A Dalhousie professor says the war in Gaza “is a symptom of a much larger problem” and hopes the talk he gave on Wednesday leads to more critical thinking about the conflict.
Omar Edaibat is a Dalhousie University professor who specializes in the intellectual and social history of the Muslim world. He spoke about the historical context of the conflict in Palestine and Israel to students, faculty and the community at large.
Edaibat said his target audience was the wider Canadian community, “those who are not aware about the history.”
Throughout his talk, Edaibat broke down over 75 years of history, going as far back as when the territories known today as Palestine and Israel were part of the Ottoman Empire. This allowed him to go into extensive detail about events throughout the decades, and in his words, “diagnosing the roots of the conflict.”
Edaibat invited attendees to not just accept his presentation but also to think critically about news and information they consume on a daily basis.
He recommended the works of Noam Chomsky and the film Jaffa, The Orange’s Clockwork (2009) by Eyal Sivan as examples of material that could provoke such thought.
He said he hopes people are willing to expand their knowledge and approach this conflict with the ability to challenge mainstream media, improve their critical thinking and be more open to engaging in meaningful conversation, “because peace begins with awareness.”
With close to 100 attendees, the talk lasted around two hours with a 40-minute Q&A session. The attendees were encouraged to ask any questions they might have to foster a safe and judgment-free space for understanding.
The questions ranged from Hamas’ connection to the conflict and to the two governments involved in the fighting, to how the Arab world could have been mobilized better in military and humanitarian aid of Palestine.
As the attendees started arriving at the Potter auditorium in the Kenneth C. Rowe Management building, organizers welcomed them with refreshments ranging from traditional Palestinian pastries to cookies and juice boxes.
The attendees say they came with open minds and hopes of learning more about the conflict.
Attendee Rebeka Workye said, “I’m here today to show support and solidarity for Palestinians in Gaza and in the diaspora and to learn more about historical context that shaped what is happening in Palestine and occupied Palestinian territories today.”
Another attendee and recent Dalhousie graduate, Alex Miller, said he wanted to hear from an educator “because a lot of information can be thrown out on social media and there has been a lot of confusion on whether or not it’s accurate.”
He said he wanted “to gain a more accurate understanding on the historical context and to be able to contribute to a better understanding on the situation” and “hopefully better aid toward the situation.”
Edaibat said he tried to keep the presentation as academic as possible.
“It’s actually part of a course that I taught on politics of the Middle East, we had to cover the modern history. So a lot of the slides here are based on that, my prep work for that course.”
After the talk, attendees say they walked away with more knowledge.
“I learned a lot about perspective and getting insight because I’m white. It’s really interesting to learn about and get a better perspective, especially from people who this conflict directly impacts,” said Sophia Trimble.
She added “he spoke a lot about facts, not a lot about opinions, which was nice.”
Talking about how this event was helpful, Anjuli Das, an international development and sustainability student, said, “I’ve never had someone go through the entire history and not just in sort of broad terms but actual events and the historical context in such detail.”
“I really feel like everyone should have to listen to some sort of talk like this.”
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