The Ithaca College History and Politics Departments co-sponsored the discussion event “Understanding events in Israel and Palestine: a historical perspective», November 30 at Williams Hall. The guest speaker was Ross Brannprofessor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University.
Brann was introduced by Jonathan Ablard, professor in the history department at Ithaca College, to a packed lecture hall consisting of Above all students. At one point, every seat and island was filled with attendees. The event aimed to create an environment that would facilitate reflection and productive conversation, and for this reason, Albard laid out rules to help achieve this goal.
Ablard requested no audio or video recording and urged attendees to stay for the duration of the event. He stressed the importance of a question and answer session at an event like this and said students’ questions and comments would be given priority.
The event was structured in two main parts. First, Brann’s teleological historical summary of the conflict between Israel and Palestine that led to the creation of Hamas. attack of October 7. He discussed how Israel and Palestine were territorially divided in the past.
Brann used maps to illustrate information about the territories and borders of Israel and Palestine from the beginning, dating back to the Ottoman Empire and up to the present day. Brann spoke about United Nations involvement in the 1947 conflict, after Britain decided to leave the country, and why the borders drawn at that time seemed so chaotic.
“It was their solution to the problem of two peoples wanting independence in the same territory,” Brann said. “By drawing a map with two things in mind. First: map where most Jews live – where they will constitute the majority – and then the places in the country where Palestinian Arabs already constitute a very clear majority. Second: Make sure some of the best farmland is in each proposed state. »
Brann spoke of the regime change in the Gaza Strip since World War II. He said that Gaza had been militarily occupied by Egypt from 1949 to 1967, then occupied by Israel until Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and that since 2006 Hamas had governed the Gaza Strip.
Brann then explained how Hamas has gained the support of Palestinian society, even though it is a radical group.
“A minority of Palestinians accepted [Hamas’ rule]”, Brann said. “But an increasingly radicalized part of Palestinian society, desperate to find a way out of the circumstances of the Israeli occupation, hears the 1988 Hamas charter. Hamas’s enemies – Palestinian and Israeli – underline this charter as being profoundlytismetique. Hamas military leaders, during the early phases of this war, used language that evokes a kind of racist vocabulary.”
Jo Dull, a sophomore, attended the conference and said she was happy to see the university host an event to facilitate this type of speech and discussion regarding the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“It’s upsetting that the school hasn’t made much of a statement or anything,” Dull said. [When I saw the poster] For this event, I was really excited to see that the school invited someone to speak about it. And it’s not just about protecting the Jewish community on campus, which I always consider very important. But I also think it was slightly ignoring the larger international issue at hand.. … It was good to have a speaker here who was clearly educated and able to present facts in an unbiased manner.
Brann explained the reason for the growing support in Israeli society for a radical solution to the conflict, with parts of society who would not agree with it in the abstract, but giving their approval due to the events of October 7.
“The anger that this has triggered in parts of Israeli society, particularly in the parts represented by the majority in this Israeli government, uses racist language,” Brann said. “They say they are refraining from the right to reduce the entire Gaza Strip and all the people living there to rubble. »
Brann concluded his speech by insisting that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be resolved through military action.
“Neither one goes anywhere,” Brann said. “Whatever happens, these two peoples are destined to live together. The only question is what political formula they could adopt, which might make a lot of people unhappy, but at least everyone could live with it.”
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Brann was asked to what extent he believed the United States was to blame in this conflict.
“It’s a loaded question,” Brann said. “The United States has been Israel’s shield against international pressure over the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza. He rebukes Israel, but there were no consequences. From this perspective, the answer is of course. Because we have a lot of influence. …It is also the largest foreign affairs allocation in the U.S. budget. …But this money never leaves the United States; these are subsidies to the arms industry. I’ll let your politics determine what you think.
After the event, sophomore Kamryn Struse said she respected the objectivity of Brann’s presentation.
“I appreciated how it was a really unbiased perspective, it was very historical,” Struse said. “[Brann] didn’t take one side over the other and cited examples from both sides to really make his point.