"Whither the Levant?" The Crisis of the Nation-State: Lebanon, Israel, Palestine

Event Details
Jan 31 2009 11:00am - 10:00pm
General public $40 all activities, $55 with catered lunch reception.
Single panel or symposium, $20
Films only $10, $8 students (entry good for two films).
Conference/films free to UCI students and faculty.
Conference (panels and symposium) free for all students.
Middle Eastern lunch $12 students/$15 general public with advance reservations, $15/$18 at the door.
Student i.d. must be presented at the door.
Click here to purchase tickets
UC Irvine Student Center
East Peltason Drive
Irvine, CA 92617

A conference including documentary and feature screenings, panels and symposium, organized by Levantine Cultural Center and the University of California, Irvine, the Middle East Studies Student Initiative (MESSI). 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. Also cosponsored by the Magic Lamp restaurant in Long Beach.

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

Schedule (details subject to change)

11 am—“Lebanon Summer 2006” directed by Cédric Troadec (documentary, ’50 minutes).
12 noon-1:00 pm—Catered Middle Eastern buffet reception 1:15-3:00 pm—Panel 1: Regional Forces: Lebanon/Israel/Palestine
3:15-4:45 pm—Panel 2: The Obama-Biden Administration and Foreign Policy vis-à-vis the Middle East: Same-Old or a New Era?
5:00-7:00 pm Symposium: The Crisis of the Nation-State: Lebanon, Israel and Palestine
8:00 pm—“Under the Bombs” directed by Philippe Aractingi (feature, 90 minutes).
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.

Whither the Levant“WHITHER THE LEVANT: The Crisis of the Nation-State: Lebanon, Israel and Palestine” 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 Threat of Race, by David Theo Goldberg

The films to be screened are:

Lebanon Summer 2006Lebanon Summer 2006Lebanon Summer 2006, (U.S. 2007) is a documentary directed by Cédric Troadec and produced by Lawrence Joseph, about the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. The film gives the floor to the Lebanese—a strangely original idea, given that they seem to have been forgotten by modern history, and worse, sacrificed in the name of politics not of their making and out of their control. This is not just a simple assessment of the country’s situation after being destroyed by the Israeli military. It is the faithful depiction of the impact of the war on a group of Christian, Sunni and Shia witnesses who lived through the chaos.

Under the Bombs: a film by Philippe AractingiUnder the Bombs: a film by Philippe AractingiUnder the Bombs (France-Lebanon 2007). “Under the Bombs” stars Nada Abou Farhat as Zeina, a Shiite Muslim woman who sends her young son to live with her sister in southern Lebanon while she goes through a messy divorce back home in Dubai. However, after a round of bombings from Israel, Zeina loses touch with her sister and her son, so she travels to Beirut, hoping to find a taxi driver to take her south. “Emotionally engaging, impressively directed and superbly acted drama that uses authentic Lebanon locations to devastating effect.”

Schedule in Detail (Subject to change)

Reception: 12 noon-1:00 pm, a catered Middle Eastern lunch, free to speakers/organizers/sponsors, $12 students/faculty when reserved in advance, $15 at the door. $15 general public when reserved in advance, $18 at the door.

Film schedule: 11 a.m.-12 noon, “Lebanon Summer 2006” dir. Cédric Troadec (52’). 8:00 pm “Under the Bombs,” dir. Philippe Aractingi (98’)

Panel 1: 1:15-3:00 pm Regional Forces: Lebanon/Israel/Palestine, with Nubar Hovsepian, As'ad AbuKhalil and Norman Finkelstein, moderated by Lina Kreidie. Norman Finkelstein will speak on Israeli policies that exacerbate the context of regional war; As'ad Abukhalil will look at the future of Lebanon as an independent state; and Nubar Hovsepian on the 2006 war between Hezbollah and Israel and the future of relations between Lebanon and Israel. As a Lebanese and researcher on Hezbollah, Lina Haddad Kreidie brings her own experience to the discussion as moderator.

Panel 2
: 3:15-4:45 pm Israel, Palestine and the Two-State vs. One-State Solution, with Saree Makdisi, Chuck O’Connell, Gabriel Piterberg and David Theo Goldberg, moderated by Nubar Hovsepian. Saree Makdisi expounds on the arguments in his book Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation; Chuck O’Connell builds on his work focusing on Arab/Israeli coexistence in a talk entitled "Beyond Nationalism"; David Theo Goldberg speaks based on his chapter on Palestine/Israel in his book The Threat of Race; and Gabriel Piterberg will base his arguments on those put forth in The Returns of Zionism.

Symposium: 5:00-7:00 pm The Obama-Biden Administration and Foreign Policy vis-à-vis the Middle East: Same-Old or a New Era?, a conversation with Reza Aslan (TBC), Lina Haddad Kreidie, As'ad Abukhalil, Norman Finkelstein, Nubar Hovespian, Chuck O'Connell and Gabriel Piterberg, moderated by Mark LeVine and Saree Makdisi. Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan will be discussed.

Program Bios (Subject to Change)

Nubar Hovsepian is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Studies at Chapman University. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the Graduate Center—City University of New York. He edited The War on Lebanon (2007). His new book, Palestinian State Formation: Education and the Construction of National Identity, was published in 2008. He is currently working on a book on Edward Said as a Public Intellectual. In addition, he has written and edited four books (in Arabic), most notably on the Iranian revolution of 1979. He served as Political Affairs officer at the United Nations (1982-84), and has worked as publisher, journalist, and development specialist.

