Panel of Professors Discusses State of Politics in Middle East

By Cailin McKenna

The International Studies Club hosted a panel discussion on the Middle East on Tuesday, Nov. 4, with Fordham professors John Entelis and Doron Ben-Atar at the Lincoln Center Campus. Entelis, a member of the political science department and head of the Middle Eastern studies program and Doron Ben-Atar, a member of the American studies program, engaged in conversation with about 30 Fordham students regarding some of the current issues in the Middle East.

The director of the international studies program, Sarah Lockhart, moderated the event.

The discussion focused on some of the current situations affecting the Middle East, including emerging democracies in the region and the Syrian Civil War. For Ben-Atar, who is Israeli-born, it boiled down to human rights.

“It is mainly a question of our responsibility as humans,” he said.

He also asked the audience about the extent of our responsibility to get involved and in what particular ways our involvement would be constructive.

This allowed students to form their own opinions about the situation and pose some possible solutions later on in the discussion.

Entelis also agreed that the topics discussed were issues of human rights and democracy. However, he added that the legitimacy of nation-states and identity has created many of the problems in this tumultuous region.

Much of the conversation focused on American involvement in the region. Ultimately, Entelis proposed a military disengagement from many Arab states by the United States.

Entelis proposed that the U.S. “engage in society, and disengage in regime.” At this point the crowd erupted, and Lockhart reconfirmed Entelis’ point, noting the American involvement in Egypt prior to the overthrow of Mubarak’s regime.

Entelis called on the U.S. and other involved nations to “reduce the status of relationships and focus on civil society over regime needs.”

The discussion then opened up to questions from students. Kayla Matteucci, FCLC ’18, talked about the importance of military disengagement from the Middle East, and then shifted toward focusing on Middle Eastern societies.

However, she later commented that she was hoping for more from the panel discussion.

“I hoped to get a chance to talk more about specific countries in the Middle East especially in regards to the aftermath of the Arab Spring,” she said.

However, the event was overall well received.

“It was a spirited Q&A session, and students were very engaged in the conversation” Mike Dobuski, GSB ’17, said.

While the state of the Middle East is constantly changing so much day to day, Entelis believes that the key to understanding the region is to “overcome the legacy of the past, meet the demand of the present and plan for the future.”

November 5, 2014

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