Monday, December 5, 2011

A Conversation with Brian Turner

Today I spoke with the poet Brian Turner who previously served as an Infantry Team Leader with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division in Iraq. Turner earned his MFA from the University of Oregon before serving seven years in the US Army. His poetry has been published in two volumes, “Here Bullet” in 2005, and “Phantom Noise” in 2010. His work has appeared on National Public Radio, the BBC, Newshour with Jim Lehrer, and Weekend America, among others. Turner is currently the director of the low residency MFA in Creative Writing at Sierra Nevada College. Turner discusses the nature of war poetry, his creative process, and the purpose of his poetry in our conversation.


A Confrontation in Beit Ummar

Every week, international and local protesters descend to the main entrance of the village of Beit Ummar, located between Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank to protest the expansion of three nearby Israeli settlements. The Israeli Defense Force maintains a watchtower and personnel holding area at the base of the main road. The peaceful protest movement in the West Bank, which is characterized by weekly demonstrations on Fridays and Saturdays throughout the Territory against Israel settlement expansion, the occupation, and other related grievances. These peaceful protests are haunted with the occasional recourse to violence, a specter which each side, Israeli military forces and Palestinian protesters, often blame on the other. On July 22, 2011, I watched as a peaceful protest dispersed and then turned violent. Some speculate that stone-throwing Palestinian youth were looking for vengeance in light of a confrontation between an Israeli soldier and local man the day before. That said, the transition from passivity to violence that morning raised critical questions on Palestinian political activism and the Israeli military presence in the West Bank.

Image: CrossTalk.

The Modern Bakery in Birzeit

The Modern Bakery of Birzeit is situated along the main highway connecting the Northern West Bank Towns of Nablus, Jenin, and Toulkarem with the de-facto capital, Ramallah. The Bakery is run by Soleiman, an American-born Palestinian whose family is from this small, Christian town famous for its olives and local University. I visited Soleiman at the Modern Bakery on August 22, 2011 to discuss his thoughts on bread, the West Bank economy, and his observations of life from behind his storefront counter.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Unity Between Hamas and Fatah: Perspectives

On Wednesday, April 27th, the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah announced that they would sign a reconciliation agreement in Cairo this week. The historic deal comes after five years of division of the Palestinian government since Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas, an Islamic group committed to militant resistance to Israeli occupation, took control of the Gaza Strip while Fatah, a more secular group which has engaged in increasing cooperation with Israel, took control of the West Bank. I will speak with veteran politician and spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace process, Hanan Ashrawi. I will also speak with Mazen, one of the organizers of the March unity protests in the Gaza Strip, Hassan Khreisheh, the deputy speaker fo the Palestinian Legislative Council, Radii 'Aseedii, the Commander of the Jenin Area Leadership for the Palestinian Army in the West Bank, and Ghassan Khatib, the Spokesman for the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. These discussions offer perspectives on the historic nature of this deal, its meaning for Egypt's role in the Middle East, peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and the timeline that some hope will end in the declaration of an independent Palestinian state. To download this segment as an MP3, please click here.

Special thanks goes to Moses Balian, Chris Brown, Ahmed Elhadded, Zachary Rotholz, and Chase Young for support in producing this segment

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Murder of Juliano Mer Khamis

On Monday, April 4th, the Israeli - Palestinian actor and director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was killed by masked gunmen outside his Freedom Theatre in the Jenin Refugee Camp. Khamis had founded the Theatre in 2006 with Jonatan Stanczak and Zakaria Zubeidi as a continuation of his mother's theater in Jenin in the 1980s. The Theatre provided a platform for youth to express themselves in order to find their personal, social, political, and cultural freedom. The Freedom Theatre was one of the core institutions of peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. With his death, the peaceful movement in both Israel and the West Bank has gone into mourning. It remains to be seen the exact affect of Khamis' death on the peaceful resistance movement as well as on the prospects of Israeli - Palestinian peace as a whole.

