Published on the York University blog on Jan. 29, 2009
As the York strike is coming to a close I’ve been thinking of larger and more violent conflicts in the world. Namely the conflict in Gaza worries me.
As a student of Political Science I’ve been taught to look at conflicts objectively and rationally. Critical thinking is one of the major things that you come away with from University. I wonder how difficult this must be if you are in the middle of a conflict. If your family has grown up in Gaza or in Israel and suffered through many attacks maybe it’s not so easy to see where the other side is coming from.
I took a Poli Sci course on Middle Eastern Politics with Professor Saeed Rahnema that showed me just how defensive and angry people can become when discussing the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The course looks at both Islam and Israeli politics and outlines the history of Muslim fundamentalism and Jewish Zionism. We discussed the effect of the militant Hamas on Palestinians and Israelis. We also studied the effects of the Israeli military which secured the wall and the check points between the Israeli and Palestinian territories. I think that the course did help people to understand the motivations of the other side so that they could discuss a compromise to the conflict.
The course and talking with the professor has given me some insight into the latest Gaza conflict. I have learnt that Israel hopes to weaken Hamas with their attacks and to recover from the 2006 war with the Hezbollah in Lebanon. Also Islamist fundamentalism may grow because of Israel’s latest actions. Many Palestinians are asking for a Palestinian state and for Israel to move back to their pre-1967 borders.
I think that the critical dialogue that takes place in the class must continue in the Muslim and Jewish communities. I find it sad to see people spouting anti-Semitic and Islam phobic remarks in response to the divisions between the two cultures. The professor is hopeful that there will be peace between Israelis and Palestinians even though now tensions run high between the two sides.
After the strike students will return to his class with the hope that they can continue a dialogue of peace, as the hope is if York students can reach a settlement maybe there is a chance for peace in the Middle East.
Professor Rahmena has recently co-authored a book with two other York Professors, Diaspora by Design: Muslims in Canada and Beyond which has just been published by the University of Toronto Press