Palestine in a Dish

  how cuisine and culture collide to preserve a people’s history Jordan Elgrably   Wafa Shami is a Palestinian who was born in Ramallah and came to the States as a young grad student. We first met many years ago in Los Angeles when she was the director of the Middle East Education Project, run out of the American Friends Service Committee’s Los Angeles bureau, downtown. At the time I was the co-director of Open Tent Middle East Coalition and Wafa’s group frequently was part of our citywide coalition to build understanding among diverse cultural and religious communities who wanted to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with peace and justice. Later, Wafa moved north to San Jose, where she began blogging Palestinian recipes. Continue reading

Welcome the Stranger

Reimagining Heroes Past and Present By: Micaela Amateau Amato   My family speaks seven languages because we have lived in communities that are enlivened by many ethnicities and races simultaneously, in places such as Smyrna, Salonika, Rhodes, Fez, New York, Puerto Rico. On the islands of Rhodes and New York we have conversed through a mixture of Spanish, Turkish, Greek, Italian, French, Hebrew, and Arabic. We are Sephardim and Mizrahim (Iberian Arab Jews.) This sensibility emerges in my studio as a composite of sculpture, painting, photography—a confluence instinctively mirroring my hybrid ancestral history. We “welcome the stranger.” Continue reading

Inaugural Bustany-Kasem Friendship Forum Dissects the Dangers of Saudi Extremism

By Tony Litwinko On December 21st “Ending Saudi Extremism” was the subject of the inaugural Bustany-Kasem Friendship Forum, held in partnership with the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and The Markaz at the Harmony Gold Theatre in Hollywood. Special guest Terence Ward, the American documentarian, writer and consultant, presented his latest book, The Wahhabi Code: How the Saudis Spread Extremism Globally. His interlocutor was Ani Zonneveld, the founder of Muslims for Progressive Values and a key player in the new Alliance of Inclusive Muslims. (See video here.) Continue reading

Demonizing Iran Only Strengthens the Regime While Punishing its People

President Jimmy Carter addresses the American people on the Iran hostage crisis, 1979 Opinion by L.Y. On the 40th anniversary of Iran's revolution, an Iranian-born American attorney argues for the Iranian people, but against Iran's regime and U.S. anti-Iran sanctions   The people of Iran have been suffering under crippling sanctions for nearly 40 years and yet the deeply entrenched clerical establishment has only strengthened over time. The Trump Administration has now unilaterally backed out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) international nuclear agreement with Iran, citing "disastrous flaws." They have also imposed the toughest sanctions on Iran to date. The first set of Trump sanctions took effect on August 8, 2017, restricting Iran's purchase of US currency, trade in gold, precious metals and sale of Iranian auto parts, commercial passenger air crafts and related parts and service. Continue reading

New Book Traces Roots of Saudi-Funded Extremism

In Tunisia protestors came out en masse againt Saudi Arabia's Mohammed bin Salman with signs reading "You're not welcome." (AP/Independent) A review of The Wahhabi Code: How Saudis Spread Extremism Globally (Arcade 2018, hardback, $24.99)   By Jordan Elgrably This is a multiple-choice quiz: —Which country is the most responsible for terrorism worldwide: A) Saudi ArabiaB) IranC) North KoreaD) The United StatesE) none of the above You probably caught that that was a trick question. (Guest speakers will address it on the evening of Dec. 20th in Los Angeles, when The Markaz and the L.A. World Affairs Council presents a public forum, Ending Saudi Extremism with author Terence Ward, moderated by Ani Zonneveld, the president of Muslims for Progressive Values.) Continue reading

From Beirut to the American Halls of Justice

an immigrant and trial lawyer prepares for the trenches "Every trial lawyer’s life experiences are different, of course, but no doubt interesting to explore. For me, I remember doing homework in the dark using only candlelight due to power outages in the war in Beirut. I remember not being able to buy my favorite cereal due to food shortages. Being in bomb shelters. Being a refugee in Syria. Loosing our home due to bombs and rebuilding it. Collecting bullet shells instead of bottle caps."   By Amal M. Smith            When I took the bar exam to become a lawyer, it was three full days of testing. Back then, the mere thought of a three-day exam was grueling. And naturally, passing was a joyous celebration. But now, as a trial lawyer, I often fondly reminisce about that exam as a nostalgic achievement. Because when I am in trial everyday, all day, sometimes for weeks at a time, I would do anything to sit for a three-day exam instead. Continue reading

