Israel Today speaker offers clarity among chaos in the Middle East

by | Nov 10, 2016 | Other News

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 7:30 pm, Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus

Wendy Weissman, assistant director,

Community Relations Council

Avi Melamed, an Israeli Jew, fluent in Arabic, English and Hebrew, is a former Israeli intelligence official and senior official on Arab Affairs, as well as an educator and author. In addition, he has spent more than three decades analyzing and understanding the conflicts in the Middle East and has held high-risk government, senior advisory and counter-terrorist intelligence positions in Arab cities and communities throughout the Middle East on behalf of Israeli government agencies. Melamed will visit Tidewater this month.

The Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater (CRC) and community partners continue the 2016–2017 Israel Today series as part of the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe* Family Jewish Book Festival, with Melamed, speaking about his latest book, Inside the Middle East: Making Sense of the Most Dangerous and Complicated Region on Earth. Melamed’s analysis of the Middle East has proven to be accurate, predicting events in the region.

Melamed will share details of the processes and players that are involved in shaping the face of Arab societies and outline the possible repercussions and results—including the ramifications on Israel.

The CRC recently spoke with Melamed, currently on book tour in the United States.

CRC: Can you tell us about some of your current work?

Melamed: I do briefings in Israel and in the States as well as other parts of the world, and speak to a plethora of audiences, those professionally affiliated— politicians, army personnel, and decision makers—as well as those non-professionally affiliated—academic institutions and other general audiences. I also provide tours in Israel at the Israeli-Lebanese border, the Israeli-Syrian cease fire line and the Gaza Strip area. The common denominator in doing these tours and briefings is intelligence in the Middle East. I provide the audience with the most up-to-date professional intelligence analysis of what’s going on, and I speak the same to every group— my message changes depending on the focus, not the audience. I don’t represent any political party, I simply present my own personal experience.

CRC: You serve as the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, leading the Intelligence Perspectives Program. Can you tell us about this?

Melamed: The Expert Programs (leadership programs that allow students to explore various areas of public policy through a set of diverse workshops) at The Eisenhower Institute are led by experts in their respective field, not necessarily coming from the academic world. This not-for-credit yearlong program is an opportunity for college students to expand their knowledge and interests, and ultimately aims to nurture the future leaders of the United States by teaching them to more accurately dialogue the reality in the Middle East.

The Inside the Middle East program has two main components:

1) the spotlight lectures regarding selected issues in the Middle East that I conduct, on various topics such as Challenges of Political Islam or the Ideological Roots of Political Islam; and

2) teaching the students and advancing their capacity of media literacy by teaching them skills from intelligence analysis. The students extract information from open sources taken from Middle Eastern platforms. The philosophy goes beyond the dependence of Western-based media, thereby expanding their lenses. They look directly at the agenda of the Middle East, which is not necessarily being reflected in the western world. My students learn to evaluate the reliability of these platforms from a critical thinking perspective.

The program concludes with a 10-day educational seminar in the Middle East, where students get together with both Israelis and Palestinians. The impact of the program has been huge. Students have told me the program has been ‘life changing’ and that they will never look at reality the same. The story of the Middle East is very complicated with multiple layers, but the students feel their ability to assess/ evaluate/analyze the region has been significantly improved over the course of the program. A student once told me that it doesn’t teach you what to think, it teaches you how to think, which I believe is the essence of the program.

CRC: The world seems to be so critical of Israel and sympathetic toward the Palestinians. What’s your opinion?

Melamed: There are many layers. Focusing specifically on the West, it goes back to major centers of power to public shaping, like media, academia, non-profits— major circles are shaping public opinion in the West. What makes it overwhelmingly complex is that the West does not speak the languages of the Middle East, so they rely completely on the media to convey messages. This is significant because the mediators of knowledge themselves, like journalists, are dependent upon information with limited capacity of knowing the information received. This information is conveyed in a way that is creating a very difficult challenge for people to understand what is really going on in the Middle East, and may not necessarily reflect the real agenda of those in the region.

The younger generation is very much impacted by their personal mission in the world, and is inspired by this in the context of social/environmental responsibility. They have a sort of idealistic inspired mission statement, which is very much connected to the Middle East. However, their sources of knowledge—professors, media, celebrities— that are integral in shaping young people’s minds, do not convey knowledge of the Middle East as outcome of an analytical process, but rather more of a perspective. I have outlined my own personal statement on this as a chapter in my book, The Criticism of Israel: The Knight and the Dragon.

Melamed spoke beyond the parameters of this article, offering his insight on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the impact of his “Israel Speaks Arabic” platform, Feenjan, and perspective on what could contribute to a better Middle East. To read more, “like” the ‘CRC UJFT’ on Facebook. To RSVP (required) for this free and open to the community event, visit or call 757-965-6107.

*of blessed memory