Nagesh Rao, assistant professor of English, gave a lecture titled “From Palestine to Afghanistan: The Shape of Things to Come” on Feb. 11.
The lecture discussed the current issues in both countries and U.S. involvement with each.
The primary focal point, however, was on the long-lasting conflict between Palestine and the state of Israel.
Rao began by talking about Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, which took place during former President George W. Bush’s last weeks in office.
Though this incident worsened relations with Palestine, Rao said most people forget how the conflict actually began years ago.
“We have a historical memory in this country that is notoriously brief,” Rao said. He added that the mainstream media only keeps up with the latest headlines.
Consequently, Rao said, the problems between Israel and Palestine are not fully understood by outsiders, including U.S. citizens.
“To look at what to expect in the future, we have to look back at the past,” Rao said.
Israel was formed from a portion of Palestine in 1948 after Jews were granted land there by the British government.
The idea, or “Zionist Movement,” Rao said, was to “give a people without land a land without a people.”
The portion of Palestine that was granted to the Jews was already inhabited. The conflict began when these people were driven out so that Israel could be formed.
“It wasn’t a land without people,” Rao said. “There were people living there. There were Arabs, Jews (and) Christians, and they lived side by side without conflict.”
Naturally, he added, these people did not want to leave and the Palestinians did not want to give up part of their country. Ever since, there has been conflict.
Rao talked about the U.S peace movement, which was meant to bring about understanding and to calm tensions between Israel and Palestine. This movement, he said, did not result in compromise. Instead, it only forced Palestine to concede its land to Israel.
“The way I see it, the Palestinians have no option but to resist,” Rao said.
He said parts of Palestine are cut off by Israel’s “Jewish-only highways” and certain laws that prohibit Palestinians from passing through parts of Israel.
Rao added that he felt the conflict was far from over.
A discussion followed Rao’s speech, and students presented their own views on the subject.
“I think there was a huge part of history left out,” Mark Monday, freshman computer science major, said. “What gave the Zionist movement big support was the Holocaust.”
Monday said he did not believe the Israelis were entirely innocent in the conflict, but there was good reason behind the idea of giving Jewish people a homeland.
“The tragedy of it is that people who had nothing to do with the Holocaust were made to pay the price,” Rao said in reply. Rao did agree that the Holocaust played a big role in the Zionist movement.
Some of students in attendance were from the Activist Coalition To End the Iraq Occupation Now, an anti-war group at the College. Members of the International Socialist Organization, of which Rao is a member, were also present.