Over the weekend of February 15-18, there was an unprecedented gathering in a rural camp in New Jersey. Under a call of “Breaking the Silence,” the American Friends Service Committee and the Mobilization for Survival brought together more than 150 persons from across the country who have been active around questions of US policy and intervention in the Middle East. The purpose of the meeting was not to establish any new organization or to pass resolutions. Rather, it was to share information and experience about raising Middle East issues, such as the Gulf war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in local and national organizing. Those of us from MERIP who were there were encouraged by the substance and tenor of the discussions, and by the broad and deep concern in many parts of the country to make sure that US policy in the Middle East is squarely on the agenda of the peace and anti-war movements.
Both AFSC and the Mobe have actively developed the “deadly connections” theme within the nuclear freeze movement, arguing that US intervention in the Third World in general and in the Middle East in particular poses the greatest risk of sparking nuclear war. In fact, Michael Klare’s article in our November-December issue, “Intervention and the Nuclear Firebreak in the Middle East,” was based on a talk he gave at an April 1984 conference in Chicago, organized by AFSC, entitled “The Middle East: Flashpoint for Nuclear War.” The Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, at its most recent national conference in December, decided to make “deadly connections” work a major focus over the next period. In November 1984, a dozen Freeze organizers, including some national staff, visited the Middle East; they are currently preparing a report from that trip.
The February meeting was, among other things, a good opportunity to review some excellent films and slide shows that will be very useful in future educational and organizing work. One of these is the Israeli film, Field Diary, reviewed by Pat Aufderheide in this issue. Another new film which impressed the organizers is Gaza Ghetto, whose makers include MERIP editor Joan Mandell. A third noteworthy item is a narrated slide show prepared by Sara Freedman and Ted German of Boston Mobilization for Survival, entitled “From the West Bank to Armageddon.” This is excellent for stimulating group discussion about the role of US military aid in sustaining the Palestine conflict.
Janet Lee Stevens, who was killed in Beirut in April 1983, had been a frequent contributor to our pages. We are pleased to hear that Janet’s friends and colleagues at the Middle East Research Institute of the University of Pennsylvania have established an annual award in her name to recognize individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the study the Arab world and to relations between Arabs and Americans. The award includes a prize of $1,000.