• Upcoming Events

    Monday 11/8
    Peter Beinart
    "Israel: Have we lost that loving feeling, and can we get it back?"
    Davis Auditorium
    Sturm Hall

    Monday 11/8
    The Muslim Student Association is hosting an Eid Mubarak dinner from 6-8 pm at the Korbel Cyber Cafe.

    Wednesday 11/10
    A Faculty Panel will discuss different issues surrounding the Occupy Wallstreet movement.
    Noon in the Cyber Cafe

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Where Should the Birds Fly – a documentary

Hello All,

Sorry for the lack of updates, but, we have an upcomming event that everyone should attend.  Fida Qishta is a Gazan filmmaker who will be screening her film Where Should the Birds Fly.  After the film, Fida will take questions from the audience.  The event will be on Friday, April 6th from 12-2 pm on SIE 150.  We hope to see everyone there!

(Also, the poster is getting cut off, so click it to see the full image)



Isreal vs. Iran

Sorry for the lack of updates (busy week), but anyway, follow this link from the New York Times-


I’ve just started reading, and will post some thoughts in the comments section later.

Egypt, One Year Later

A year ago today, I sat glued to my computer screen watching the unfolding images of downtown Cairo on Al Jazeera’s live-streaming English channel. I would remain in a virtual state of media-induced catatonic awe for the following 18 days. One year later, it feels somewhat difficult determining how much and how little things have changed in post-Mubarak Egypt.

First, let me be absolutely clear about what I think happened in Egypt a year ago today. Whatever it was, it was not a “revolution.” I side with Theda Skocpol on this question, and consider true “revolution” to necessitate more than simply a change of faces at the political apex. Revolution demolishes existing sociopolitical structures and slowly replaces them with new ones pieced together from the revolutionary rubble.

What happened in Egypt was, at best, a serf uprising against the individual lordship of Hosni Mubarak, who had treated the state as his personal fiefdom for three decades. Whatever intentions the activists in the streets of Egypt’s cities had at the outset of the protests, whatever they hoped would happen in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation, does not matter. What matters is the reality of the aftermath – the reality that virtually nothing changed. The pyramid of power, with the base government bureaucrats and big-business technocrats supporting the apex military elite, remains firmly ensconced in power. The only difference being that, now, the national legislature is run by the Muslim Brotherhood and popular elections are not farcically rigged.

While free elections and an open legislature are certainly steps in the right direction, what changes there have been in Egypt’s political structure are dwarfed by those of nearby Tunisia, whose uprising inspired and propelled Egypt’s own. Egypt’s constitution remains intact (save the changes made by the military to protect and legalize their “stewardship”), Egypt’s socioeconomic have-nots remain poor and relatively powerless, and, above all, the Egyptian military continues to balk at handing over its power. As I wrote several months ago,

Combined with its strong corporatist and elitist ethos, as well as a deeply embedded network of patron-client relationships, the coercive strength and political power of the Egyptian military represents the single greatest potential obstacle to a legitimate and uninterrupted transition to open democratic governance in Egypt.

I believed that then and I believe it now. So what can we say about Egypt one year after the Uprising of January 25? The more things change, the more they stay the same? Or, perhaps, meet the old boss, same as the new boss? Either way, there’s a rough road ahead.

Israel is a Perplexing Place…

In an effort to curb the use of Holocaust imagery and comparison in its current domestic sociopolitical discourse, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) is now considering a bill that would make such usage a crime punishable by fine and possible imprisonment. Here’s a blurb from NPR.org about it:

[A] bill under consideration by parliament “would impose penalties of up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine for using the word ‘Nazi’ or Holocaust symbols for purposes other than teaching, documentation or research.”

The bill was introduced — and approved by Cabinet ministers — a week after ultra-Orthodox Jews dressed as prisoners from a concentration camp to protest what they said was a campaign against them by secular media.

The BBC reports the protesters wore striped uniforms with a yellow star of David emblazoned with the word “Jude,” which is German for Jew. The protests caused an uproar. [The BBC writes,] “Ultra-Orthodox Jews, who make up 10% of Israel’s population, have been criticised in recent weeks for attempting to impose their strict beliefs on others as their population grows and spreads to new areas. Extremist sects have sought to ban the mixing of sexes on buses, pavements and other public spaces. Members of one sect jeered and spat at girls walking to school, saying they were dressed immodestly.”

