Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jawad Siyam: An East Jerusalem Story--The Neighborhood of Silwan

Jawad Siyam is a community organizer in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Silwan has become a focus of the Israeli settlement debate since the 1980s at which point Israelis began to settle in Palestinian homes in order to re-establish the historic Jewish presence in the area, known in Hebrew as Shiloah. Siyam heads the Madaa Silwan Community Center and works at the Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The Community Center was formed in 2007 to bolster the cohesion of the community in response to the lack of civil services provided by the Jerusalem Municipality to the neighborhood. The Information Center was formed in 2009 in order to articulate the Palestinian narrative of the Silwan neighborhood in light of the Ir David (City of David) archeological site which serves as a large tourist attraction and stresses the historic Jewish identity of the area. Siyam poignantly asked how American diplomatic visits can tour the City of David, and at the same time voice support for an end to East Jerusalem settlement? His mission is to challenge established narratives and present the Palestinian history of the neighborhood.

For a translation of this audio, click here.

Photo: Niv Hachlili (Courtesy of Ha'aretz) ;

Dr. Jamal Muhasien: Nablus, Fateh, and Foreign Relations

Dr. Jamal Muhasien sits on the Palestine National Liberation Movement's (Fateh) Foreign Regions Commission and is a member of the Fateh Central Committee in Ramallah. I first met Dr. Muhasien in 2008 while he was Governor of Nablus. After a two year term as Governor, Dr. Muhasien was transfered to Bethlehem, and then to Ramallah and his current position. For his current post he travels to foreign countries on Fateh diplomatic and public relations delegations in order to develop relations between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Government and foreign regimes. In this August 7, 2010 interview in his Ramallah office, Dr. Muhasien shares the history of his service as Governor of Nablus from 2007-2009 at which time rival gangs and political groups ruled the city by force, as well as his work with the Fateh Foreign Regions Commission in creating a future independent state of Palestine.

Audio is currently being translated. Check back often.


Tariq Jarrar: The Freedom Theatre of Jenin

This interview was conducted outside the entrance to the Freedom Theatre of Jenin in early August 2010 with Tariq Jarrar, a native resident of Jenin and active member of the Freedom Theatre. Jarrar first became involved in theater when he was recruited to act in a play produced by a joint Palestinian/French initiative that toured in Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Bethlehem. He was subsequently active in theater activities while studying as an undergraduate in Jenin. After his return from further studies in Dubai, the once fledgling Freedom Theatre had become a hub of activity since its re-founding by Juliano Mer Khamis, Jonatan Stanczak and Zakaria Zubeidi in 2006 (All formerly interviewed on CrossTalk). While Jarrar describes the virtue of the theatrical arts in terms of Palestinian culture and political progress since the end of the Second Intifada, a mileu of Arabic, German, and English in the background of the recording stands testament to the success and international popularity of the Theatre. On that August day, the Theatre was preparing for a concert by the Palestinian hip hop group DAM (formerly interviewed on CrossTalk), demonstrating the cultural assets that the Theatre brings to a town once mired in the depths of armed conflict.

image: CrossTalk

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ghassan Khatib: The Foundation of Independence

Ghassan Khatib, pictured second from left with Hanan Ashrawi, among others

I met Ghassan Khatib on July 31st in his Ramallah office to speak about the Palestinian government's efforts to build the institutions of state in the West Bank. Khatib is the Director of the Government Media Center for the Palestinian National Authority in Ramallah. He was a member of the Madrid Peace Delegation in 1991 and formerly served as Minister of Labor and Planning Minister for the Palestinian National Authority. Khatib shared his opinions on the development of state institutions under the Israeli occupation as a step towards gaining Palestinian independence.


Occupation and Cooperation: Hani Masri

I spoke with Hani Masri for the second time on CrossTalk on July 28 in his Ramallah office. Masri is an independent columnist for several Middle East newspapers, and is the General Director the Palestine Media Research and Studies Centre - Badael. Masri spoke on Palestinian politics, the resistance to Israeli occupation, and the issue of cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian governments and security administrations. Masri believes that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza must be met with every form of peaceful, popular resistance. Masri sees the current cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian governments as merely a "beautification" of occupation.

For an analytical summation of my interviews with Hani Masri as well as other Palestinian thinkers, activists, and statesmen, please see "The Resistance."

