Hamas launched an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and suddenly, the long-endured Israel-Palestine conflict took the spotlight. Since the mid-20th century, Israel and Palestine have been at odds, but in a media-driven age, the conflict brings global commentary on the issue like never before.
The political, economic and religious implications of Hamas’ attack on Israel are complex. Listening to various accounts, along with the conflict’s historical conflict grants a better understanding of the ongoing war in the Middle East and the interpersonal divide over Israel-Palestine throughout the world.
In an exclusive interview, retired Stanford professor Dr. Joel Beinin comprehensively analyzed the historical context and contemporary complexities fueling the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Beinin's insights shed light on a region grappling with a history of displacement, political strife and enduring human suffering.
Amid differing perspectives, including those of Palestinian advocate Amna Alian and Israel-associated junior Jack Hasson, the discussion scrutinizes the socio-political complexities that underpin the crisis. The interviewees discuss the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza, the implications of U.S. support for Israel and the role of social media in shaping global narratives.
"The situation didn't begin on October 7 — it has been building up for years. Over two million people in the Gaza Strip have been held in an open-air prison for sixteen years, with 40% of the population under 18 – this is the only life they know," emphasized Beinin.
He painted a grim picture of life in the Gaza Strip, where half the population is unemployed, 80% depend on humanitarian aid and 95% of the water is undrinkable, a statistic shared by The International Rescue Committee (IRC).
Beinin pointed out that these conditions and a lack of political rights contribute to the desperation that fuels tensions in the region.
"Fundamentally, the conditions in the Gaza Strip are what brought this about," he explained.
Beinin outlined the start of the Israel-Palestine conflict and how it has developed since. He includes violent outbreaks between Israel and Palestine over the years, the election of Hamas and the peace attempts highlighting Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip since 2006, following Hamas' victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative council elections.
In 1993, the Oslo Accords outlined a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as a peace process for the Israel-Palestine conflict. The agreement included the establishment of a Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for five years. The failure of the Oslo Accords and the subsequent disillusionment of Palestinians with the peace process further fueled the crisis.
Amna Alian moved to the U.S. when she was 8 years old as a Palestinian refugee with her parents, and has been actively involved in educational efforts for Palestine. Alian, reflecting on her personal history, emphasized the violent displacement of Palestinians, stating, "The reason we ended up here in America is because we were forced to leave Palestine. We were violently forced to leave Palestine."
Alian said both of her parents were forced to leave Palestine after both of their villages were burned down in the expansion of Israel.
She pointed out, "If you look at the map of Palestine, historic Palestine, you can see how it's been shrinking and shrinking and shrinking and shrinking.”
However, for those who sympathize with Israel, it is a different story. Jack Hasson is a junior at Palm Beach Atlantic and has strong ties to Israel, with most of his family currently living there. Hasson grew up frequently visiting Israel and considered one day living there to live with his family. Hasson stressed that groups like Hamas are obstacles to peace.
"Hamas doesn't want peace. Iran doesn't want peace. They don't want Israel and Saudi Arabia at peace. They don't want it. And when they give the green light, Hamas and Hezbollah are just puppet states for them," Hasson argued.
Identifying who the Hamas are has been a main source of controversy in the Israel and Palestine conflict. The name “Hamas” is an Arabic acronym that translates to “Islamic Resistance Movement.” Beinin described the emergence of Hamas in 1988 as more than just a military group since they previously existed in the Gaza Strip as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic organization.
“The original charter, if you read it, was bone-chillingly anti-Semitic,” said Beinin.
Beinin further clarified that Hamas was democratically elected by the Palestinian people in 2006 because of the failed Oslo Accords, and the corruption of the Fatah, the leading political party of the Palestinian Liberation Organization at the time.
After being elected, Hamas became the core provider for the Palestinians living in Gaza.
“The population, even if they are not supporters, relies on Hamas for many things that really should be provided by the Palestinian Authority,” said Beinin.
Hasson voiced strong opposition to Hamas, claiming that they are a terrorist group whose motives are reflected in the deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
According to a poll by the Washington Institute, “57% of Gazans express at least a somewhat positive opinion of Hamas—along with similar percentages of Palestinians in the West Bank (52%) and East Jerusalem (64%).”
