This weekend, Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies (CMES) is holding a conference on “opportunities and challenges” in the Middle East–standard fare, when it comes to innocuously naming gatherings of academics. The taxpayer-funded Council claims itself “a central resource for the Yale community, the region, and the nation on issues pertaining to the Middle East” that organizes programs and events “designed to advance understanding of regional issues.” It is fair to ask whether CMES’s annual conference furthers these objectives.

Several things are remarkable about the list of conference participants on the program. The keynote speaker — you can tell a lot about who the organizers of a conference wish to identify themselves with by the choice of the keynote — is Robert Malley, the controversial former Obama adviser whose work over the past several years has been notable in its effort to absolve Yasser Arafat of blame for the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000 and his attempt to convince anyone who will listen that the key to peace in the Middle East is for Israel and Abu Mazen to go hat in hand to Hamas. This is CMES’s choice to headline its conference.

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