Thursday, May 5, 2016

Reflection 7 Review of the Course

Over the course of the semester, I learned a lot about the Arab World- some of it I expected to learn about, and other parts I did not expect.

My goal at the beginning of the semester was to better understand the Arab world other than just what is presented in the media, particularly on the news channels and I did achieve that. I learned about Arab contributions to western culture that, even though I think I knew a few of these, I did not understand the extent of which Arabs improved and advanced western culture. I also learned more about Arab music and arts- particularly through the drumming session- which I enjoyed because I wanted to better understand Arab culture as well. I also gained a better understanding of Islam and its practices, before starting the class, I knew that Islam did not preach the things that radical Islamist terrorist groups claim that it does; however I did not know the extent to which Islam calls for peace and working issues out through mediation. I also did not know how progressive Islam is, especially in regard to how women were treated and the rights they were given and how it was only the patriarchal systems that were in place before the Quran that kept it from giving women more freedoms.  

I definitely think that I have gained a better understanding on the Arab World and a lot of the issues it is facing right now; however, I also recognize that there is still a lot that I do not understand or understand fully that would require a lot more study to firmly grasp. Two examples of this are the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the war in Syria. I now know a lot more about refugees from Syria and some of the causes of the war itself; including actions the US took that actually aided Assad in his gaining of power. I am also aware of the complexities of negotiating peace with the war in Syria, especially since Russia has now begun to aid the Syrian government.  I was aware of the war in Syria to a degree, however, I was only slightly tangentially aware of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict before this class and so now I now know a lot more than I did before. Both of these issues have root causes that date back many years and have many factors making them difficult to try to solve- this is considering that there are probably other factors to this that I am still unaware of.


I think that I learned a lot from this class about the Arab World including its culture and some of the conflicts and issues it is facing right now. What I have learned has made me even more aware that there is so much that I still do not know about the area. I enjoyed the class an getting a different perspective on this area that one typically does not get from western media, especially in the US and it was eye-opening to learn about things that I had never seen mentioned before.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Weekly Report 8: Arab American writer

Diana Abu Jaber is an Arab- American author of Jordanian descent on her father’s side. She was born in New York State on November 5, 1959 and lived there until she was seven years old, at which time she and her family moved to Annan- Jordan’s capital city. During the following years, they moved back and forth between America and Jordan several times. She got her Bachelor’s Degree at the State University of New York College at Oswego in 1980, her Masters at University of Windsor in 1982 and her PHD at the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1986. She has been a professor at Iowa State University, University of Oregon, and Portland State University and has been a guest on radio shows including one on National Public Radio.

                Her first published work was Arabian Jazz, a novel published in 1993 that she won the Oregon Book Award for and got a nomination for the PEN/ Hemmingway Award. One of her best known works is Crescent for which she won numerous awards and other recognitionsThe Language of Baklava have also received awards and have been lauded. Other works of hers include Origin, Birds of Paradise, and contributions to Dinarzad's Children: An Anthology of Contemporary Arab American Fiction, The Literary Cookbook, Why I’m Still Married, True Stories from the Mid-Life Underground as well as several periodicals.
including the PEN Center Award for Literary Fiction and the American Book Award. Other works of hers such as


Diana Abu- Jaber is an extremely talented author whose works are highly lauded and influential as well as being very enjoyable to read. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Weekly Report 7 Arab- Americans

Dr. Michael DeBakey was a world-renowned and extremely skilled cardiovascular surgeon.  He was the inventor of many crucial surgical devices as well as the pioneer of several different kinds of surgery and performed thousands of cardiovascular surgeries over his career.

            He graduated Tulane University’s School of Medicine in New Orleans in 1932 at the age of 23. That same year, he invented the “roller pump” a pump that would later be instrumental in the performance of open-heart surgery. DeBakey also joined the military during WWII and inspired the creation of mobile army surgical hospital or MASH units that saved thousands of lives even beyond WWII, in Korea and Vietnam.  His work with the US Surgeon General’s office also inspired the hospital research system that the Department of Veteran Affairs used.  He served as the advisor to many presidents and worked to start the National Library of Medicine. DeBakey performed over 60,000 cardiovascular surgeries over his career on both famous and well-known people as well as those would not be able to afford the surgery.

