Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bethlehem, Peace and Christmas

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Bethlehem, Peace and Christmas
Film director Jim Hanon discusses the volatile topic of peace in the Middle East this holiday season. His recent film release Little Town of Bethlehem stirs hearts and minds towards a common goal.

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight.
Oh, but how peace and stillness do not reign an area torn apart by fighting before and sense the birth of Jesus, about whom the song “Little Town of Bethlehem” was written.

ltob coverThis Christmas, as at any time of the year, there seems to be no shortage of opinions, emotions, and actions regarding finding “peace in the Middle East.” While we sing the familiar songs and carols about the Holy city where the Christ-child was born, some are familiar with the issue and others are personally impacted by the conflict, many more are unaware, uninformed, and unconcerned about this critical global issue. Little Town of Bethlehem is a groundbreaking new documentary that shares the gripping story of three men—a Palestinian Muslim, a Palestinian Christian, and an Israeli Jew—born into violence and willing to risk everything to bring an end to violence in their lifetime.

Sami Awad is a Palestinian Christian whose grandfather was killed in Jerusalem in 1948. Today he is the executive director of Holy Land Trust, a non-profit organization that promotes Palestinian independence through peaceful means. Yonatan Shapira is an Israeli Jew whose grandparents were Zionist settlers who witnessed the birth of the Israeli nation. Today he is an outspoken advocate for the nonviolent peace movement, both in his homeland and abroad. Ahmad Al'Azzeh is a Palestinian Muslim who has lived his entire life in the Azzeh refugee camp in Bethlehem. Today, Ahmad heads the nonviolence program at Holy Land Trust, where he trains others in the methods of peaceful activism.

Little Town of Bethlehem was produced by EthnoGraphic Media (EGM), an educational non-profit organization exploring the critical issues of our time. Watch the trailer at

Telling a good story is hard work. Telling a story that matters to history is even harder. "Little Town of Bethlehem" is both, and deserves a wide viewing in the parliaments and congresses of the world, in universities and colleges, in churches, synagogues and mosques. The film is a passionate account of three people who have decided differently, and are laying down their lives for peace-- and therefore for a future.
Dr. Steven Garber
The Washington Institute

… engaging and lively ….
Dr. Barbara Stowasser
Director, Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies

Remarkable! Stories of transformation are very powerful. … it humanizes a conflict that the media has dehumanized. …provides a counter narrative to the popular storyline of violence.
Dr. Varun Soni
Dean of USC Office of Religious Life

…thumbs up. 
Habeeb Awad
Professor and International Student Advisor, Hope College

Director Jim Hanon is available for interviews. Review and giveaway copies are available upon requests.

Monday, November 15, 2010


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By Maria C. Khoury 
31 pp, Jerusalem 
CDK Publications, 2003
Book Review by Marilyn Rouvelas

Since 1992, Maria Khoury has given our families wonderful children's books written from an Orthodox perspective. Her latest book,

Christiana Goes to the Holy Land 
(the sixth in her Christina series) is another invaluable contribution to our children's religious education. It is important for our children to know that the place where Christ lived can be visited today and that a living Christian community still exists there. The Holy Land is not a mythical place. Christians from all over the world have the privilege of making the pilgrimage of a lifetime and walking in the footsteps of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Christina Goes to the Holy Land tells the fictional story of Christina and her family seeing the sites Christian pilgrims have visited for centuries. Through the sites, Christina learns about the life of Christ. The sites are generally presented in chronological order of Christ's life: The Church of Annunciation in Nazareth , the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem , the Jordan River (Theophany/Epiphany), the Mount of Temptation near Jericho where Christ fasted, Cana where Christ performed the miracle of turning water into wine, and the Galilee area. In the Jerusalem vicinity the family visits the Tomb of Lazarus, Bethpage where Christ mounted the donkey for Palm Sunday, Mt. Zion the location of the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane , the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection are commemorated and the Mt. of Olives where he ascended into heaven.

At each site, Maria explains its relevance to Christ's life. Thus the book is an excellent way to learn about Christ's life, and Bible quotations support the text. With the Church of the Nativity, for example, the Christmas story of Christ's birth is related along with such information as the word " Bethlehem " means "house of bread" because there were so many wheat fields around the town and that the church was built by two clear1x1.gifof the greatest Orthodox saints, Saints Constantine and Helen. This sentence could lead to a special spiritual conversation with the parent and child that Christ is our bread of life and God specifically had a plan for our salvation because He loves us.  

The colorful illustrations by Fotini Dedousi help the reader feel present at the sites. The original artist of the Christina character, Antonia Marshall, lives in the Boston area and was not able to travel to the Holy Land. Fotini Dedousi and Maria Khoury live in the Holy Land and have visited these sites. The appendix includes "Vocabulary," "Map," and "Chronology" for parents. 

The last page of the story tells about Christina's family visiting the only remaining all-Christian village in the Holy Land , Taybeh (north of Jerusalem ). This is the village where Maria has lived with her family since 1995. In Christina's story, this understated sentence appears, "Many Christian people have left the Holy Land because of the terrible wars." Of course Maria does not want to frighten her young readers, but the facts about the Christian community living in the Holy Land today are frightening.
There are approximately 32,000 Christians left in the West Bank today that is less than two per cent of the entire Palestinian population. There is 60-70 per cent unemployment and life is extremely difficult because of the occupation, roadblocks, land confiscation and now the Apartheid Wall being built by Israel . This dire situation has been reported by Maria in email articles that have appeared in the Greek-American press. The chronicles written during the current Uprising since 2000 have been collected in her book, Witness in the Holy Land .

