The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Arab-Israeli expert Mouin Rabbani visits DePaul to offer perspectives on ‘Israel’s war on Gaza’

Linnea Cheng
Mouin Rabbani discusses the causes and consequences of the current war in Gaza at the Schmitt Academic Center on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Rabbani recounted the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, offering context for the attacks which took place on October 7, 2023.

Dozens of DePaul students and faculty gathered in the Schmitt Academic Center to hear a speaker that Kaveh Ehsani, a DePaul international studies associate professor, called “one of the most important voices for what’s going on in Palestine and the Middle East,” on Wednesday, April 17.

Mouin Rabbani, a prominent Middle East expert, joined DePaul to lead a lecture and conversation about what he identifies as the “causes and consequences of Israel’s war on Gaza.”

Rabbani is a Dutch-Palestinian analyst specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian affairs. Rabbani served as a principal political officer with the Office of the U.N. Special Envoy for Syria and has acted as an editor for various journals, such as Jadaliyya.

The session, organized by the department of international studies, the political science department and various other departments, began with a security disclaimer: “At DePaul, we respect the diversity and perspectives of people and foster an environment where differences of opinion are engaged through civil discourse,” read Eshani.

Rabbani then launched into an explanation of the continued conflict between Israel and Palestine, which acknowledged started decades before the Oct. 7 attacks.

Rabbani presented the large crowd with a retelling of Israel and Palestine’s relationship over the decades, pointing to significant historical events such as the Oslo Peace Accords and the 1948 Nakba, which displaced 700,000 Palestinians.  

Rabbani explained that this context is vital to understanding the long history behind Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, which he believes many in the West don’t fully understand. 

While the seventh of October, 2023 has entered the Western imagination as a premeditated atrocity, whose sole objective was to kill Jews, to kill as many as possible, the reality is somewhat more complex,” Rabbani said.

Scott Hibbard, an associate professor of political science at DePaul, said this portion of Rabbani’s lecture, while potentially controversial to supporters of Israel, is important for DePaul’s student body to hear and discuss.

“There’s an absence of information out there,” Hibbard said. “There are students who are really keyed into the Israeli-Palestine conflict, but for the vast majority of students, they don’t really know what the backstory is, what’s unfolding.” 

Since the eruption of violence in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, DePaul’s campus has seen protests in support of Palestinians and a broader Chicago call for a cease-fire was also seen through a City Council vote. 

Rabbani said that the “massacre appears to be indisputable,” referring to the thousands that lost their lives in Israel during the Oct. 7 attack, alongside the hundreds that still remain as hostages in Gaza.a

Rabbani’s main lecture was followed by a Q&A where attendees and online Zoom participants engaged with the speaker in a peaceful discourse.

The DePaulia reached out to various Jewish groups in the Chicago area for a response to Rabbani’s comments. However, many were out of office due to the Passover holiday. 

Many students and faculty were curious to hear Rabbani’s perspective on the future of Israel-Palestine relations, which prompted discussions about possible outcomes.

Rabbani identified several scenarios which could lead to a cease-fire in the region. 

“The easiest one would be Biden picking up his phone, and literally calling (Israeli Prime Minister) Netenyahu, and saying, ‘It’s over,’” Rabbani said.

Students and faculty attend political analyst Mouin Rabbani’s talk in the Schmitt Academic Center on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. The discussion on the conflict in Gaza required additional security personnel inside and outside of the room.

Rabbani speculated about other outcomes that include Israel achieving a “decisive outcome,” defeating Hamas and declaring a victory. But he said, “That’s not going to happen.”

Rabbani did, however, express hopes for a two-state solution, which he called “feasible.”

For Fiona Reed, a DePaul junior who attended the discussion,  opportunities like these offered by the university pose a time for education and conversation, not a changing and enforcing of certain opinions.

“Convey everything,” Reed said. “Then the people can decide.”  

Katy Arnold, DePaul political science professor and director of the refugee and forced migration studies program, expressed her gratitude for Rabbani’s remarks.

“I was pleasantly surprised to hear Mr. Rabbani’s thoughtful, historically informed, critical analysis of this displaced group,” Arnold said. “Not everyone will be happy, but a critical exchange of ideas and talking through issues is crucial.”

Instead of presenting an environment for conflict, Reed believes events like these can teach people to facilitate conversation in a time where it may be difficult. 

“People don’t know how to start those conversations,” Reed said.

Hibbard echoed these thoughts and said events like these are important for the university.

“The idea is that everyone is going to have a slightly different take on the narrative, but the underlying theme we really look for is academic integrity,” Hibbard said. “Bringing in an outside speaker is a good opportunity to engage the broader student body.”

Hibbard was impressed with the large turnout and said it was“indicative of the keen interest that students are taking in what is unfolding in the region.”

The flier for the event promised an opportunity for a discussion of “relevant … current affairs.”

“I applaud the departments and programs, including my own, that supported this lecture in the context of national censorship and obfuscation,” Arnold said.

Hibbard said discussing possible outcomes presented an element of hope despite the content of his lecture being “troubling for anyone concerned about the region.” 

“Rabbani’s optimism about the prospects for a ‘two-state’ solution was heartening,” Hibbard said.


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