POL 67 — Modern Israel: Insights and Analysis from Stanford Scholars and Guests
This course will inevitably dedicate time to the ongoing Middle East conflict, which again exploded into violence last October, and to the continuing efforts to find a formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace. In this context, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will discuss the emerging dynamics of geopolitics in the Middle East, and former Palestinian negotiator Ghaith al-Omari and Ambassador Dennis Ross will explore options for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. In addition, Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi will revisit his New York Times bestselling book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, in light of the October 7, 2023, Hamas terror attack and the subsequent Gaza war. But the course will also look beyond the conflict, venturing into other lesser-known areas of Israeli life and history, including lectures on the politics of historical memory in divided societies with Stanford professor of history James T. Campbell, and Zionism and anti-Zionism with Stanford professor of the humanities Russell Berman. UC Berkeley School of Law professor Masua Sagiv will discuss the constitutional questions central to Israel’s effort to have a Jewish and democratic state. As we proceed, Sophia Khalifa Shramko will share the experience of growing up as an Arab woman in Israel. Finally, Stanford professor of economics Ran Abramitzky and Stanford visiting professor Alon Tal will explore Israel’s modern economy and efforts to use innovation to achieve sustainability in an environmentally challenging region. A full lineup of speakers and topics can be found below.
Session 1: Wednesday, April 3
Should Israel Exist? And Why Are We Even Asking This Question in 2024?
Amichai Magen, Visiting Professor and Fellow in Israel Studies, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford; Head of the MA Program in Diplomacy & Conflict Studies, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy, Reichman University, Israel
Amichai Magen is the author of numerous articles on law, politics, and international relations, covering topics such as democracy, the rule of law, political violence, liberal orders, and Israeli politics. His current book project (with Benedetta Berti) explores the role of non-state actors in world ordering.
Session 2: Wednesday, April 10
Zionism and Anti-Zionism
Russell Berman, Walter A. Haas Professor of the Humanities; Professor of Comparative Literature; Professor of German Studies, Stanford; Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution
Russell Berman’s scholarship addresses literature and culture (both from German-speaking Europe as well as the Middle East), international relations and foreign policy, cultural theory, and religion and culture. His books include Fiction Sets You Free: Literature, Liberty, and Western Culture and Freedom or Terror: Europe Faces Jihad.
Session 3: Wednesday, April 17
Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor Reconsidered
Yossi Klein Halevi, Senior Fellow, Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem
Yossi Klein Halevi co-directs (with Imam Abdullah Antepli of Duke University) the Institute's Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI), which teaches emerging young Muslim American leaders about Judaism, Jewish identity, and Israel. His 2013 book, Like Dreamers, won the Jewish Book Council's Everett Book of the Year Award. His latest book, Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, is a New York Times bestseller.
Session 4: Wednesday, April 24
A Jewish and Democratic State? The Struggle for Israel’s Constitutional Soul
Masua Sagiv, Koret Visiting Assistant Professor, UC Berkeley School of Law; Scholar in Residence for the Bay Area, Shalom Hartman Institute
Masua Sagiv researches law and social change, gender, religion and state, and Judaism and democracy in Israel. She won the Ben Halpern Award for Best Dissertation in Israel Studies (2020).
Session 5: Wednesday, May 1
Growing Up as an Arab Woman in Israel
Sophia Khalifa Shramko, Stanford Graduate School of Business (MBA 2019)
Sophia Khalifa Shramko, an Arab Bedouin Muslim born and raised in Israel, received an MBA from Stanford and a BS in electrical engineering from Tel Aviv University and leads trust and safety for generative AI at AWS.
Session 6: Wednesday, May 8
The Mystery of the Kibbutz: Egalitarian Principles in a Capitalist World
Ran Abramitzky, Stanford Federal Credit Union Professor of Economics; Senior Associate Dean of the Social Sciences, Stanford
Ran Abramitzky’s research is in economic history and applied microeconomics, with a focus on immigration and income inequality. His book The Mystery of the Kibbutz: Egalitarian Principles in a Capitalist World was awarded the Gyorgi Ranki Biennial Prize by the Economic History Association.
Session 7: Wednesday, May 15
Israeli-Palestinian Relations: Where Do We Go from Here?
Ghaith al-Omari, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Senior Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Ghaith al-Omari is the former executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine. He served as advisor to the Palestinian negotiating team during the 1999–2001 permanent-status peace talks with Israel and held various other positions within the Palestinian Authority.
Dennis Ross, Counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Ambassador Dennis Ross played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process for over 12 years, dealing directly with the parties as the US point man on the peace process in both the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton administrations. He served as special assistant to President Obama and as the special advisor on Iran to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He was awarded the Presidential Medal for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service by President Clinton. He is the author of The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace (2005).
Session 8: Wednesday, May 22
The Quest for Peace in the Middle East
Condoleezza Rice, Tad and Dianne Taube Director and Senior Fellow on Public Policy, Hoover Instituion; Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business
Condoleezza Rice served as the 66th secretary of state of the United States, the second woman and first Black woman to hold the post. Rice also served as President George W. Bush’s assistant to the president for national security affairs (national security advisor) from January 2001 to January 2005, the first woman to hold the position. Rice served as Stanford’s provost from 1993 to 1999. As professor of political science, she has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981 and has won two of the university’s highest teaching honors.
Session 9: Wednesday, May 29
Reckoning with the Past: The Politics of Historical Memory in Divided Societies
James T. Campbell, Edgar E. Robinson Professor of History, Stanford
James T. Campbell’s publications include Middle Passages: African American Journeys to Africa, 1787–2005; Slavery and the University: Histories and Legacies; and Race, Nation, and Empire in American History. He is completing a book on the politics of memory in historically divided societies, a study that ranges from Mississippi to South Africa to Israel. A committed public historian, Campbell has served as a historical consultant for numerous curricular projects, documentary films, and museum exhibitions, including the “Power of Place” exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Session 10: Wednesday, June 5
Environmental Policy in Israel and the Middle East
Alon Tal, Visiting Professor, Stanford Graduate School of Business; Professor and Former Chair of the Department of Public Policy, Tel-Aviv University
Alon Tal has published hundreds of academic and popular articles and is the author or editor of 11 books on topics involving sustainability. During 2021 and 2022, Tal was a member of the Knesset, where he chaired the country’s first subcommittee on environment, climate, and health. He has founded several environmental organizations, receiving a life achievement award from the Israeli government for his contribution to environmental protection at age 48.
Please note: There are no formal prerequisites for this course, though prior interest and engagement with topics related to Israel and the Middle East are an advantage. This course is co-sponsored by Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and it is an adaptation of a class offered to Stanford undergraduates.