Alian shared similar views of Hamas saying, “Hamas is just basically a small group to the Palestinians. They are freedom fighters – No people are going to, you know, just silently accept their oppression.”
Alian claims that the Oct. 7 attack took place because the Palestinians in Gaza reached a breaking point under the living conditions.
“It just reached a boiling point,” Alian said. “Holding, you know, five million people hostage. Without freedom, without rights, by force, is not sustainable. They have the right to be free.”
Alian references Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza as the cause of this “boiling point,” from limited water, lack of healthcare, extreme police brutality and overall dehumanization.
“They commit a lot of crimes against humanity,” Alian said. “How much water you get depends on what they will allow you. How much food you get depends on what they will allow you. Where you go depends on what they will allow you.”
The Hamas attack only heightened the division in the U.S. over Israel and Palestine. As the American government supports Israel, individuals all over the country voice opposing views on the conflict.
Beinin cites the emotional support of either Palestine or Israel throughout America as a result of a variety of motives, from foreign affairs to religion, to generational experiences.
“People want to take a side because they are actually on one side or the other for opportunistic political and sincere reasons,” Beinin said.
Even America’s support for Israel comes from a variety of sources according to Beinin, including, but not exclusive to, the formation of Israel as compensation for the Holocaust. He also claims that the American government supports Israel as a key foreign ally.
“If you’re talking military assets, and even more importantly in some respects, intelligence assets – Israel is gold,” Beinin said. “Israel is our [America’s] unsinkable aircraft carrier in the Middle East.”
Much of the controversy surrounding the Gaza conflict is most evident on social media platforms such as Instagram and X. Younger generations have been particularly vocal about their support of either Israel or Palestine.
Hasson believes that there is a lot of misinformation circulating on social media that has caused pro-Hamas dialogue. He argues that supporting Hamas is not the same as supporting Palestinian civilians, and expressed that his compassion for all civilian life is the very reason he opposed Hamas.
Hasson also addressed the antisemitism that has resulted from the influx of pro-Hamas content on social media.
“Since the beginning of time, Jewish people have been subject to some sort of killing or discrimination or prejudice,” Hasson said. “There’s no justification for what happened.”
Alian expressed gratitude for social media, claiming that it has informed users on what is going on in Gaza. The American media, on the other hand, Alian described as, “completely one-sided, irresponsible, and complicit.”
“Social media has a place and it should never disappear. We should never lose the right, you know, to speak to each other as individuals,” Alian said.
When addressing comments on social media, Beinin shared his awareness that there are arguments for both sides of the issue and expressed a desire for justice on both ends. He argued that both the Israeli government and Hamas have committed acts of cruelty against the other. Beinin condemned Hamas for killing innocent civilians, and the Israeli government for their siege on Gaza that collectively punished two million people.
The future in Gaza remains unknown in the eyes of Beinin, as the Oct. 7 attack shifted all previous peace attempts between Israel and Palestine.
Hasson shared his desire for peace in the Middle East to emerge after this conflict, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia.
“What I would say is for our Jewish community to keep hope,” Hasson said. “Out of the darkest hour of the Holocaust came the light of the creation of the state of Israel, and the darkest hour of what’s going on now, there will be some creation of light and peace in the Middle East between Israel and Saudi Arabia.”
Looking toward the future, Beinin and Alian expressed a shared desire for peace and a commitment to open dialogue and understanding.
"Peace is achievable. And there's a lot of Jewish people who want that too," Alian stated. "I'm fighting so hard for the day when we can speak honestly about what's happening. And we can hear from both sides and then we can resolve the problem."
Beinin emphasized that regardless of whose side you are on, the value of civilian life is non-negotiable in the Israel-Hamas war.
“The only reasonable approach in my view is that we’re all human beings and human beings have equal rights to life and you don’t kill innocent civilians,” said Beinin. “If you do, that’s a crime and it’s wrong.”
By Grace Mackey and McKay Campbell
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