"There's a huge chasm between what is truly going on in the Middle East and the public perception," said prominent Israeli-Palestinian expert Norman Finkelstein, who spoke last Thursday in the North ballroom of the Bernhard Center at Western Michigan University.
Finkelstein, who was introduced by Michael Dwyer, the president of the West Michigan Justice in Palestine, and Robert Lifton, the former president of The American Jewish Congress and current member of Jewish Voice for Peace, assured attendees that he was "not in pursuit of any political or religious ideology, but in pursuit of justice and peace."
Finkelstein explained his typical lecture format, which usually involves him informing people of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and decided that last Thursday was the night to take a break from the conventional format.
"Just talking about it isn't going to work," he said. "[The conflict] goes on and on and it makes no sense…we need to voice that we want it to end and not just stand vigil to the conflict."
Finkelstein explained the importance of a new path, stating that it is no longer necessary to demonstrate that something has gone awry in the Middle East.
"A broad swath of the American public sees Israeli as bearing most of the responsibility," said Finkelstein. "Public opinion has significantly shifted. The public needs a sensible solution. We need to present a unified solution, one that corresponds to the moral center of the public."
The statistics Finkelstein cited, including BBC polls showing an overwhelming negative image of Israel, led one of his close friends to doubt any chances of permanency in the quest for peace, according to Finkelstein.
However, he noted that this year, there was a major shift in American public opinion. For the first time, according to Finkelstein, America was almost evenly split in terms of their opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Though this shift involved an enlightening of public consciousness, said Finkelstein, American Jews are facing a quandary.
"Most American Jews, about 80 percent, vote liberal. If they support Israel they compromise their liberalism, and if they distance themselves from Israel, they run the risk of seeming disloyal," he said.
Unbridled support for Israel, he said, is not nearly as easy as it seems.
"In 2008, Israel invaded Gaza," said Finkelstein. "White phosphorus, which reaches up to 15,000 degrees Fahrenheit, was dropped on households. You're young, you're Jewish, you're idealistic. Do you really want to defend that? No."
According to Finkelstein, there is now a public that is ready to listen and a real prospect of effectively relaying a message.
However, there is the question of what message should be conveyed.
"If we get it wrong, we're going to lose them," Finkelstein said.