By: Zack Noureddine

The Middle East conflict has sparked many discussions and debates among students at Algonquin College, especially those with personal ties overseas.

The reality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is hitting home for many in Algonquin’s community.

The multicultural diversity among the student body is heightening the sensitivity of those close to the issue, whether Israeli, Palestinian, Arab or Canadian.

“This issue in Gaza is very repetitive,” said Algonquin student Mohammed Benyahya, 21. “It stops for a while then it happens again. There is no benefit in bloodshed, only suffering for families on both sides.”

Benyahya was in Libya during the Arab Spring’s peak which saw long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi overthrown by his own people. He said he sympathizes for both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

“In the end we are all human beings,” said Benyaha. “As much as I want to say it’s not a conflict of faith, it is always a mix of politics and religion. It’s very complicated. It’s viewed as a religious conflict because Israel is simply a Jewish state. This complicates how many perceive the issue.”

“I don’t think we’ll see the end to this conflict in the near future,” he continued. “The Arab Spring is responsible for connecting many of the Arab issues together, especially with what’s going on in Syria right now.”

Benyahya emphasized the importance of separation between religion and state in order to find a realistic solution.
Sixty-four years after it began, the conflict still beats with a heavy heart. Almost as heavy as the heart of every Palestinian and Israeli who has been forced to take refuge around the world.

“It’s tough,” said Ziv Birkhan, 24, interior design student at the college. “I’m constantly checking the news and talking with family about (the conflict). In 2005, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza hoping there would be no more terror attacks. Instead, there are constant rockets.”

Birkhan is an Israeli-born Canadian who still makes frequent trips to her home country. She stays aware of the events happening, but still keeps an open mind.

“It’s up to the leaders to decide on an acceptable result,” said Birkhan. “It’s painful for everyone when there are mass amounts of rockets coming in, and stopping, and then coming in again. That doesn’t solve anything. There needs to be a permanent solution.”

Birkhan is not the only one who believes Canadians should go out of their way to be knowledgeable about the situation. Souad Assaad, 25, is an Algonquin alumna now studying computer engineering at the University of Ottawa.
She perceives the situation differently than Birkhan, however she still agrees a neutral solution is absolutely necessary.

“For every rock we throw, (the IDF) shoot a rocket,” said Assaad. “It’s obvious (the IDF’s) military capabilities are more than triple what any (Palestinian) militia could ever amount to. But, how does one justify the slaughter of children? I am thankful to be living in Canada. Here, I know I will see my children grow without the same oppression I endured in my homeland. When I see the casualties rise on the news, I immediately think of the children because that’s where the major casualties are coming from.”

All of those interviewed by the Times feel violence is not the answer.

“I wish the people who wanted to kill each other were put in a room and left to figure it out,” said Assaad. “Leave the people of Palestine and Israel alone.”