The need for housing for Orthodox Christians is tremendous, and Maria has started a fundraising campaign to build houses in the village of Taybeh . If each Christian in America would give $1, the houses could be built. The One Dollar Campaign will be in effect until Pascha 2006. If one million dollars in not raised through the fundraising efforts to build all thirty homes needed for St. George Greek Orthodox Church of Taybeh at least one home will be build with net profits from the Christina Book series. Furthermore, Maria is selling her rights to her new books! for a direct donation to the housing for publication in other languages to bring greater awareness of the Christian presence in the Holy Land . The new Christina Book has been translated to Greek, Spanish and French.

Christina Goes to the Holy Land is dedicated to her late father-in-law, Canaan David Khoury, who began the project, and I personally witnessed the pledge Maria made to him about completing the housing as he was dying in a hospital in Boston . Helping with Taybeh housing and raising awareness about the plight of Christians in the Holy Land has become Maria's life's work in addition to writing wonderful books for our children.

Donations to help Orthodox Christians build homes may be made to the "Metropolis of Boston Holy Land Housing," 162 Goddard Avenue , Brookline , MA 02445

Christina Goes to the Holy Land by Maria Khoury (for ages pres-school and up) may be purchased through Light and Life Publishing, 4808 Park Glen Road , Minneapolis MN 55416 , 952-925-3888 or from the children's books directly from Palestine

Marilyn Rouvelas is the author of  A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict

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Nation Books has published The Goldstone Report, which was already published by the United States. So why would they do that? Well, the UN document which details in unbiased straightforward documentation and eyewitness reports, details the crimes of both the Israeli military and Hamas in the Gaza Strip following Israel's decision to break the lull agreement of non-belligerency it signed with Hamas only months before. (Hamas had stopped its attacks against Israel and almost ended all rocket attacks by militants who were responding to Israel's murder of Palestinians in the West Bank during the lull. On the US election day, Israel viciously assaulted the Gaza Strip murdering scores of Palestinian civilians and engaging in a hi-tech strategy of one-sided and biased public relations and communications, ending it only on the day Barack Obama was finally sworn in as president many weeks later.)

The tragedy of the Goldstone Repport is that the extremist activists on both sides have exploited its findings to suit their own PR goals. Israeli fanatics challenged the report and even called its author, international Jewish jurist Richard Goldstone, an "anti-Semite" for daring to expose Israel's atrocities Palestinian fanatics ignored the report's conclusions that Hamas engaged in war crimes by striking out intentionally at civilian targets, too. The difference between the two terrorist assaults and the extremists is that Israel is better at achieving its goals while Hamas is basically driven by suicide and wanton assaults targeting civilians.

So the authors have decided to give the Palestinians some leverage by not only presenting the Goldstone Report in its entirety, but by backing it up with essays, some of which are enlightening and others that are the typical kind of radical expressions of anger and rantings driven by a hatred for Jews. It's troubling how no one can seem to present the report in an objective manner and this collection of typically hateful anti-Israeli and even viciously hateful assaults against the secular Palestinian government of the Palestine National Authority.

Writers like Laila el-Haddad, the extremist who closes her eyes to the violence when it is committed by her own people and screams to exaggerated heights when the victims are Palestinian. Yes, Israel's army did commit atrocities, but so did Hamas, something that el-Haddad, a strident hateful voice barks out loud. El-Haddad's only real talent is to spout hatred from her blogs, attacking other Palestinians who disagree with her extremist agenda and blindness to the terrorism of the Hamas organization.

Ali Abunimeh, the son of Palestinian aristocracy and privilege, wails about the Israelis also ignoring the actions of the Hamas terrorist organization. And in usual, ineffective narrative, rails through a history of the Palestine conflict asserting almost ridiculously that the Goldstone Report has opened up eyes of Americans to Israel's violations of human rights. Unlike el-Haddad, Abunimeh is a talented and gifted writer, though misguided and somewhat contradictory in his off and on expressions of support for compromise and support for the creation of "one state." A frequent critic whose voice helped to undermine the peace process, Abunimeh cannot see past his dislike of Israelis or recognize the failure of the Palestinian leadership, which he is a part. That leadership is as much responsible for the Palestinian tragedy giving  Israel opportunities to steal more Palestinian lands, expel more innocent Palestinians, kill Palestinian civilians (men, women, children and the elderly). Under their failed leadership, Israel has continued to annex more and more Palestinian lands, erased more and more of the Palestinian presence in historic Palestine including in the parts that are now Israel, They embrace failure but they continue to see in that failure a bastardized hope for the future that is not so much a dream but a living nightmare for the Palestinian refugees and Palestinians throughout the Diaspora who can only complain but not act to change one thing in their favor.

So they pretend they have made a difference in their self-delusions, claiming that Americans are changing their attitudes and are supporting the Palestinian cause. In fact, Americans more and more oppose Palestinian rights even though those rights are written int he stone of International Laws.

Tragically, with "champions" like Abunimeh and el-Haddad on the side of the Palestinians, the Palestinians continue to step backwards in their just struggle against the brutal and illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, not to even mention of the Golan Heights.

The book would have done much to enlighten the public had it offered a balance in its interpretation. Instead, Adam Horowitz, co-editor of the extremist web site Mondoweiss which regularly attacks Palestinians who seek to embrace balance and compromise, has brought together some great writers and some of the usual rabble that has undermined Palestinian civil rights through their illogical rantings and screams.

