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Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Security Professors Discuss Hamas Terrorist Attacks, Aftermath

Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies (CSS) hosted two security studies professors for a Nov. 27 discussion about their views on the latest developments regarding the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks and Israel’s subsequent response. 

During the conversation, Daniel Byman, director of the Security Studies Program (SSP) at the School of Foreign Service (SFS), and Jennifer Jefferis, a professor in the SSP who teaches about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, discussed Hamas’ motivations and strategy, Israel’s ongoing response and the role the global community could play in combating the conflict. 

Looking at the current Hamas strategy, Jefferis said Hamas’ aim is to represent Palestinians and disrupt ongoing recognition of Israel by countries in the Middle East. 

“Primarily, they’re seeking to be a voice for the Palestinian issue,” Jefferis said. “This is something that is creating movement both in the West Bank and in Gaza in terms of who Palestinians see as effective and being able to speak for their issues.”

Byman, however, clarified that there is a division within the Palestinian community regarding who Palestinians believe are most effective in representing their interests. 

“There is a very sharp divide in the Palestinian community, and the two main entities are Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank,” Byman said.

Georgetown Center for Security Studies Professors Daniel Byman and Jennifer Jefferis held a conversation on the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict on Nov. 27, discussing the Israeli response.

Byman also discussed Hamas’ motivations behind the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, which were fueled by frustration towards ideological differences. 

“I believe Hamas did this in part because it felt somewhat trapped in Gaza, that it wasn’t able to govern effectively due to Israeli and international restrictions.”

In discussing the important role hostages have played in Hamas strategy, Byman said the Gaza-based organization, whose militant wing is widely considered a terrorist group, is using hostage releases to try and improve their public image.

“What we’re seeing right now is a good example of some of the benefits where Hamas can release five prisoners here, or five prisoners there and appear as a very reasonable actor, ignoring the fact that it took a four-year-old child hostage, for example,” Byman said.

Byman added that the hostages pose a challenge for the Israeli army as it attempts to eliminate Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

“Hostages complicate military operations. Israel has to worry, if it’s going to attack a tunnel or attack a building, that they might kill hostages,” Byman said.

Jefferis also said religion has complicated the conflict and the responses from both Israel and Hamas, both of which are deeply based in Judaism and Islam, respectively. 

“I think it just requires this constant reminder that this isn’t exclusively about perceptions of justice or deeds of land. It’s about living rightly before God and that’s tied to having the territory that allows them to do that,” Jefferis said.

In terms of Israel’s ongoing response to Hamas’ attacks, Byman and Jefferis discussed the need for a change in Palestinian leadership, toward a moderate-leaning candidate more willing to engage in peace talks in order to achieve negotiations with Israel.

Byman said both Israelis and Palestinians need to shift their opinion and support different leadership to reach a sustainable peace agreement.

“There needs to be credible Palestinians who are able to achieve goals through negotiation,” Byman said. “And that’s something that, in order to have that happen, Israel needs to be willing to make concessions to Palestinians who embrace peace.”

Jefferis said that Israel should focus on delegitimizing three key elements of Hamas in its direct response: violent resistance, nationalism and religion.

“You can destroy the people that make up the organization but not the ideas,” Jefferis said. “So if there is a way to somehow undercut that they are truly the religious authority here, or that they are the ones that can speak for nationalism, I think that there would be a little bit more room for movement.” 

Jefferis said delegitimizing Hamas and pursuing pressure from Arab states could lead to a two-state solution for the region.

“I think that they could serve as real motivators, urging the Palestinians towards some sort of functional government, some sort of willingness to talk about peace. It’s impossible until it’s not, right? I do think that we know that the catalyst for significant change comes sometimes at the time of crises. And we certainly have that now,” Jefferis said.

Byman ended by saying the ongoing conflict could end up resolving tensions in the future. 

“Crisis and opportunity often go hand in hand, and there is a potential underlying for this,” Byman said.

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