Posted on December 17, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

John Esposito, professor of International Affairs and Islamic Studies and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, discussed the current status of Christians in the Middle East. Dr. Esposito took a look at Christian populations in Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon and discussed the issues in each. In Iraq, Dr. Esposito said the decline in population is mainly due to migration of people north to escape “Radical Sunni militia that goes after both Shi’a [Muslims] but particularly Christians in order to destabilize the country.” In Egypt, Dr. Esposito said that discrimination against Christians exists within a larger historical context and that the Egyptian government has often “acted in a very ambivalent way” toward the treatment and mistreatment of Coptic Christians in the country.  


Amjad Atallah, Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation, discussed the latest efforts to revive direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Atallah discussed the Obama administration’s efforts to broker a deal between Palestinians and the Israelis, specifically focusing on the administration’s decision to provide Israel with incentives to cease settlement building. Mr. Atallah took issue with the policy and described it as “an attempt to try to bribe Israel to stay in the occupied territory and bribe them to get out of it all at the same time.” He added, “Instead of negotiating the end of the occupation, it [the United States] began negotiating settlements.” In going forward with a U.S.-brokered peace plan, Mr. Atallah said the U.S. must create new policy and assess its relevance in the Middle East. He asked: “Are we a superpower for positive change in the Middle East? Are we going to be the force that’s associated with ending the Israeli-Arab Conflict?"


Jordan Eizenga, Policy Analyst with the Economic Policy team at the Center for American Progress, discussed President Obama’s tax agreement with the GOP and the subsequent reaction to it by Democrats in Congress. Mr. Eizenga discussed the parameters of the deal including the effects it will have on tax payers and the economy. “The end goal is actually job growth”, said Mr. Eizenga. “Right now we have 15 million people who are unemployed, and 9.8% unemployment rate. And what we need to do is get people back to work. And this is something that does that.” Discussing the tax bill in length, Eizenga said that there are parts of the bill progressives disagree with but overall the bill would be good for the country.