Maybe there will be a book that takes the Goldstone Report and offer it up in a balanced and accurate analysis that reinforces, not undermines, the just cause of the Palestinian people. But some of the essays are so biased that any typical American reader -- and most Americans won't even waste their time reading it -- would close it up and give it away.

Some of the essays worth reading include Raji Sourani, the human rights lawyer based in Gaza City and the director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), Henry Siegman, a Jewish American and director of the US/Middle East Project, Rashid Khalidi the distinguished Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University who occasionally allows his emotions to get the better of his writings,  former Congressman Brian Baird who visited the Gaza Strip often and is one of the few members of Congress who understand the true dynamics of the conflict, and the most distinguished archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize winner whose reasoned perspectives on the Palestine-Israel conflict have given the Palestinians their only toe-to-toe equilibrium with the Israelis.

The book is worth reading but take a black marker and x-out the propaganda from Abunimeh and el-Haddad, two misguided writers whose emotions always overcome reason.

The Goldstone Report: The Legacy of the Landmark Investigation of the Gaza Conflict
Nation Books
Edited by Adam Horowitz, Lizzy Ratner, and Philip Weiss
425 pages

Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East by John R. Bradley

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"Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East" is not a salacious examination of the sexual hypocrisies of the Islamic World, but rather a  first person exploration o the topic by an author who has spent many years in the Arab and Asian Islamic communities.

Author John R. Bradley offers a context for the book detailing a history of sexual activity in the Arab World from the prophet Mohammed's many wives, to the Ottoman Empire which pushed non-Muslims in to sexual service (prostitution) to help confront political upheaval in their society. A fascinating observation in that history comes from an Arab dictator who once told local mullahs who demanded an end to all entertainment (night clubs, dance halls and bars) as a means of ending all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage that creating Heaven on Earth would make the promise by God of the reward of Heaven irrelevant.

Bradley takes us through his real-time experience traveling through Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran and more as he talks with selected individuals about the taboo topic.

The irony is that prostitution has been a part of Arab and Islamic life, despite the public claims to the contrary. Not just the Kings and the wealthy, but the common people also engaged in prostitution when it suited their needs. The contradictions in Islamic society notwithstanding did not prevent anything.

Bradley also touches on common practices including the temporary marriage of young women by usually older men purely for the purpose of having sex, and on the marriage by older men with young children, where sex is delayed until the child reaches puberty. The entire topic is disgusting, but Bradley doesn't engage in that details nor does he offer any personal experiences in the realm of his book, only the interviews with subjects of knowledge he encounters and seeks out.

Everyone knows that the Islamic World is replete with hypocrisy, but then, so is the Western World. Human beings will always create excuses to separate their own failings from the failings of those they judge. It's a Middle East where you can hate Israel or the West and even debate dicy issues publicly as long as you never criticize the powers that be. Don't criticize the King, the dictator, the president-for-life, and your opinion has a modest level of free speech protections. Is that any different than in the West? Of course not. The only difference is that you are allowed to hate Muslims instead of Israelis in the West without being punished or subjected to hate crimes laws.

It's impossible for any Arab or Muslim to read Bradley's book without sensing a subterranean view that the Muslim and Arab Worlds are hypocritical. But you must read past the speed bumps of "hot button issues," something very few Arabs and Muslims are willing to do in order to accurately understand complex issues like freedoms, sex and political hypocrisies.

The book is a good basis to begin to understand some of the mondernday realities of the Arab and Islamic Worlds, but doesn't engage in out right judgmentalism. Bradley is not casting any judgments about the countries or peoples he explores in his casual travels through the region. It offers a good understanding of what most of us already know that the Arab World and Islamic World have their vices and people are willing to live with them rather than expose them and themselves as hypocrites on the subject. But it also puts it in a needed historical context that challenges the popular myths that women are free anywhere in this world be it in the confines of the West or Islam.

It is an easy read. And you just might learn something about a topic that is too often throw around in debates with little knowledge and too much stereotyping and political biases or racial or religious prejudices.

Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East.
John R. Bradley
Palgrave, MacMillan publishing
278 pages

-- Ray Hanania

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Book Chronicles the Whistle Blower of Israel’s WMD Program, Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and how an American novelist became the reporter who followed it

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New Book Chronicles the Whistle Blower of Israel’s WMD Program, Mordechai Vanunu’s Freedom of Speech Trial and how an American novelist became the reporter who followed it

[Clermont, Fl.]  October 11, 2010—“BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010” by Eileen Fleming also documents the Whistle Blower of Israel’s weapons of mass destruction program's childhood in Morocco, multiple crises of faith, 18 years in jail, and 6 ½ years under restrictions that have denied him the right to leave Israel and speak to foreigners.

In 1985, Vanunu shot two rolls of film in top-secret locations in the Dimona, Israel’s seven-story underground nuclear weapons facility in the Negev and he served 18 years in jail for treason and espionage.

According to Fleming, “I was not a reporter when I met Vanunu in June 2005, but I was inspired to become one to tell his story and my experiences with hundreds of nonviolent Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights activists who are seeking security for Israel through justice for Palestine: an end to the military occupation.”

On January 25, 2006, Vanunu’s freedom of speech trial began for speaking to foreign media in 2004. In 2010, he served a sentence of 78 days in solitary confinement.

On October 4, 2010, the International League for Human Rights-FIDH/AEDH Germany, announced Vanunu was awarded the 2010 Carl-von-Ossietzky-Medal and an international campaign was launched to assure he be at the Award Ceremony, in Berlin on December 12, 2010.

On October 11, 2010, at 1 PM, Vanunu returns to the Supreme Court seeking to rescind the restrictions that have denied him the right to leave Israel since he was released from jail on April 21, 2004.

