Political Science Prof. Neve Gordon, a visiting professor from Ben-Gurion University in Israel, spoke about the history of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories last night at Hutchins Hall in the Law Quad.
His speech was part of Palestine Awareness Week, a series of events sponsored by pro-Palestinian activist group Students Allied for Freedom and Equality and centered on the Middle East, particularly the relationship between Palestinians and Israelis.
Gordon began his speech, which focused on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with statistics showing the increased number of Israeli deaths over the years.
“The number of Israelis killed has dramatically increased over the years,” Gordon said. “If during the 13 year period between December 1987 and September 2000, 422 Israelis were killed by Palestinians, during the six year period from the rupture of the second intifada, 1,019 Palestinians were killed,” Gordon said.
Gordon said increases in deaths rarely signify other improvements or setbacks in the occupied territories.
He argued that throughout the Israeli government’s history, Israel has provided support to the Palestinian population.
“It is not altogether surprising that already in the midst of the war, Israel provided services to Palestinian farmers in order to save crops and prevent the death of livestock,” Gordon said. “When the fighting subsided, Israel established a series of programs to improve economic productivity.”
Gordon said the main argument of his forthcoming book, called “Israel’s Occupation,” was the control of Palestinian laborers by Israelis.
“While Palestinian laborers became dependent on Israel for their livelihood – a fact that was used by Israel to expand its control over them – simultaneously the process of incorporation weakened the control of the traditional elites over these laborers because the economic power which the laborers acquired often put them in a better financial position than the traditional elites,” he said.
Gordon concluded his speech by saying that Israel retains both economic and political control over the Palestinians.
“Israel has not withdrawn its power from the occupied territories but rather continues to control the Palestinian space – both through forms of violence applied from remote control and through economic sanctions,” he said.
In a question and answer session following the speech, many people asked about the current status of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Gordon refused to speak about it.
“I’m not interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict per-se,” he said.
Although some members of the audience seemed disgruntled by Gordon’s decision not to talk about the present state conflict questions, attendees said they respected his viewpoints.
After the speech, Law School student Devora Snyder said that while Gordon described the issues facing the Palestinians, he didn’t submit a solution.
“I didn’t see any predictions or propositions that would make this anything other than simple awareness,” Snyder said.