The Crisis in Gaza


On June 12th, three Israeli teenagers—Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar, and Naftali Fraenkel—were kidnapped in the West Bank. The kidnappings set off a firestorm of controversy and accusations, and tensions only heightened when, on June 30th, the bodies of the three teens were found in shallow graves, murdered by members of Hamas. And sadly, revenge was sought: six Israeli extremists were recently captured and charged with the retaliatory murder of a Palestinian youth named Mohammad Abu Khieder, Given the complexity of the rapidly-unfolding crisis in Gaza since then, the CPR editorial team has decided to compile the diverse set of responses we have received from members of the Columbia community. They can be found below.


First, David Silberthau's “A Kidnapped Debate,”  in which he addresses what he views as a troubling response to the murders on the part of Israeli and Jewish youth:

“When people conflate these two vastly different worlds—the human, emotional reality, and the political narrative—the result is often unfair, but more vitally, dangerous. Dangerous because emotions have a nasty tendency to foster bias and irrationality. Admitting such is frowned upon, and as a result society becomes very good at dressing up our subjectivity in the civil-sounding discourse, like claiming to recognize the vague “other side” to the Palestinian issue, or to understand that not all the people in Gaza are bad, but the true emotional fuel still manages to influence how we think about, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu phrased, the “wild beasts”. And like that, a clear cut tragedy assumes the basis for understanding one of the most contested conflicts in international affairs.”

For the full text of David's essay:

Senior Editor Joshua Fattal authored a response to Mr. Silberthau's piece. A portion of his essay reads as follows:

“Of course using any one event as the basis for a grand narrative is shoddy intellectual work. But denying the way in which any one event illuminates and contributes to the larger narrative is equally faulty. And contrary to what David appears to convey, this event—and the others that followed last week, most notably the appalling vengeful murder of young Muhammad—is part of the larger story of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and has much, in fact, to teach about it. The inherent complexity of the issue does not preclude an exacting assessment of the events. And it is incumbent on us, as students of history, to pay attention to the lessons from last week.”


“I understand and share David’s fear of last week’s murders spiraling into futile hate on both sides. But he is wrong not to seek to add these events to the broader conversation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “To those young people on both sides now trying to figure out how to make sense of this perennial battle, a solidified worldview borne out of sensationalized headlines and opinion boards harms prospects for future peace,” he writes. And he’s right. But the prospects for future peace are equally bleak if the trends showcased by last week’s events are not appreciated and combatted.”

For the full text of Josh's essay:

Mr. Silberthau addressed the concerns raised by Mr. Fattal in his response, writing:

“My aim is not to depoliticize these killings in order to divert blame away from the culprits and their political objectives. My goal is to spark, for those now spewing words of fire and brimstone, a flame of resistance. I want the coalescing mob to ask themselves for a moment exactly how many pitchforks does this tragedy require before it is set right. I do not advocate for a political/apolitical binary, but rather a spectrum of politicization in which the killings occupy a designated space.”

For the full text of David's reply:

Shortly after our publication of the work by Mr. Silberthau and Mr. Fattal, the tension between the Palestinians and the Israelis began to boil over. By July 1st, Hamas began firing hundreds of rockets at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip, and Israel responded with its own firepower.

It was in response to these events that Senior Editor Jamie Boothe offered a critique of Hamas, titled “A Dishonorable Opponent: How Hamas Breaks the Rules of War”.

Typical rockets used by Hamas

In his essay, Mr. Boothe writes:

"Hamas, while democratically elected, is recognized by Western nations as a terrorist organization. Sympathizers and supporters of Hamas often tout the fact that it was put it in power through a democratic process as proof of its legitimacy. However, with the resumption of military action in Gaza, the question at hand is not Hamas’ philosophical right to govern, but their actions. As I stated in no uncertain terms in a recent debate on U.S. Middle Eastern policy, “terrorist groups that are democratically elected are still terrorist groups.


However, Hamas does not play by these civilized rules. Hamas consistently launches rockets directed towards civilian areas of Israel, terrorizing the population. These rockets are crude and unguided; Israel developed an ingenious defense system—the Iron Dome—to intercept incoming rockets, but the threat still exists. Saying that, with such a system, Israel should simply ignore the rockets is the epitome of malarkey, akin to saying that a person wearing a bulletproof vest should not mind that his neighbor regularly shoots at him."

For the full text of Jamie's essay:

Shortly after the publication of Mr. Boothe's piece, on July 8th, Israel launched a ground invasion of Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge.

Responding to this escalation of the conflict, David Silberthau again offered his thoughts on the unfolding crisis, this time in the essay, “On the Conflict in Gaza”. He writes:

“I do not sympathize with Hamas. I do empathize with the Palestinian people. Political objectives, like basically every other objective, are products of power. It is much easier for Israel to want only stability and security of sovereign territory, when that sovereign territory is everything it ever wanted in the first place. With their backs to the wall (or rather the Sea) and crammed into a territory not much bigger than Philadelphia, Palestinians are a bit angrier with how things are going. Seemingly random airstrikes, stifling blockades, and constant political and social upheaval might unfortunately lead the average Gazan, who hasn’t had contact with Israelis outside of witnessing screaming F-16s fly overhead, to dramatic conclusions. In history, conditions far less dire have produced far worse.”

For the full text of David's essay:

Gaza from the International Space Station {Photo Credit:, @astro_alex}

Mr. Boothe has since offered an essay in response to Mr. Silberthau, titled "Hold the Position: Why Israel Should Not Negotiate with United Palestinians", in which he concludes:

"Israel has the political, military, and moral backbone to refuse to negotiate with a government that by its own admission includes a terrorist organization. This is not a Bushian case of “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists”, it is a case of “you are, by your own stated choice, unambiguously with the terrorists”. As such, Israel should wait for one of two things to happen before entering any formal negotiations with the Palestinians: either the unity government is dissolved, or Hamas renounces terrorism. Importantly, Israel has unshakeable American political support for such a holding pattern; recently, the US Senate (everyone from Ted Cruz to Bernie Sanders) unanimously approved a resolution condemning Hamas and calling for the dissolution of the unity government. This is not stalling; this is Israel not being intimidated by a crude Palestinian gambit. Until such a development, the leaders of Israel are both morally correct and strategically wise in doing nothing more than continuing to protect the Jewish State and its people."

For the full text of Jamie's essay:

By ISM Palestine [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsEliot Sackler, a longtime columnist for CPR, recently threw his hat into the ring, writing, in an essay titled "When Weapons Don't Work":

"Israeli must therefore align its policies. It must either destroy the militants in Gaza outright, or it must work with Hamas diplomatically to improve conditions on the ground. If Israel adopts the former, it will have to engage in an extremely costly campaign and it will still have to address the very same conditions that have given rise to extremists and militants in Gaza and around the world: economic hardship and lack of opportunity. But if it adopts the latter, and offers an alternative means to improving the Palestinian situation in Gaza, Israel might be able to convince the Palestinian people of one very simple fact: war is not the only way, and Hamas does not have to fight Israel in order to do something for the Palestinian cause."

For the full text of Eliot's essay: