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January 31 Conference, "Whither the Levant?" Addresses Future of the Middle East

films, panels and a symposium feature scholars and filmmakers
On January 31, 2009, Levantine Cultural Center and the University of California, Irvine, the Middle East Studies Student Initiative (MESSI) will present “Whither the Levant? The Crisis of the Nation-State: Lebanon, Israel and Palestine. This conference includes documentary and feature film screenings, panels and a symposium.

This conference takes place at the UC Irvine Student Center in the Crystal Cove Auditorium and Pacific Ballroom. [Map].

The panels are “Regional Forces and Lebanon’s Future,” “Israel, Palestine and the Two-State vs. One-State Solution,” and “The Obama-Biden Administration and Foreign Policy vis-à-vis the Middle East.”

The films include “Lebanon Summer 2006,” a documentary directed by Cédric Troadec; “Beirut Rising,” a documentary directed by Soula Saad, and “Under the Bombs,” the feature film by Philippe Aractingi.

Americans generally and Southern Californians in particular have multiple reasons to be concerned about the future of the Middle East.

  • Military operations in Iraq/Afghanistan cost Los Angeles County alone an estimated $3 million a day in tax revenues. An L.A. Times report suggested, in fact, that, ”Every level of [California] state and local government has been touched by the hidden cost of war.” Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, co-authors of The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, argued in an L.A. Times op-ed [3/16/08], “Californians are already paying more to support the war effort than most Americans.”
  • Israel receives about $3 billion per year in U.S. economic and military aid, while Egypt is the second-largest beneficiary, receiving $1.3 billion a year from the U.S. In many ways, our government invests heavily in the region.
  • Using the latest works of authors and filmmakers, our purpose is to examine the imminent future of the Levant, particularly in view of the in-coming Obama Administration. Looking at the recent history with a measure of “pessoptimism”, scholars, filmmakers and audience members will confer in an environment conducive to intellectual inquiry and constructive debate.

The latest fighting between Hamas in Gaza and Israeli military forces makes this conference a timely inquiry into the future of the region.

The conference will examine contemporary history and the future of this troubled region. Because many Middle East statesmen/women have come to understand that military solutions for the region’s problems do not work, the focus of this program is to emphasize pathways to diplomatic, non-violent solutions to the region’s problems.

Among the books featured during this program is an anthology, The War on Lebanon: A Reader (Olive Branch Press 2007), edited by Dr. Nubar Hovsepian. It is an essential collection of essays on politics and society in the region, international collusion, legal implications, and regional effects. Other books include

  • The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics, and Scholarship in Israel by Gabriel Piterberg;
  • Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation by Saree Makdisi
  • Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein
  • Why They Don’t Hate Us, Unveiling the Axis of Evil and Heavy Metal Islam by Mark LeVine
  • The Costs of War, by Richard Falk

For complete info on the conference, including film synopses and speaker bios, click here, or click the link to January 31st on our event calendar.

Cosponsored by the Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies/UCI, American Friends Service Committee, LA Jews for Peace and supported by Diane and Jeanette Shammas, Lawrence Joseph, Kanan Hamzeh, Casey Kasem, Bana Hilal, Asad Farah and the Salaam-Shalom Educational Foundation.