Can We Talk About Israel and Palestine?

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can we talk about israel and palestine

USC author-journalism professor Sandy Tolan (The Lemon Tree, Children of the Stone) has organized a day-long conference on one of the most thorny and chronically controversial subjects, the Israeli-Palestininian conflict. Entitled "Can We Talk About it? Reframing the conversation on Israel/Palestine," the conference features 15 activists, academics and journalists and is free to the public, all day Friday, April 5, 2019. USC parking ($12) available at Gate 6—scroll down on link here.

"Difficult as the subject is for so many," Tolan writes, "we are trying to incorporate a range of perspectives and backgrounds into the day-long conference about the way the issue is discussed/debated in the U.S. Among the themes: what is acceptable or unacceptable speech on Israel/Palestine; BDS and anti-BDS legislation; emerging divisions over Israel within the Jewish community; concerns about anti-Semitism in the debate, and, conversely, concerns that charges of anti-Semitism are sometimes used to mute criticism of Israel."  

Tolan argues, "We believe the time is right for a respectful conversation, despite the sharply divergent opinions."

Indeed, in the face of political turmoil and human rights concerns in the Middle East and rising charges of anti-Semitism at home, the time is right for a respectful conversation between scholars, journalists and activists across a wide range of perspectives. Panel topics will include:  

  • assessing the acceptable boundaries of the national conversation on Israel/Palestine, and how they are changing; exploring the changing media coverage in the U.S.;
  • examining the generational split on Israel/ Palestine among American Jews;
  • reframing the future: expanding the possible outcomes in for Israelis and Palestinians. 

Speakers include: 

  • Peter Beinart, contributing editor, The Atlantic; associate professor of journalism and political science, City University of New York
  • Rabbi Sharon Brous, Senior and Founding Rabbi, IKAR-LA
  • Saree Makdisi,  professor of comparative literature at UCLA and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, and of  Palestine and The Psychogeography of Denial (forthcoming)
  • Steve Ross, Director of the Casden Institute for the Study of Jewish Role in American Life and Professor of History, USC
  • David Myers, Sady and Ludwig Kahn Chair in Jewish History, UCLA, and president of the board, New Israel Fund
  • Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace
  • David Suissa, President and editor-in-chief, Jewish Journal
  • Zoha Khalili, staff attorney, Palestine Legal
  • Joel Beinin, Donald J. McLachlan Professor of Middle East History, Emeritus, Stanford University
  • Mariam Shahin, documentary producer for Al Jazeera’s Witness
  • Laurie Brand, Robert Grandford Wright Professor of International Relations and Middle East Studies, USC
  • Michal David, IfNotNow Los Angeles
  • George Zeidan, Co-founder, Right to Movement Palestine; Fulbright Scholar, USC Price School of Policy
  • Diane Winston, Associate Professor and Knight Center Chair in Religion & Media, USC Annenberg
  • Sandy Tolan, Professor, USC Annenberg and author of The Lemon Tree



  • April 05, 2019 at 9am – 5pm
  • USC Wallis Annenberg Hall 106
  • Sandy Tolan


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