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BYU professor talks about Middle East conflict; Jerusalem Center

By Sam Penrod | Posted - Nov 16th, 2012 @ 6:35pm


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PROVO — The violence Friday appeared to be escalating, despite calls from around the world for peace.

Twenty-eight Palestinians, including six children, have died in the fighting. In Israel, two people have been killed, and dozens injured, including Israeli children.

Conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza is nothing new, says Brigham Young University professor Joshua Gubler. It has been ongoing over the past five years, but this time it is escalating, when the entire Middle East is unstable.

There are the concerns about Iran, the troubles in Syria and the new government in Egypt, and Gubler fears the fighting between Israel and the Palestinians could turn into something much worse.

"The Palestinians have a very clear story here and if you go to the leading Israeli papers, just as compelling of story," Gubler said.

Gubler is watching the conflict in the Middle East very closely today — he has spent a lot of time there and now teaches a class on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict at BYU.

"It's easy to look at this as something that has happened in just the last week but the roots really go back I think to 2007," Gubler said.

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That is when Hamas took control over the Gaza strip and the Israelis setup a blockade. There have been intermittent battles through the years.

Gubler says there are a couple of theories about why the fighting is intensifying now. One is that Israel fears Hamas is getting weapons from Iran and the other is that Israeli leaders are trying to take a tough stance on Hamas, in advance of elections set for January.

"Netanyahu has won elections previously on that campaign pledge and some say he might be attempting to again while others say there are no ulterior motives here," Gubler said.

But for Gubler, who has lived in the region, among people on both sides of the conflict, he is sad and calls the fighting a tragedy for the innocent, especially children.

"All of these people are people who would support peace — a two state solution between the groups — but are caught in the middle of a competition over power and land and everything else that drives the conflict," Gubler said.

There is a lot of interest and concern about the BYU Jerusalem Center. The University reports students were evacuated to bomb shelters, when the air raid sirens sounded.

One student posted on his Facebook page: "We have not been evacuated and I doubt we will be....regardless, on Monday we are going on a 10 day field trip to the Sea of Galilee which has been planned for months."

Gubler is also planning a trip with several students to Israel in just a couple of weeks, but says with the violence happening now, it is possible it will be canceled.

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