Hamas, Hezbollah & the Arab Spring: Middle East Expert Lectures for LEJA Students
May 21, 2012
MACOMB, IL -- Lectures about Hamas, Hezbollah and the Arab Spring were on the docket for Uri Rosset's most recent visit to Western Illinois University. Rosset, a lecturer at Sapir College in Sderot, Israel, and an expert on the Middle East, was in Macomb in early May as a guest lecturer for the School of Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) and its Homeland Security Research Program (HSRP). Through his classroom presentations and University-wide lecture covering terrorism, the Middle East and the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa, Rosset provided Western students and faculty with contemporary and historical perspectives of the Hamas and Hezbollah organizations, as well as of the Arab Spring revolutionary wave, all which have implications for the United States.
According to Dean Alexander, associate professor in Western's School of LEJA and director of the HSRP, Rosset teaches courses on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Middle East and terrorism at Sapir. Rosset earned his Ph.D., as well as his master's and bachelor's degrees in Middle East history from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He speaks Hebrew, Arabic and English.
"It is great to have an expert from the region provide his analysis of the ever evolving developments in the Middle East," Alexander said. "While Western is based in the Midwest, we are able to get fresh perspectives from the region. In doing so, the WIU community gains exposure to important themes in a live, face-to-face academic setting."
The visit for Rosset—who also works as an Arabic analyst at Intuview, an Israeli company that develops software for security and defense applications—was his second to Western. In September 2010, Rosset also presented lectures to WIU LEJA students in Macomb, as well as to students and law enforcement professionals in Moline, near the WIU-QC campus.
According to Alexander, Rosset's visits to and lectures at Western are reciprocated through lectures he, as well as other LEJA faculty, deliver when traveling abroad, sharing U.S. law enforcement and justice administration expertise with university students and law enforcement professionals in the Middle East, South Asia and Europe.
The collaborative relationships the School of LEJA faculty fosters internationally not only provide important differing perspectives for the students and law enforcement professionals, but also the fields of law enforcement and criminal justice benefits in the form of shared research undertaken by faculty. Late last year, Rosset and Alexander published, "Anwar al Awlaki: The Man, His Ideology, and His Impact on Transnational Jihad," an article about the dual U.S.-Yemini citizen who was a leading figure in Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen. Al Awlaki was killed by a U.S. drone attack on September 30, 2011. The article appeared in the December 2011 issue of Law Enforcement Executive Forum, a journal that "provides the criminal justice community with best practices and emerging technology," states the journal's website (see www.iletsbei.com/forum/).
"It was a combined research effort, and we each concentrated our different areas of expertise, so Dean concentrated on the terrorist side of Anwar al Awlaki," Rosset explained, "I concentrated on ideology, because I speak and read Arabic. Part of my research included watching al Awlaki's speeches on YouTube and reading some of his articles."
Rosset's University-wide lecture (May 2) at Western, which was co-sponsored with the Western's Hillel student organization, covered the Arab Spring. His talk shed some light on the wave of battles, protests and demonstrations still making headlines (e.g., in Syria) nearly a year-and-a-half after the revolutionary wave began in Tunisia. During his Arab Spring lecture, he discussed "the question of identity" in the Arab world (including ancient, religious, tribal, ethnic and national).
"Many times, these identities can contradict themselves," he noted. "We are seeing what happens when these identities clash. The Middle East is changing, and we are also seeing that public opinion—which was irrelevant to decision making in the past in many places there—is now becoming very important. In part, that's due to modern media, such as Al Jazeera, as well as social media. In the past, the Arab regimes had the ability to control the media. But now you can go into the street, shoot some video and send it to Al Jazeera's website, and it's immediately available, or many times it's live. They can't control it anymore."
During his Arab Spring lecture, Rosset also pointed out a phenomenon regarding the nature of government in the nations in which the revolutions have taken place. He also talked about the effects of the Arab Spring on the people of the Arab World and discussed who would be what he called the "winners" and the "losers."
"All the revolutions in the Arab world so far have been in countries that are called republics—Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. The monarchies—for example, Jordan and Saudi Arabia—they are still stable, which is amazing. I don't think I have a good explanation for it," he noted. "The winners are the Islamists, and in most cases, the Muslim Brotherhood movement. They are winning everywhere: Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine. The losers are the liberals, including artists."
Rosset noted that while he is from Israel, he strives to provide a balanced perspective when it comes to lecturing about issues and events related to the Arab world.
"Take two of the most important terrorist organizations, which are not only terrorist but also political: Hezbollah and Hamas in Palestine. When I discuss these organizations in my work, I try to be balanced and show both sides of the coin, so to speak. I'm not representing Israel. I represent myself," he said.
According to Alexander, the Homeland Security Research Program will continue to undertake various activities—such as bringing in expert lecturers and collaborating on research—that enable the knowledge exchange among international experts and WIU faculty members. The program also aids in exposing WIU's LEJA students and those studying in LEJA's homeland security minor, which has more than 190 students, to a variety of international perspectives about law enforcement and homeland security issues they may someday face professionally.
For more information, contact Alexander at (309) 298-2120 or via e-mail at DC-Alexander@wiu.edu. Learn more about WIU's Homeland Security Research Program at www.wiu.edu/hsrp/.