The Socialist and Marxist Studies Series commenced on Thursday afternoon in the Totman Room of the Memorial Union.
This series, which has been active at the University of Maine since 1987, is coordinated by Professor of Philosophy Doug Allen. This succession of midday lectures, the “Controversy Series,” is co-sponsored by the Marxist and Socialist studies minor and the Maine Peace Action Committee.
“2013 Israeli Elections: Why is the Right Wing in Power?”
Professor of history Alex Grab launched the program with a presentation entitled “2013 Israeli Elections: Why is the Right Wing in Power?” Grab, who was born and raised in Israel, began by explaining Israel’s system of government. He began by saying it is “very different from [the] United States.”
In Israel, an election to parliament occurs every four years. Elections were held on Jan. 29 of this year, and 34 parties ran — 12 of which made it to house of representatives, or the Knesset.
“The entire country is like one electoral precinct,” Grab explained.
“The system is very fragmented,” Grab continued. Israel’s government serves as the executive branch, and the leader of the biggest party in parliament becomes the prime minister. The Knesset is comprised of 120 members, and two of the 12 right wing parties received 42 delegates this year.
Grab said that the media considered this a big defeat. Likud, the major right-wing party in Israel, lost 11 members and will be required to form coalitions with parties that are centrist in nature to keep control of the Knesset.
This is important to the United States because of the differences that the Right- and Left Wings hold concerning the conflict with Palestinians. Radical Right Wings prevent Palestinians from becoming established. Because the Right Wing must form coalitions with centrist parties, many are under the impression that their policies concerning Palestinians will change.
The Palestinian conflict concerns the ongoing struggle between Israelis and Palestinians about mutual recognition, borders, security, water rights, control of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, freedom of movement for Palestinians and addressing the question of refugees.
Grab believes that no substantial change will take place in the Knesset in regard to the conflict with Palestinians. “I maintain that right-wing policies…will continue.”
“I’m sorry that I’m a prophet of doom,” Grab joked half-heartedly. “[I’m] not as optimistic as [the] media.”
An involved discussion followed Grab’s presentation and many asked if pressure from the U.S. would assist in changing Israeli policies regarding the conflict with Palestinians.
“The change has to be here,” Grab said. The audience seemed to agree with his assertion.
“We see this as education,” Allen said in an interview. This series, which has been host to approximately 500 programs over the years, is the defining feature of the Marxist and Socialist studies minor.
“We don’t actually push it to get students to enroll. Actually, the most prominent thing we do is this series,” Allen said of the minor.
Timely topics of great significance are presented in this series, including examinations of elements of war, peace, racism, democracy and international relations.
Lectures are open to the public at no cost and are held on Thursdays from 12:30-1:45 p.m. in the Bangor Room of the Memorial Union, unless otherwise noted.
“Famous people come….We always have lively discussions,” Allen said excitedly. “They’re challenging,” he continued.
The next lecture will be held on Feb. 7 and is entitled “The Real Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Fake King: Why King’s Philosophy and Methods are Relevant Today.” Allen will deliver the lecture.
This event, which is cosponsored by the Black Student Union and Multicultural Programs, will begin with light lunch and refreshments served from 12:00-12:30 p.m. in the Bangor Room.
The series will continue throughout the spring semester.