CrossTalk interviews on this topic:
Jonatan Stanczak (co-founder of the Freedom Theatre)
Radii Aseedii (Commander of the Jenin Area Leadership for the Palestinian Authority)
Micaela (drama teacher at the Freedom Theatre)
Nabeel (a leader in the Freedom Theatre)
Miriam (a student of Juliano in the Acting School of the Freedom Theatre)
Fakhri Hamad (Program Director for Cinema Jenin)
Saleh Bakri (Israeli - Arab actor and colleague of Juliano)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Recommended Interviews: From Cairo to New York

From the streets of Cairo to a journalist's home in New York, CrossTalk aims to bring a variety of voices to the English speaking world on issues of Middle Eastern politics and culture. The following interviews provide a broad representation of CrossTalk highlights over the last year.

Iman Al-Badawi is from Cairo and was a protestor in the January 25th Egyptian Revolution. She spoke on CrossTalk over the phone from Tahrir Square on February 3rd, the morning after pro-Mubarak forces stormed into the Square.

Ahmed Youssef is the political advisor to Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya. Youssef spoke on CrossTalk from his Gaza City office on August 16th, 2010 about Hamas's political plans, Gilad Shalit, and Hamas's relationship with the Palestinian Authority.

Osman Bukhach is the Director of the Hizb ut-Tahrir Media Office in Beirut, Lebanon. Bukhach spoke on CrossTalk on January 24th about the collapse of Saad Hariri's government in the face of opposition from Hezbollah.

Gershom Gorenberg is an American-born Israeli journalist who writes on the interaction of religion and politics in Israel. He wrote "The Accidental Empire" on the growth of the Israeli settlement movement in the West Bank.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nasser Arrabyee: The Opposition in Yemen

Today March 2nd, I spoke with Nasser Arrabyee, a Yemeni journalist who writes for alahram newspaper in Cairo as well as several other publications across the Middle East and America. He has been following the protests in his home country that took an interesting turn yesterday when Sheikh Abd al-Majed al-Zandani, one of the founders of the opposition movement, Islah, proposed several points to the ruling government to begin bipartisan negotiations. The opposition is waiting for a reply to these points from the Yemeni president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The protesters demanded his ouster yesterday in a proclaimed "Day of Rage." Nasser previously shared his insights on CrossTalk when the Yemeni protests first erupted in the beginning of February.

Image: AFP

Monday, February 28, 2011

Breaking the Silence: Yehuda Shaul

Today, February 3rd I spoke with Yehuda Shaul, a member and organizer for Breaking the Silence, an organization of veteran Israeli soldiers who served in the Israeli military since the start of the Second Intifada (2000-2005) and have taken the initiative to share their combat stories. Yehuda himself was a combat soldier in the city of Hebron in the West Bank during the Second Intifada. Since Breaking the Silence's first public exhibition several years ago, the group has given an outlet for the combat stories that Israelis and citizens of the world alike had never heard. In our discussion, Yehuda recounts his daily routine in Hebron that he felt directly contradicted his conscience and which drove him to break the silence. He believes that silence is not an Israeli disease, not a Jewish disease, but a human disease—his message is universal because all societies commit abuses which fly in direct opposition to their stated ideals. By breaking the silence, Yehuda and his colleagues hold a up mirror to Israeli society and stand for principles of justice in the Occupied Territories.


Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Preparatory Commission for the Revolution of Dignity in Gaza

Today I spoke with Mazen, one of the founders of the facebook page for the Preparatory Commission for the Revolution of Dignity in Gaza. The Revolution of Dignity opposes the Hamas-led government in Gaza, aims for Palestinian unity between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and calls for immediate parliamentary and presidential democratic elections for the Palestinian Authority. The Revolution's facebook page was shut down two days ago and was subsequently republished under a different name. Mazen hopes the Revolution will spur tens of thousands of Gazans to take to the streets in the coming weeks once further preparations are completed. He says that the revolution in Tunisia and the popular demonstrations in Egypt sparked him to action.

