Israel-Gaza war: Faculty and students discuss escalation of violence in the Middle East

Hertie School faculty members answer questions ranging from humanitarian law to terrorism and disinformation.

On 7 October 2023 Hamas-led groups carried out attacks in Israel committing grave atrocities. This was met by a large-scale military operation by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) in Gaza. While academics and policy analysts from around the world, among them Hertie School faculty members, are trying to gauge the current security and humanitarian challenges for Israel, Palestine and the region as a whole, the unfolding conflict has affected people far beyond the region. 

With questions on many of these issues also arising among the student body, President Cornelia Woll invited students and faculty members to discuss the recent events and offered a space for students to address their questions. 

An interdisciplinary look at the conflict

To kick off the discussion, several faculty members offered academic perspectives based on their core areas of expertise and research. Başak Çalı, Professor of International Law and Director of the school’s Centre for Fundamental Rights, addressed aspects of international law relating to armed conflict and international criminal law applicable to both the attacks committed by Hamas and the military operation launched by the IDF in Gaza. Julian Wucherpfennig, Professor of International Affairs and Security, explored the context and reasoning behind Hamas’ terrorist attacks, whereas his colleague Anita Gohdes, Professor of International and Cyber Security, examined the rationales behind the use of social media in times of conflict, explaining that business models based on maximising engagement can foster the exploitation of human tragedies for monetary gain. Finally, Gil Murciano, Adjunct Professor and head of the Israeli think-tank “Mitvim”, joined the meeting online from Tel Aviv to discuss the geopolitical repercussions of the conflict for the Middle East and its effects on Israeli domestic politics.

In the following question-and-answer session, students were interested in a variety of issues, ranging from the proportionality of the military measures taken by the IDF to the role of the United Nations in the conflict and how the international community can react and intervene.

Further events on the horizon

Given the many points of analysis and questions forwarded during the discussion, both students and faculty agreed that the topic calls for more opportunities for debate. In this respect the Hertie School is in contact with both student and alumni representatives to jointly organise events and offer a space for student-led initiatives. 

A follow-up event with faculty experts is already planned for 8 December, open to all students, alumni and staff. Further events and workshops on this topic have also been organised or are in the staging process: already on 17 November the Hertie School hosted political scientist and expert on Israeli politics David Levi-Faur from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who shared insights and analysis on domestic policies in Israel and the prospects for the Middle East peace process. Furthermore the Hertie School has invited experts to lead internal workshops for staff and students to offer a space for reflection and discussion on topics such as antisemitism, Germany’s historical role and perspective of Israel, and how to manage a respectful and inclusive discourse.


See also:

"A solely military solution cannot work, say Adjunct Faculty Gil Murciano and Cornelius Adebahr on Israel and Gaza"

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