Image from Annual Report

A notable Middle East Scholar with unconventional ideas was the featured guest at a special presentation for WestConn honor students.

Dr. Norton Mezvinsky, a professor of history at Central Connecticut State University, and executive director of the International Council of Middle East Studies, a new academic think tank based in Washington, D.C., discussed his view that the citizens of Israel and the Palestinian Diaspora should live together in one country — not in two separate states, as the U.S. government and others advocate.

Regarding the two-state proposal, which would give Palestinians a country of their own, Mezvinsky said, “The obstacles appear to be the most difficult and almost impossible to overcome. And Israeli expansion has probably already defeated the proposal. Each Israeli government since 1967 has confiscated more land” and religious conservatives on both sides appear to be unmoveable.

On the other hand, he said, a one-state solution would have to mean the end of the Zionist state that guarantees rights to Jews above others.

“It would end the theory of Zionism, the theory that has as its essence, the absolute theory of anti-Semitism,” Mezvinsky said. “We’ve had that kind of state for 60 years. Yet every year when there is a campaign to raise money for Israel, the argument is that Israeli Jews live in the most unsafe place for Jews in the world. Well, it can hardly be both, the safest and the most dangerous.

“A one-state solution is more democratic, more fair and many of these practical problems, perhaps not Zionism itself but the practical problems, can be worked out,” Mezvinksy said.

And, he concluded, he is optimistic that more people on both sides are hungering for peace.

Dr. Christopher Kukk, who is director of the WestConn Honors Program; Dr. John Briggs, professor of writing, linguistics and creative process; and Dr. Linda K. Rinker, provost and academic vice president, worked together to bring Mezvinsky to campus. They intend to bring more speakers to WestConn specifically to enhance the Honors Program in coming months.