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Visiting professor discusses Middle East relations

Rebecca Noble

Butterflies hang outside of the UA Hillel Foundation to commemorate the lives of 1.5 million children lost in the Holocaust. The university hosted the Jeffrey Plevan Memorial lecture to discuss current Middle East relations.

Unlike Donald Trump’s predecessors, the new administration has a commitment to Israel’s sociopolitical struggle and has a good chance in succeeding, according to Professor Shai Feldman from Brandeis University.

Feldman, who teaches at the Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies, spoke about Trump’s current take on U.S. involvement in the Middle East at the Jeffrey Plevan Memorial.

“There are some aspects of [Trump’s] particular character that paradoxically may actually be helpful,” Feldman said. “That’s my counterfactual talk.”

The University of Arizona’s Center for Judaic Studies hosted their fourth annual Jeffrey Plevan Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, focusing on President Donald Trump’s current and future policies in the Middle East, led by Professor Shai Feldman of Brandeis University.

“We like to on put events like this because it is a topic of interest for a lot of people,” said John Winchester, outreach coordinator for the Center for Judaic Studies. “Especially with all the stuff going on in the Middle East, here and locally, with two bomb threats at the Jewish Community Center and the Muslim Community Center also being vandalized.”

Winchester emphasized how the Judaic Studies Department likes to bring academic scholars like Feldman, who is the “cream of the crop” according to Winchester, to speak about current issues, like relations between the Middle East and the United States.

According to Feldman, the attempts in the last 25 years to resolve the conflicts within the Middle East have all failed.

“Contrary of what you may have heard, U.S./Israeli defense and intelligence cooperation have never been as close as they’ve ever been since eight years of the Obama administration,” Feldman said. “What Obama has miserably failed is to convey the emotional feeling of his commitment to Israel and his attachment.”

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Feldman emphasized how President Trump called the Israeli and Palestine issue as the “bigger deal” and how he spoke to members of the American Jewish community about his emotional tie to their struggle and commitment to Israel. This is something that according to Feldman’s lecture, is something the Obama administration and others before him failed to do.

“Against all of the expert opinion, if you read articles of The Washington Post and The New York Times, especially the journals on foreign policy and international affairs, I actually think that President Trump has a chance,” Feldman said.

The lecture series is named after Jeffrey Plevan, a UA graduate  with a degree in History and Minor in Judaic Studies. Although he had a learning disability, he overcame the obstacles thanks to the support of his professor and programs at the university. In 2013, Plevan died of a heart attack at the age of 36.

Plevan’s parents, Ken and Betsy Plevan said, “He felt like he was part of the academic life here. As big as the school was, he found friends and organizations; he was active in his fraternity and this became a real home for him.”

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Plevan was the president of the MetroCats, the New York chapter of the alumni association, at the time he died.

According to his parents, Plevan worked as a professional in the Jewish community, because it was “what he loved.”

“He was a real success story, this is in memory of such a wonderful UA alum,” said Deborah Kaye, one of Plevan’s professors. “His legacy is for peace and for understanding. His interests were for Judaism and its politics.”

Jeffrey would visit the UA once a year to show pride in his school, and as for his commitment to the Jewish community, once every two years he took a trip to Israel. Plevan’s parents said Jeffrey would be an outspoken individual against the current president.

“His parents under-right this lecture and we try to contribute and donate to it anyway we can,” Kaye said. The purpose of this memorial lecture is to bring the most current topics since, according to Kaye, Jeffrey loved Judaic studies and was actively involved in the Jewish community.

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