STORY BY KELLY MARBLE
Ali Jandal, a junior Palestinian-American spends Tuesday nights with seven other Drake University students at a meeting for the Middle East Peace and Prosperity Alliance (MEPPA), discussing a variety of issues related to the Middle East.
Over the weekend of Oct. 24-26, Jandal and four other Drake students from MEPPA attended the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference at Tufts University in Boston about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
“A lot of people in our group are passionate about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and we thought it would be a good idea to send people there just to learn about what we can do as a campus to help the Palestinian cause and bring back educational tips and organizing strategies,” said Janet Eckles, a senior radio/TV production major.
“(MEPPA) wants to educate students and the Des Moines Community about issues that are going on in the Middle East, and getting people to care about those issues,” Eckles said.
The conference gave the students the opportunity to network and learn from similar student organizations.
“Students have way more power and influence on the university than they think,” Eckles said.
MEPPA is a new organization, at Drake that works closely with the American Friends Service Committee in Des Moines. A Drake intern at the organization recommended it send members to the conference.
“You kind of forget other people are there trying to support you, and believe in the cause you are trying to bring to light. You kind of feel like the only one,” Jandal said. “Hearing from these SJPs (Students for Justice in Palestine)that are 100 members large and do all this cool stuff. It makes you know that it’s worth it … that you are working for something that’s possible.”
MEPPA secured the funds to attend the conference from the one-time funding option through student senate. The opportunity to attend the conference gave sophomore international relations major Kate Kemper a deeper insight on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also connected the Middle Eastern issue to the United States.
“There were people from Detroit, there were people from Ferguson there,” Kemper said. “It was all kind of encompassing, and realizing that if we are going to solve one problem, we have to look at all of them, especially issues in our own country, with injustice and human rights as well.”
MEPPA meets on the second floor of Meredith at 8 p.m. on Tuesdays. The organization is currently working on developing a Know Your Rights Workshop, and hopes to work with the Coalition of Black Students to create the event on campus.