The Gaza Catastrophe: 2024 Congressional Briefing Series


The Congressional Briefing Series is an educational program conducted annually by the Middle East Institute’s Palestinian Affairs Program and the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP) to brief members of Congress and their staff on the most pressing issues facing Israel and Palestine today.

Introduction to the Series 

MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman speak with FMEP’s Sarah Anne Minkin about the intentions, structure, and content of this briefing series. Start here for a roadmap to the series: listen as a podcast or watch on YouTube.

Links to past MEI/FMEP Congressional Briefing Series: 2023; 2022; 2021.

Part 1 — How We Got Here

April 19, 2024  – See Recording & Resources Here

 This session assessed the current situation on the ground in Gaza, how we got here, including the events of October 7, as well as conditions in the West Bank, along the Israel-Lebanon border, and broader regional dynamics.

Panelists: Mkhaimar Abusada (Al-Azhar University of Gaza) & Mairav Zonszein (International Crisis Group); co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman 

Part 2 — The U.S. Role & Responsibility

April 26, 2024  – See Recording & Resources Here

This session reviewed and analyzed the role Congress & the Executive have played vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine in general, and Gaza in particular, both before and since 10/7/23.

Panelists: Josh Paul (former official at the U.S. Department of State), Zaha Hassan (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), Tess McEnery (Middle East Democracy Center); co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman 

Part 3 — International Law & Humanitarian Crisis

May 3, 2024 / Recording & Resources

This session examined humanitarian conditions and issues of  international law and accountability, including the ongoing genocide case before the International Court of Justice. 

Panelists: Raz Segal (Stockton University), Sherine Tadrous (Amnesty International),  Chris Gunness (Former UNRWA spokesperson); co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman 

Part 4 — What Comes Next?

May 10, 2024 / Recording & Resources

What comes next? This session examined the prospects for reconstruction and governance in Gaza as well as implications of the ongoing crisis for internal Palestinian politics and the future of the Palestinian national movement.

Panelists: Abdelhadi Alijla (Social & Political Scientist), Nour Odeh (Political Activist), Mouin Rabbani (Jaddaliya); co-moderated by MEI’s Khaled Elgindy and FMEP’s Lara Friedman 

Participant Biographies

Mkhaimar Abusada is an expert on Palestinian political attitudes and associate professor at Al-Azhar University of Gaza and formerly chaired the university’s political science department. He has authored one book, and many academic articles in local and internationally recognized academic journals. He has also written for Project Syndicate, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He received his PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1996. 

Abdalhadi Alijla is a Palestinian social and political scientist and science advocate. Abdalhadi is the author of the “ Trust in Divided Societies” by  Bloomsbury Academics and I.B.Tauris UK. , and co-editor of “Rebel Governance in the Middle East”. Abdalhadi is a Non-resident senior fellow at Arab Reform Initiative. He is the 2021 International Political Science Association Global South Award. He is a co-founder of Palestine Young Academy in 2020. He is an Associate Researcher and the Regional Manager of Varieties of Democracy Institute (Gothenburg University) for Gulf countries. He was a Post-doctoral fellow at the Orient Institute in Beirut (OIB). Since 2021, he is an associate fellow within SEPAD, sectarianism, proxies and de-sectorisation at Lancaster University. He was the Co-Leader of Global Migration and Human Rights at Global Young Academy. Abdalhadi has a PhD in political studies from the State University of Milan and an M.A. degree in Public Policy and Governance from Zeppelin University- Friedrichshafen, Germany.  He has been granted several awards and scholarships, including Gerda Henkel (2022), DAAD (2009), RLC Junior Scientist (2010), UNIMI (2012), ICCROM (2010), Saud AL-Babtin(2002) among others. He worked for many NGOs and INGOs in the Middle East and Europe such as Transparency International, GiZ, EU Maddad Fund for Syria Crisis, and UNV among others.  He is a member of the scientific and consultative committee of Center for Arab Unity Studies in Beirut. His main research interests are divided societies, Rebel Governance, Democracy, Social Capital, Middle East Studies,  and Comparative Politics.

