Today I came across this new publication, New Society, A Student Journal on Middle East Affairs. It appears to be run primarily out of Harvard by undergraduate students and my first impression is positive. The editor, Julia Bertelsmann, explains the origins and intention of this ambitious publication:
NEW SOCIETY was born in late December 2006 when twenty-seven Harvard undergraduates visited the Shalem Center in Jerusalem as participants in the Harvard Israel Leadership Initiative (HILI). Like the initiative, the journal aims to encourage students and faculty members to debate positive visions for the future of the Middle East. We begin with the question: what should a peaceful, prosperous Middle East look like?
The inaugural edition of New Society features a combination of long, scholarly essays, shorter op-ed style articles, and reflections, plus an interview and write-ups of events on campus. Future editions will feature reviews of books, films and concerts, photographs, and artwork. The journal will publish students, faculty members, and associated scholars based on the quality of their scholarship and writing and on the innovation of their ideas.
The journal is largely inspired by the intellectual vibrancy and influence of a formidable group of students who became known as the â€œNew York Intellectualsâ€ on account of their prolific contributions to American political, economic, and cultural thought several decades ago.
Between the 1930s and 1970s, journals such as Commentary, Dissent, and Partisan Review, sprang up on campuses across New York, largely in response to political change in the distant Soviet Union. The journals asked big questions: Does communist government necessarily lead to dictatorship? How should America respond to Soviet attempts to foment communist revolution across the world? Who should be allowed to own nuclear weapons?
Today, the greatest political, economic, social, and ethical challenges faced by the U.S. are those presented by the Middle East. They concern Sunni-Shia rivalry, the Armenian genocide, Kurdish claims on statehood, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the rise of radical and universalistic Islamism, Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the scramble for oil and natural gas, and the actions of unaccountable, non-state actors such as Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah.
Wow, I want to be a student again (at Harvard please).
A quick skim brought me to Joel Pollak’s article, “Toward a Positive Palestinian Nationalism” which also struck me as naive in light of the manner in which Palestinian nationalism is expressing itself in Gaza today. Still, the article it is hopeful and well reasoned.
Another interesting article looks at the history of the creation of UN Security Council Resolution which is the foundation for virtually all mediation efforts between Israel and the Arab states. It’s a well researched article and gives insights into the making of the resolution and early aftermath that one rarely finds in discussion today precisely for the reasons the article’s author, Danielle Sassoon, points out: the resolution was created with a desire for ambiguity in order to remove the objections of key players.
An examination of various drafts of the resolution, as well as statements made by the document’s framers, demonstrate that Resolution 242 endorses Israeli territorial withdrawal with minor border adjustments only if predicated on mutual respect for national sovereignty and security. The fate of 242 was sealed in its making; designed to be intentionally ambiguous and to mean different things to the different parties involved, 242 was destined to fail. Though its ambiguity has allowed for 242’s longevity, it has also been the cause of its inadequacy as a foundation for peace between Israel and its neighbors.
It’s a strong thesis that the article examines in some detail. Well written, well researched and objective, it shows why the best diplomacy may not lead to real-world solutions even if it succeeds in putting out immediate fires.
The rest of the initial articles include a look at Iran, Saudi Arabia and two speakers who visited Harvard last year. It’s a good effort and I learned some things I hadn’t known before. Best of luck to this new journal!