On Tuesday, Oct. 4, students and faculty gathered inside UNCG’s Faculty Center to take part in an event presented by the International and Global Studies department.
These events produced by IGS are referred to as Global Spotlights. Aptly named, they work to shine a light on different global issues. This particular event focused on the book: “Looking for Palestine” by Najla Said.
Said’s book was chosen as the Keker First Year Common Read for the 2016-2017 school year at UNCG. Each year, the Keker committee chooses a book for incoming freshman to read prior to the start of classes in the fall. Many professors choose to incorporate this book into their lessons.
Involvement with IGS was not necessary to attend the “Looking for Palestine” Global Spotlight event, nor is it required to attend events like it in the future. Familiarity with “Looking for Palestine,” was also not required to take part in the event, however having read the book allowed for a deeper and richer understanding of the material presented. There were also a series of short video interviews with the author to be watched beforehand, that provided sufficient information to be included in the discussion for those who had not read Said’s book.
Jerry Pubantz, a professor of Political Science at UNCG, led the discussion on “Looking for Palestine.” He, in addition to being an educator, is a former dean of the Lloyd International Honors College. Pubantz has published many works, including those dealing with the United Nations, the Middle East and American Foreign Policy. His background in these global studies made him an ideal candidate to add further insight into Said’s book, which dealt largely with the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The book in question, “Looking for Palestine,” is Said’s memoir, which catalogue’s her complicated journey in life to find her identity.
Born to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother, but raised in America, Said struggled to put a label on herself for her entire life. Was she American, Lebanese or Palestinian? This question of identity was central to her memoir.The book details her challenges as she comes to term with who she is and with what label she wishes to identify. This journey included trips to Palestine where she saw and experienced matters that shifted her way of thinking incredibly.
Jenny Dale, member of the Keker committee that assisted in choosing Said’s book as this year’s read, introduced Pubantz at the start of the event. Pubantz, instead of rehashing the book itself, decided to focus on the history that led to Said’s experiences portrayed in the book. He lectured informally on the history of the rocky relations between Israel and Palestine. The history relayed by Pubantz gave context to what is written about by Said in her book, furthering the Global Spotlight event attendees understanding of Said’s memoir.
The floor was opened for a discussion following the lecture by Pubantz. Conversation among the faculty and students present, led to questions regarding whether or not we should be focusing on the history of Palestine and Israel, or if we should instead pay our attention towards how we can make our own differences and impacts on the situation in the nations. Pubantz had emphasized in his lecture that U.S. involvement in the Palestinian and Israeli conflict dropped significantly after the events of 9/11.
To have insight from a Palestinian woman who was present at the event, raised questions and conversation that would not have been nearly as rich without her personal insights regarding the situation. During and after the IGS event, light refreshments were provided for the attendees. At the close of the meeting, a reminder was given that the next Global Spotlight would be taking place in November.
Other events involving “Looking for Palestine,” are in progress around UNCG’s campus, including the Global Engagement’s Keker First Year Common Read Capstone Conference. This event in November will allow for further discussion of the themes present in Said’s book. Additional Global Spotlight events will take place in the coming months.