            Dr. Debakey received many awards such as the American Medical Association Distinguished Service Award, the Presidential National Medal of Science- given to him by Ronal Reagan, as well as many honorary awards from various universities and other organizations. The most notable award he received was the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction in 1969 which is the highest award a US citizen can receive.

            Some of the surgeries and medical devices he pioneered include the first successful coronary artery bypass, the first successful implantation of a ventricle assist device and others. He- in conjunction with Robert Jarvik- invented the Jarvik artificial heart. He later helped to create a heart pump that could be used in children who needed it.


            Dr. Michael DeBakey was an incredible man and doctor who unfortunately died at the age of 99 in 2008- two months before his 100th birthday.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Weekly Report 6 Alaa Al Aswany and His Role in the Revolution in Egypt

The article entitled “Writing the Revolution” by Wendell Steavenson was published in the New Yorker in January 2012. It discusses the life of Alaa Al Aswany, his writings and political views and how those affected the revolution in Egypt that led to the removal of President Hosni Mubarak from office and the later Tahrir protests.

Aswany is best known for his 2002 work “The Youcoubian Building” which rapidly became a best seller and was lauded for the direct was it confronted the political issues of the time that Aswany was addressing.  While most other Egyptian authors stayed away from mentioning social and political issues, Aswany attacked the corrupt regime of the time directly. He believes that literature should relate the lives of the people- politics he says is a very important part of people’s lives especially for those who were living under President Mubarak. After “The Youcoubian Building” became famous, there were many attempts to manipulate Aswany through threats and attempted blackmail to get him to stop speaking out against the regime- these were unsuccessful.

Aswany is also a very outspoken political activist and was very active in the Tahrir Square Protests where many protestors were shot and killed by Security forces. After the first protest and battle in Tahrir Square, Aswany became very prominent in the media, proclaiming the start of revolution and speaking against the Military council who was trying to stop the revolution and manipulate the new constitution being written. In the parliamentary elections during this turmoil, there was an upswing in Salafi Islamists who were elected. The protests began again later that December and the Army was “becoming even worse than Mubarak’s time” according to Aswany. Threatening actions started to be taken against Aswany again and again he refused to let that stop him from his political activism saying that a writer needs to be involved in the world that they are writing about.

Alaa Al Aswany is a very politically active writer whose books, essays and short stories as well as his own actions served to inspire the Egyptian people to rebel against corrupt or oppressive regimes to enact change.

Source: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/01/16/writing-the-revolution

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Reflection 6: Dr. Leahy's Lecture

In her lecture, Dr. Leahy focused on covering the reasons that there is anti-American sentiment in the Arab World and how this came about, particularly in relation to the US’s unconditional support of Israel even in light of their numerous Human Rights violations. The negative view of the United States stems from this support of the Israelis as well as other dictatorships even though they engage in tactics that are illegal by International Humanitarian Law and result in many deaths particularly those of civilians.

                The United States claim to stand for democracy, globalization and human rights for all, however their hypocrisy between their statements and their policies lead to resentment in the Arab World and understandably so.  The globalization that is so acclaimed in the western and developed world is very limited and restricted in developing nations and is reserved only for very few at the very top leading to relative deprivation for the rest of the population as they are able to see the opulent live led but are unable to have even a small portion of the benefits their leaders enjoy. Democracy is also a huge point of contention in the Arab World because even though the US and UN say they support free and fair democratic elections, if someone wins who they do not like- like in the case of Hamas winning in the first open democratic election in Palestine. Although they claimed to support these elections, as soon as Hamas won, the UN leveled Sanctions against Palestine and cut their funding. Human Right violations are also rampant in the Arab World particularly by the Israeli government. The US supports the Israeli government and vetoes any potential action that could be taken against them in the UN like in the case of Battle of Jenin where the IDF went into a refugee camp and destroyed homes and killed many. The UN wanted to take action against them; however the US vetoed the motion so it did not pass.

