Around 25 NYU Students and faculty members came together at Richard Ettinghausen Library on Monday to attend the first of a monthly series on Middle Eastern politics.
The Middle Eastern Commons is a new monthly series orchestrated by the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies and the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies Department. Organizers aimed for the series to be an informal gathering open to the NYU community, led by faculty members.
"What we are trying to do is to talk about, engage and bring [Middle Eastern] topics to the forefront of NYU and local community," said Fidele Harfouche, the Communications and Programs administrator of the Kevorkian Center.
The discussion featured a combination of recent topics about the Middle East and the implications of these issues within the NYU community.
This particular discussion was led by Professors Zachary Lockman and Ali Mirsepassi and focused on the controversial peace plan released by the Trump administration in late January.
Trump says his peace plan will lighten tensions between Israel and Palestine. It calls for redefined West Bank borders, which would in effect give Israel claim to what is predominantly a Palestinian territory. While the plan provides a four-year period for further settlement disputes, it was rejected by over 100 U.S. House Democrats in a vote last week and has been frequently condemned by Palestinian officials for being one-sided.
The conversation also touched on national and local issues such as American media representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reports of anti-Semitism at NYU and UCLA.
Last Nov., a student complaint about anti-Semitism at NYU drove the U.S. Department of Education to launch an investigation into the university. NYU officials have denied previous allegations of not supporting its Jewish community. More recently, the DOE opened a similar investigation at UCLA after disputes involving a visiting lecturer.
"I like these events because these conversations are not imposed on us," second-year Graduate School of Arts and Science student Lynette Hacopian said. "It would be more interesting to get more perspectives."
Hacopian articulated her hopes for departments such as the Taub Center for Israel Studies to be invited to the following Middle East Commons discussions to offer more insight on different aspects of the conflict.
Hajara Masood, who just received her master's degree in Near Eastern Studies and whose husband is from the region, said her own connection to the conflict pushed her to further examine the issue.
"It's good to know what's going on in the Israeli-Palestinian region, especially when there's personal stake in it," Masood said.
Harfouche emphasized the importance of taking the time to discuss Middle Eastern politics.
"We want people to take an hour in [their] heavily scheduled days to think about something that is so important in our life," Harfouche said.