Fleming ends his saga with Vanunu waiting in Tel Aviv, for Israel to release him to full freedom.

About the Author:
Eileen Fleming is a registered nurse by education and writer by vocation. She is the Founder and Editor of, a feature correspondent for, a staff member of and published by dozens of Internet sites. She produced “30 Minutes with Vanunu” and “13 Minutes with Vanunu” which are streaming on her site. Fleming is also the author of KEEP HOPE ALIVE and THIRD INTIFADA/UPRISING: NONVIOLENT but with Words Sharper than a Two-Edged Sword.

Eileen Fleming
E-mail: <>
Phone: 352-242-1919

PDF COPIES of BEYOND NUCLEAR: Mordechai Vanunu's FREEDOM of SPEECH Trial and My Life as a Muckraker: 2005-2010 are available to the Media and Book Reviewer’s via <>

Eileen Fleming will be in Tehran, Iran from 5-20th of November 2010, researching her fourth book, but will be available for INTERVIEWS before and after she returns.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Just when I was ready to give up on peace, along comes Gregory Levey and his new book

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Hopes for peace in the Middle East rise and fall like a thrill ride at an amusement park. Yet most people seem convinced the rollercoaster ride is going to end badly. When you are on the hill and zipping down so fast your stomach moves into your throat, it might feel like the end of the world, as it does these days in the Middle East, but then reality sets in and you slow down as you approach another rise.

It's so easy to lose hope and so hard to keep it, but along comes a new book by my friend Gregory Levey, believe it or not a former speech writer for a bunch of Israeli prime ministers I might never say I admired. Yet Levey was so encouraging in his optimistic search for peace, rambling from one Israeli or Palestinian activist or organization like a pinball slamming against rubber bumpers and screaming excitement and hope.

Level, the author of a book on his former speech-writing career for some of Israel's rightwing leaders called "Shut up, I'm Talking: And Other Diplomact Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government," has published a new book, one that is lighter and more serious in its lightness.

It's called "How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment ." Talk about fatalistic optimism. Yet the book takes you through the highs and lows of the Middle East peace. He talks to everyone (including me) about peace and anti-peace. Sometimes, understanding anti-peace can help you understand peace.

Levey's book is encouraging in its determination to reach out to everyone he can possibly meet, something uncommon in Middle East journalism. Many Arab journalists won't interview Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu and especially refused to interview Ariel Sharon, who many Arabs view as a mass murderer and criminal terrorist. Yet, many Israeli journalists would not interview Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. And if they did, the Israeli government would put them in jail, anyway, just in case.

It's a terrible world to navigate that peace adventure, but Levey does it with skill, wit and stubbornness that is mandatory for anyone who hopes to one day see peace int he Middle East.

I loved the book and its easy writing style. His speech writing skills come out in full force in his narrative of his travels and encounters.

"How to Make Peace in the Middle East in Six months or Less Without Leaving Your Apartment ."
Gregory Levey
Free Press, hardcover, Sept. 7, 2010
ISBN 9-7814-3915-415-1
288 pp

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Signing: “Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean.”

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“Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean.”

Book Signing and Discussion

Professor Basem L. Ra’ad 

October 18, 2010 6:00 PM

ADC Heritage Center
1732 Wisconsin Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20007

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) Invites you to a book signing on Monday, October 18, 2010 at the ADC Heritage Center.  Professor Basem L. Ra’ad will be discussing and signing his new book “Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean.”  
For thousands of years, the region of Palestine and the East Mediterranean has been denied an indigenous voice to narrate an inclusive history. Three major religions ascribe their origins to this part of the world, appropriating and re-appropriating the “Holy Land” time and again. This book offers a powerful corrective to common understandings. It emphasizes the long history of a region called “the cradle of civilization,” and dispels many old and new myths­covering issues related to constructs, claims and terminologies, regional mythologies and religions, invention and exploitation of sacred sites, the alphabet, ancient languages and place names, identity construction,  appropriation, self-colonization, and retrieval of ancient heritage. The book shows that ignorance is not always bliss. It is intended for general readership and for students and academics interested in history, religion, biblical studies, politics, archaeology, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies.

Copies of “Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean” will be available for purchase.

Basem L. Ra’ad is a Professor at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem. Born in Jerusalem, he received his education in Jordan, Lebanon, the U.S. and Canada, earning a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 1978. He has been an editor and community organizer, and has taught in Canada, Bahrain, Lebanon and Palestine.
Space is limited
RSVP is required by October 17, 2010
Please email your confirmation to 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Inside the Kingdom, By Robert Lacey

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When it comes to Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Peninsula, no one knows the history and politics better than Robert Lacey.

In 2009, he published "Inside the Kingdom"and it was a big book in hardcover. Now, the book is available in paperback and easier to carry and read.

This is a fascinating and detailed look into the evolution of the Saudi people, from the royalty to the rebels. Saudi Arabia is so important to the world and yet it is misunderstood often to play in to domestic politics.

Lacey's book offers an insight that even Arabs should read and understand. The future of the Middle East starts and ends in this desert sand kingdom. The future of America is in its winds.

