GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

October 18, 2012

Forum turn focus in the Middle East

By Gail McCarthy Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — A Washington-based author and foreign policy analyst focusing on the Middle East will be the guest speaker Sunday for the Cape Ann Forum’s next free presentation, set for 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church on the corner of Church and Middle streets in Gloucester.

Phyllis Bennis, a writer, analyst, and activist on Middle East and U.N. issues for many years, has been a critic of successive U.S. administrations for overreaching. She makes frequent appearances on “Democracy Now,” MSNBC’s “Up with Chris Hayes” and other interview programs. And she works with the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, is co-chairwoman of the U.N.-based International Coordinating Network on Palestine, and since 2002 has played an active role in the global peace movement and serves as an adviser to top U.N. officials on Middle East and UN democratization issues.

Bennis says the Middle East is undergoing an explosion of turmoil, but the United States is not at the center of it and has limited influence in shaping its outcomes.

“Let’s all take a deep breath and remember that it’s not always about us,” she wrote in a recent posting for the New Internationalism Project, which she directs at the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington think tank.

“Syria has become the crucible for a number of separate wars, battles for power and influence, for regional resources and access, for strategic location and military expansion,” says Bennis, who terms calls for the U.S. to intervene militarily a “disaster in the making.”

“The latest Middle East crisis has returned foreign policy to center stage in a presidential race that had all but ignored the world outside our borders,” she said in an interview last week. “But anyone concerned about the economy had better pay attention to it. Ending the war in Afghanistan would free up money for a huge new jobs program. Ending the current allotment of military aid to Israel would keep almost $7 million of Gloucester taxpayers’ money at home — enough to provide basic health care for 5,639 low-income residents.”

Bennis is also the author of eight books, including “From Stones to Statehood: The Palestinian Uprising (1990),” “Before & After: U.S. Foreign Policy and the September 11th Crisis (2003),” “Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the U.N. Defy U.S. Power (2006),” and several highly regarded guides to foreign policy crises. Her latest is “Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer,” published in 2009 and revised and reissued this year.

The Cape Ann Forum was organized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to increase public understanding of international issues. The all-volunteer, nonprofit organization has sponsored 67 forums since then, and has planned six for the 2012-2013 season.

Future events will feature author Donna Hicks on why dignity is essential to resolving conflict (Nov. 11), Tim Wise on what’s needed to resolve the global food crisis (Feb. 10), former Oxfam America director John Hammock on global poverty and the pros and cons of international aid agencies (April 7), and former U.S. diplomat and National Defense University vice president Mark Bellamy on the rise of Africa on the global stage (May 5.

For more information, go to the forum’s Web site at www.capeannforum.org.

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Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3445, or gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.