Forum on the Middle East a Highlight of Alumni College
The war on terrorism, U.S. dependence on Saudi Arabian oil, and the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process were among topics discussed at an Alumni College event held during Reunion Weekend. In the words of Instructor of Government Yael Aronoff, these issues are the "bread and butter" of U.S. foreign policy.
Approximately 75 alumni and family members attended the event, "The Modern Middle East." Associate Professor of History Shoshana Keller moderated the 90-minute discussion with contributions from panelist Joe Livingston '02, Aronoff, and Visiting Instructor of Government Carlos Yordan.
Keller was the moderator for the event and provided a brief background to the current issues that are plaguing the Middle East. She discussed the impact of the 1967 Six-Day War, 35 years later, and the roots of the Israeli occupation in Palestine.
The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians was a topic of great interest for the panelist and attendees. Aronoff said this issue has a direct link to the war on terror. She suggested that there are a variety of possible U.S. foreign policy strategies that might alleviate the current stalemate between the Israelis and Palestinians. Aronoff believes there are three possible ways to eliminate the cycle of violence plaguing this region: replace the leaders involved with the conflict, Sharon and Arafat;greater pressure by the U.S. to open up lines of communication between the two groups; and finally, bi-lateral secret negotiations.
Joe Livingston '02 is a recipient of a 2002 J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship and a 2001 Emerson Grant Award. He has studied the estimated one million Arabs living in the Israeli state. His experiences while studying abroad in Jordan and Israel have given him a first hand look at this population. He talked about the lack of interaction and the segregation between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Livingston also discussed the different set of laws imposed on the two groups living in Israel including different obligations to the Israeli military. Livingston said "The vast social, economic and political disparities that exist between Arab citizens and Jewish citizens in the state of Israel is an issue that usually gets little media attention. Particularly when the Palestinian-Israeli conflict surges, the American attention is drawn only to Israel's international relations when in fact its domestic element is equally complex and important."
A topic that is gathering greater attention in the U.S. media every day is the situation in Iraq and particularly the necessity to remove President Saddam Hussein from power. Carlos Yordan concluded the lecture portion of the event by offering his insights on Iraq and Hussein. A humorous Yordan praised the work of journalists in their uncovering of the Iraq financing of suicide bombers in Israel. If Hussein was to fall to U.S. forces Yordan fears an unloading of his nuclear bombs to anyone else who is willing to strike out against the U.S. He also elaborated on why the U.S. has been unable to form an international coalition against Iraq with the Israel-Palestine issue in its current state.
The event closed with a lively open floor discussion. Richard Mead '57 questioned the educational systems in these countries and their influence on the next generation. Other questions and debate included the role of women in the Middle East, the importance of education, and the urgency for action against Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Richard Mead '57 shares his views on the Middle East as fellow alumni look on