Haaretz reports that Uri Ariel, one of the ministers sponsoring the bill, said this law would deter “the cynical exploitation of Nazi symbols and epithets in a manner that injures the feelings of Holocaust survivors.”

While in some respects it is difficult not to feel sympathetic toward the Knesset’s intent – the use and abuse of Holocaust imagery and comparison for political gain is bad enough in principle, but to actually make use of it, and in Israel of all places, is simply revolting – the overarching point remains that the step is a direct violation of free speech, something on which Israel has traditionally prided itself.

In my view, the passing of such a law merely plays into the hands of the fringe groups who already complain of being socially marginalized and mistreated. By retaliating this way, the Knesset just gives the Ultra-Orthodox community more ammunition in its arsenal; worse, it turns them into victims potentially worthy of popular sympathy, while before they were simply exploitative, misogynistic, intolerant anachronisms with little to no broader support among average Israelis. To make these people political martyrs would be a gross miscalculation by the Knesset, not to mention a violation of basic democratic rights.

Sweet, Sweet Irony…

Do I really need to comment on this? The BBC reports:

The US Navy has rescued 13 Iranian fishermen being held by pirates in the Arabian Sea, the Pentagon says.

The 13 were rescued on Thursday after a distress call was received from an Iranian fishing vessel which had been boarded by pirates over a month ago.

Fifteen suspected pirates were detained and are being held by the US Navy.

The rescue comes days after Iranian officials warned the US to keep the carrier group involved in the operation out of the Gulf.

The Iranians had been kept in harsh conditions and are thought to have been forced to assist the pirates in their operations, according to the Pentagon.

‘Kindness and respect’

The freed hostages are now on their way back home, the US Navy said.

The hostages “had been through a lot”, said Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent Josh Schminky.

“We went out of our way to treat the fishing crew with kindness and respect,” he said.

The captain of the Al Molai, a fishing dhow, “expressed his sincere gratitude that we came to assist them. He was afraid that without our help, they could have been there for months,” he added.

The rescue was carried out by forces assigned to the John C Stennis aircraft carrier group, which recently left the Gulf to assist US military operations in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week Iranian officials had warned the carrier not to the return to the region.

Talk about poetic justice.

Palestine granted UNESCO full membership

The United Nations cultural agency granted Palestinians full membership with a 107 votes in favor, 14 against, and 52 abstentions. The landmark decision comes just one week before the UN General Assembly is expected to vote in favor of recognizing the Palestinian State as a full member of the United Nations.

The United States and Israel have condemned the UNESCO vote. The former is fully determined to exercise its veto power in the Security Council should the General Assembly approve Palestine’s membership. In the 1990s, the U.S. Congress passed separate laws promising monetary retraction:

 “to any affiliated organization of the United Nations which grants full membership as a state to any organization or group that does not have the internationally recognized attributes of statehood.” (P.L. 103-236, Title IV 1994)

Prior legislation states, “No funds authorized to be appropriated by this act or any other act shall be available for the United Nations or any specialized agency thereof which accords the Palestine Liberation Organization the same standing as member states.” (P.L. 101-246, Title IV 1990)

Amidst the tense debate between the United States and the other world powers (Brazil, Russia, China, India, South Africa, and France voted in favor of Palestine’s UNESCO membership), it seems that once again U.S. diplomats will struggle to maintain an increasingly isolated policy on the Israel-Palestine issue.

Meanwhile, Gaza militants continue to launch rockets into southern Israel toward Be’er Sheva and Sderot. And providing further fodder for this gloomy global context, The Guardian reports that Israel and the world’s nuclear powers seek upgrades in their respective nuclear weapons capabilities.

So much for diplomacy and non-nuclear proliferation  . . .

Peter Beinart to speak at DU

Next week, the Institute for the Study of Israel in the Middle East will host American journalist Peter Beinart. A Rhodes Scholar and Former Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Beinart is a Senior Political Writer at the blog The Daily Beast. His books include The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris (2010) and The Good Fight: Why Liberals–and Only Liberals–Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (2006).

Mr. Beinart has expressed concern that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s stance on negotiations has increasingly isolated the Jewish state from the rest of the world. His discussion topic on Monday evening, November 8, will be “Israel: Have We Lost that Loving Feeling and Can We Get it Back?” RSVP at http://www.ISIME.org.