By Jordan Elgrably
Following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the Second World War, the map of the Middle East and North Africa has been rewritten by colonialism, war and internecine conflict.
Whether the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the 1980-1988 war between Iraq and Iran, the first and second Gulf War in Iraq, the invasions of Afghanistan, or the Lebanese Civil War, millions of people have been displaced. Millions more have seen their lives changed forever with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria that began in 2010.
In the 21st century, it is easy for us to forget that World War I was said to be "the war to end all wars." Here I am, writing on the 100th anniversary of that brutal conflagration that killed over 15 million combatants and civilians in Europe.
In conjunction with the new exhibition War and People: Art, Exile and the Middle East, four Southern California-based poets read from two recent collections of poetry, Dear Darwish and With Our Eyes Wide Open, that explore the effects of war and exile on people in South Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.
With Our Eyes Wide Open: Poems of the New American Century, focuses on the impact of recent wars on populations around the world specially the U.S. wars in Southeast Asia (Vietnam etc.), Central America, and the Middle East. This international anthology of poetry explores the impact of the United States in wars as well as upon the "nobodies"-outcasts, immigrants, the working class: "They [the poets]...represent an emerging poetic consciousness which is helping todefine and shape the imagination and language of the 21st Century." Using a call-and-response pattern, the poems look at the impact of the United States' wars in Korea, Vietnam, Central American, and Iraq on lives. Vietnamese-American poet Teresa Mei Chuc, and Julia Stein read from their own poems. Dima Hilal, a Lebanese American will read her work. We will also read some of the Middle Eastern poets in the anthology from Turkey, Oman, Egyptian-American, Morocco, Iraq, and Chechnya.
Read reviews of With Eyes Wide Open here and in Counterpunch here.
Nathan Deuel is the author of Friday Was the Bomb, Five Years in the Middle East—a memoir about an American family that struggles to find stability in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey amidst political upheaval and personal dilemmas. Deuel will present Friday Was the Bomb at the Levantine Cultural Center on Thursday, Oct. 9, 7 pm. Listen to an NPR interview with Nathan Deuel.
In 2008, Deuel, a former editor at Rolling Stone and The Village Voice, and his wife, a National Public Radio foreign correspondent, moved to the deeply Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to see for themselves what was happening in the Middle East. There they had a daughter, and later, while his wife filed reports from Baghdad and Syria, car bombs erupted and one night a firefight raged outside the family's apartment in Beirut. Their marriage strained, and they struggled with the decision to stay or go home.
At once a meditation on fatherhood, an unusual memoir of a war correspondent's spouse, and a first-hand account from the front lines of the most historic events of recent days—the Arab Spring, the end of the Iraq war, and the unrest in Syria—Friday Was The Bomb is a searing collection of timely and absorbing essays.
On Saturday, December 13th, 2014, the Levantine Cultural Center will hold its year-end comedy benefit show with the New Sultans of Satire at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, in Long Beach. With a special tribute to Robin Williams, this evening brings together the top young Middle Eastern comedians at work together, including Aron Kader (Comedy Central's "Axis of Evil"), Tehran, Sammy Obeid, Marie-Thérèse Abou-Daoud, Sherwin Arae and Melissa Shoshahi. The Levantine Cultural will donate a portion of the proceeds to Kinder USA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) to help deserving children in Gaza with medical needs following the summer war. The Levantine Cultural Center works to bridge political and religious divides that may exist between Americans and the Middle East/North Africa, by presenting arts and education programs in the spirit of exploration, discovery and unity.
Proceeds benefit the Levantine Cultural Center, a 501(c)3 founded 13 years ago as a grassroots nonprofit organization that champions a greater understanding of the Middle East/North Africa and our communities in diaspora.
Come participate in a dynamic Middle East rhythm and drum circle, facilitated by percussion expert Rowan Storm, Saturday from 1:30 -3:30 pm, June 14, 2014. Beginners welcome. For all ages. Family friendly. Various hand drums and percussion provided, or bring your own. Info/reservations 323.413.2001 or just show up. Grab a drum or bring your own and join the fun! Visit carpetconcert.com or rowanstorm.com.
Suggested contribution for two hours is $20.
Every year, right before the Memorial Day weekend, I find myself in a quandary: Am I supposed to remember only the American fallen—the soldiers and officers killed in battle around the world? What of the millions of foreign civilians and soldiers our bombs and other munitions have killed since 1945? My thinking here begins with 1945 because that was the year that saw the end of World War II, the deadliest war in history, and the year that the United Nations was founded to secure world peace, yet 1945 proved to be the dawn of the American empire.
Is it right, on Memorial Day, to remember only our own?
Let's go back to the 1950-1953 war between South and North Korea. That was a conflict that cost the lives of over a million Koreans, with the U.S. sustaining 33,686 battle deaths.
In our war with Vietnam, 1955-1975, the Vietnamese government has estimated that some three million civilians and soldiers died. We dropped almost 8 million tons of munitions across Vietnam and neighboring Laos and Cambodia—more bombs than we dropped on Germany and Japan in WW II combined.
According to an article published last year in The World Post, "an estimated 800,000 tons failed to detonate, contaminating around 20 percent of [Vietnam's] land. More than 100,000 people have been killed or injured since 1975, the government says."
What shaped the C.I.A., and how does the agency play a role in our foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa? On Thursday, March 6, the Levantine Cultural Center presents a public forum and book signing with intelligence historian Hugh Wilford and former C.I.A. case officer Robert Baer, in conversation about the history of the agency's Arabists and the direction of U.S. Middle East foreign policy, particularly with respect to Israel, Iran and Syria. The discussion will be moderated by journalist and political commentator Robert Scheer. The program is made possible in part by Truthdig and LA Jews for Peace. KPFK 90.7 FM Pacifica Radio is a media sponsor.
What shaped the C.I.A., and how does the agency play a role in our foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa? The Levantine Cultural Center presents a public forum and book signing with intelligence historian Hugh Wilford and former C.I.A. case officer Robert Baer, in conversation about the history of the agency's Arabists and the direction of U.S. Middle East foreign policy, particularly with respect to Israel, Iran and Syria. The discussion will be moderated by journalist and political commentator Robert Scheer. The program is made possible in part by Truthdig and LA Jews for Peace. KPFK Pacifica Radio 90.7 FM is a media sponsor.
Hugh Wilford's new book is America's Great Game, The CIA's Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. Robert Baer is a former CIA case officer who served everywhere from Iraq to the former Soviet Union. (The 2005 film Syriana, starring George Clooney, was an adaptation of several of his books about the intelligence world.) Baer is the author of See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism; Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude; and The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower. Robert Scheer is the editor-in-chief of the online news magazine Truthdig and a regular commentator on KCRW's Left, Right and Center.
Limited seating for this long-running and inspired comedy show-come enjoy a healthy dose of comic relief, laugh about life and the Middle East with one of L.A's hottest comedy troupes, the Sultans
a mural project including life-size portraits of all the greats
The Levantine Cultural Center has unveiled The HEROES OF THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA mural initiative, which proposes to create a large mural depicting cultural icons such as Rumi, Khalil Gibran, Fairuz, Naguib Mahfouz and other poets, writers, filmmakers, musicians and artists who are symbols of peace through the arts.