More so than any previous issue of Status, we are doubling down on two commitments of our programming—centering Palestine and creating more engaged content!
For those of you who have followed Status from its very beginnings, you are probably noticing the gradual but unmistakable shift towards more video content alongside our standard audio recordings. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the move towards digital instruction and programming at most universities worldwide, we’ve accommodated these changes with an emphasis on continuing to bring forth our content in its most dynamic, relatable, and evocative forms. Most of our latest podcasts and programs now have a video component which has been met with great enthusiasm and increased viewership and listenership of Status programs substantially across all platforms. So for those who prefer listening to watching, you can rest assured that the move towards audiovisual production will certainly not sacrifice audio programming. We know that the 1978 Bruce Woolley song “Video Killed the Radio Star” (popularized by the Buggles) didn’t turn out to be prophetic after all!
Since the inception of Status—a landmark online audio platform dedicated to the politics, histories, societies, cultures, and arts in the Middle East and North Africa—we have been committed to showcasing and emphasizing the centrality of the Palestinian struggle against settler colonialism, systematic discrimination and apartheid, and ways to challenge Israel’s perpetual domination of Palestinian lives and livelihoods. No issue of Status, thus far, hasn’t featured, with prominence, the mechanisms of such strategies and the efforts to resist them. That said, this Summer 2021 issue is particularly noteworthy for its timely foregrounding of the structural efforts to uproot and disenfranchise Palestinians. This is in response to Israel’s actions over the past few months to expand, escalate, and expedite the take-over of land and targeting of Palestinian communities.
Listeners and followers of Status expect timely, sophisticated, informed, and stimulating reflections and analyses from those intimately familiar with and connected to the sites of contention, and that is precisely what we offer in this issue. From an extensive and wide-ranging interview on the ongoing Nakba facing Palestinians, our host Hadeel Assali invites remarkable speakers Randa Wahbe, Lucy Garbett, Hadeel Badarni, Jehad Abusalim, and Rabea Eghbariah to discuss the continued disenfranchisement of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli state, military, and increasingly radicalized factions in society. From Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem where Palestinian families are being forcibly and violently uprooted from their homes and land to make way for a Zionist vision of a unified Israel to the barbaric and brutal unleashing of Israel’s destructive war machine on Gazans who rose up in solidarity with their fellow Palestinians in Jerusalem. Particular attention is drawn to the extraordinary efforts to organize and mobilize Palestinians across all territories and locales—from Gaza and the West Bank to lands annexed in 1948 and the global diaspora. Rarely have escalations by Israel in the past few decades been met with such widespread and cross-cutting resistance from Palestinian communities everywhere. This summer’s incursions by Israel only magnified widespread protest, resistance, and solidarity-building throughout historic Palestine and beyond, and serve as exemplars and signs of a new and developing movement that identifies with Palestinian liberation and sees past Israel’s increasingly unsuccessful propaganda machine and institutional efforts to force Palestinians into acquiescence.
Nowhere are all these developments and the histories behind them taking front seat than in the conversations our host Mouin Rabbani is having with numerous speakers, activists, and academics in his new interview show entitled “Connections.” A dedicated regular program and podcast focused on all matters pertaining to the Middle East, with a special emphasis on Palestine-Israel, Rabbani’s guests help elevate the discussions on the dynamics with greater nuance and attention to detail. The first few months of Connections coincided with the escalations in violence by Israel which warranted a set of extensive interviews focused on the issues under this recent uptick. The inaugural episode of Connections was an interview with celebrated linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky which laid the foundation for the program. In this issue of Status, Rabbani interviews renowned scholar Norman Finkelstein on Israeli Apartheid and the politics of the Holocaust, with writer and analyst Nathan Thrall on whether this latest round constitutes a turning point in the relationship between Palestine and Israel, with SOAS author and researcher Lori Allen who speaks on the history of investigating Israel’s violations through commissions and other judicial proceedings, with Lara Friedman of the Foundation for Middle East Peace on the United States Congress’ role in determining policy towards Palestine-Israel from extensive pro-Zionist legislation to the recent shift towards hearings recognizing Palestinian plight, to a whirlwind interview with the inimitable politician, activist, and scholar Hanan Ashrawi on the future of options, challenges, and opportunities available to Palestinians with the new Israeli government, the US presidency of Joe Biden.
