Conversations in English and Arabic floated through the dimly lit reception room of the Madison Hotel last night where academics, journalists, members of the National Association of Arab Americans and other Middle East observers had gathered following a symposium on the Camp David agreements.
"I expected people to be much more depressed," noted Seth Tillman, who worked for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for the past 16 years and is now writing a book on U.S. interests in the Middle East. But, he said, "I think people are looking at (the agreements) from a very constructive point of view."
The people Tillman was referring to included the leaders of the National Association of Arab Americans, possibly the most prominent Arab American political organization in the country, which sponsored the symposium.
Among the guests was I.F. Stone, who said he was writing a story on the Camp David talks for the New York Review of Books.
"I, myself was impressed," said association president Hisham Sharabi, who holds the chair of Arab Studies at Georgetown University. "But it's best not to show one's personal feelings."
In a statement released at the synposium, the association said it "welcomed the progress toward Middle East peace achieved by the Camp David talks." But the Camp David document dealing with the West Bank/Gaza Strip and the Palestinians "contains no commitments on the issues that have proved to be the stumbling blocks so far" the association said.
Sharabi said his organization would act constructively to "clarify the issues to the American public and lobby to influence American policy. We're going to push as hard as we can to clarify ambiguities and expose contradictions."