Bringing peace to Gaza and Israel requires a new way of thinking about the conflict, says Atalia Omer, a scholar at Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
“Most attempts to rationalize Israel’s attacks on Gaza go something like this: ‘Israel has a right to defend itself, just as the United States would if it were attacked by Mexico or Canada,’” she says.
“This argument assumes that the war is between two independent nation-states. But Gaza has no sovereignty, and there is a profound imbalance between the positions of Israel and Gaza under Hamas leadership. Despite Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2005, which provided the illusion of sovereignty, Gaza for all practical purposes is still an occupied territory. It has been sealed off, becoming an open-air prison, with devastating humanitarian consequences.
“From this perspective, you can see the Gazan rockets in a different light – they are a response to Israel’s continued occupation of the territory. Of course rockets from Gaza must stop, primarily because the victims are noncombatants. But Israel doesn’t need to look far back to realize that violent retaliation will not work, especially if the occupation continues. Even if Israel succeeds in temporarily crushing Hamas, these actions will only increase the hatred and suffering.
“To achieve peace, Israel must reassess its position vis a vis Gaza, bringing about a paradigm shift that recognizes the flaws in the logic of the war waged against Hamas. We must reframe the question in order to address the suffering.”
Atalia Omer joined the Notre Dame faculty in 2008. She is an Israeli-American citizen who earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University. Her expertise is in religion in conflict and peacebuilding and the intersection of religion, nationalism, justice, and peace, especially in the Middle East.
Contact: Joan Fallon, (574) 631-8819, firstname.lastname@example.org.