Update April 21-24, 2017
Juan Cole Programs

April 21, 2017
WORT 89.9 FM
A Public Affair: Juan Cole On The Middle East
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
Listen to the program

Professor Juan Cole will be Esty Dinur’s guest on A Public Affair, WORT’s daily hour-long talk program, for a wide-ranging discussion of issues, wars and prospects in the Middle East.

April 24, 2017
“Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period”
206 Ingraham Hall
UW-Madison [Map]
12:00 to 1:00 pm

UW Middle East Studies Program presents Juan Cole (Professor of History at the University of Michigan) speaking on “Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?”

Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.

April 24, 2017
“ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump”
Elvehjem Building L150
7:00 pm [Map]

In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.

For more info please contact: Névine El Nossery, Director of the Middle East Studies Program, elnossery at wisc.edu


Juan Ricardo Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. He writes Informed Comment, Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion, which includes “The Map: The Story of Palestinian Nationhood Thwarted”. In 1973, Juan gifted his extensive comic book collection to Northwestern University; Stan Lee of Marvel Comics attended the opening.

March 29, 2017
Islamophobia in America with Reza Aslan

Aslan Slider Image

Wednesday, March 29th, 2017
7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Location: Wisconsin Union Theater
Cost: Free

Reza Aslan is an internationally renowned writer, commentator, professor, producer, and scholar of religions. His books, including his #1 New York Times Bestseller, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, have been translated into dozens of languages around the world. He is also a recipient of the prestigious James Joyce Award.

In addition to his role as a Consulting Producer on the acclaimed HBO series The Leftovers, Aslan is also the host and Executive Producer of two other original television programs: Rough Draft with Reza Aslan (premiered on Ovation), and CNN’s new documentary series, Believer. He also served as an Executive Producer on the ABC drama, Of Kings and Prophets. His book Zealot has been optioned by Lionsgate and producer David Heyman with a script penned by Oscar nominated screenwriter, James Schamus.

In 2006, Aslan co-founded BoomGen Studiosthe premiere entertainment brand for creative content from and about the Middle East—which has provided an array of targeted services ranging from strategic messaging to grassroots marketing to publicity and social media outreach, to producers, studios, and filmmakers—including Jon Stewart’s Rosewater, Netflix’s The Square, Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Weinstein Company’s Miral, Discovery and TLC’s All American Muslim, and National Geographic’s Amreeka.

Aslan’s first book, International Bestseller No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, has been translated into seventeen languages, and was named one of the 100 most important books of the last decade by Blackwell Publishers. He is also the author of Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized Age (originally titled How to Win a Cosmic War), as well as editor of two volumes: Tablet and Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, and Muslims and Jews in America: Commonalties, Contentions, and Complexities.

Aslan’s degrees include a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University (Major focus: New Testament; Minor: Greek), a Master of Theological Studies from Harvard University (Major focus: History of Religions), a PhD in the Sociology of Religions from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Iowa, where he was named the Truman Capote Fellow in Fiction. An Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a member of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and the Pacific Council on International Policy. He serves on the board of directors of the Ploughshares Fund, which gives grants for peace and security issues; Narrative Four, which connects people through the exchange of stories; PEN USA, which champions the rights of writers under siege around the world; the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Levantine Cultural Center, which builds bridges between Americans and the Arab/Muslim world through the arts.

Aslan is a tenured Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside and serves on the board of trustees for the Chicago Theological Seminary and The Yale Humanist Community, which supports atheists, agnostics, and humanists at home and abroad. A member of the American Academy of Religions, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the International Qur’anic Studies Association, Aslan’s previous academic positions include the Wallerstein Distinguished Professor of Religion, Community and Conflict at Drew University in New Jersey (2012-2013), and Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Iowa (2000-2003).

Born in Iran, he lives in Los Angeles with his wife, author and entrepreneur, Jessica Jackley, and their three sons.

How Israel Misuses the Bible

By fuming over a U.N. resolution against Israel’s settlements on Palestinian land, Israeli leaders reveal their final solution for the Palestinians – to deny them property rights and displace them.

Daniel C. Maguire, Consortiumnews.com, December 27, 2016

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, let the theological cat out of the bag.   When the Security Council rebuked Israel for their land thefts (euphemized as “settlements,”) Mr. Danon replied with pious indignation: “Would you ban the French from building in Paris?”

There, in all of it effrontery, is the imperial theology that birthed Zionism. David Ben Gurion said of Palestine “God promised it to us.” Yitzhak Baer wrote in 1947: “God gave to every nation its place, and to the Jews he gave Palestine.”

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So in this hallucinatory theology, just as God gave Paris to France the Zionist deity gave Palestine to Jews including the right to build whatever they want wherever they want it. If the Zionist god posted a “Jews only” sign on Palestine, the presence of non-Jews is a sacrilege and their land claims are specious. If nothing is intelligible outside its history, as the Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin put it, Ambassador Danon’s French allusion can only be understood against this theological backdrop.

Yigal Allon, a commander of the Palmach, the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the paramilitary force that fought to drive the British from Palestine, did not eschew the language of “cleansing,” a term now used to describe a “crime against humanity.” He boasted that the Zionists were “cleansing” Palestine of Arabs.

