Between 11-13 November 2018, hostilities erupted between Hamas and Israel upon the discovery of an undercover Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip, which left the Israeli operative fatally wounded. Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians in a bombing campaign that provided protection for soldiers returning to Israel. In response to the covert operation, Hamas launched five hundred projectiles into Israel that successfully hit an empty military bus as well as a residential building in Ashkelon, or ʿAsqalān, in southern Israel thus triggering the possibility of yet another full Israeli onslaught against the besieged coastal enclave. The potential for war emerged on the heels of a breakthrough in indirect negotiations brokered by Egypt. The agreement sought to significantly ease the blockade by seventy percent and ultimately politically reunite Gaza with the West Bank under Palestinian Authority control. In doing so, the negotiations would accomplish what previous agreements in 2012 and 2014 had been unable to achieve.
The 2014 ceasefire that ended Israel’s fifty-one-day military offensive of Gaza failed to decisively end the blockade or alleviate Israel’s concerns regarding Hamas. Worse, it did not create a mechanism for the reconstruction of health, educational, agricultural, and residential infrastructure destroyed in the course of Israel’s systematic attacks on Gaza. The untenable status quo led to the largest mass popular protests in recent Palestinian history.
In late March 2018, Palestinians in Gaza launched the Great March of Return to take place between Land Day (30 March 2018) and Nakba Day (15 May 2018). The protestors demanded an end to the siege on Gaza and the right of refugees to return to their homes. Israeli forces immediately met the protesters with lethal force and shot to kill fourteen unarmed Palestinians on 30 March 2018 who posed no lethal threat to any Israeli civilians, soldiers, or military installations. On 14 May 2018, the protests coincided with the United State’s move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israeli forces responded aggressively and shot to kill sixty Palestinians in accordance with the Army’s undisclosed new Rules of Engagement (ROE). Only ten days later, the Israeli Supreme Court sanctioned the army’s shoot-to-kill policy without seeing the new ROE. It concluded, in Gaza, there are two applicable and interchangeable legal frameworks—hostilities and law enforcement—that the Israeli Army has the discretion to decide which one is applicable. The Court also described “popular protests” as "Hamas’s new weapon” and incendiary kites as constituting a resort to arms thus entrenching a national security framework for understanding the instability in Gaza and further securitizing its Palestinian civilians.
Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel began in summer 2018 to end the popular protests and usher a new status quo. The discovery of the undercover Israeli operation, and not the operation itself which is a routine feature of Israeli surveillance and control, upended this process. Though Hamas and Netanyahu have stepped back from the brink of direct confrontation, a long-term ceasefire agreement seems elusive once again. More broadly, even a robust ceasefire agreement fails to adequately address a settler-colonial context. Israel’s expansionist ambitions have marked Palestinian bodies as legitimate targets of eliminatory violence and thus constitutes a structure of violence afflicting Palestinians even in the absence of hostilities.
Gaza In Context, a pedagogical project featuring a twenty-minute multimedia film rehabilitates Israel’s systematic wars on Gaza within a broader settler-colonial context in an attempt to better understand the root causes of instability. It insists that Israel’s warfare in Gaza is the most grotesque form of the state's eliminatory violence, which it metes upon Palestinians within Israel as well as in the West Bank, including Jerusalem. The film reiterates that Israel does not have a Hamas problem or even a Gaza problem, it has a Palestine problem in that it has not acknowledged the legitimacy of Palestinian claims for native sovereignty and belonging. Resolving the situation in Gaza, therefore, requires a decolonization process that successfully stems Israel’s steady and unrelenting territorial expansion and removal of Palestinians and, instead, ushers a new political framework for coexistence. The pedagogical project remains devastatingly relevant now as it was in 2014 during the fifty-one-day onslaught and in 2016 when it was released.
In light of recent events together with the fact that this week, the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving—a national ritual aimed at obscuring the settler conquest and elimination of indigenous nations in North America, the Arab Studies Institute proudly shares a French translation of Gaza In Context. The video is now available with French subtitles and the hope that it reaches even broader audiences. A similar effort is underway to make the film available in Spanish.
"Gaza in Context"—now with French subtitles!
Gaza in Context
About the Gaza in Context Project:
A twenty-minute multi-media film that combines lecture, animation, typography, and footage from Palestine is the centerpiece of the project. Its other components include a teaching guide for instructional purposes, a bibliography for research purposes, and a compendium of Jadaliyya articles featured in what we call a JadMag. All of these elements are housed on the project’s own website, which is part of a larger research project on Palestine headed by the Forum on Arab and Muslim Affairs at the Arab Studies Institute. All of these are open-source materials and available to all.
As a pedagogical project, we hope that educators in high school and college classrooms, as well as organizers and activists, use these resources to interrogate the conditions in Gaza and use them as a point of departure for understanding the question of Palestine.