More programming on Palestine includes Noura Erakat’s intervention with Carly Krakow in “Live with ASI” about the tragic and heart-wrenching extrajudicial execution of Ahmad Erekat at the hands of the IDF at a checkpoint. Finally, you can also watch the Political Economy Summer Institute’s (PESI) Keynote event this year featured a moving conversation led by Jadaliyya co-editor Sherene Seikaly with Kareem Rabie on his latest book Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World is Invited: Capital and State Building in the West Bank and is followed by a lively audience Q&A.
This summer was also characterized by a widespread and noteworthy mobilization in Iran’s Khuzestan province over severe water shortages. What started as small protests spread to 22 cities across the oil-rich province with the regime responding to protests in typical dramatic form using widespread violence, extensive blackouts, internet interruptions to quell the uprising. Host Shahram Aghamir of Voices of the Middle East and North Africa (VOMENA) speaks to Kaveh Ehsani of DePaul University about the politics of extraction, the regime’s exploitation, and social movements in Iran.
This year, we commemorate 10 years since the eruption of the Arab uprisings across the region. Our dedicated programming on this occasion features productions on Tunisia, Syria, and Egypt. VOMENA’s Khalil Bendib speaks to Mohamed-Dhia Hammami about the state of the republic in the region often celebrated democracy. With the COVID-19 pandemic hitting the country hard, it has contributed to an already struggling economic situation and a political crisis. Thanks to our friends and partners at Northwestern University, we are able to share with our followers a special tour de force conversation with University of Chicago’s Lisa Wedeen and Emerson College’s Yasser Munif entitled “Reckoning with the Syrian Uprising a Decade on.” Jadaliyya co-editor Samer Abboud shares his reflections on the war economy in Syria and its effect on reconstruction efforts across the country. This analysis enriches our understanding of the role that jurisdictional control, investments, and objectives play in the overall impact of reconstruction as he argues the new conditions continue to be governed by the war economy. The political climate of repression in Egypt and the state’s treatment of political prisoners since 2016 is the subject of a special panel organized by several organizations including Internationalism from Below, ASI, DAWN, MERIP and Haymarket Books. The discussion addressed the rapid and drastic deterioration of political rights in the country that led from Tahrir Square to the infamous Tora prison.
As part of a series entitled “Ten Years On,” the Arab uprisings are center stage as we delve into the compelling dynamics of each condition and state. The episodes of “Ten Years On” featured in this summer installment of Status include an interview with Jadaliyya co-editor Abdullah Al-Arian on the role of Islamists during and following the protest movements. This discussion situates Islamists and their political parties and organizations within their respective contexts by historicizing and tracing the evolution of Islamist thought particularly in relation to recognizing the nation-state and participation in politics. Another episode features an interview with SOAS’ Adam Hanieh who reflected on the new regional dynamics born out of the protest movements and their repercussions for the social scientific understanding of the region writ large.
Once again, our partnerships with so many programs, universities, centers, and institutes continue to yield some of the most compelling discussions on the Middle East and North Africa from a wide range of angles and perspectives. From VOMENA’s sophisticated journalistic inquiry into the latest happenings in the region to the important lectures hosted by our partners at Northwestern University, the level of the debates are elevated by these incredibly fruitful collaborations. One particularly noteworthy partnership is with George Mason University’s Middle East and Islamic Studies Department which has yielded a new program called the MEIS Podcast. In this issue of Status we feature several interviews that are part of this new program. In light of the devastating explosion in Beirut and the struggle of the city’s inhabitants to come to terms with the aftermath, we feature a discussion with director and filmmaker Carol Mansour on her work “Shattered Beirut 6.07” and other short films about the battle to reconcile loss, tragedy, and trauma while continuing to rebuild and live.
A special feature of these MEIS Podcasts is a series called Faculty Profiles where the work of scholars and educators are explored through interviews where they share their reflections on the subjects and themes central to their work. This issue features discussions conducted by Bassam Haddad with professor Cortney Hughes Rinker, Maydan Editor Ahmet Selim Tekelioglu, professor Agnieszka Paczynska and professor Benjamin Gatling.
In the coming months, Status will be forging forward with more partnerships that will expand our frame to include more content on more topics from more voices and more locales. We look forward, as always, to your reflections, engagements, and solidarity.
From the entire Status/الوضع team, enjoy listening (and watching!)