Zaha Hassan is a human rights lawyer and a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Her research focus is on Palestine-Israel peace, the use of international legal mechanisms by political movements, and U.S. foreign policy in the region. Previously, she was the coordinator and senior legal advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team during Palestine’s bid for UN membership, and was a member of the Palestinian delegation to Quartet-sponsored exploratory talks between 2011 and 2012. She regularly participates in track II peace efforts and is a contributor to The Hill and Haaretz. Her commentaries have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Al Jazeera English, CNN, and others.

Tess McEnery is Executive Director of the Middle East Democracy Center. 

Josh Paul is the former Director of Congressional & Public Affairs in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs in the U.S. Department of State, a position from which he resigned in October 2023 due to his disagreement with the U.S. policy of providing lethal arms to Israel in the context of the conflict in Gaza. He previously served in roles including as the desk officer for Iraqi Internal Security Forces in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; as a National Security Consultant to the Government of Iraq on behalf of the United States; as Security Sector Governance Advisor to the Palestinian Authority on behalf of the U.S. Security Coordinator, as a Military Legislative Assistant to a Member of the House Armed Services Committee. He is currently a Non-Resident Fellow at the organization Democracy Now for the Arab World (DAWN) and a recipient of the 2023 Callaway Award for Civic Courage.

Chris Gunness is the former spokesperson for UNRWA. He is the Founder and current Director of the Myanmar Accountability Project.

Nour Odeh is an independent media professional and communications consultant with 20 years of experience as a distinguished journalist. In 2012, Ms. Odeh became Palestine’s first female government spokesperson and she served in various capacities as a senior communications and public diplomacy advisor to the Palestinian leadership. Ms. Odeh writes opinion and analysis in English and Arabic and is a regular guest in international news outlets.

Mouin Rabbani has published and commented widely on Palestinian affairs, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the contemporary Middle East. He was previously Senior Analyst Middle East and Special Advisor on Israel-Palestine with the International Crisis Group, and head of political affairs with the Office of the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria. He is Co-Editor of Jadaliyya Ezine.

Dr. Raz Segal is Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and Endowed Professor in the Study of Modern Genocide at Stockton University, where he also serves as director of the Master of Arts in Holocaust and Genocide Studies (MAHG). He is also founder and co-coordinator of the Refugee Studies Initiative at Stockton. Focusing on central and southeast Europe, Dr. Segal is engaged in his work with the challenges of exploring the Holocaust as an integral part of late modern processes of imperial collapse, the formation and occasional de-formation of nation-states, and their devastating impact on the societies they sought — and still seek — to break and remake. Dr. Segal has held a Harry Frank Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Lady Davis Fellowship at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His publications include Genocide in the Carpathians: War, Social Breakdown, and Mass Violence, 1914-1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2016; paperback 2020), and he was guest editor of the special issue on Genocide: Mass Violence and Cultural Erasure of Zmanim: A Historical Quarterly, vol. 138 (June 2018) (Hebrew). Dr. Segal has also published book reviews, op-eds, and larger articles on genocide, state violence, and memory politics in Hebrew and English in Haaretz and +972 Magazine.

Sherine Tadrous is the deputy director of advocacy and representative to the United Nations for Amnesty International. She leads a team of senior advocates to lobby for the protection and promotion of human rights around the world. Prior to that, Tadros was a Middle East correspondent and news anchor for Al Jazeera English and Sky News, where among other events she reported on the 2008 and 2014 Gaza Wars, the Arab Uprisings, and the rise of the Islamic State group in Iraq. The accolades for her work in human rights and journalism include a Peabody Award, an Emmy nomination, and several Royal Television Society Awards.

Mairav Zonszein is Senior Analyst on Israel-Palestine at the International Crisis Group. As journalist and commentator, Mairav has covered Israeli politics and U.S. foreign policy for over a decade. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, The Guardian, The Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, The American Prospect, VICE, The Intercept, and more. She is a founding editor of +972 Magazine and a contributor to Jewish Currents. She has an MA in Nationalism Studies from the Central European University in Budapest.