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Author Anna Baltzer gives a presentation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Thursday.
Author Anna Baltzer gives a presentation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Thursday.

West Bank talk sparks complaints of bias

Author Anna Baltzer spoke Wednesday about the conflicts Palestinians face with the Israeli government on the West Bank.

But some students who attended the event thought the presentation was one-sided.

"I want to debunk the myth that this is Jews versus Muslims. This is a human rights issue between colonization and Jews, Muslims, Christians and all kinds of people," Baltzer said. "A lot of people are hesitant to get involved because they have the wrong impression."

Senior Michaela Brown said she was happy students got to hear the Palestinian point of view, but said there should have been consideration of the Israeli side of the debate as well.

"I think they have only been subjected to one side of the information, and I feel like this lecture was a bit unfair because only one side of the conflict was represented," Brown said.

Brown handed out pro-Israeli fact sheets at the event to give people information about the conflict from a different point of view.

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"It's not a blame game; there are faults on both sides," she said. "I really urge people to go and educate themselves as to why this is going on in terms of Israel and why they are protecting themselves the way we are."

Baltzer lived in the West Bank while working for the International Women's Peace Service, which documents human rights abuses in the West Bank and supports nonviolent resistance.

Baltzer first learned about the Palestinian struggle while traveling in the Middle East, where she stayed with many Palestinian families.

"I had no concept of Palestine or Palestinians, and through my friendships with the families I met, I started to hear for the first time in my life the completely different version of the history and presence of Israel and Palestine," she said. "It was different from anything I had heard growing up as a Jewish-American."

Baltzer was brought to UNM by the Middle East Peace and Justice Alliance and UNM departments such as sociology, anthropology and peace studies.

Professor Marian Nagengast said she heard Baltzer would be in town speaking at other venues and invited her to speak to her class.

"I brought Baltzer to speak to my class because she is an expert in a part of the world I do not have personal expertise in," Nagengast said. "She promotes peaceful, nonviolent conflict resolution in an area where there hasn't been a whole lot of peace."

Brown said she hopes UNM will bring other speakers to discuss the conflict in the West Bank. She said that if the Palestinian side of the conflict is strongly represented in a classroom setting, the Israeli side should also be represented.

Nagengast said she does not plan to bring any more speakers to her class to talk about the West Bank issue.

"I think that we had a lively discussion, and I promote disagreement as long as it is civil disagreement," she said. "I was very glad the students brought up an alternative point of view. We cannot expect one speaker to represent all points of view, but we can certainly promote that in the classroom."

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