An Orthodox Perspective on Israel – Metropolitan Club – Washington, D.C., February 2020


On Wednesday, February 12, 2020, ICMES’s newest Board member, Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, spoke to a large and enthusiastic audience at the Metropolitan Club (1700 H Street) about the highly introspective and increasingly visible Jewish Orthodox community’s reasoning about Zionism, and its views on the political and religious standing of the state of Israel. Of the many Jewish communities in the United States, the strictly Orthodox – who number perhaps 600,000 or 11 percent of American Jews – is the fastest growing. They view Zionism not as an affirmation of Judaism but as its negation. They do not believe that Israel speaks for them or other Jews. Shapiro was introduced by Chas Freeman, President of the Committee for the Republic, which sponsored the talk.


Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro
Wednesday, February 12, 2020

6:30 p.m.

Metropolitan Club
1700 H Street
Grill Room on 1st Floor
(Business attire for men and semi-formal attire for
ladies is required for entry to Metropolitan Club)


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Conflicts between Religious Identities and Individual Liberties: The Colonial Empire’s Complex Legacy in the Middle East – WOCMES – Seville, Spain, July 2018


On July 19, 2018, ICMES Board member, Gloria Morán, chaired a panel session entitled “Identities and Individual Liberties: The Colonial Empire’s Complex Legacy in the Middle East,” at the 2018 World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), held in Seville, Spain on July 16-22, 2018. The panel focused on the ossification of Shari’a and the simplification of plural juridical systems under European colonial rule in the Middle Eastern nation-states. Participating on the panel was ICMES Secretary, Issam Saliba, who spoke on “The Relationship between Religious Belief and Personal Liberty in Islamic Traditions”; Robert Destra (Catholic University of America), who focused on “Abrahamic Dialogue in a Time of Conflict: Interfaith Collaboration as a means of Predicting and Preventing Genocide”; Kristina Arriaga (U.S. International Religious Commission), who presented on “Patriarchal Communal Religious Groups and the Rights of Women: Legal Challenges”; and Alaa Ebrahim, whose talk concerned “Sharia and Civil Law in Syria: Contradictions and Paradoxes in Time of War.” [read more]

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Politics of State and Revolution in Arab Cinema – WOCMES – Seville, Spain, July 2018


On July 18, 2018, ICMES Board member Terri Ginsberg chaired and participated in a panel session entitled “State and Revolution in Arab Cinema,” at the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES) held on July 16-22, 2018 in Seville, Spain. Also participating in the panel were Samirah Alkassim, Program and Communications Manager at The Palestine Center and Adjunct Professor of Film and Video Studies at George Mason University, both in Washington, D.C.; Isabelle Freda, Assistant Professor of Film Studies at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York; and Iman Hamam, Instructor in Rhetoric and Composition at The American University in Cairo. The panel is sponsored by the International Association of Middle Eastern Studies (IAMES). The panel brought together four papers on Arab cinema in an effort to extend and deepen the extant scholarship in this area, by theorizing how Arab films, some produced by state and private cinema industries and some by independent means, have attempted to explain cinematically the politics of the nation-state and revolution vis-à-vis the Cold War legacy, and how such films may in turn come to evidence ideological tendencies and socio-cultural discourses that resist the regional longue durée. Dr. Freda began the panel with a presentation on Terrorism and Kebab (1992), a classic of the modern Egyptian cinema industry that at one lampoons the “administrative grotesque” of the Egyptian state apparatus and symptomatizes its popular fetishization in the form of biopolitics. Dr. Hamam extended this discussion with a comparative historiography of 1970s Egyptian industry films commemorating the 1973 war, and recent independent shorts concerning political resistance, lending particular attention to experimental, animated and science fiction works of Egypt and Palestine as they allegorize contemporary political economy. Prof. Alkassim extended the discussion even further, focusing on critical works of Syrian documentarian Omar Amiralay and Lebanese filmmaker Randa Chahal Sabbagh, each of whom placed Palestine at the critical center of their work through differing yet overlapping anti-aesthetic strategies aimed at critiquing political contradictions in their respective countries, Amiralay often with state support, and Sabbagh through independent means. Finally, in this context Dr. Ginsberg offered an analysis of cinematic aura in Leila and the Wolves, a rarely discussed independent film about the necessity as well as problematics of women’s involvement in revolutionary struggle, directed in 1984 by anti-Zionist Jewish Lebanese filmmaker Heiny Srour. [read more]

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Why a Jewish State in the Middle East? Challenges and Objections – WOCMES – Seville, Spain, July 2018


On July 18, 2018, ICMES President, Norton Mezvinsky, and ICMES Board member, Ghada Karmi, participated in a panel session entitled “Why a Jewish State in the Middle East? Challenges and Objections,” at the 2018 World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES), held in Seville, Spain on July 16-22, 2018. Also participating on the panel was Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro of New York City and Yakov Rabkin, Professor of History at Université de Montréal. The panel focused upon Israel’s existence as a Jewish state in the Middle East. The discussion considered and questioned Zionism, the reigning philosophy of the state of Israel, and scrutinized Israeli Zionist policies that affect Jews, Palestinians and others. Dr. Karmi’s presentation, titled “An Arab View,” considered the Zionist proposition to establish an exclusive state for Jews in an already inhabited country, Palestine. Her paper reviewed the history and analyzed the consequences for the indigenous, Palestinian population and the Middle East region. Rabbi Shapiro’s presentation, titled “Why a Jewish State in Israel?” questioned Israel’s referring to itself as the nation-state of the Jewish people and will explore how Zionism incorrectly arrogated to itself the authority to represent the Jewish people. Prof. Rabkin’s presentation, titled “The State in Judaic and Christian Theologies,” examined some of the effects of Zionism on Judaism and Christianity. His presentation also looked at the opposition the political movement evoked in different intellectual, social and religious circles, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Dr. Mezvinsky’s presentation, titled “Definitions of and Reactions to a Jewish State,” considered varying definitions of the Jewish state and specified certain objections to Israel from other parts of the Middle East and the wider world. [read more]

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