The religious goal of Zionism Ben Gurion said is to “secure … that the whole of Palestine will be Jewish, and not only a part of it.” Joseph Weitz, the administrator responsible for the colonization of Palestine, stated the creed bluntly: “Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. … The only solution is a Palestine … without Arabs.”

In 1919, a fact-finding mission appointed by President Woodrow Wilson reported that in meetings with Zionists it was clear that the Zionists looked forward to a “complete dispossession of the present non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.”

Zionist ersatz theology imagines a capricious god who is into real estate distribution, a god who hands out eternal deeds to people of his choosing. It is the will of the Creator that all others be cleansed and their property rights be negated.

Misunderstanding the Bible

Zionist theology depends on a fallacious exegesis of the Hebrew Bible. The two key words for properly understanding the Bible are descriptive and prescriptive. Many of the texts of the Bible describe the horrors of a barbaric time. They are not normative or in any sense admirable. The Bible is revered for its prescriptive texts which imagined with classical excellence a whole new social order where “there shall be no poor among you,” (Deut 15::4) and where swords will gradually be melted down into plowshares as violent power is subdued. In the prescriptive texts we see the beauty of Judaism which Zionism violates.

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In massive shift, Lutherans vote to halt US aid to Israel

Ryan Rodrick Beiler, The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2016

Lutheran church wants US to halt aid to Israel until settlement construction and human rights abuses end. (Ryan Rodrick Beiler)

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has become the latest US denomination to take economic action against the Israeli occupation.

At its triennial assembly last week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the four million-member church, one of the largest in the US, voted on two separate resolutions targeting Israel’s occupation and human rights abuses, passing each by a landslide.

The first resolution calls for the end of US aid to Israel until it ceases violations of international human rights norms, specifically the ongoing construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

It passed by a 751-162 vote, or 82 percent, on 12 August.

The US gives Israel more than $3 billion every year, despite laws that prohibit aid to countries with persistent records of human rights violations. The Obama administration has vowed to increase that sum over the coming decade in what would be the largest military aid package the US has ever given any country.

The second resolution, adopted by a 90 percent margin on Saturday, calls for the creation of a “human rights social criteria investment screen,” specifically citing concerns raised in the church’s Middle East policy.

The Lutheran church has deep ties to Palestinian churches which are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Reverend Mitri Raheb, whose Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem is one such congregation, was one of the authors of the Kairos Palestine Document which calls on churches around the world to use “boycott and disinvestment as tools of nonviolence for justice, peace and security for all.”

“By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere,” said church member Jan Miller in a press release from the grassroots group Isaiah 58. The group describes itself as Lutherans advocating “for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.”

Dramatic shift

According to Tim Fries, an Isaiah 58 activist, much of the assembly was focused on getting the church to move toward taking responsibility for the ways it has been complicit in systemic privilege, “namely, white, European colonial privilege.”

Fries cited huge majority support for resolutions also put to vote at the assembly about supporting refugees and immigrants (by an 842-48 vote), and expressing solidarity with Black Lives Matter (846-73).

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Unitarian Majority for Divestment; Presbyterians Take it to the Next Level!

Anna Baltzer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, June 25th, 2016

I cannot remember a more significant day in church activism for Palestinian rights than the past 24 hours.

The largest gathering of UUs in the country just voted on whether to endorse the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)’s recent divestment from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. The general assembly achieved a simple majority while falling short of the two thirds needed for passage.

Delegate reads testimony from FOSNA citing the lack of Palestinian voices on stage.

We congratulate member group Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East (UUJME), which led a dynamic campaign, building the momentum and leverage to achieve actual divestment more quickly than any other denomination has!

Just last night, the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a series of powerful overtures by a landslide with the strong leadership of member organization Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Overtures included: 

  1. Committing the church to prayerfully consider the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) and engage with its writers; 
  2. Calling on Re/MAX, which sells homes in illegal settlements, to follow through on a new promise it made in a recent letter to the church to stop profiting from settlement sales
  3. Calling on Israel to end its gross mistreatment of Palestinian children and on the Presbyterian Mission Agency and the U.S. Senate to take active steps toward that end.
  4. Urging the IRS to investigate and possible revoke the tax-exempt status of organizations supporting Israeli settlements; 
  5. Asking the U.S. government to enforce laws requiring correct labeling of place of production of Israeli settlement goods; 
  6. Urging Congress to hold hearings into the use of U.S. military and police equipment by the government of Israel; 
  7. Recommending that the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pensions refrain from investments that support violence against Israelis or Palestinians.

US Campaign Steering Committee member Sydney Levy.

Supporters of Israel’s discriminatory policies tried repeatedly to introduce amendments and resolutions maligning BDS at the Presbyterian assembly. They even brought forth a resolution specifically calling on the church to distance itself from the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation because of our significant role in advancing BDS nationwide. The Presbyterian commissioners soundly rejected every one of these attempts, electing instead for Presbyterians to consider the Palestinian BDS call for themselves

US Campaign staff and Steering Committee members were proud to be on the ground supporting both of these tremendous efforts with testimonies and strategic support, along with the significant and powerful contributions of member groups Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Friends Service Committee, and Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA).

Waiting for the vote at the UU Assembly

Unintimidated by today’s climate of repression targeting activism for Palestinian rights, the Presbyterian and UU churches are marching steadily ahead, alongside the many other denominations and religious organizations that have already taken economic actions including the United Methodist Church, United Church of Christ, Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists

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