Views on the News: the Conflict in Israel and Gaza
This past summer, Israel launched a military campaign within the Gaza Strip, responding to Hamas rocket fire and the kidnappings and deaths of three Israeli teenagers. Beginning on July 8 with an aerial bombing campaign and advancing to a ground invasion 10 days later, the conflict has killed an estimated 2,016 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, and 67 Israelis, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Multiple efforts at peace talks have failed, after Hamas and other militant groups launched rockets on Israeli cities. The war has made tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless, sends Israeli families to bomb shelters routinely and has received massive international media coverage. How and when do you see this conflict, both in the short and long term, ending?
Prof. Avigdor Levy (NEJS)
Regrettably, I do not see this conflict concluding any time soon. It seems to have degenerated into an asymmetric war of attrition, which might last for months, perhaps years. Hamas fires rockets and mortar shells at Israel indiscriminately and Israel responds with assassinations and bombings of Hamas facilities. Although Hamas’ arsenal has been degraded, it still has 3,000 rockets by some estimates and it continues to manufacture its own low-grade missiles. As long as it can, it will fire them at Israel. Hamas is bolstered by its ideology which calls for the destruction of Israel by divine command, by funding from several Middle Eastern countries and by the sympathy around the world at the sight of the large numbers of civilian casualties. This is why Hamas places their rocket launchers among the civilian population as human shields, although there are plenty of sparsely-populated areas in the Gaza Strip. Israel may have to resort again to limited ground operations and hold some strategically-important areas.
Prof. Avigdor Levy (NEJS) teaches “Jews in the World of Islam.”
Prof. Ilan Troen ’63 (NEJS)
The number of civilian casualties on either side is not the measure of right or wrong. Nor can the facile invocation of occupation extenuate terrorism. Hamas is designated “terrorist” by the U.S., Japan, Egypt and others. Its methods have matured from explosives strapped to suicide bombers to launching missiles against civilians. It uses fellow Palestinians as human shields, breaks cease-fires and cynically accuses Israel with human rights abuses even as it blatantly engages in them. Unchecked, Hamas will surely do worse. Hamas defines its program as authentically Islamic. This profoundly anti-Semitic organization endorses Jihad, not Islam, opposes a two-state solution and a democratic state. Like its Middle Eastern cousins, Hamas seeks an Islamic polity in which respect for diversity is a non-starter. Unless Gaza is disarmed and the Palestinian National Authority returns, I can expect to spend more summers in my home bomb shelter in Israel’s Negev as misplaced calls for proportionality seek to limit legitimate response.
Prof. Ilan Troen ’63 (NEJS) is the Stoll professor of Israel studies and director of the Schusterman Center for Israel studies.
Eli Philip ’15
With the current war in Gaza, every Israeli child has now survived three wars and thousands of rockets or airstrikes. Following the same failed strategy of military campaigns has not made Israeli citizens any safer. Moreover, the wars have decimated Gaza’s infrastructure and economy, not to mention the hundreds of innocents killed. In order to provide safety to the residents of south Israel, the Israeli government must change its policies. Short term, Israel’s closures on Gaza—essentially banning all imports and exports—must be eased, alleviating the humanitarian crisis and instilling a sense of hope for the people of Gaza. In the long run, Israel must engage seriously with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and reach a deal which addresses borders and other key issues. Only this will ensure children in the Holy Land grow up in a world of peace.
Eli Philip ’15 is the co-founder of the Brandeis University - Al-Quds University Student Dialogue Initiative.
Zachary Anziska ’16
This summer’s escalation of violence only reinforces the urgency for a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through direct negotiations to achieve a two-state solution. Hamas’ rocket attacks and Israel’s response to them, which led to civilian causalities, only harm those in Gaza and in Israel who want to live in peace. As pro-Israel students who are deeply concerned about Israel’s security, as well as its Jewish, democratic character—which has been threatened by a disturbing increase in racism and radicalism over the past several weeks—we know that there is no military or short-term solution to this conflict. We must not return to the status quo, but instead work for a better future for Israelis and Palestinians through a long-term, political solution. Only then can the cycle of violence be broken, so that another escalation does not happen again in another two years.
Zachary Anziska ’16 is co-president of J Street U Brandeis.