Focus on the conflict in Gaza spirit How, he asks, can we “intellectually evaluate an event of this magnitude, one that has already polarized public opinion around the world”?
A group of intellectuals in the fields of political science, philosophy, and human rights are trying to answer this question. Denis Charbet says the October 7 Hamas attacks “make no sense.” That's what we're going to do next is what he's going to do; Firas Kuntar comments that Netanyahu “knew that liquidating the peace process would generate reactions” – but perhaps not on this scale; Eva Illouz fears that “violence will continue until one side can overpower, expel, expel or kill the other forever.”
The contributors criticize the responses of Western academics, politicians, and governments, ranging from Germany's “unconditional defense” of Israel to assertions that the October 7 attacks can be understood as “the inevitable consequence of Israeli colonialism.”
The various positions taken by the French left were also discussed: the equation of Jewish nationalism with colonialism, or La France insoumise's preference for the term “war crimes” over “terrorism” to describe Hamas' attacks on Israeli civilians. Susan Neiman calls for more precision, noting that “it was possible…to be horrified by the massacre that occurred at the World Trade Center and to remain opposed to the war in Iraq.”
What will be the results of the conflict? Terrorist acts provoke responses from states that weaken international institutions. With doubts surrounding its effectiveness, Dan Arbib wonders whether the UN is “gradually turning into a lobby club.” The political solution is the responsibility of the United States and Europe, in light of the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries. Whether Israel chooses “to live in a peaceful environment or continue to consolidate its presence by force… will have a decisive impact on the future of the region,” Al-Kontar comments.
The path to peace
Political scientist Joseph Bahout places the conflict in the broader context of the region. In the negotiations that led to the Abraham Accords – brokered by the United States, which was forced to return to the Middle East as a mediator – “the Palestinian issue literally disappeared.” Therefore, the development of events can be considered a “victory for Hamas.”
Iran is rushing to fill the void left by Arab countries to defend the Palestinian cause, even though nearly 70% of citizens in ally Lebanon do not want the conflict to spill over into their country or for Hezbollah to intervene. Meanwhile, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar return to the negotiating table.
If Europe wants to play a role in the event, it must confront its “double standards,” Bahout writes. These “rightly point to the barbarism of Hamas but never speak to Netanyahu’s exploitation of the Old Testament to justify the erasure of entire villages” – let alone the divisive statements made by European leaders.
The conflict, which “beyonds all military rationality,” raises several questions: What kind of peaceful solution can be universally accepted? Who will participate in the negotiations? What leadership for Gaza will emerge next? How will it deal with nearly a million displaced residents of Gaza and reintegrate between 40 and 50 thousand Hamas members into an administration that must be formed from scratch?
Civilization removal wars
Historian Hamid Bouzerslan identifies similarities between the conflict in Gaza and other “wars of decivilization” that broke out in the past decade in Syria, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. These wars are initiated by a “sovereign entity” intending to destroy or remove the territory of the “enemy state.” They also highlight “the interference of anti-democratic regimes, which may be at odds with each other but may also work together” and enjoy relative impunity.
While Israel's “historic and democratic legitimacy has taken a hit in the past few decades,” the Palestinian leadership is suffering from a legitimacy crisis of its own: officials in Ramallah refuse to hold elections, and the elderly Mahmoud Abbas is absent from the public stage. In addition, Hamas is self-defeating “with its jihadist rhetoric and its refusal to recognize Israel… [and] Its armed occupation of the Gaza Strip. But it was able to exploit the legitimacy of the Palestinian issue to become an active party that must be taken into account in the negotiations.
Democracies can and should encourage “self-awareness of history” and remember what Hillel the Elder said in the Talmud: “What you hate to yourself, do not do to another.” Israelis and Palestinians should consider the book of Jeremiah: “Every man will die in his sin; Whoever eats sour grapes, his teeth will become toothless.
Published in collaboration with CAIRN International Edition, translated and edited by Cadenza Academic Translations.