In the midst of a worldwide fervor over the escalating conflict in the Middle East, Salisbury University’s Political Science department hosted a faulty-led panel about the Israel-Hamas war on Nov. 28th. The panel of four professors covered detailed historical information, the ongoing international politics and future possibilities concerning the regional conflict.
Initially planning to host a panel open to the public and audience questions, the proliferation of clashes throughout the country between supporters of Israel and supporters of Palestine caused the event’s postponement in early November. To the relief of students eager to hear faculty input on the matter, the presentation was successfully restructured.
Muhammed Abdullah, an SU senior majoring in Data Science, was interested to see how faculty members would go about addressing the conflict. He found the panel both informative and objective in nature.
“The intellect of all the panelists showed out in their speeches and it was very balanced," Abdullah said. "There wasn’t any bias, there wasn’t any side; it was kind of what the ground realities are and what brought those ground realities to be what they are, like the predecessors of the reality."
Shortly after an introduction delivered by the moderator, the first of several panelists came to the podium. He gave a brief presentation on the history of the Middle-East which focused particularly on aspects of the region that characterized the 19th and 20th centuries. Britain’s colonial dominance, Zionism’s emergence to integrate Jewish people into the international sphere, the impacts of Zionism and the effects of World War II were all described.
A summary of the ensuing international politics followed the historical examination. The second panelist, a Political Science professor, focused on the United States’ complex relationship with Israel, specifically noting considerable economic support going towards Israel’s military efforts.
He said that the United States’ continued focus on the war in Gaza is making it difficult to address areas including immigration, Russian aggression and other topics of concern. Additionally, the panelist explained that America’s provision of unwavering military support to Israel makes it challenging for American officials to have a say in how the matter is handled.
The panelist ended his presentation by acknowledging that antisemitic and Islamophobic bigots exploiting the situation should be condemned. The final professor on the panel explored the question of what is to come next in this conflict.
Shortly into his speech, the professor pointed out that there exists no moral justification for the brutal slaughter of 1,200 Israelis which took place on Oct. 7, nor for the over 17,000 Palestinian civilians who have been killed in the military expedition since. He made this point more clear by refuting Machiavelli’s quote, “the means justify the end.”
An analysis of the ideas on the aftermath of war soon followed. Making the argument that a one-state solution would threaten the characteristics of a Jewish state or cause the emergence of a democratically unsound apartheid state, he explained the potential feasibility of a two-state solution.
When the panel-portion of the event came to a close, professors and curious students assembled into small groups to engage in further discussion.
Model UN president Jacob Cudmore-Maupai, who organized a student-led conversation pertaining to the Israel-Hamas war in October with the help of fellow student leaders, expressed his thoughts on the engaging outcome of the faculty-hosted panel.
“The professors are very knowledgeable about this topic," Cudmore-Maupai said. "I appreciated how fair they were in explaining the plight of the Jewish people and Palestinian people… I just appreciated that approach and it was something I tried to [facilitate] in the discussion I hosted, so it was nice to see that again.”
Taehyun Nam, who has a doctorate in Political Science, encouraged students in his classes to come out and hear the panel. He thought the event was highly beneficial, especially due to its peaceful, non-chaotic structure.
"I think the atmosphere was productive and professional, [the] speakers provided different views [and] different issues that I think the students need to know," Nam said. "So it was great in that sense, but of course it would be ideal had we had the opportunity for people to say something, respond to the speakers, but of course we don’t live in an ideal world."
Nam went on to note that there are intense feelings regarding the ensuing conflict, which is one of the reasons as to why the event was so significant.
"The fact that the event proceeded the way it did indicates how emotional people are, really, when it comes to this issue of Israel and Palestine, so in many ways I think it was meaningful," he said.
Taking over a month to fully plan, the event proved effective largely due to it's careful organization by SU professors. Adam Hoffman, who has a doctorate in Political Science and serves as the chair of the Political Science department, moderated the faculty-panel.
"[The panel] provides an opportunity outside the classroom to learn more about this issue from experts, people who’ve been studying this all their lives, basically, who have written and published articles about it." Hoffman said.
One of Hoffman's favorite aspects of the event was the opportunity it provided for students and professors to have insightful conversations about the topic in small groups.
“I think the sort of break-out sessions, getting students to think about this issue outside the classroom and having that exchange of ideas with each other and with us as facilitators [is beneficial]," he said. "To facilitate a civil discourse at these tables on something that is really really divisive, where you don’t see as much of a civil discourse, you certainly don’t see it online where they’re name-calling and so forth.”
Jason Rhodes, the Public Relations Director and SU Spokesperson, expressed the university's approval with how the event proceeded.
“We were happy that the event provided an opportunity for so many students to have an open dialogue about the conflict," Rhodes said.
By COLIN McEVERS
Featured images courtesy of Colin McEvers