On Sunday, April 3, Goucher welcomed Dr. Nathan Brown to campus to speak on Hamas and Palestinian Statehood as part of the Perspectives for Progress initiative. Perspectives for Progress is a student-organized speaker series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict funded by Social Justice grants..
Brown is a Professor of political science and international affairs, and the Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In addition to working in academia, Brown serves on the Middle East and North Africa advisory committee for Human Rights Watch. Esther Hayes-Grossman ‘18, one of the students coordinating the event, decided to bring him in after reading some of his scholarship in her classes and at the recommendation of Julie Chernov-Hwang, Chair of the Political Science and International Relations Department at Goucher.
The event took place in the Silber Gallery-an intentional location, as the exhibit on view at the time was “House Without Home” by Israeli artist Naomi Safran-Hon. Safran-Hon created this body of work in response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and focused on the idea of home, or lackthereof, in relation to the conflict.
Brown began the event by giving a history of the Muslim Brotherhood, which began in Egypt in the 1920s. In 1948, the time of Israel’s independence and the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe), the Muslim Brotherhood saw the Palestinian cause as an Islamic cause, and sought out a relationship with the Palestinian people. Hamas was founded in 1987 after the First Intifada because some Palestinians wanted to form their own part of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, Hamas is a separate organization, not affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “Hamas sees itself as anchored in society, not separate from it,” Brown explained.
Brown continued to chronologically explain the history of Hamas throughout the talk. In 2006, Hamas was unexpectedly elected as the governing body over Gaza. “[Hamas] didn’t realize they’d win until the results were announced,” Brown said.
“It was important to us [the students organizing the event] that Hamas as an organization and political party was explicitly laid out for students. It is a name that is frequently thrown around, and often in the same breath as Palestinian,” Grossman said.
In terms of where Hamas and the conflict are at today, Brown did not have an answer. He described the current situation as “short term sustainable” and “halfway there to a one state solution,” seeing as Israel is currently a single Jewish state. He said he does not know what a one state that is inclusive of Gaza and the West Bank would look like, but believes a two-state solution to be “politically unviable.”
Those in attendance learned from the history and perspective given by Brown. “I didn’t know the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas had associated and found it very fascinating to see the oscillations that exist in their relationship,” Grossman commented.
“[Dr. Brown] spoke very neutrally on the conflict, which allowed an open space for students to learn about Hamas and the Palestinian Statehood,” said Yael Ben-Chaim ‘16, another student involved in planning the event.
“I was thrilled to see so many students in attendance and engaging with the speaker. I am looking forward to what next semester will bring with new leadership in Perspectives for Progress and continued growth with how our events will be structured,” Grossman said.