The older I get, the more important it is for me to keep faith with the dead.
Monday night, many of us who valued the kind of full-throated civic discourse practiced by Maury Maverick Jr., the cantankerous civil liberties lawyer, legislator and columnist for this newspaper who died seven years ago, will do just that.
Columbia University's Rashid Khalidi, an important Middle East historian, will give the third annual Maury Maverick Jr. lecture at 7:30 p.m. in Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium. The lecture is sponsored by the William and Salome Scanlan Foundation.
As regular readers of Maury's column know, he wrote often and with flair about the Middle East. In the early 1990s, he argued the only path to peace was justice for Palestinians and security for Israelis, which is still the essential formula for any kind of two-state solution. In a column published Oct. 17, 1993, he wrote: "The Palestinians want their independence; they are on a roll and the world knows it. This is something not to ignore because World War III may hang in the balance."
The focus of Khalidi's lecture will not be about the recent turbulence in U.S. relations with Israel. Instead, when I interviewed him recently by phone, Khalidi said he will take a broad look at the history of the 20th century from the point of view of the Middle East. He'll talk about how conflict has shifted from Cold War players to the Middle East, how energy shaped the past century and the rise of new global cities.
In the past, it was Los Angeles and Tokyo that topped the list of global cities; now massive populations have congregated in places such as Istanbul, Cairo, Mexico City and Mumbai, India. How did this happen, and what does it mean for our future?
Inevitably, wherever Khalidi speaks, questions are asked about current Israeli politics. At the end of the past presidential campaign, Khalidi was defamed by Sen. John McCain because Barack Obama listened to Khalidi's ideas — as did McCain in the 1990s when he was chairman of the International Republican Institute, which provided $500,000 to an organization that Khalidi founded called the Center for Palestine Research and Studies. The charge then — and now — was that Obama was not pro-Israeli.
The charge doesn't stick. Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish vote — evidence, Khalidi said, of a generational shift in the Jewish community. Increasingly, younger American Jews believe it is possible to support Israel without supporting the Likud-led government and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.
That is the argument Maury made in his columns. "Justice is the hope for peace, not bombs," he wrote in 1993. "Justice is the hope for independence of Palestine and the survival of Israel."
It is still the hope. That's why if Maury were alive, he would be in the front row Monday night, deaf ear turned toward the podium, listening to history. Since he isn't, those of us who care about the issues that Maury wrote about — free speech, separation of church and state, and world peace — will show up on his behalf, as well as our own.