Deja Vu All Over Again?

Twenty Years Later, Iranian Demonstrations Surprise the US

by Haleh Vaziri | published July 20, 1999

Two decades after Iran's Islamic revolution of 1978-79, another US administration has been surprised by violent demonstrations on the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities. The Clinton Administration and members of Congress watched with alarm and some helplessness as Iranian student protests persisted and spread--despite official warnings, the brutality of religiously inspired vigilantes claiming to protect the Islamic Republic's interests and carefully orchestrated counter-demonstrations. The US Department of State has reacted cautiously to these developments, while members of Congress--usually eager to criticize the Clinton Administration's intelligence failures--have remained silent so far.

Report from Iran

by MERIP's Special Correspondent in Iran | published July 15, 1999

International press reports have not done justice to the complexity of recent dramatic events in Iran. What began as a genuine, spontaneous student uprising in defense of press freedoms and political reforms has now been appropriated by extremist religious paramilitaries and vigilantes aiming to discredit the students and provoke a crackdown by anti-reform elements of the regime. Khatami's call for moderation in the wake of street battles between students and security forces was not an "about face" on reform, but a demand consistent with several appeals for calm issued by leading pro-reform figures and groups, including the fledgling student "Unity Council."

Assessing Israel's New Government

by Joel Beinin | published July 6, 1999

When Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak presents his coalition government to the Knesset he will receive a vote of confidence from 75 of its 120 members. Seven parties, some with incompatible positions on key issues, support the new government. In addition to Barak's One Israel list (Labor Party plus Gesher and Meimad, 26 seats), the coalition includes the Sephardi-orthodox SHAS (17 seats), the dovish-secularist MERETZ (10 seats), the politically ambiguous Center Party (6 seats), whose leaders include ministers in the previous Likud government; the secular-Russian immigrant Yisrael ba-`Aliyah (6 seats), the pro-settler National Religious Party (5 seats), and the ultra-orthodox United Torah Judaism (5 seats).

Mubarak in Washington

Assessing the US-Egyptian Bilateral Relationship

by Fareed Ezzedine | published June 30, 1999

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visits Washington this week at a time when US-Egyptian relations appear to be harmonious. Yet beneath the surface, relations may not be as cordial as they seem. Particularly discordant notes in the current US-Egyptian relationship concern free trade, regional economic integration and Egypt's human rights record. These issues will be high on the agenda during meetings between US and Egyptian officials this week.

Interpreting Israel's 1999 Election Campaign

by Joel Beinin | published April 16, 1999

The current election campaign in Israel is often portrayed as a struggle over the future of peace with the Palestinians. But according to Ephraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, "this great debate is over."[1] Most Israelis believe a Palestinian state is inevitable and that even a Likud government will accept some form of Palestinian political autonomy.

The Demise of the Oslo Process

by Joel Beinin | published March 26, 1999

Following the death of King Husayn and the accession of Abdullah II, the Clinton administration and the International Monetary Fund expressed their support for the new Jordanian ruler by committing $450 million in new aid on top of $225 million committed by the US earlier this year. The US is also increasing its annual grant to the Palestinian Authority from $100 to $400 million. Israel, on the other hand, will not receive the $1.2 billion it was promised at the October 1998 Wye summit. These financial measures are meant to sustain a Middle East peace process that has all but collapsed. King Husayn's death, the fall of Israel's Likud government, the scheduling of early Israeli elections and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision to freeze implementation of the Wye accords have rendered progress in the peace process impossible for the foreseeable future. This has led to much speculation about the effects of political changes in Jordan and in Israel on the peace process. Such crystal ball-gazing obscures an underlying reality: the Oslo process was always unlikely to result in a just and stable resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

McJihad, the Film

by Jacob Mundy | published February 2015

The themes of Adam Curtis’ new documentary Bitter Lake should be well known to those familiar with his body of work: power, techno-politics, science, managerialism and the media. The film uses the contemporary history of Afghanistan to tell a story about how polities in the West have become incapable of understanding the complex and horrible happenings around them. Traditional forms of power in the West and Afghanistan have taken advantage of the fear and confusion to consolidate their control, but at the expense of an intellectually deskilled Western public and a world that is fundamentally less governable. Bitter Lake is more fable than scholarship, but the film is nonetheless a devastating examination of how Western interventions in Afghanistan refract the vacuousness of our own politics.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

A Guide for the Perplexed

On the Return of the Refugees

by Samera Esmeir | published April 2014

You have reached the village of Kafr Bir‘im. Enjoy the clean air of the Upper Galilee. Listen to the mountain silence. Observe the elegance of the stone construction in front of you; it is left standing after the 1948 occupation of the village and its consequent destruction. And realize as well that not everything you see is in the past tense.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Do We Know Enough?