Audio currently being translated. Check back often


Natalie Abou Shakra: The Media of Resistance

Today I spoke with Natalie Abou Shakra, a self-described child of war and boycot divestment sanctions (BDS) activist. Ms. Abou Shakra grew up in Lebanon during the Israeli invasions of her country in the 1980s. She believes in the power of an opposition media maintained by the people in resisting the dominant narratives of many conventional media sources. Her first experience in alternative media began during the 2006 Israeli war with Hezbollah, at which time she was inspired by several activists in Lebanon to form a stronger civil society and to document the toll of the conflict. She subsequently became part of the Free Gaza Movement and was aboard an aid boat which was sent to the coastal territory. She was living in Gaza during the 2009 Israeli war with Hamas when she began to write on her blog, Ghazzawiyya. Our conversation covers Ms. Abou Shakra's strong belief in the virtue of resistance and resilience as well as the power of civil society to oppose the entrenched political naratives surrounding Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Egypt.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Iman Al Badawi: The Front Line in Cairo

Today at 9 AM Cairo Time, I spoke with Iman Al Badawi, a self-described activist and native of Cairo. Iman has been camped in Tahrir Square in central Cairo for the last 5 days and has been participating in the anti-Mubarak protests there. The protests have gripped the country since January 25th and turned unexpectedly violent on Wednesday when pro-Mubarak elements confronted the protesters in the Square, armed with blunt weapons, knives, and the occasional firearm. In the background of our conversation, you can hear the rallying of the protesters as the demonstration enters the morning of its 9th consecutive day.

Image: Foreign Policy

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Nasser Arrabyee: The Current Politics of Yemen

Today I spoke with Nasser Arrabyee, a Yemeni journalist based in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Mr. Arrabyee writes for the Egyptian Alahram weekly, the Dubai-based Gulf News Daily, as well as several American newspapers including the New York Times. He has been covering the demonstrations in Sana’a over the last several weeks and reported earlier today on President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s announcing a meeting of Parliament on Wednesday, February 2nd to discuss the protesters' demands. Mr. Arrabyee also posts updates on his blog. Our conversation covers the dynamic of the protests that have swept from Tunisia to Egypt and now to Yemen, the role of the opposition in Yemen’s government, and the plans of Al Qaeda in this coastal state.


Karso Awat Mahmood: Communications in Iraq

Today I spoke with Karso Awat Mahmood, the general manager of Citadel Strategic Communications in Kirkuk, Iraq. Mr. Mahmood has worked in communications in Iraq since before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. Since that time he has been a translator for the Public Information Office in Kirkuk for the US Army and has founded his communications business. Our conversation covers the media landscape of Iraq both before and after 2003, as well as some details of Mr. Mahmood’s work translating for the US Army in Kirkuk.

Najah Wakim: The People's Movement and a New Government in Lebanon

Today I spoke with Najah Wakim, the president of the People's Movement and a former member of the Lebanese Parliament. Wakim is a Christian Orthodox lawyer who has both promoted and shaped secular Arabist ideology since his political career began in the 1970s. Wakim opposed Saad Hariri’s government, which officially handed power to the Hezbollah-backed Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, last Tuesday. Our conversation covers Wakim’s stance on the new Lebanese government, the Syrian influence in Lebanese politics, America’s role in Lebanon, and the way Egypt’s protests will change the Arab World.

Currently being translated. Check back often.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mohamed Ibrahim Elmasry: Protests in Cairo

As the 5th day of protests against Egypt's president reached the late morning hours, I spoke with Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Elmasry, a professor of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada. Dr. Elmasry is currently living in Cairo in order to film the protests in which thousands of Egyptians are calling for the resignation of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak. Dr. Elmasry is posting the videos on his facebook page out of solidarity with the protestors and in order to inform the world community of the minute-by-minute developments in Egypt. Our conversation ranges from the dynamic between the protesters, the police, and the military; Dr. Elmasry's own experiences in filming the crowds; and the future of Egypt.

