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Gaza as Epicentre: An Alternative Reading

Thursday Lecture Series, Alternatives/Concessions

dateFebruary 29, 2024 timeThursday, 12:15pm–2:00pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration now closed
Gaza in an atlas

The Gaza Strip exists on the periphery. Mostly forgotten, the coastal enclave is remembered when Palestinians are killed in episodes of spectacular violence. Otherwise, Gaza is largely rendered invisible or discussed merely as a humanitarian catastrophe and a wretched reality, one which evokes pity and helplessness.

Geographically, Israel has severed the strip and its inhabitants from the rest of their historical homeland and encouraged an image of Gaza as little more than an appendage, a troublesome neighbor. Hamas emerged as the perfect fig leaf to enable such a normative view to take hold far beyond Israel. But what if an alternative reading of Gaza can be presented, one that moves this strip of land from the geographic and political margins to the epicenter, placing Gaza at the heart of Israeli settler-colonialism? Such a reading threatens the paradigm of partition that has shaped a near century of international engagement with the Palestinian quest for self-determination and turns Gaza into an extreme – but unexceptional – product of demographic engineering within apartheid regimes. It also reveals a truth that the events of October 7 violently confirmed; that partition is elusive and illusory, and ultimately unsustainable despite the immense political, military, social, and economic costs still being expended in sustaining its vision. Beyond Palestine, what if one were to argue that the emancipation of Gaza is so powerful a rejoinder to the current – unjust – global order that, if not slow strangulation, then genocide is the only way for hegemonic powers to cope with the threat it poses?


Tareq Baconi is working on a book about decolonization in the 21st century. His memoir, a queer love story set against the decades-spanning sweep of violence and erasure that his family experienced as Palestinian refugees, is forthcoming with Atria in fall 2025. He is the author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance (Stanford University Press, 2018) and of the short film One Like Him, a BFI-funded film shot in Jordan. His writing has appeared in the London Review of Books, the New York Review of Books, the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post, among others. He is the former senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group based in Ramallah. He serves as the president of the board of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network and the book review editor for the Journal of Palestine Studies.