THE BLOG
10/22/2015 04:03 pm ET | Updated Oct 22, 2016

Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia University

Those interested in Palestine/Palestinians and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict should note the Center for Palestine Studies at Columbia University. The Center runs a series of events throughout the year, the calendar is accessible at the website address above. A few days ago one such event brought together two distinguished Palestinian-origin novelists, Ms. Suad Amiry and Ms. Susan Abulhawa. This was a literary event but with a Palestinian-oriented audience it could not help but spread into a discussion of history and politics.

The Center is six years old. Its director is Professor Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies and History Department Chair. Khalidi is a prolific and outspoken scholar and intellectual, a Palestinian-Lebanese American citizen born in NYC. His father, Ismail Khalidi, was a Saudi citizen of Palestinian origins, his mother was a Lebanese-American born in the U.S. His son is the playwright, Ismail Khalidi. The Khalidis are a distinguished Palestinian family, still so in the Palestinian diaspora. "He is a member of the National Advisory Committee of the U.S. Interreligious Committee for Peace in the Middle East, which describes itself as 'a national organization of Jews, Christians and Muslims dedicated to dialogue, education and advocacy for peace based on the deepest teachings of the three religious traditions'". Reviewing Khalidi's The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, for Middle East Policy, Philip Wilcox praised "Khalidi's brilliant inquiry into why Palestinians have failed to win a state of their own" calling the book "a welcome antidote to the propaganda and mythology that still dominate American discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (Wikipedia)

Both Amiry and Abulhawa are professional architects who later became writers. Amiry, born in Damascus in 1951, is a natural raconteur and, she avowed in her presentation, a dyslexic author. Her 2003 book, "Sharon and my mother-in-law," is an ironic account of the author's life during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon when her mother-in-law sought refuge in her Damascus home. The point, she said, is that she 'didn't know which was the more invasive'. "Sharon" is translated into 19 languages, was a French best-seller, and in 2004 won the prestigious Viareggio Prize in Italy. Her new book, "Golda slept here," is an account of how her family's home in Jerusalem was taken by the Israelis, Prime Minister Golda Meir using it as her residence.

Abulhawa is the daughter of Palestinian refugees from Jerusalem where her family had lived for centuries. Her parents, born in At-Tur in Jerusalem, were refugees of the 1967 war. She was born in Kuwait in 1970. She was sent to Charlotte, North Carolina at the age of thirteen and has lived in the States ever since. Mornings in Jenin (originally published in 2006 as The Scar of David) was her first novel, an international bestseller translated into at least 26 languages. She founded an NGO called Playgrounds for Palestine that builds playgrounds in Palestine and UN refugee camps in Lebanon.