New York, NY
June 10, 2011

Youth, Media and Revolution in the Middle East

Experts explore the Arab Spring at lively AFTAU symposium


AFTAU Chairman Jon Gurkoff, David Makovsky,
Judith Kipper, Gary Rosenblatt and Prof. Uzi Rabi

A lively crowd enjoyed an animated discussion about the Arab Spring, desperate youth, social media and how they affect Israel at an American Friends of Tel Aviv University community forum presented with The Jewish Week in Manhattan on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

The highly engaged audience heard three distinctive expert voices on the changing face of the Middle East — Prof. Uzi Rabi, Director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv UniversityDavid Makovsky, author, commentator and director of The Washington Institute's Project on The Middle East Peace Process; and Judith Kipper, the director of the Institute of World Affairs' Middle East Programs. The program and the following Q&A were moderated by Gary Rosenblatt, editor and publisher of The Jewish Week.

Hopes and expectations for the Middle East

Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

After welcoming remarks from AFTAU Chairman Jon Gurkoff and Co-Chairman of The Jewish Week Stuart Himmelfarb, Rosenblatt set the stage for the discussion by citing comedian Mel Brooks' song lyric, "Hope for the best, expect the worst" — a lighthearted introduction to a perspective that was more seriously echoed, to a greater or lesser degree, by each of the panelists.

David Makovsky said that the full implications and impact of the Arab Spring will not be known for decades — "We're only in the first inning, and we don't know if this is a double-header," he commented. He warned against Israel becoming "ensnarled" in the internal politics of neighbor states, and said that the Arab youth who led the protests had yet to demonstrate whether they would be able to organize along the lines of existing political parties, noting that Israel should be "hopeful, but watchful."

Prof. Uzi Rabi
Prof. Uzi Rabi

Prof. Uzi Rabi asserted that economics were at the root of the Arab uprisings, and that the young desired "a more liberal, civil society." He said that the central question would be whether the 2011 Arab revolutions would more resemble those of Central and Eastern Europe of 1989, which led to perestroika and freedom, or those of Iran in 1979, which instituted a clerical dictatorship. A central difference between the past and the present, Rabi said, was that electronic media like Twitter and Facebook have become "lethal weaponry" when challenging rulers, and that the military would need to be more creative in responding to 21st-century innovations in communication.

Judith Kipper
Judith Kipper

Judith Kipper noted that the uprisings that constitute the Arab Spring "were not about Israel, the United States, or religion — they were a question of human dignity." She expressed her belief that the majority of Egyptians were non-violent, and that the Muslim Brotherhood did not represent a significant threat to the new democratic process in the Middle East. The best that the U.S. and Europe could do, she said, would be to promote civil society and economic development in the region.

At a private cocktail reception before the program, AFTAU and Jewish Week board members had the opportunity to meet and converse with the panelists in an intimate setting, and as guests left they were heard to comment on David Makovsky's remarks about Tel Aviv University's Dayan Center — "I tell my students to go to Tel Aviv University and the Dayan Center if you want to study the Middle East," he said.

Broad and deep expertise

The panel's views reflect an extensive familiarity with the Middle East.

Internationally recognized expert Judith Kipper is the Director of the Institute of World Affairs' Middle East Programs and a partner in International Strategic Insights, LLC. A frequent speaker and media commentator, for more than two decades she was a consultant on international affairs for ABC News.

Noted author and award-winning analyst David Makovsky appears frequently in the media, including PBS's Newshour, to comment on Arab-Israeli affairs. He is the director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Project on the Middle East Peace Process and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Prof. Uzi Rabi is the Director of the Moshe Dayan Center and Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and African History, Tel Aviv University's internationally acclaimed think tank. His most recent publication is the edited volume International Intervention in Local Conflicts(I. B. Tauris, 2010).

Editor and publisher of New York's The Jewish Week, the largest Jewish newspaper in the United States, Gary Rosenblatt has won numerous awards for his investigative writing and incisive commentary and analyses. He serves as chairman of the Fund for Jewish Investigative Journalism.

Photos from the reception:

Gary Rosenblatt and Harvey Krueger
Gary Rosenblatt and TAU Board
of Governors Chairman Harvey Krueger

Steve Nagourney and Rich Waloff
Steve Nagourney and Jewish Week
Associate Publisher Rich Waloff

Gail Reiss and Allan and Hana Green
AFTAU President & CEO Gail Reiss and
Allan and Hana Green

Jon Gurkoff and Michael Shaoul
Jon Gurkoff and Michael Shaoul

Stuart Himmelfarb, Gary Rosenblatt and Joe Huber
Jewish Week Chairman Stuart
Himmelfarb, Gary Rosenblatt
and Joseph Huber

Bill Cohen, Kobi Kastiel, Alon Waks and Jon Gurkoff
AFTAU Chairman Emeritus Bill Cohen,
Kobi Kastiel, Alon Waks
and Jon Gurkoff

Felicitas Kort and Adrienne Gruskin
Felicitas Kort and Adrienne Gruskin

David and Ruth Musher
David and Ruth Musher

Prof. Uzi Rabi, Adrienne Gruskin and Alice Pless
Prof. Uzi Rabi, Adrienne Gruskin
and Alice Pless

Gail Reiss and Julie Tauber
Gail Reiss and Julie Tauber

 
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