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Event Report|Will this world ever be the same? & Perspectives on Palestine

2024-02-20

Venue

National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
Humanities Building 2 (
人社二館) F106

Time

Jan 15, 2024 (Monday) 17:00 – 19:40
Taipei Standard Time (GMT +8)

Speakers

  1. Hazem Almassry
    from Gaza, Independent researcher, Ph.D. from Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, NYCU, Taiwan
  2. Ruba Salih
    Professor of Anthropology, University of Bologna, Italy
  3. Farid Alatas
    Professor of Sociology, National University of Singapore, Singapore
  4. Alain Brossat
    Professor of Philosophy, Paris 8 University, France
  5. Michael Furmanovsky
    Professor of Cultural Studies, Ryukoku University, Japan

Organizer

International Center for Cultural Studies

Coordinators

Kahlan A. Alradhi & Hanh T. L. Nguyen

 

 

Introduction 

For the purpose of examining the political and humanitarian crisis in Palestine, the International Center for Cultural Studies, NYCU, organized the symposium "Perspectives on Palestine: Dialogues on History, Humanity, and Hope." It particularly focused on Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip following the "Al-Aqsa Flood" operation by Hamas on October 7, 2023. The Israeli bombardments, conducted through land, air, and sea, have ruthlessly targeted Gaza's population, resulting in approximately 30,000 casualties as of January 15, 2024, predominantly among women and children. UNRWA estimates suggest that more than a million people have been displaced, causing a collapse in the health sector and leading to an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe. 

Organized by the International Center for Cultural Studies, the event brought together a distinguished panel of speakers to share their insights on the Israel-Palestine conflict. The symposium aimed to cultivate an unwavering sense of empathy, ignite compassion, and instill a genuine desire for the well-being of all individuals affected by the ongoing situation. 

We invited five speakers. They included Dr. Hazem Almassry, an independent researcher from Gaza;  Prof. Ruba Salih, a professor of Anthropology at the University of Bologna, Italy; Prof. Farid Alatas, a professor of Sociology at the National University of Singapore, Singapore; Prof. Alain Brossat, an emeritus professor of Philosophy at Paris 8 University, France; and Prof. Michael Furmanovsky, a professor of Cultural Studies at Ryukoku University, Japan.

The symposium, held at the Humanities Building 2 (人社二館) F106 of National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University, took place on January 15, 2024 (Monday) from 17:00 to 19:40 Taipei Standard Time (GMT +8). It was coordinated by Kahlan A. Alradhi and Hanh T. L. Nguyen, providing a platform for a comprehensive exploration of various perspectives on the Israel-Palestine conflict.

 

 

Symposium proceedings

The symposium began with the contribution of Dr. Hazem Almassry, who comes from Gaza. He obtained a doctorate from the NYCU. He now lives in Taiwan with his wife and children, while the rest of his family are still living in Gaza. Dr. Hazem shared a personal account, providing a historical context of his experiences as a Gaza resident. His narrative reflects the extensive suffering endured by Palestinians under the oppression of the Zionist occupation. This suffering is evident in various aspects, including land seizures, displacement, imposing sieges, racist policies, economic rights violations, and the deprivation of basic services. Hazem highlighted key events such as the First Intifada (1987-1993), the Peace Process (1993-2000), the Great March of Return (2018-2019), the Second Intifada (2000-2005), and the blockade of the Gaza Strip and how these events affected the lived experiences of himself and his family.

Throughout his presentation, Hazem illustrated the general hardships faced by Gaza residents, starting with mass displacement during the 1948 establishment of the Zionist state and the 1967 hostile and expansion war. His personal experiences included the destruction of his family's farm, the loss of classmates and colleagues during Israeli attacks, water and electricity cuts, and the comprehensive siege causing scarcity of essential resources and difficulty in moving, traveling, and obtaining an appropriate education or job. The recent collective annihilation war resulted in the death of his mother, the destruction of his house, and the scattering of his family members across different parts of the Strip.

In her presentation, Prof. Ruba Salih underscores the ethical and political importance of contextualizing current events within the long-term history of injustices against Palestinians since 1948, particularly in the ongoing Gaza conflict. She highlights how the oppressed, especially Palestinians, have faced epistemic violence, limiting their visibility to Israeli perspectives. Critiquing the one-sided representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict post-October 7th, she points to a new perspective that neglects historical context. Despite abundant scholarly studies on Palestine, persistent denial of Palestinian erasure prevails. The author introduces DAVRO (Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender) as a tool to understand epistemic violence, stating, " How does the persistent denial of erasure in the case of Palestinians work? We might resort to psychoanalysis or to a particular form of narcissistic behavior known as DAVRO ." Lastly, she stresses the ethical and political necessity of reorienting the world's moral compass, exposing the intertwined processes of humanization and dehumanization of both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians to recognize the equal value of all human lives.