Robert Lacey is the author of Majesty, the classic biography of Queen Elizabeth II. A distinguished journalist with a love of history, he wrote the series Great Tales from English History, and was co-author of the best-selling Year 1000. In 1979, he moved with his family to Saudi Arabia for eighteen months to research The Kingdom, his penetrating study of the country’s complex and often paradoxical culture, which was banned in Saudi Arabia. For the past three years, Robert has been based in Jeddah and Riyadh, gathering material for this sequel -- a completely new book which relates the Saudi role in the years of terror.
Penguin Books, now available
ISBN: 978-0-14-311827-5
$17, 404 pp

Friday, September 10, 2010

THE PEACE PROCESS: From Breakthrough to Breakdown, By Afif Safieh

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THE PEACE PROCESS: From Breakthrough to Breakdown
    Afif Safieh,
former Palestinian Ambassador in London, Washington and Moscow


“The Palestinian struggle for independence embodies a noble idea and a just cause. In Afif Safieh it found one if its most intellectually powerful, articulate and eloquent spokesmen. His book makes a vital contribution to our understanding of the cause that he has served with dignity and distinction for over three decades. It deserves the widest possible readership.” Avi Shlaim

"Afif Safieh's book makes both depressing and inspiring reading - these pages demonstrate Afif's commitment, his deep knowledge of history, his frustrations and his sparkling good humour." Lord David Steel

"A welcome addition to the literature written on the Peace Process. It is formidable in its eloquence, humanity and the description of his hopes for a just peace for all Palestinians." Judge Eugene Cotran

Afif Safieh served as Palestinian Ambassador in London, Washington and Moscow from 1990 to 2009. During this time he met and interacted with the leading politicians of our times: from Yasser Arafat, John Major and Tony Blair; to Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush, and Pope John Paul II.

The Peace Process: From Breakthrough to Breakdown brings together Afif Safieh's articles, lectures and interviews from when he was a staff member in Yasser Arafat's Beirut office, to 2005, at the end of his mission in London, revealing the political and intellectual journey of one of Palestine's most skilled and distinguished diplomats.

His writings, which centre on the Palestinian struggle for independence, are a testament to his vision and humanity provide a unique map of Palestinian diplomacy over the last three decades.

Born in Jerusalem in 1950, Afif Safieh is Roving Ambassador for Special Missions for the PLO and the Fatah Deputy Commissioner for International Relations. He served as Head of Mission in London, Washington and Moscow, as well as the Holy See and The Netherlands. During his service in The Netherlands from 1987 to 1990, he was involved in the Stockholm negotiations which led to the first official and direct American-Palestinian dialogue. From 1976 to 1978, her served as Deputy Director of the PLO Observer Mission to the United Nations Office at Geneva. He later worked as a staff member in Yasser Arafat's office in Beirut from 1978 to 1981, in charge of European Affairs and UN institutions. He lives in London with his wife and daughters.

To contact Afif Safieh please email:

To order copies of The Peace Process by Afif Safieh please visit the Al Saqi website or call the Al Saqi Bookshop on  +44 (0) 207 229 8543  (Books - £16.99)

For publicity enquiries please contact Charlotte Allen at Saqi Books: 

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Arab American Almanac, the most comprehensive reference on Arab Americans

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Arab American Almanac, the most comprehensive reference on Arab Americans
By Ray Hanania

One of the pioneers of American Arab journalism is Joseph Haeik who is a member of the Arab Journalism Society in Los Angeles and also a founder of the Arab American Historical Foundation. He is publisher of the immensely popular “News Circle Magazine” one of the most professionally written publications in the community and founded in 1972. His most important work, however is the publication of the Arab American Almanac, a detailed compilation of American Arab achievements, leaders and achievers.

This month, Haiek released the 6th Edition of the Arab American Almanac and it far exceeds the heights he has already reached from his previous five editions.

The Arab American Almanac, published by The News Circle Publishing House (, offers a detailed history of every aspect of Arabs in America compiled in 608 tightly packed and informative pages. The writing is compelling and accurate, built upon more than a half century of professional writing and journalism.

The book offers a list of the most important books written about Arab and Middle East topics. It offers endless lists including one detailing the achievements of American Arabs in Hollywood and film, in government and politics, and in business.

It provides a comprehensive listing of the most important American Arab organizations in the country with thumbnail histories that put the existence of Arabs in America in full perspective. It lists Arabs in the military and includes stories of Arabs in America that give a context to their existence in a way most other books about the community have failed to achieve.

You cannot understand the depth and substance of the Arabs in America without this Almanac and it is essential to any research or future documentation of American Arabs and their role in American society.

This is an important work of literature. It is mandatory for research on American Arabs. Every American organization and scholar should have a copy on their shelves in order to add depth to the shallow understanding that many Americans have of the rich culture of the Arab World and people and the contributions of Arabs to America’s greatness.

This is not a dissertation nor a political argument over issues of Middle East conflict, but rather a fair, complete and accurate account of who American Arabs were, are and will continue to be.

Arab American Almanac, 6th Edition
Arab American Historical Foundation
PO Box 291159
Los Angeles, CA 90029

For more information

- Ray Hanania

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Book Assesses the Middle East’s Growing “Knowledge Economy”

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New Book Assesses the Middle East’s Growing “Knowledge Economy”

Research Report Investigates the Region’s Capacity to Speed Development Through International Higher Education

For Immediate Release
June 15, 2010
NEW YORK, NY– A new book from the Institute of International Education (IIE), a world leader in the international exchange of students and scholars, examines the focus of the governments of several Middle Eastern countries on education as a central feature of national development policies. Innovation Through Education: Building the Knowledge Economy in the Middle East contains chapters written by thought leaders from the United States and the Middle East. It comes at a time when many new exciting initiatives are taking place in region, such as the opening of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the development of NYU Abu Dhabi, and the convening of major new global gatherings such as Qatar Foundation's World Innovation Summit for Education and the Education Without Borders Forum produced by the UAE’s Higher Colleges of Technology. The book looks at aspirations within the region to build human capacity through increased access to higher education, and examines new models for higher education opportunities. The new book is the latest in a series of timely reports published through a partnership between IIE and the American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) Foundation. 
Authors from a wide range of organizations describe and analyze current innovations, trends, and issues that countries and institutions in the Middle East are facing as they move toward educational reform and development in both Gulf and non-Gulf states. The book addresses institutional planning in the region, branch campuses in the UAE and Qatar, women's education, youth exchange, Arabic language education, and more, and offers a contemporary examination of role of global education in building the knowledge economy in the Middle East. It also provides an overview of exchange projects between Middle Eastern countries and the United States.