Image: Haaretz

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Editorial: Popular Protests Grip the Middle East

Today saw the invigoration of protests in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a with an estimated 16,000 demonstrators posing a credible threat to the already fractured government. This comes after several continuous days of protest in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak's totalitarian regime, and over two months of protests in Tunisia, which effectively toppled the government last week. These developments have forced powers like the United States and Israel to take an observer's role, something that arguably neither country has experienced in any significant way since the fall of colonialism in the region over a half century ago. The popular protests have sparked serious political and social contemplation in other countries, including Iraq and Lebanon, where limited civil disobedience and pro-Hariri protests, respectively, seem to have some conceptual links to the events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. This Friday poses a potentially critical stage in the ramifications and breadth of these developments; like any other Friday, thousands of muslims will gather in places of worship throughout the Middle East. Friday will pose the true test of whether these secular protests will be able to maintain their true character, or whether religious leaders will opportunistically capitalize on the high level of public mobilization and use it to their ends. CrossTalk will be hosting a number of guests over the next several days including a politician from the People's Movement in Lebanon as well as protestors in Cairo's Tahrir Square to interpret and comment on these events as they continue to unfold.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Osman Bukhach: Crisis in Lebanon

Osman Bukhach (previously interviewed on CrossTalk) is the Director of the Central Media Office for Hizb ut-Tahrir, an international islamic movement dedicated to establishing a worldwide Islamic Caliphate, or "umma." Our discussion covers the current political crisis in Lebanon, the popular uprising in Tunisia, and the ongoing release of the Palestine Papers. Bukhach brings Hizb ut-Tahrir's narrative into these critical issues, a perspective which is rarely present in Western media.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Editorial: Al Jazeera Releases The Palestine Papers

Al Jazeera today released the first of what it has announced will be several bundles of previously unknown documents detailing the inner workings of the Palestinian - Israeli peace negotiations over the last ten years. Al Jazeera intends to release the Palestine Papers thematically, beginning today with the topic of Jerusalem and the Jewish settlements in the Eastern half of the city, which was captured and subsequently annexed by Israel in the 1967 War. The documents seem to portray a 2008 Palestinian delegation under Ahmed Qurei' that held a very weak line and conceded key points to Israel in terms of settlements, territory swaps, and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestine Papers have already sparked outrage from some Palestinians against their government. These sentiments do not seem to be any different from those associated with the ongoing debate in Palestinian political society over the correct stance towards Israel: should the West Bank Palestinians stick to staunch resistance to Israeli occupation and run the risk of political stagnation, or should they cooperate with the Israeli government and run the risk of allowing their partisan opponents to brand them as collaborators. This question has driven much of the animosity between Hamas and Fateh. The Papers may enflame this poignant and volatile debate.

As Al Jazeera continues to release the Papers, CrossTalk will be featuring several guests in the coming days who will speak to the significance of this new information and its potential affect on the region - Check back often.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Lauren Blaxter: The Bard Palestinian Cooperation

Lauren Blaxter is a student at Bard College in the Hudson Valley and is a coordinator for the Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative (BPYI), formerly the Bard Palestine Cooperation (BPC). The BPYI was founded in 2009 by Mujahed Sarsur who was born in the West Bank village of Mas-ha and is in the Bard College class of 2012. Lauren traveled for the first time to Mas-ha during the summer of 2010 as a participant in the Bard Palestinian Youth Initiative's outreach to young girls in the village and became a coordinator because of the profound impact the program had on her. This unique organization aims to foster a human connection between a diverse group of Bard students and the Palestinian residents of Mas-ha in order to form cultural understanding in a region where individuals are often reduced to the status of objects due to the tragic conflicts that continue to claim a grim toll of human lives. Our conversation ranges from Mujahed's original trip in 2009 when he made a groundbreaking visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum with a group of Palestinian youth to Lauren's experiences forming human relationships that have given depth to critical issues which transcend politics and borders.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ahmed Yousef: Hamas

Ahmed Yousef is the political advisor to Ismail Haniya, who has been Hamas Prime Minister since the tumultuous Palestinian elections of 2006. I spoke with Yousef by phone from Jerusalem on August 16th, 2010 on pertinent topics pertaining to Hamas' political and social intentions, as well as Hamas' stance on issues ranging from Gilad Shalit to its relations with the Palestinian Authority government seated in Ramallah. Yousef has written extensively, including editorials in the New York Times and Haaretz.

Image: The Washington Times