Prof. Farid Alatas argued that it is appropriate to classify Israel as a settler colonial state, aligning with the broader global discourse on this intricate and enduring conflict. Contrary to the prevailing narrative in the West, the media, and even in Malaysia, which suggests an international conflict in Palestine as if there are two independent entities - Palestine and Israel, the actual reality is different. In his words, "The reality is that the whole of what we called Palestine is a colony with three forms of colonialism taking place - settler colonialism, semi-colonialism and exploitation colonialism."
 
Prof. Alain Brossat provided a Marxist analysis of the Israel/Palestine situation, with four main talking points. First, opposing the Western narrative framing the attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7, 2023, as the trigger of Israeli aggression on Gaza, Prof. Brossat strongly established the attack as a retaliation for Israel’s oppression of Palestine in general and Gaza in particular. It is a response to ongoing bombings in Gaza, violence against residents of the West Bank by settlers and the army, and the desecration of Islamic holy sites, particularly in Jerusalem. Second, Prof. Brossat delineated terror as a recurring tool for asserting power and sovereignty, highlighting the inseparable connection between politics and war. The situation in Israel/Palestine exemplifies this, with the Palestinian population in Gaza enduring massive, persistent, and increasingly destructive forms of terror. Prof. Brossat further elaborated that, today, hegemony relies heavily on industrial-scale terror. In the third point, he examined hegemony through narrative construction, focusing on language and the portrayal of "terror" and "terrorism." Narratives such as the "war against terrorism" attribute global and local disorders to terrorists, framing them as forces of evil in opposition to Western “democracies”, or forces of good. In his last talking point, Prof. Brossat pointed out that the modern democracies in the West have been relatively successful in this “discursive swindle” because they have long portrayed themselves as peaceful, emphasizing internal civility and efforts to eliminate violence. However, if one is to consider the sufferings on the ground around the world at the hand of these “democracies” – invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, French military campaign in the Sahel, major maneuvers intended to raise tensions in China Sea, proxy war tirelessly fueled by Western powers in Ukraine, etc. – their image of “civilization” and “democracy” falls apart.

Prof. Michael Furmanovsky offered personal reflections rather than academic or political analysis, acknowledging the saturation of discourse on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Reflecting on his Jewish background, he discussed his upbringing in a Zionist-Socialist youth movement and subsequent divergence from mainstream Zionist views. He highlighted the decline of leftist movements in Israel and frustration with their failure to build alliances with Arab Israeli communities. He attributed the shift to the right in Israeli politics to demographic changes and political miscalculations by leftist parties. He criticized the Israeli left for its inability to prevent the rise of right-wing leaders like Netanyahu and shared his personal experiences of estrangement from family members due to his political views. 

After all 5 speakers had delivered their speeches, the floor was opened for questions and comments from the audience both online and on site. There were some questions about the role of the left in the U.S. in influencing Israeli state and society in their actions towards Gaza, to which Prof. Furmanovsky responded that changes had to come from within Israel, and from the U.S. government and, to a lesser extent, the Jewish communities in the U.S. and Europe. However, there were also strong sentiments from most of the invited speakers and the audience that highlighted the agency of the Palestinian people, and the strength of international communities in calling out Israel’s oppression and ethnic cleansing towards Palestinians in Gaza. 

The concept of colonial settler colonialism sparked some disagreement among the speakers and participants. Nonetheless, overall, the symposium provided an opportunity for individuals to unite, exchange their experiences, and foster discussion and reflection. As coordinators of the symposium, on this matter, Kahlan Alradi and Hanh Nguyen both think that the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement should be one of the main measures to pressure Israel to stop oppressing Palestinians. Israel will be a pariah state since the world has seen its crimes against humanity in Palestine.

In summary, the symposium offered a diverse range of perspectives on the Israel-Palestine conflict, providing valuable insights into the historical, ethical, political, and personal dimensions of this intricate and enduring issue. Collectively, these perspectives underscored the multifaceted nature of the Israel-Palestine conflict, urging a comprehensive and nuanced approach to its analysis and resolution.
 

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