Innovation Through Education is the fourth book in the Global Education Research Reports series from IIE and the AIFS Foundation. Previous books have examined higher education initiatives and exchanges in China and India, as well as new developments in global mobility.

Authors of the chapters in Innovation Through Education represent the diverse perspectives of leaders in higher education, government, and the corporate sector in both the United States and Middle East. IIE CEO Allan Goodman and AIFS CEO Bill Gertz wrote forewords to the book. Chapter authors include: Jamil Salmi, World Bank; Daniel Kirk, Gulf Comparative Education Society, Spencer Witte, Ishtirak; Robert G. Ayan Jr., Cambridge Advisors LLC; Hana A. El-Ghali, Qianyi Chen, and John L. Yeager, University of Pittsburgh; Haifa Reda Jamal Al-Lail, Effat University; Sherifa M.B.E. Fayez, AFS Egypt, and Dan Prinzing, Idaho Human Rights Education Center; Jerome Bookin-Weiner, AMIDEAST, and Ahmad Majdoubeh, University of Jordan; and Norman J. Peterson and Yvonne M. Rudman, Montana State University. The book was edited by Daniel Obst, Deputy Vice President for International Partnerships at IIE, and Daniel Kirk, Founding President of the Gulf Comparative Education Society. (Table of contents following release.)
Innovation Through Education has been produced by IIE’s new Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, with funding from the AIFS Foundation. It is one of several IIE initiatives targeted at strengthening higher education bonds between the U.S. and Middle East. IIE delivers programs in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that reach more than 7,000 students, scholars, and professionals. As a result of the Institute’s partnerships with corporations, governments, ministries, foundations, and the U.S. government, thousands of students, scholars, and professionals from the region have gained access to the world’s leading higher education and training programs.

In academic year 2008/09, more than 29,000 international students from the Middle East were studying in the United States, an increase of more than 17% over the previous year, according to IIE’s 2009 Open Door Report on International Educational Exchange, supported by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. More than 3,300 students from the U.S. received credit for studying abroad in the Middle East in academic year 2007/08, an increase of more than 21% over the previous year.

IIE-administered programs in the MENA region have wide-ranging and tangible impact. They help to build capacity through training in science and technology, youth leadership development projects and women’s empowerment initiatives. IIE partners with the U.S. Department of State, and with universities such as KAUST and NYU Abu Dhabi, energy companies like Exxon Mobil, and technology companies like Microsoft to serve the region’s need for international education and training.

# # #

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1919, IIE has network of over 20 offices worldwide and over 1,000 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

The American Institute For Foreign Study (AIFS) Foundation, an independent, not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) tax exempt public charity, was established in 1967 to help young people from many nations and diverse cultures to better understand one another. The AIFS Foundation provides grants to high schools and institutions to encourage international and educational travel. The AIFS Foundation also sponsors the Academic Year in America (AYA) program, which enables international teenage students to live with an American host family while attending the local high school.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review Essay: Lessons from Lebanon’s chronic encounters with violence

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Review Essay: Lessons from Lebanon’s chronic encounters with violence

Libanisation (Lebanization/Lebanonization): the process of fragmentation of a state, as a result of confrontation between diverse communities.

By Maurice Obeid
(Submitted review)

Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon: A History of the Internationalization of Communal Conflict. By Samir Khalaf. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2002. 368 pp. ISBN: 0-231-12476-7. US $27.50.

A lot has been studied about Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war—identifying perpetrators, determining the “Sarajevo” that ignited the conflict, or ascribing responsibility to a web of local, regional, and international stakeholders. Little has been said, however, about the peculiarity of this civil war—what sets Lebanon apart from other violent contexts. It turns out that the forces that sustained the conflict were distinct from those that ignited it in the first place, and, in Lebanon’s case, much more important in delineating the country’s tortuous trajectory. These forces defined the paradigm of Lebanese sociopolitical life and destiny. Even more obscure to many observers is that Lebanon’s modern history has been one of intermittent violence whose patterns have remained largely consistent for two centuries. This discovery serves as both the premise and the conclusion of Samir Khalaf’s Civil and Uncivil Violence in Lebanon.

Khalaf’s examination of Lebanon’s conflicts since the 19th century uncovers three recurring themes that investigations of communal strife tend to overlook:

1.      The incongruence between instigators of violence and forces that sustain conflict. The circumstances that propelled oppressed groups to resort to social or political violence are not necessary those which sustained the violence or defined the direction and character of the conflict.

2.      The distinction between civil and uncivil violence. When communal discord replaces socioeconomic or purely political grievances as the face of a conflict, quelling violence becomes a herculean task. In Khalaf’s words, violence is transformed from a dependent variable to an independent variable inflicting its own vicious cycle of violence.

3.      Certain wars are futile. As Kaplan suggests, for wars to be productive, they must produce a victor and a vanquished. In Lebanon, successive conflicts have primarily embodied zero-sum rivalries. Much to the interests and efforts of foreign powers, conflicts always ended in suspension.

