The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 41.0°F | Overcast

Scholars Discuss Middle East Issues at Symposium

By Nomi Giszpenc
staff reporter

Last week's torrential rains didn't dampen the turnout at a talk on U.S. policy on the Middle East, held last Sunday in 54-100. Three scholars featured at the meeting addressed issues that concern Iraq, Israel, and Palestine.

Elaine Hagopian, a professor of sociology at Simmons College, was the first of the three to speak at the event. She described a general picture of U.S. policy with respect to Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinians.

Hagopian characterized the approach of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East as containment and compared it to a "compactor." During the Cold War, communism needed to be contained, whereas now the containment strategy focuses on nationalist Islamic separatist movements, she said.

Since Israel is a strategic asset to the United States, its concerns are meshed with those of the United States, Hagopian said.

To destabilize Iraq, Israel's political enemy, Israel and the United States channeled funds, weapons, and training to the Kurdish minority in Iraq via Iran, both before and after the fall of the Shah of Iran, Hagopian said.

In the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat had set two terms: that Israel admit it is an occupying power and that it set an end goal of a Palestinian state, Hagopian said.

But he later gave them up, she said. The Oslo peace accords - signed in late 1993 by Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76 - do not specify an end goal, and since Israel is not designated as an occupying power, the territories are disputed and every little thing needs to be negotiated, Hagopian said.

For these reasons, "sooner or later [the] Oslo [accords] would have blown up. Netanyahu made it blow up quicker," Hagopian said.

Fawzi discusses Iraqi plight

Hagopian was followed by Mary S. Fawzi, a research associate at Harvard University's School of Public Health, who was the field supervisor and data analyst for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study entitled "Iraq Infant and Child Mortality and Nutrition Survey."

Fawzi switched gears from Hagopian's political overview by focusing on the impact of U.S. economic sanctions on the health of Iraqi children under five.

The study that Fawzi supervised found that infant mortality went from 40.6 for every 1,000 children before the sanctions were imposed to 198.2 per 1,000 afterward.

The main causes of the rise in infant mortality and malnutrition are food insecurity, the lack of sanitation and clean water because of the destruction of infrastructures, and the deterioration of basic health care services that used to be provided by the government, Fawzi said.

The conditions in Iraq, which used to be equivalent to those in countries like Kuwait, are now on a level comparable to less developed nations like Mozambique and Zimbabwe, Fawzi said.

Roy talks about Palestinians

The last speaker, Sara Roy, is a research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard and an authority on the Gaza Strip and on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Roy, author of The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-Development, presented her view of the Palestinian situation. She agreed with Hagopian that the current problems are a result of labor policies and the Oslo accords, not Netanyahu's positions.

Economic, social, and political conditions have deteriorated in the region since the Oslo accords, Roy said. The very high unemployment and poverty rates among Palestinians are a result of the closures of the territories' borders, she said.

Roy contended that economic reform was prevented by the agreements because a viable Palestinian economy could lead to a viable Palestinian state.

The talk was sponsored by the Graduate Student Council, the Lebanese Club at MIT, and a host of outside organizations including the Boston Committee on the Middle East, American Friend Service Committee, Grassroots Inter- national, Boston Mobilization for Survival, and Arab student associations at Boston University and Harvard.

Copyright 19,95, The Tech. All rights reserved.
This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
This story appeared on page 9.

This article may be freely distributed electronically, provided it is distributed in its entirety and includes this notice, but may not be reprinted without the express written permission of The Tech. Write to archive@the-tech.mit.edu for additional details.