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Left: People gather around the coffins of British-Israelis Lianne Sharabi and her two daughters, Noiya, 16, and Yahel, 13, on Oct. 25. They were killed by Hamas militants on Oct. 7. Right: Palestinians look for survivors of the Israeli bombardment of Gaza in Rafah on Oct. 23. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit and AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

Why the Israel-Gaza conflict is so hard to talk about

With the intensification of war in the Middle East comes an intense polarization within our institutions. A historian whose family was taken hostage by Hamas, and a geographer with family in the West Bank, get together to discuss a way forward.

It’s hard to escape the horrific images coming out of the Middle East. And it’s excruciating to take it all in.

First came the news of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel, when 1,400 people were viciously attacked and murdered and at least 200 more were kidnapped and taken hostage.

Then came the retaliation by the state of Israel. Almost immediately, those living in Gaza, under the leadership of Hamas, were faced with an evacuation order for more than a million people. They had their food and water supplies cut off and 6,000 bombs were dropped on them in one week. So far, more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed, and many more injured, in Israel’s assault against Hamas.

Many of us have been left with a feeling of helplessness as we watch in horror. For others, this witnessing has brought personal anguish, especially for those with ties to the region.

For all of us though, it’s raised intense challenges about how to talk about what is happening currently and what has been happening for decades.

There is so much polarization. There are those that feel their pain, loss and histories of Jewish people have been dismissed. On the other hand, those attempting to apply an anti-colonial lens to the issue are being shut down and labelled as antisemitic.

On Don’t Call Me Resilient, our two guests today both say our institutions need to make room for a true dialogue — where decolonization is not a bad word. They say a contextual, historical analysis is crucial to moving forward — both at home and abroad.

Natalie Rothman is a professor of historical and cultural studies at the University of Toronto Scarborough. She grew up in Israel. She has friends and relatives in the region, including family members who have been taken hostage by Hamas.

Norma Rantisi is a professor of geography and urban planning at Concordia University who has done work in the region. She has family in the West Bank and is a member of the Academics for Palestine Concordia, and the Palestinian-Canadian Academics and Artists Network.

Read more in The Conversation

Read more: Jewish scholars defend the right to academic freedom on Israel/Palestine

Read more: How we define and use the word terrorism in the Israel-Hamas war matters a lot

Read more: The West's double standards are once again on display in Israel and Palestine


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