Media Mention of Hussein Ibish in Washington Report On Middle East Affairs - May 27, 2009 - 12:00am

THE ARAB STUDENT Association (ASA) at the University of Iowa sponsored a public forum in Iowa City on Feb. 21 at which the featured speaker, Dr. Hussein Ibish, senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP), delivered a presentation titled “Is Obama Ready for a Middle East Change?”

“It is pretty clear that President Obama is ready for a Middle East change, that the United States is ready for a Middle East change, and that most people in the Middle East are ready for a Middle East change,” Dr. Ibish said. In fact, he noted, it is hard to find people who are satisfied with the status quo in the Middle East, and especially with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “The question is, ‘What are people willing to do about that change? What kind of political price are they willing to pay to achieve the kind of change they want? And, what kind of change do they want?’” said Ibish.

Ibish described President Obama as “a man who comes into office knowing more about the issue and more about certain aspects of the Palestinian perspective and the Palestinian experience than most politicians. It’s a generational change. Certainly,” he added, “the new administration wants to make a clear break with the policies of President Bush that were based on unilateralism and a sort of neoconservative fantasy about reshaping the Middle East that was tied very much to not just the American strategic relationship with Israel, which is really not a subject of debate in policy circles in the United States, but rather to the fantasies of the ideological ultra-Right and center-Right.”

Subsequent events, however, have brought some of Ibish’s observations into question.

“I wouldn’t be either too ecstatic or too alarmed at any particular appointment below the level of president,” Ibish said. “The president is going to set the tone, and when the president says, ‘This is our policy and this is national security,’ people tend to fall into line, including the professional pro-Israel lobby and people who, generally speaking, would be pushing for the best possible deal for Israel.”

Newman Abuissa moderated the forum, at which Ibish spoke to the group and responded to questions via an interactive Web conference connection “webinar” from his home in the Washington, DC area. It was a wonderful opportunity to bring a speaker from another part of the nation to Iowa in an easy, streamlined process. Both the Iowa Information Technology Services (ITS) and ASA were very pleased with the success of the event, said ASA spokesperson Harb Harb.


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