As usual, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on -- just this week, for instance, tensions between Israeli and Palestinian forces increased following an exchange of fire between Israeli rockets and Palestinian militants in Gaza. The latest campaign of Israeli military operations in the region had three primary targets controlled by Hamas, including the home of militant Ismail Haniyeh. Israel reports that, in response, thirty retaliatory rockets were fired from Gaza. At least seven Palestinians were wounded, while several Israelis also sustained injuries.
All of this comes in the midst of a heated Israeli election. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in a fight for his political life as several opposition parties have joined together under a big tent banner dubbed “Blue and White” in order to challenge the Prime Minister and his conservative Likud party. Polling has tightened considerably since the formation of Blue and White, in large part due to the popularity of its leader, Benny Gantz, who has combined a sort of social liberalism with more hawkish security policies. His appeal is made more compelling by the litany of corruption charges recently filed by Israel’s Attorney General against Netanyahu.
It remains to be seen how events on the ground in Gaza will affect the election, but events in the United States appear to be shaping Israeli politics and the narrative surrounding the Israel-Palestine debate at large. Freshman US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) sparked controversy recently with comments about the role of the “Israel lobby” in American politics, identifying AIPAC as an agent of Israeli domination over American politics. When pressed further, she tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby,” a comment for which she earned condemnation from the leadership of both American political parties. Netanyahu even took the time to respond to her at an AIPAC conference this week -- “take it from this Benjamin,” Netanyahu said. “It’s not about the Benjamins,” met with roaring applause.
The events of the past few weeks, particularly in American politics have brought the forefront of the public debate once again both off and on Exeter’s campus, as they have resulted in a series of op-eds in Exeter’s school newspaper, the Exonian , presenting multiple perspectives on the conflict, its origins, and the role of Israel in American politics. This public debate was brought to its head when three faculty members authored an opinions editorial reminding students to avoid the use, intentional or otherwise, of anti-Semitic tropes in such a debate, as they contended one particular article did invoke.
The issues being grappled with on campus are reflective of larger debates occurring in the larger world about Palestine’s long and complicated history, the line between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, the seemingly herculean task of building a Middle Eastern peace, the role of the West in this conflict, and the settlement issue, among countless others.