Audio is currently being edited--check back often

Photo: CrossTalk

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Reviving the Islamic Caliphate: Usman Bukhach

Usman Bukhach is the Director of Hizb ut-Tahrir's (Party of Liberation) Central Media Office in Beirut, Lebanon and is a practicing medical engineer. Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) was established as a political party in Jerusalem by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani, an Islamic scholar and appeals court judge, in 1953. Since that time, HT has spread to over 40 countries with an estimated membership of over 1 million. It is has become popular among Muslim communities in the West, particularly in Britain. HT strives to promote the intellectual and popular basis for the re-institution of an Islamic Caliphate, which would eventually spread to encompass the entire world. Despite several accusations to the contrary, HT maintains that it is a non-violent organization. My conversation with Mr. Bukhach covers HT's moral and philosophical positions on capitalism, secularism, and individual/group rights. Our conversation also focuses on HT's narrative of the overt and covert forms of contemporary colonialism around the globe.

Political Commentary: Hani Masri

Hani Masri is a Ramallah-based independent analyst of Palestinian and Israeli politics as well as the General Director of the Palestine Media, Research and Studies Centre - Badael. He writes for several Palestinian and Arab newspapers as an independent columnist. My conversation with Mr. Masri focuses on the armed Palestinian gangs which developed after the failure of the Palestinian/Israeli peace negotiations of the early 1990s and the current strategies that Hamas, Fateh, and independent organizations and individuals are employing to achieve Palestinian independence.

For a translation of this interview, please click here

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Deputy Speaker of the PLC: Hassan Khreisheh

Doctor Hassan Khreisheh is the Deputy Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Committee (PLC) under Mahmoud Abbas' Palestinian National Authority. Khreisheh is an independent, and holds views that are at times critical of both Fateh and Hamas. Khreisheh formerly served as the governor of the Tulkarem Region in the Northwest of the West bank during the height of the Second Intifada. He also has served on multiple investigative committees, among them a commission established to investigate the death of Hamas Cleric, Majd Barghouti, in 2008 while he was imprisoned by Fateh. My conversation with him covers these topics as well as Israeli land policy, modern Palestinian resistance to the Occupation, and attempts of reunification between Hamas and Fateh.

Audio is currently being translated. Check back often.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The University of Chicago Arabic Circle with CrossTalk

The City of Jenin: How we can understand modern Palestinian and Israeli history

This lecture outlines the framework in which we think about the Palestinian / Israeli Conflict and presents an historically based exegetical paradigm through which we can understand how historical reality is imagined and continually shapes the present. The West Bank City of Jenin can be seen as a synecdoche for the Conflict and can help us understand how the Conflict lives and evolves. As a city, it represents a variety of identities and ideas for both Israelis, Palestinians, and the rest of the world. These powerful ideas have shaped the actions and strategies that various participants in the Conflict have employed and therefore have helped to shape the Conflict in a surprisingly tangible manner. The horrific Battle of Jenin in 20o2 during the Second Intifada demonstrated how the city had been imagined by Israelis, Palestinians, and the world. By examining the perceived realities of this battle, we can apply an understanding of the urban environment and contradicting realities to understand how Palestinian / Israeli relations will continue to evolve in the future.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Building a Just Society: Adi Maoz at Sadaka Reut

Adi Maoz is the Jewish Program Director at Sadaka Reut, a joint Arab-Jewish youth movement based in Jaffa, Israel. Ms. Maoz has worked as a group facilitator on a number of projects both with Sadaka Reut, "Peace Now," and multiple Palestinian / Israeli seminars. She is one of many accomplished staff members at Sadaka Reut, which continues to be a dynamic force in realizing political and social change in Israel through the promotion of a binational, multicultural and egalitarian society based on social justice and solidarity. Ms. Maoz joined me live over the phone from Israel to discuss her role as a group facilitator and the Jewish Program Director in work related to Palestinian / Jewish coexistence. She gives an interesting cross section and analysis of Israeli society, particularly the divide between Jewish and Palestinian cultural narratives, as well as a critique of the current political situation.

You can learn more about Adi Maoz and Sadaka Reut at

Photo: Sadaka Reut,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Journalism, History, and Israeli Society: Gershom Gorenberg

Gershom Gorenberg joined me this week on CrossTalk to talk about his experience as a journalist and historian as well as his perceptions of politics and religion. Gorenberg is an American-born Israeli journalist, historian, and blogger. He focuses on the interaction of religion and politics, currently lives in Jerusalem, and serves as a senior correspondent for The American Prospect. Mr. Gorenberg has most recently published "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977" which is a comprehensive investigation into Israel's post-1967 history with a focus on Israeli settlement in the lands captured during the Six Day War. Mr. Gorenberg also wrote "The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount," which investigates the central role of the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem in creating messianic narratives and determining global religion and politics. Gorenberg blogs at South Jerusalem ( a progressive, skeptical blog on Israel, Judaism, culture, politics, and literature.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Palestinian Hip Hop: Tamer Nafar from DAM

