International relations expert reflects on Israel-Hamas war calling it “unprecedented barbarity”

Reporter: Kellie Miller
Published: Updated:

The calm shores of Naples may seem a world away from the turbulent Middle East. But, for Dr. Michael Rubner, the ongoing Israel-Hamas war hits close to home. 

“It makes me feel sick,” Rubner said. “The barbarity, and that’s the word I would use, more than just terror, is unprecedented on the part of Hamas.”

Rubner, a prominent member of the Naples Jewish community and a respected professor of international relations, has profound ties to the Holy Land. He conducted his doctoral research in Israel back in 1970 and was born in Tel Aviv, where many of his family members still live. Currently, they are taking refuge in shelters, and the weight of the war presses heavily on Rubner’s shoulders.

“There are so many unknowns because we don’t know if this conflict right now stays as limited as it is because Hezbollah in Lebanon may decide to join this configuration,” Rubner said.

Israel is a small middle eastern country, but Rubner said it unites like no other when threatened, a unity that stems from the deep historical scars of the Holocaust.

“The last time that 1,000 or more Jews were killed in one day, you have to go back to the Holocaust,” he said. “You have to go back about 80, 90 years. These things are not supposed to happen, and they did.”

Now, the ongoing violence is taking a distressing toll on innocent civilians, and unfortunately, the path to peace is a complex and protracted one, with multiple conflicts intertwined. 

“You have more than one conflict at the same time,” Rubner said. “You have a conflict between Israel and its neighboring Arab states. You have a conflict between Israel and the Palestinian authority in the West Bank, you have a conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, you have a conflict within Israel itself between the right and the left, and you have a conflict within the Palestinian camps between the moderate Palestinian authority and the extremist terrorist Hamas in Gaza.”

While the future remains uncertain, Rubner is advocating for a ceasefire and the exchange of hostages. 

“Other conflicts have been resolved over the last 100 years,” he said. “This one keeps getting worse.”

The local Jewish community in Greater Naples, estimated to comprise around 10,000 individuals, feels the impact of the Israel-Hamas war profoundly. Many of them have family members in Israel, still sheltering from danger. 

“For us, it’s come as a shock, and we did not expect, just as the Israeli intelligence did not expect that this thing could happen,” Rubner said. “The magnitude is unbelievable.”

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