by Stephen R. Shalom | published February 2013

In January 2007, amid the furor over Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, former President Jimmy Carter made his first major public appearance about the book at Brandeis University, which defines itself as “the only non-sectarian Jewish-sponsored college or university” in the United States. He received a standing ovation, going on to say that he had chosen the word “apartheid” for his book’s title “knowing that it would be provocative” and to deliver a speech describing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands as “cruel oppression.” Carter then departed, and Alan Dershowitz, author of The Case for Israel, rose to offer a response. Half the audience walked out. A year later, the Brandeis student senate voted not to congratulate Israel on its sixtieth anniversary.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Men Behaving Badly

by Moustafa Bayoumi | published September 2012

Here we go again. A preposterous provocation easily manages to ignite fevered protests in Muslim-majority countries around the world, and everyone is worse off as a result. The episode is playing like a sequel to the 2005 Danish cartoon controversy, but with bigger and better explosions than the original.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

The Left, the Jews and Defenders of Israel

by Joel Beinin | published August 2012

When Menachem Begin first visited the United States in December 1948, a host of Jewish notables including Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, Irma Lindheim (former president of Hadassah), Seymour Melman (former president of the Student Zionist Federation) and the biblical scholar Harry Orlinsky wrote to the New York Times to issue a warning about the Herut (Freedom) Party that Begin led. Herut, they wrote, was “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.”

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

America's Pakistan

by Zia Mian , Sharon K. Weiner | published March 2012

American policymakers and their advisers are struggling with the question of Pakistan. The last ten years have produced a host of policy reviews, study group reports, congressional hearings and a few academic and more popular books, with more expected as the 2014 deadline for the end of US major combat operations in Afghanistan nears. Much of this literature sees Pakistan as a policy problem and seeks to inform Washington’s debate on how to get Pakistan to do what the United States wants it to do. The literature also reveals the limits of American knowledge and power when it comes to Pakistan.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Dramas of the Authoritarian State

by Donatella Della Ratta | published February 2012

During August of 2011, which corresponded with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, viewers of the state-run satellite channel Syrian TV might have stumbled upon quite a strange scene: A man watches as a crowd chants “Hurriyya, hurriyya!” This slogan -- “Freedom, freedom!” -- is a familiar rallying cry of the various Arab uprisings. It was heard in Syrian cities, including Damascus, when protesters first hit the streets there on March 15, 2011. But it was odd, to say the least, to hear the phrase in a Syrian government-sponsored broadcast. Until that moment, state TV had not screened any such evidence of peaceful demonstrations in Syria.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

Art in Egypt's Revolutionary Square

by Ursula Lindsey | published January 2012

On January 7, under a clear chill sky, the monthly culture festival al-Fann Midan (Art Is a Square) took place in Cairo’s ‘Abdin plaza. In the sunny esplanade facing the shuttered former royal palace, spectators cheered a succession of musical acts, took in a display of cartoons and caricatures, and wandered from tables selling homemade jewelry to others handing out the literature of the Revolutionary Socialists or the centrist Islamist party al-Wasat. The drama troupe Masrah al-Maqhurin (Theater of the Oppressed) put on a series of skits requiring audience participation. In the first, a daughter left the family house against her father’s will, and with her mother’s connivance, to attend a birthday party. She was caught and reported by her brother, and then beaten by her father. In the participatory iterations that followed, a young woman from the audience chose to play the brother and, to much laughter, told the sister: “I won’t tell Dad I saw you in the street if you don’t tell him I was at the café.” Another audience member played the mother, working arduously but in vain to convince the father to allow the girl out of the house under her brother’s supervision. Interestingly, no one in the audience chose to incarnate -- and change the behavior of -- the authoritarian and violent father.

Interventions

Interventions is a feature in Middle East Report Online offering critical reviews of important Middle East-related books, films and other cultural production. Click here for past Interventions articles.

The Fiction (and Non-Fiction) of Egypt's Marriage Crisis

by Hanan Kholoussy | published December 2010

In August 2006, a 27-year old pharmacist started blogging anonymously about her futile hunt for a husband in Mahalla al-Kubra, an industrial city 60 miles north of Cairo in the Nile Delta. Steeped in satirical humor, the blog of this “wannabe bride” turned into a powerful critique of everything that is wrong with how middle-class Egyptians meet and marry. The author poked fun at every aspect of arranged marriage -- from the split-second decisions couples are expected to make after hour-long meetings about their lifetime compatibility to the meddling relatives and nosy neighbors who introduce them to each other. She joked about her desperation to marry in a society that stigmatizes single women over the age of 30. She ridiculed bachelors for their unrealistic expectations and inflated self-images while sympathizing with the exorbitant financial demands placed on would-be husbands. Thirty suitors and four years later, the pharmacist remains proudly single at 32, refusing to settle for just any man.