On Wednesday, November 15, at 10.30 PM IST, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), conducted a webinar, with the speaker being Benjamin Rogers, Director, Middle East and North African Initiatives, at AJC, with the briefing providing the background of the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ rise to power, and the ongoing war.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) is the global advocacy organization for the Jewish people, that works to shape a brighter future by taking on the toughest challenges and pursuing the most transformative opportunities. Through its unparalleled global network of offices, institutes, and international partnerships, AJC engages with leaders at the highest levels of government and civil society to counter antisemitism, open new doors for Israel, and advance democratic values.
The AJC’s Director of the Middle East and North Africa Initiatives, Benjamin Rogers, supports AJC’s diplomatic outreach, policymaking, and Middle East advocacy. Rogers’ work regularly takes him to countries across the Arab world, including Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, and the UAE, where he cultivates relationships with political, business, and civil society leaders. Rogers represents AJC worldwide in private briefings with foreign ministries, congressional leaders, and premier universities. Publicly, he regularly engages with international think tanks and news outlets.
Rogers has held positions at the Israel Policy Forum, Moshe Dayan Centre for Middle East and African Studies, United Nations Development Programme, and Capitol Hill. He holds an M.A. from Tel Aviv University in public policy and Israeli politics, and a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in political anthropology and archaeology.
Rogers is a member of Brandeis University’s Crown Centre for Middle East Studies and the Brookings Institution’s Centre for Middle East Policy inaugural 2021-2022 future leader’s symposium.
In his address, Benjamin primarily focused on two facets of the long-drawn conflict between Palestine and Israel. The first being what Gaza is, and the second being who Hamas is. Starting off, Rogers said that currently, the population of Gaza is 2.2 million, which was 1.4 million back in the year 2005, and as per estimates, is expected to rise up to 4.7 million by the year 2050.
Rogers said, ‘These demographic statistics show that Gaza is a densely populated region with a quick population increase. Gaza is not very large in size and is just twice the size of Washington DC. Also, the Gaza region is very old with its history dating back to 5000 years, and throughout history, this has been a constantly fought over piece of land. Gaza is even mentioned in the Bible.’
Talking about the history of the dispute of Gaza, Benjamin stated, ‘In the year 1947, the UN Partition Plan was created, and in its Resolution 181, it was proposed to create a separate Jordan, a separate Jewish State, and a separate Arab State of which Gaza was part. And while Israel accepted this proposal, it was the Arabs who rejected the same.’
‘Then, in the following year, Egypt got control of Gaza, after which the control stayed with Israel, up until 1993. And in 1994, the authority over Gaza was given to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).’, explained Rogers.
He further said, ‘It was in 2005 that Israel had withdrawn completely from Gaza, as it could not reach any agreement with the Palestinians, and in 2006, Hamas won the elections with a massive 44.5 percent of votes, and gained the control of Gaza. In the following year, Hamas also gained complete military control of Gaza, and has maintained full control over the territory since then.’
Touching upon the second aspect, as to who Hamas is, Rogers explained, ‘Hamas is an offshoot of Muslim Brotherhood, and has been existing in Gaza since the year 1987. Hamas is an Islamic organization, which, in its 1988 Charter, talks of defeating Israel, a war against Jews, and Palestinian autonomy. With these objectives in mind, Hamas started with suicide bombings back in the 1990s, and has always been opposed to diplomatically engaging with Israel since the very beginning.’
Revealing how Hamas is funded, the AJC content expert said, ‘One of the major funders of Hamas is Iran, which annually provides about 100 million USD to Gazan terrorist organizations, and the other one is Qatar, providing around 1-1.5 billion USD to Hamas. Hamas also receives a lot of funds through narcotics smuggling.’
Talking briefly about the currently ongoing armed conflict between Israel and Hamas, Rogers stated, ‘After the October 7 attack on Israel, continuous attacks are being witnessed from Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi terrorists in Yemen, south of Israel, and from Hezbollah in Lebanon, the north of Israel; and whatever the terrorists of Hamas did on October 7, including the rape and murder of young women, slaughtering young men, killing old people, and beheading babies, does not deserve a ceasefire in Gaza on the part of Israel, as the only objective of Israel is the complete destruction of Hamas, with 239 hostages still held by Hamas in Gaza currently.’