movements. However, I know that I will feel fulfilled if the tips I provide to other uncomfortable Jewish college students can help them stabilize their campus in the wake of the controversy generated by a divestment from the occupation.
If I know that someone is using my guiding voice, drawing from my experiences (and those of my friend from Smith) of adding reason to unreasonable situations, then I know that I had a successful internship this summer. Which is exactly what I expected.