Lebanon’s major episodes of unrest reveal painstaking similarities in their pattern of violence. Conflicts that started as ordinary socioeconomic or political protest quickly turned into sectarian confrontation. Once conflicts took on a sectarian edge, and they almost always did, they acquired a life of their own and spiraled out of control as self-definition became threatened. Essentially, as Hanf explains, conflicts that were initially over divisible goods became struggles over indivisible principles. Finally, and most painfully, these conflicts have been largely futile, at best restoring status quo.

Today, coexistence is ever so distant. In short, Lebanon’s history with violence is especially vexing as hostilities never revolved around a set of causes nor have they resolved core issues that ignited unrest. 

Familiar pattern: a donkey is a donkey

Against this conceptual backdrop, Khalaf revisits three distinct conflicts—the recurrent uprisings of the 1800s, the turmoil of 1958, and the 1975-1990 war. He links his analysis of the Lebanese context to a rich exposé of relevant work by revered Western historians and social scientists. His intent here is to demonstrate two salient features. First, the (non-confessional) circumstances that propelled groups to violence were not those which sustained and defined the direction of the conflict. Second, geopolitical forces and regional and global rivalries consistently amplified communal fissures.

The calm of feudal Mount Lebanon—which had historically exhibited harmonious Maronite-Druze coexistence—was disrupted in the early 1800s by peasant protest over increased taxation and conscription by Ottoman and Egyptian rulers. These uprisings rarely remained in their pure socioeconomic and political forms, and were quickly deflected into confessional hostilities, often times by international spoilers—France, England, and the Ottomans—who pitted one confession against the other. The Maronite-Druze relations were irreparably damaged when Ottoman Ibrahim Pasha conscribed Maronites to help quell Druze rebellion. Ensuing massacres—socioeconomic grievances turned into sectarian conflicts—ended with foreign imposition of the Règlement Organique of 1861 that, for the first time, institutionalized confessionalism in Lebanon’s political system. In Khalaf’s words:

“[These events] initiated the transition from the traditional ties of kinship, status, and personal allegiance to a more communal form of social cohesion where sources of political legitimacy were defined in terms of ethnicity and confessional allegiance. In short, [they] substituted one form of primordial loyalty for another.”

A century later in 1958, significant regional developments and Palestinian belligerence in Lebanese territory transformed socioeconomic grievances and feelings of political underrepresentation, primarily by Muslims, into a confessional battle. Pan-Arab nationalism attracted the disenfranchised and those opposed to the government’s staunch pro-Western foreign policy. Early stages of protest reflected no intentions of violence, but Syrian and Egyptian efforts in propping up the opposition against the Chamoun government, along with the creation of the United Arab Republic in 1958 and the Maronites’ perennial fears of being engulfed by Arab nationalism and Palestinian presence, quickly transformed the situation into a vengeful conflict defined along confessional lines. Once again, fear of loss of identity and heritage, one’s very existence, motivated “out-of-control” violence—including banditry, kidnappings, and torture. And again, the violence subsided, much as it had started, with foreign intervention—in this case through The Cairo Accord.

By the early 1970s, however, regional ideologies—Baathist, Socialist, Arabist, and Islamist—had fundamentally changed the nature of the discourse in Lebanon. By then, Maronites felt dangerously threatened by Palestinian militancy. Internal tensions coupled with outside pressures—the Arab nakba in 1967 and intensified Israeli reprisals in the South—led to severe fissures in the government of President Franjieh. Khalaf reflects:

“Increasingly, Lebanon found itself caught between two treacherous operations: Destroy the armed presence of PLO and risk the grim prospects of Christian-Muslim confrontations. Entrust the army with the task of defending the South and suffer the inevitable humiliations of a military showdown with Israel. Typically, Lebanon opted for inaction and played for time.”

Time, however, was not on Lebanon’s side and events deteriorated into the familiar spiral of violence, this time to last 15 years. This conflict saw the most bizarre permutations of intra- and inter-communal alliances and violence. “The bewildering plurality of adversaries and shifting targets of hostility has rendered the Lebanese experience all the more gripping and pathological.” As with previous conflicts, hostilities ended when foreign interests necessitated a quiet Lebanon. This came in the form of the Taif Accord, which hypocritically clinched to the consociative nature of Lebanese society and “the [déjà vu] ethos of no victor and no vanquished.”

An Ominous future?

Khalaf delivers a somber message: Lebanon’s major episodes of violence have been uncivil. As long as conflicts revolved around socioeconomic and political disparities, they remained fairly civil. When they were given a confessional nature, and they almost always were, Lebanon turned into a bloody circus.

To great effectiveness, in analyzing the latest civil war, Khalaf goes beyond depicting the chronology of events to providing a rich glimpse of the country’s social psyche that sustained violence and the resulting psychological scars. He explains how ordinary citizens get entrapped in aggression and how traumatized groups come to cope with chronic fear and hostility. He addresses the impact of war on collective memory, group loyalties, and attitudes towards the “other.” His exposé explains how violence continued for 15 years: “the ecology of violence, reinforced by the demonization of the ‘other,’ provided the sources for heightened vengeance and entrapment into relentless cycles of retributive in-fighting.” Religion and the vilification of the “other” sanctified violence to the extent that “fighters involved in …purifying bloodbaths [were] not only purged of their guilt,” but were “also glorified into patriots and national heroes.” It simply became routine: groups engaged in such cruelties believed they were morally justified, and observers morally distanced themselves to the extent of desensitization. In essence, citizens became frenzied spectators morbidly fascinated by a Spanish bullfight (Marvin 1986: 133-34).