There is No Marshall Plan for Iraq

An American volunteer on a recent mission in Iraq observes the state of the country.   By Greta Berlin On June 5, 1947, in an address at Harvard University, Secretary of State George C. Marshall introduced a European recovery program that would be financed by the United States to the tune of 12 billion dollars (about $100 billion by 2018 estimates). More than 16 European nations accepted the money to jumpstart their economy. What few of us ever talk about is that the Marshall Plan hugely benefited the American economy1 as well, for most of that money would be used to buy goods from the United States, goods that had to be shipped across the Atlantic on American merchant vessels. The US government viewed this as a win-win situation where do-gooders could financially help European nations while (in their minds) halting the advance of Soviet influence across the continent, and money could be made all around. After all, the United States doesn’t do anything for free. Our country prospered, as companies were able to find markets in Europe and sell their products.2 And who paid for all of this? Why the American taxpayer, of course, convinced that we would stop Communism if we agreed to this huge payout. Continue reading

The Dream of Edward Said & Daniel Barenboim Comes to Disney Hall

An Angeleno assesses The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra   By Tony Litwinko Back in 1999, two iconoclasts, one Arab, the other Israeli, devised a new, unorthodox orchestra and called it the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, after a Goethe poetry book inspired by the Persian Sufi poet, Hafez. The “Divan” as envisioned by author-pianist Edward Said (Orientalism) and pianist-conductor Daniel Barenboim, would invite talented Palestinian, Israeli and other musicians from the Middle East to perform together, in spite of obvious political, religious and physical barriers. What was originally intended to be a summer workshop is now nearing its 20th year, and recently competed a U.S. tour, which included their Los Angeles premiere at downtown’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. Continue reading

The Markaz Review—October 2018

Interview with Sama'a Al-Hamdani on Yemen / Jordan Elgrably Review of Algiers, Third World Capital, Freedom Fighters, Revolutionaries, Black Panthers / Anthony Saidy Palestinian Women Were the Heart and Soul of the First Intifada Opinion: US Anti-Iran Sanctions Harm the Iranian People / Mohamad Huseini Opinion: They Came for Muslims and Immigrants, Then They Came For Me / Stephen Rohde

A Humanitarian Catastrophe: Understanding the War in Yemen

An interview with Sama'a Al-Hamdani On September 26, California Representative Ro Khanna and about a dozen other House democrats put forward a bill to stop US support for the Yemen war—the War Powers Resolution to End U.S. Military Involvement in Yemen—because in fact Congress has not authorized US military and financial support for the war. As of this writing, only two Republicans, Thomas Massie from Kentucky and Walter Jones from North Carolina, were backing it. On September 27, Yemeni-American analyst Sama’a Al-Hamdani spoke in Los Angeles at UCLA along with Tasleem Mulhall about the Yemen conflict in a program presented by The Markaz and UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies. The following interview was conducted by Jordan Elgrably. [Photo: Sama'a Al-Hamdani, Tasleem Mulhall, Jordan Elgrably, by Jo Anderson.]     Why is it that Americans know so little about Yemen, why has the country seemed so off the radar to us? Not to be overly cynical, but is it perhaps in part because of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing relationship with the U.S., particularly with respect to the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists in Washington? There isn’t a single correct answer as to why Americans know so little about Yemen, but one must consider several factors at play. It could be as innocent as poor education or lack of interest. From one standpoint, Yemeni nationals are brown, poor and too remote from America. However, to the majority of Americans, it is the result of a methodical capitalist agenda, which sees no profit in “saving” Yemen, an impoverished country in a very wealthy peninsula with nothing financial to offer the world in general, and the US in particular, without war and terrorism. Continue reading