Thursday, May 20, 2010

The End of a school year, back to Istanbul, the CHP, and blocking Chomsky

The month of May is always a stormy season in academia: exams to grade and papers to read, the usual wishing the students on their way, with some taking the big/little step of graduation. For me, the end of May also has come to mean packing bags and heading back home to Istanbul and Tel Aviv. This year, however, is a bit different. I will be heading back for 14 months, and start to tackle the book project, which I talked about in my previous blog.

Upon landing in Istanbul, I will be participating in the Hrant Dink Memorial Workshop, at Sabanci University, where I will be presenting a paper entitled: Remnants of the Past/Present: Jews, Greeks, and Armenians, as Historical/Living Artifacts. This paper was previously presented in a conference in New York last year, and since then I have been working on developing the theoretical side. Far from my field of Ottoman Palestine, this paper began while working with the Bezalel School of Arts in Israel, when I accompanied a group of architecture students studying under the direction of Professor Senan Abdelqader to Istanbul. For this, I began to investigate historical issues connecting Ottoman Jerusalem with Istanbul. It is exciting project, and once published I will post it –or at least the information where to find it.

Of course, this long introduction is basically explaining why I have not submitted a blog entry for little over a month. However, once over there, I will start sharing more stories with you about Turkey and Israel branching out and focusing on human interest stories, in addition to the political analysis.

The fact that I have not been writing does not mean that exciting things are not happening. In Turkey, the head of the opposition party, the CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi), Deniz Baykal has stepped down following a sex-scandal that was caught on tape. It must be stated that this comes to a relief to many who had wished he would have stepped down years ago as he never conjured up enough votes during the last 5 terms to become Prime Minister. If all goes as planned, the future leader of the party Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu will prove to be a real competitor to the the AKP and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There is no doubt that the AKP monopoly, which has lasted almost 8 years, needs to come to an end. For more on the moderate candidate who has the chance of breathing new life into the CHP see the following link:

As for Israel, I guess the biggest non-surprise yet pathetic move was blocking Noam Chomsky from entering the Palestinian territories to give a lecture. If they are interested in limiting efforts to start world boycotts, the Israeli government best get their act together and reinstate the basic human rights every democracy prides itself in: freedom of speech and expression. Blocking Chomsky is a cheap move and will only exacerbate relations between Israel and educational institutes abroad (and in Israel for that fact). This is just another case of limiting entry to people who are outspoken of Israeli politics and the occupation and is quite worrying to say the least.

Wishing everyone a nice and safe summer,