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The Gaza war from afar

Dov Waxman presents

In a campus lec­ture on Tuesday after­noon, North­eastern pro­fessor Dov Waxman took a two-​​pronged approach to exam­ining this summer’s Gaza war, ana­lyzing both the strategic objec­tives of Israel and Hamas as well as the conflict’s moral implications.

Waxman is the co-​​director of Northeastern’s Middle East Center and a new pro­fessor of polit­ical sci­ence,inter­na­tional affairs, and Israel studies. From a strategic stand­point, he said, Hamas viewed the con­flict as a way to restore its fledg­ling polit­ical for­tune and end the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Israel, he noted, sought to destroy and degrade Hamas’ mil­i­tary capabilities.

To deter­mine the moral effi­cacy of the war, Waxman used the Just War theory—a doc­trine that com­prises a set of cri­teria including the rea­sons for going to war and the manner in which the war was fought. Hamas is guilty of vio­lating the tenets of the theory on a number of fronts, he said, including its strategy of delib­er­ately tar­geting Israeli civil­ians and putting Pales­tinian lives at risk. Israel also vio­lated the tenets of the theory, par­tic­u­larly for deploying mil­i­tary power disproportionately.

I think strate­gi­cally this war could be judged as a par­tial suc­cess and par­tial failure for both sides,” Waxman said. “But it was clearly a moral failure for both sides.”

Waxman’s lec­ture, “Judging the Gaza War (from afar),” served as the fall semester’s first event in the Con­tro­ver­sial Issues in Secu­rity Studies speaker series. About 100 stu­dents and fac­ulty mem­bers attended the talk, held in the Alumni Center.

The series, launched last year, has tackled many recent con­tro­ver­sial issues in secu­rity studies including the Ukraine con­flict, the Syrian War, and the National Secu­rity Agency. It is spon­sored by the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Center for Inter­na­tional Affairs and World Cul­tures, the Depart­ment of Polit­ical Sci­ence, and the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity Human­i­ties Center.

I wel­come the chance to dis­cuss an issue that clearly mat­ters to many people,” Waxman said. “I strongly believe this is the kind of place where we need to be dis­cussing con­tro­ver­sial issues in general.”

Israel and Hamas exchanged rocket attacks and fought on the ground for 50 straight days in July and August, leading to more than 2,000 deaths, the majority of whom were Pales­tinians living in Gaza.

The con­flict began after three Israeli teenagers were kid­napped and killed by mem­bers of Hamas. Hamas stated that it launched rocket attacks in response to Israel’s crack­down in the West Bank fol­lowing the kid­nap­pings, while Israel explained that its air strikes were aimed at pro­tecting itself from Hamas’ rockets.

Life in southern Israel was almost com­pletely par­a­lyzed,” said Waxman, who was in Israel this summer before the fighting began.

During the Q-​​and-​​A fol­lowing his talk, Waxman was asked about the United States’ involve­ment in the war. “The United States’ clear strategic interest is to resolve this con­flict,” he said. “And it is clearly still investing its hopes in the diplo­matic process. But the U.S. was really just a spec­tator in this round of violence.”

-By Joe O’Connell

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