As’ad Abukhalil was born in Tyre, Lebanon. He grew up in Beirut and studied at the American University there. He received his doctorate in comparative government from Georgetown University. He has instructed at Tufts, Georgetown, and George Washington University as well as Colorado and Randolph-Macon College. He is currently a professor of political science at California State, Stanislaus, and a visiting professor at UC Berkeley. As’ad Abukhalil has served as a Middle East consultant for major news outlets and authors the blog, The Angry Arab.

Norman G. Finkelstein is an independent scholar and political scientist, specializing in the Israel-Palestine conflict and the politicization of the Holocaust. He received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University, and has held faculty positions at Brooklyn College, Hunter College, Rutgers, New York and DePaul Universities; he was an assistant professor at DePaul from 2001 until 2007, when he was controversially denied tenure, and subsequently resigned. Finkelstein is the author of five books which have been translated into more than 40 foreign editions and his new book, A Farewell to Israel: The Coming Break-up of American Zionism, is scheduled for publication in 2009.

David Theo Goldberg is Director of the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the University of California system-wide research facility for the human sciences and theoretical research in the arts. He also holds faculty appointments as Professor of Comparative Literature and Criminology, Law and Society at UC Irvine, and is a Fellow of the UCI Critical Theory Institute.

Professor Goldberg's work ranges over issues of political theory, race and racism, ethics, law and society, critical theory, cultural studies and, increasingly, digital humanities. Together with Cathy Davidson of Duke University, he founded the Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) to promote partnerships between the human sciences, arts, social sciences and technology and supercomputing interests for advancing research, teaching and public outreach.

He has authored numerous books, including The Threat of Race (2008); The Racial State (2002); Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America (1997); Racist Culture: Philosophy and the Politics of Meaning (1993); and Ethical Theory and Social Issues: Historical Texts and Contemporary Readings (1989/1995). He has also edited or co-edited many volumes, including A Companion to Gender Studies (2005); A Companion to Racial and Ethnic Studies (2002); Between Law and Culture: Relocating Legal Studies (2002); Relocating Postcolonialism (2002); Race Critical Theories: Text and Context (2001); Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (1994); Jewish Identity (1993); and Anatomy of Racism (1990).

Lina Haddad Kreidie did extensive research on Islamic fundamentalism, Middle East politics, and ethnic violence. She teaches classes mainly on Middle East Politics, Islam and the West, Global issues, Psychology of International conflict, and Intercultural communication and conflict at the University of California, Irvine, and Chapman. Her publications include: Religion and Identity: “Deciphering the Construals of Islamic Fundamentalists in The Future of Identity, Edited by Ken Hoover. Spring 2004; “The psychological dimensions of Ethnic conflict: How identity Constrained the choice and Worked to Turn Ordinary People into Perpetrators of Ethnic Violence during the Lebanese Civil war. “ International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. Summer 2002; “The Social and Economic Correlates of Islamic religiosity.” World Affairs. Fall 2001; The Perspectives of Islamic Fundamentalism and the Limits of Rational Choice Theory,” Political Psychology Journal. Vol. 13 No.1. With Kristen Monroe, 1997. Her work in progress is the Clash of Identities and the Struggle of Nation-States: Case studies Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Mark LeVine is Professor of Middle Eastern History at UCI and the author of Why They Don't Hate Us, Unveiling the Axis of Evil. In his new book Heavy Metal Islam: Rock, Resistance, and the Struggle for the Soul of Islam, he shows how heavy metal, punk, hip-hop, and reggae are each the music of protest, and in many cases considered immoral in the Muslim world. Why, despite governmental attempts to control and censor them, do these musicians and fans keep playing and listening? Partly, of course, for the joy of self-expression, but also because, in this region, everything is political. In Heavy Metal Islam, Mark LeVine explores the influence of Western music on the Middle East through interviews with musicians and fans, introducing us young Muslims struggling to reconcile their religion with a passion for music and a desire for change. The result is a revealing tour of contemporary Islamic culture through the evolving music scene in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Daniel Levy is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and a Senior Fellow and Director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative at The Century Foundation. His participation in the conference was postponed for a future date.

Saree Makdisi teaches English and Comparative Literature at UCLA, and is a frequent commentator on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Makdisi's book Palestine Inside Out: an Everyday Occupation (Norton 2008) catalogues the policies and procedures of occupation from the point of view of its victims, the Palestinians. The book suggests that occupation is merely a feature of an ongoing Israeli policy of slow transfer of the native Palestinian population from their lands. Makdisi argues that a one-state solution for the region’s multicultural reality is the only viable option for the future.

Chuck O'Connell is a lecturer in sociology at UC Irvine, where he teaches courses on race-ethnicity-nationality and on the U.S. war on terrorism. He will speak on "Beyond nationalism," a critique of the modern politics of nationalism, with particular reference to the Middle East.

Gabriel Piterberg is an Associate Professor of History at UCLA and has also taught at the University of Durham, England, and Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. He graduated from Tel Aviv University, where he majored in Middle East history and political science (BA), and Middle East and European history (MA). He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford and has taught at the University of Durham and Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. He was awarded the Leonard Stein Lectureship at Oxford and his newest book is entitled The Returns of Zionism: Myths, Politics, and Scholarship in Israel. He contributed the essay “Covering Lebanon: Media and the 2006 War" to Hovsepian’s anthology The War on Lebanon.