By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
US President Clinton announced this week the appointment of Dr. Shibley Telhami, the first Palestinian American scholar to serve as a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace.
The United States Institute of Peace is a bipartisan board established in 1984 by an Act of Congress to promote international peace and the resolution of international conflict without violence through education, training, research, and public information.
Telhami currently holds the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, and is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution
Telhami told Albawaba.com that he is expected to be confirmed by the Senate a year from now and expects no opposition to his appointment. He said, however, that he has to go through a three-month period of thorough FBI investigation for security clearance.
Telhami was born on Mount Carmel in Haifa where he went to an Arab high school. He then moved to the US where he became a US citizen. His family originates from the Palestinian town of Bethlehem, where they lived until the early 19th Century before moving to the Haifa area.
Telhami, who is considered an expert on Middle East issues, said he refuses to speak on behalf of one side of the conflict or another. He noted when the US media call on him for comment, he tells them “if you want me to tell you how the Arabs or the Palestinians feel, I can, but I am not going into debate.” He said he role is basically to educate. “I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the Middle East. The best I can do is to be intellectually honest and put out some views that are not part of the mainstream debate,” he said.
Telhami says the Board of the US Institute of Peace is very influential because it is not just an honorary board. It actually shapes the direction of research and grants for the Institute, which is funded by Congress, and awards very large grants to institutions around the country.
Telhami sees his public posture as intended to educate the mainstream in the US as an expert and not as propagandist. His role as member of the Board of the US Institute of Peace is to shape what goes on behind the scenes and the orientation of the Institute with regard to the policies and programs. “ Those are usually the areas that have huge consequence because they frame the agenda and the public doesn’t see it”, he said. “But that’s the one that ultimately decides the rules of the game in certain arenas.”
Telhami received a B.A. in Mathematics from Queens College of CUNY, an M.A. in Philosophy and Religion from GTU-Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley.
Most recently he has been Associate Professor of Government and Director of the Near Eastern Studies Program at Cornell University and a Visiting Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center. Among his publications are Power and Leadership in International Bargaining; The Path to the Camp David Accords (Columbia University Press, 1990); International Organizations and Ethnic Conflict, ed. with Milton Esman (Cornell University Press, 1995); and numerous articles on international politics and Middle Eastern affairs. Besides his academic activities, Professor Telhami has been active in the foreign policy arena and has been a contributor to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)