New England College administration and faculty led a community forum Wednesday with the goal of creating an open forum regarding the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict. Each speaker seemed to share the same belief regarding the war: being anti-Hamas is not anti-Palestinian.
Yoav Horesh, an NEC arts professor who spent the first two decades of his life in Israel, was one of the first to speak on the current situation, along with the complex nature of Hamas.
“This is not a war by a country. This is not Palestine declaring war on Israel. You’re talking about 2.2 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, and several thousand, tens of thousands of them are related to Hamas. But Hamas is not only a military organization. It also has kindergartens and daycares, food stamps and community centers,” Horesh said.
“So I don’t know how much you know, but last Saturday there was an organized attack by Hamas militants on mostly civilians on 22 different villages that resulted with more than 1,300 people killed, from babies to adults, and another 200 were kidnapped. Since Saturday evening, there is a military operation in Gaza, and only in Gaza at this point, that resulted more than 3,000 dead already, and the vast majority of them are not Hamas militants.”
NEC President Wayne Lesperance, a speaker in the forum, formed a talking point centered around people’s perception and support of Palestine.
“This is what you read, that college campuses are very liberal and so they’re very pro-Palestinian. And I think they’re right to point out you can be pro-Palestinian and be anti-Hamas, I think that is a perfectly reasonable intellectual job,” he said. This follows statements from earlier this month where Lesperance voiced support for the people of Israel in an email to the NEC community and on the college’s social media accounts.
History professor Jim Walsh shared his points in terms of the human impact of the fighting.
“It’s important to note that this is not about religion. This is not about Muslims killing Jews and Jews killing Muslims. This is about people killing other people,” Walsh stated. “Whenever we talk about figuring out a mystery, you have to ask yourself who benefits from this? Who benefited from that attack last Saturday?”
Through this, the panel began to shift from the role of humanity in the conflict to that of the media.
Colleen McElveen, a communications professor and adviser to the New Englander, talked about the complexity and sources of news coverage surrounding the conflict.
“Having skepticism is really healthy,” she said. “One of the things that we can do is making sure that we’re diversifying our sources and putting faith in some of the sources that quite literally have boots on the ground. So, the folks that are there and witnessing things firsthand, really removing some of those degrees of separation,” McElveen said.
“So, I think when we’re looking at sources, I think we have to look really broad.”
The panelists discussed holding future conversations about the conflict. Information will be sent to the NEC community when they are scheduled.