Pakistani-American elected president of pro-Israel group

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani-American girl was elected as president of  the national student board of a pro-Israel group, J Street U.

Amna Farooqi, a senior at the University of Maryland, was elected as president this week at the group’s ‘Summer Leadership Institute’ in Washington, where approximately 120 J Street U student leaders attended the four-day gathering.

J Street U boasts a total of 4,000 active participants on 75 college campuses in the United States.

Farooqi, a local of suburban Washington, DC, grew up in a ‘fairly religious Muslim home’ with ‘a lot of Jewish friends’.

Speaking at the J Street conference last March, Farooqi said, “Growing up in a household sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, the Palestine-Israel conflict was always the elephant in the room. This conflict evoked a level of anger and emotion in me, and I needed to learn more. Everything I was learning about the conflict made me not want to be pro-Israel. … As someone who wanted to contribute to ending this conflict I knew I needed to understand all sides.”

Farooqi said she “fell in love with Zionism” while taking a course about Israel in college, “because Zionism became about taking ownership over the story of one’s people. If Zionism is about owning your future, how can I not respect that?”

In order to understand the Israeli people and their viewpoint, Farooqi spent a semester at Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Rothberg International School. She wanted to “meet people on the ground and understand the Israeli narrative from their perspective, and to put faces to things and see some of these issues up close”.

She revealed that her extended family has been “confused but supportive” about Farooqi’s pro-Israel activism. This summer she lived in Jerusalem as a J Street U intern, co-leading day trips, including a visit to Hebron, for American university students. –The Express Tribune

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