Tamer Nafar, of the first ever Palestinian hip hop group, DAM, joined me this week while on his 2010 North America tour. Nafar founded DAM in 1999 with his brother, Suhell Nafar, and their mutual friend, Mahmoud Jreri. The group is based in Israel, and raps in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. DAM's lyrics deal with issues ranging from the crisis of identity facing Palestinian citizens of Israel to Israel's defensive strategy during the Al-Aqsa Intifada to the 2008-2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas. DAM's rap certainly holds artistic value, however Nafar stressed that their music also serves as the "CNN of the streets," addressing social and political issues in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Nafar hopes to see Arabic rap grow as a means of expression among Palestinian youth and inspire action to address the many pressing issues in Israel and the Territories.

You can learn more about DAM and listen to their music on their website, and on their myspace page,

Photo: Courtesy of

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Palestinian Resistance: Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and the Freedom Theatre, Zakaria Zubeidi

Zakaria Zubeidi, one of the founding members of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin and former commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, joined me today on CrossTalk. As a child in the 1980s, Zubeidi was part of the Jenin theater troupe that was the precursor to the Freedom Theatre. He was wounded and sent to jail during conflicts with the Israeli Army in the 1990s. At the beginning of the Second Intifada, Zubeidi became the commander of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a leading coalition of Palestinian militias in the West Bank. In 2007, the Israeli Government offered amnesty to the militants of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Zubeidi now believes that armed resistance to the Israeli Occupation is fruitless, and has devoted his energies to the Freedom Theatre. However, Zubeidi stated that if Israel took violent action against Palestinians, he would be forced to take violent action.

To read a translation of the interview, click here

To Learn more about the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, visit

Photo: google images

Monday, March 29, 2010

Arabic Poetry and Politics: Hala Nassar

Hala Nassar is an assistant professor of Arabic and Arabic culture in the Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations Department at Yale University. She is primarily interested in Arab popular political culture, performance and literature. Ms. Nassar will join me on CrossTalk in the near future to speak about her book "Exile's Poet," which investigates the work and life of the Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish as well as her future work in Theater and modern Palestinian culture.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Freedom Theatre of Jenin: Juliano Mer Khamis, General Director

Juliano Mer Khamis is the General Director of the Freedom Theatre in the West Bank city of Jenin. Mr. Mer Khamis will join me in the near future on CrossTalk to discuss his professional and personal experiences working in the Israeli movie, TV, and theater industries, as well as his groundbreaking work on the Freedom Theatre, a project that aims to bring art and creativity to the youth of Jenin's Refugee Camp. This interview is the third in a mini-series on the activities and personalities of the Freedom Theatre.‎

The Freedom Theatre of Jenin: Jonatan Stanczak

Jonatan Stanczak, an Israeli / Swedish activist, joined me from Sweden over the telephone today on CrossTalk. Mr. Stanczak was one of the founding members of the Freedom Theatre in 2006, located in the West Bank city of Jenin. Mr. Stanczak currently serves as the Administrative and Financial Manager of the Freedom Theatre and splits his time between Sweden and Israel. His international citizenship has allowed him to travel freely throughout the West Bank while working with The Theatre. Mr. Stanczak was inspired to form the Freedom Theatre when he first witnessed the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank. He sees the Freedom Theatre as a form of Palestinian resistance to this Occupation.
Please visit to learn more about the Theatre's work and mission.

Interview covered in the Yale Journal of Human Rights. Visit YJHR's website at

Photo: Google Images

Music and Peace: Micah Hendler

Micah Hendler, a former music counselor at Seeds of Peace, joined me today on CrossTalk to discuss music and conflict, citing the Israeli Palestinian conflict as a case study. Micah spoke about his experience working in the music program at Seeds of Peace, a peace initiative which draws youth from Israel, Palestine, Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan to engage in the individual process of conflict-resolution. We spoke about the role of music in shaping the future of peace and conflict, as well as the specific musical traditions of the Middle East.

The Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project: Michael Boyce

Michael Boyce, the president of the New Haven branch of the Iraqi Refugee Assistant Project (IRAP), joined me today on CrossTalk to describe his involvement in this group. Since his trip to Jordan last spring with IRAP, Michael has been assisting Iraqi refugees settle in New Haven as well as lobbying Washington on immigration policy and legally representing Iraqi refugees trying to enter the US from Jordan. We spoke about the Iraqi refugees' perceptions of America as well as their goals and hopes in resettling in America. Michael also spoke about IRAP's goals for next semester which include increased funding, more services for the Iraqis, and increased undergraduate involvement in the legal and policy realms of the organization. Michael will be spending his winter break in Jordan on a fact-finding mission in Jordan.‎