UPZ Forms, Holds Inaugural Conference

Categories: Personal Stories of Zionism, Israel and Progressive Identity
By UPZ Staff

Newark, New Jersey. The Union of Progressive Zionists (UPZ) concluded its three-day inaugural conference on Sunday October 17th with the launch of a national support network to promote campus activism for a “third way” solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The UPZ will act to support a two-state solution, based on security and peace for Palestinians and Israelis.

“I really felt re-energized when I left and it inspired me to take action and really do something on my campus.” Anna Bakis, Binghamton University

The UPZ, founded by four of America ‘s oldest Zionist organizations, brought together over eighty students from nearly fifty campuses across the United States and Canada . Habonim Dror North America, Hashomer Hatzair, the Labor Zionist Alliance, and Meretz USA were joined by a wide array of American, Israeli, and Palestinian participants who made this groundbreaking event possible.

“For the first time since the violence began, beleaguered students can look beyond the Pro-Israel/Pro-Intifada paradigm and find a voice for peace.” Adam Wagner, Columbia University

Member of Knesset and former Deputy Speaker Naomi Chazan headlined the event alongside former Palestinian Authority Minister and co-author of the Geneva Initiative Yasser Abed Rabbo. Both spoke candidly with UPZ student activists, enumerating steps towards a negotiated peace urgently needed as Israel contemplates unilateral withdrawal from Gaza . Other speakers included representatives from the Israel on Campus Coalition, which is comprised of more than 25 national Jewish organizations; the Geneva Initiative, a model Israeli Palestinian peace accord; the Parents Circle-Families Forum, a group of bereaved Israeli and Palestinians; Givat Haviva, an Israeli organization working for Arab-Jewish coexistence; USD Hagshama, the student arm of the World Zionist Organization; Americans for Peace Now; the American Taskforce on Palestine; Brit Tzedek V’Shalom; and the New Israel Fund.

“This is an extremely important way for Americans to influence Israeli society… it was worthwhile to fail my first exam for that convention!” Yoav Sivan, University of Wisconsin

Students engaged in over ten intimate workshops exploring a range of issues including a crash course on the conflict, the meaning of Progressive Zionism, the threat of divestment, tools for campus activism, social justice opportunities in Israel, and methods for affecting American policy.

“I really wish that when I was in college that there was something of this nature. Your work is so important. I think that the American Jewish community desperately needs your voice.” Rachel Abramson, Former A ssistant Director of Middle East Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Students left the conference with a sense of urgency, determined to inject a voice that recognizes the right of both peoples to self determination; a constructive alternative to the divisive debate that increasingly polarizes campuses across North America.               

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