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The Juneau World Affairs Council will hold their annual world affairs forum Monday and Tuesday, focusing this year on the Middle East. The event, which is open to the public, will run from 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday and from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Alaska Southeast's Egan Library.
"Our focus (is on) who's doing what, what's going on and what can be done as steps toward peace," said JWAC board member Dave Sturdevant.
The world affairs forum strives to provide local residents a wide range of viewpoints on prominent international issues. This year's event, "Sitting Down," will present short talks from eight speakers, followed by four group panel discussions. Topics will include not only Israel and Palestine, but also Syria and Iran, and the United States' role in the region.
"Mainly it's going to be an intensive seminar from some of the people who are really involved in the issue with their whole lives, day to day," Sturdevant said.
The guest speakers were chosen for their expertise on the Middle East, with an eye toward offering audience members differing opinions, he said. The panel discussions will give attendees a chance to hear conflicting perspectives interact.
"I think it's inevitable, given the nature of the issues, particularly between Israel and Palestine - the sensitivity and strength of feeling and the long history and all that - that there's some tension between points of view. But that's a healthy thing and it's part of what we're hoping to present. And also a part of what might be of value to the audience."
Some speakers may include question and answer sessions as part of their half-hour presentations, but that is left up to them, Sturdevant said.
Attendees are welcome to come for part or all of the presentations.
This year's program was organized by Juneau's Jim Clark, with help from Clark's former law partner, Michael Thomas. Thomas, a long-time resident of Juneau now based in Washington, D.C., will moderate.
The JWAC is a volunteer-run, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. It is part of a national group, the World Affairs Councils of America, that has operated since 1918, and was formed to address concerns that the United States would lean too heavily toward an isolationist foreign policy following World War I.
The world forum is the JWAC's largest event of the year, and is made possible in part through the sponsorship of local businesses. The group also schedules monthly slide shows led by local travelers at the Gold Town Nickelodeon, and holds an annual world affairs quiz-program event at Centennial Hall.
The Juneau chapter includes 16 board members, including Board President and Mayor Bruce Botelho, and about 150 members.