Perhaps most ominously, Khalaf paints a bleak picture for post-war Lebanon. Perhaps the most important impact of the war is what he calls the “retribalization” and “reteritorialization of identities.”  The war has reinforced kinship and confessional loyalties. It has destroyed public spaces that provided venues for intercommunity interaction and has caused people to retreat to homogenous spaces. The density of social interaction and intensified intracommunal loyalties are foreboding for the nation. Boundaries between communities, once physical, have become psychological, cultural, and ideological barriers. In contrast to theories of Modernization and Marxism, which predict the demise of religious and community fealty, such primordial ties have strengthened in Lebanon.

Khalaf raises another disheartening, less salient and empirically counterintuitive consequence of the war, which he labels “postwar barbarism.” He persuasively elaborates how in contrast to the constraint that people generally exhibit in postwar situations, the Lebanese show “no self-control in directing their future options.” Instead they reveal “insatiable desires for acquisitiveness, lawlessness, and unearned privileges,” ranging from the negligence of laws to the destruction of the environment to increased wickedness to the obsession with kitsch and vulgar trends. Khalaf laments the proliferation of kitsch—propagated by the desire to escape the memories of the past—that have vulgarized folk art and architecture in the process of providing cheap distractions to the wounded Lebanese souls.

The reader may take solace in Khalaf’s moderate voice throughout this work. While providing a sobering account of a violent nation, Khalaf reminds us that Lebanon knew periods of calm that rendered the country an avant-garde paradise in the region. On several occasions, however, Khalaf is quick to refute Lebanon’s detractors who say that the state is an artificial creation without offering much evidence to the contrary. This is an important argument for him to make, especially as he seems to be implying just the opposite when he describes the recommendation of the King Crane Commission to create an autonomous Lebanon within a larger Syrian entity based on a plebiscite conducted in 1919.

Most significantly, the reader would have benefited from further exploration of the two periods of relative calm—1860-1958 and 1959-1975. To better understand the factors that propagated violence in Lebanon, it is instrumental to also explore the main factors behind periods of sustained calm.  Perhaps Khalaf presumes it to be obvious that regional and international conditions provide the best explanation, but in assessing whether Lebanon could ever again experience such prosperity, a retrospective analysis is essential.

On this basis, the chapter on Lebanon’s “golden/gilded age” (1959-1975) is at once Khalaf’s strongest and weakest. Strongest because Khalaf, a sociologist, is at his best. He explores in exquisite detail the social and cultural forces that made Lebanon a cultural paradise. Few have provided such a comprehensive exposé of Lebanese society during that time. Weakest because the work does not explain the variables behind the lack of violence during that epoch. He briefly mentions that economic prosperity was not equally distributed and that disparities widened. It may again be too obvious for him that international interests were aligned with stability in Lebanon. But with a civil war was on the horizon, the reader would benefit from a deeper analysis of the economic and political grievances stirring beneath the surface and how society managed to keep them at bay.

Structurally, the first three chapters, which set up an ingenious framework with which to analyze Lebanon’s violent history, get seemingly repetitive and could use some more structure. On some occasions, the obvious is stated, which is out of character for a work so strong. The tone is academic, and Khalaf investigates conceptual principles set by Western intellectuals only to end up with rather obvious conclusion. For the practical user, a more succinct version of the first three chapters would be helpful.

Breathe fresh air, pick fresh roses

Perhaps most interesting in this work is the absence of policy recommendations related to political reform. Khalaf must have given up on the role of politicians in bridging the gap between communities. Perhaps the author knows too well that such alternatives have been proven naïve, imaginary solutions. In fact, inspired by Herbert Spencer’s analogy of the bent iron plate—one should hammer around, and not directly on, the buckled area—Khalaf explicitly encourages focusing on strategies that transcend conflict resolution and political reforms.

Khalaf emphasizes the role of restoring social spaces in reconnecting “denationalized” Lebanese with each other and with their country, in the hopes of forming a collective memory. He focuses on the importance of what Paul Rabinow refers to as the “social technologies of pacification” in bringing back meaningful life to society. He calls on urban designers, architects, and intellectuals to play a much needed role in Lebanon—connecting the citizenry through public space. “By mobilizing aesthetic sensibilities… and cultural expressions…, they can prod the Lebanese to…transcend the parochial identities to connect with others.” Khalaf also calls for increased opportunities for intercommunal socialization through productive social networks, such as environmental campaigns, pro-local agriculture produce campaigns, and activities promoting women rights. The alternative he points out is bleak:

“Consider what happens when a country’s most precious heritage either is maligned or becomes beyond the reach of its citizens…their country’s scenic geography, is pluralistic and open institutions, which were once sources of national pride…have either become inaccessible to them, or worse, are being redefined as worthless.”

Ultimately, Khalaf believes that group loyalties can be resocialized, but it is a very long process.


SUBMITTED REVIEW: from Maurice Obeid

Harvard Business School, M.B.A.
Harvard Kennedy School, M.P.P.

Maurice Obeid is a graduate student at the John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard University) and the Harvard Business School. At Harvard, Maurice sits on the Student Advisory Board of the Center Public Leadership and works with the Middle East Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government. He previously worked with Lebanon’s Ambassador at the Permanent Mission of Lebanon to the United Nations in New York, and as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company in New York and Dubai. Originally from Lebanon, Maurice received his undergraduate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he studied Chemical-Biological Engineering and Economics.