                Dr. Leahy’s explanations behind the resentment directed toward the US as well as her characterization of the US was accurate when looked at in relationship to what was happening in The Arab World particularly with their relationship to Israel. The unconditional support and backing of Israel in all of their actions is causing resentment toward the US in the Arab World and is serving to only increase the tension in the region without helping anything. The presence of the United States could be a beneficial one in the region; however, the US needs to genuinely align their policy with what they claim to stand for. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Weekly Report 5: The USA and The Arab World

The article I selected was entitled “US undermining Iran’s banks-Khamenei” and was published by the BBC on March 20, 2016 in regards to remarks made by the Iranian Supreme Leader- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei- alleging that the United States was working to hurt Iran by working to undermine the banks in Iran and hurt their economic growth.

He believes that The United States is going back on their deal made with Iran concerning nuclear weapons and the economic sanctions placed on Iranian companies and individuals who were responsible for them.  The sanctions were originally in response to Iranian ballistic missile tests and they were lifted as part of the Iranian Nuclear Deal; however Iran carried out more tests in March.

            Iran states that the missiles are merely being used as a method of deterring other nations from attacking them and this method of having weapons such as these are a fairly standard way of doing so. Since the missiles could potentially reach US military bases in the region however, the United States is concerned about the presence of the missiles.

            The reason behind these accusations is the difficulty faced by many banking transactions had between banks in Western nations that are influenced by the US and banks in Iran. Khamenei says that the  US’s status as a world superpower and the influence that comes with it is to blame for these difficulties and that they United States is purposely causing these difficulties to hurt Iran. He also stated that statements made by US politicians who are running for president worked to paint a negative picture of Iran as a villainous country.

            Ideally, what the Iranians wanted from the nuclear deal was their economy to grow and this could happen with less sanctions and more business, however, it will not be the immediate and rapid boost that is clearly desired by the Iranian government.

            This article shows the USA’s involvement in The Arab World in a political and economic way. The US had been involved in Sanctioning Iran and even after the sanctions have been lifted, there is still suspicion, at least in Iran that they are still meddling with Iranian financial affairs. Whether the transactional issue are a result of US intervention or not, the suspicion shows the influence that the US has in the region.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-35856932

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Reflection 5: The Field Trip and Carol Zaru's Talk

The Arab-Israeli conflict is one marked by many years of struggle and bitterness and as such, there is not an easy answer for how the conflict can be solved. There are steps that can be taken toward a peace, however, without cooperation from both parties, there is no guarantee that they will help fix the damaged relationship between the two.

One step that needs to take place is that the method of Israeli military occupation needs to change. The situation faced by those in Palestine is inhumane and does not protect the rights of the people living there as the occupiers are supposed to do under International laws as was stated in the talk given at The Palestine Center. Carol Zaru’s presentation helped to show specifics of the experiences had by Palestinians living under occupation: curfews imposed without warning, checkpoints and the threat of detention by Israeli authorities, power and water being cut off for unknown periods of time as well as bombings. All of this lends to an atmosphere of fear that needs to change if there is going to be movements toward genuine and not artificial and forced “peace”. As the Israelis do not appear to be willing to change of their own accord, international pressure needs to be put on them.

Another major factor is that the international view on Palestine needs to change- particularly that held by the United States and many European Nations. They – the United States in particular- favor Israel and write off their atrocities as justifiable and regard the Palestinians who are living in oppression as terrorists. This view needs to change; this can be done through better and less biased education about the area. These nations need to learn about the struggles Palestinians face and put pressure on Israel to change.

If the method of occupation and international views change, there is more of a chance for an open and equal dialogue between Palestine and Israel that could lead to matters of contention being resolved in a way that is – although maybe not favored by both parties, is at least fair to both parties. Any negotiations done up to this point have been heavily favoring Israel and as such do not do any real, permanent, lasting change in the direction of peace in the area. Only if both parties are treated the same and there is no favoring of either side, can there start to be work toward solving problems in a way that is fair to both and may help to ease the tensions.