Middle East Report
Middle East Report Online
Newspaper Op-Eds
Press Room

Contact Info
Back Issues
Subscribe Online to
Middle East Report

Order a subscription and back issues to the award-winning magazine Middle East Report.

Click here for the order page.


Primer on Palestine, Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Click here (PDF)

[Click here for HTML version]




Middle East Report Online. Free, web-only news analysis and commentary in addition to the in-depth coverage found only in the print quarterly Middle East Report.

To view Middle East Report Online articles, choose from the menu below. Articles are listed in the order in which they were published, from the earliest to the most recent. (Click here to view blurbs of previous articles.)

Bypassing Bethlehem’s Eastern Reaches
Middle East Report Online
October 7, 2008
Nate Wright

The town of Bayt Sahour spills down the hills to the east of Bethlehem, spreading out along ridges and valleys that mark the beginning of the long descent to the Dead Sea. Up the slopes the roads carve out twisting rivers of dirt and asphalt, wending their way through clusters of soft brown stone houses, but across the ridges they run straight and smooth. 

At the end of one of these roads lies a hill called ‘Ush Ghurab, known to Israelis as Shdema, the name of the military base that sat on the summit until 2006. Today there are only a few hollowed-out buildings, thick concrete blocks with gaping windows and doorways set low behind earthen walls, to remind visitors of the previous occupants. On the northern slope, small pillboxes stare out vacantly over Bayt Sahour and Bethlehem. Full Story>>

Livni in Principle and in Practice
Middle East Report Online
September 30, 2008
Peretz Kidron

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the sitting Israeli prime minister spoke more plainly than ever before in public about what will be required of Israel in a comprehensive peace with the Palestinians and Syria. In a September 29 interview with the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Ehud Olmert said that, to achieve peace, “we will withdraw from almost all the territories, if not all the territories” that have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war, including most of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Particularly coming from Olmert, who long opposed the notion of swapping land for peace, these words might have inspired hope that deals on the Palestinian or Syrian fronts were at hand. Full Story>>

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.

Another Struggle: Sexual Identity Politics in Unsettled Turkey
Kerem Öktem
September 2008

What happens when almost 3,000 men, women and transgender people march down the main street of a major Muslim metropolis, chanting against patriarchy, the military and restrictive public morals, waving the rainbow flag and hoisting banners decrying homophobia and demanding an end to discrimination? Or when a veiled transvestite carries a placard calling for freedom of education for women wearing the headscarf and, for transsexuals, the right to work? Full Story>>

Lebanon’s Post-Doha Political Theater 
Middle East Report Online
July 23, 2008
Stacey Philbrick Yadav

After 18 months of political paralysis punctuated by episodes of civil strife, Lebanon finally has a “national unity” cabinet -- but the achievement has come at a steep price. Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and new President Michel Suleiman announced the slate for the 30-member cabinet on July 11, six weeks, and much agonizing and public criticism, after Lebanon’s major political factions agreed on Suleiman’s presidential candidacy and principles of power sharing at a summit in the Qatari capital of Doha. As with much else in Lebanon, however, the words “national unity” are sorely at odds with reality. If anything, the politicking behind the composition of this cabinet has deepened the polarization of the country. The battle lines are largely familiar: the classic sectarian divides, as well as economic and regional disparities sharpened by the lagging pace of reconstruction following the 2006 war. And the March 8 and March 14 forces, the two cross-sectarian blocs named for the protests organized by their respective camps during the 2005 “Beirut spring,” remain in polar opposition even as they sit together at the cabinet table. Full Story>>

Pakistan Amidst the Storms
Middle East Report Online
June 27, 2008
Graham Usher

Less than three months after being formed, Pakistan’s coalition government is in trouble. The leader of one of its constituent parties, Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), is awaiting a decision from the country’s Supreme Court about whether he can run in parliamentary by-elections that began on June 26. The court is packed with judges appointed by President Pervez Musharraf, the ex-general who overthrew Sharif, a two-time prime minister, in a 1999 coup. Full Story>>

Lebanon’s Brush with Civil War
Middle East Report Online
May 20, 2008
By Jim Quilty

When Israel commenced its bombardment of Lebanon on July 12, 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his general staff declared that the air raids were provoked by Hizballah’s kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers that day. As the destruction piled up over the ensuing 33 days, then, Lebanese did not ask themselves, “Why is Israel bombing us?” Rather, the question in many Lebanese minds, those of ordinary citizens and analysts alike, was “Why did Hizballah provoke this? Why now?” The implicit answer -- that the Shi‘i Islamist party was acting in the interests of its friends in Tehran and Damascus rather than those of its constituents and compatriots in Lebanon -- has reverberated through the country’s political discourse ever since, with few bothering to recall the rhetorical and historical precedents for the abduction operation. Full Story>>

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.

Lawfare and Wearfare in Turkey
Hilal Elver
April 2008

With war on its eastern borders, and renewed turmoil inside them, Turkey is transfixed by something else entirely: the desire of university-age women to wear the Muslim headscarf on campus, a seemingly innocent sartorial choice that has been forbidden by the courts, off and on, since 1980. At public meetings and street demonstrations, in art exhibits, TV ads, and dance and music performances, headscarf opponents argue vociferously that removing the ban will be the first step backward to the musty old days of the Ottoman Empire. A quieter majority of 70 percent, according to a recent poll, thinks that pious students should be allowed to cover their heads, perhaps because approximately 64 percent of Turkish women do so in daily life. There is almost no middle ground between the two poles: Even completely apolitical Turks have gravitated one way or another. Full Story>>

Underbelly of Egypt’s Neoliberal Agenda
Middle East Report Online
April 5, 2008
By Joel Beinin

It was business as usual for Orascom, a gigantic Egyptian conglomerate with major interests in everything from Cairene highway construction to Red Sea luxury resorts to cell phones in Iraq.

On February 26 Orascom Construction Industries, one of the Orascom family of enterprises, proudly announced that it had acquired the International Company for Manufacturing Boilers and Steel Fabrication (IBSF) for $13.6 million. The corporate press release trumpeted the doubling of Orascom’s steel capacity, but mentioned nothing about the fate of the firm’s workers or its recent history. Those stories, as told by a group of skilled IBSF workers -- a lathe operator, a machinery fitter, a welder and a storeroom supervisor, each with at least 20 years’ experience in the factory -- are the underbelly of the advancing neoliberal agenda in Egypt. Fearing reprisals from the firm, they asked that their names not be used and spoke in the name of their trade union committee and its president, Husayn Abu Dahab. Full Story>>

Debating Devolution in Iraq
Middle East Report Online
March 10, 2008
By Reidar Visser

In early August 2007, Jalal al-Din al-Saghir, a Shi‘i preacher affiliated with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, made headlines with striking comments to a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. The cleric revealed in an interview with Sam Dagher that “a massive operation” was underway to secure the establishment of a Shi‘i super-province in Iraq, to be named the “South of Baghdad Region,” and projected to encompass all nine majority-Shi‘i governorates south of the Iraqi capital. Saghir claimed that his party had already drafted detailed plans for how such a super-province would be governed -- plans of such importance to Iraq and the region that there was “no room for misadventures.” While Saghir did not mention a timeline for this remarkable undertaking, other Supreme Council supporters of the idea were less reticent: “The Shiite federal region will be announced in April 2008,” wrote one enthusiastic proponent. Full Story>>

Disengagement and the Frontiers of Zionism
Middle East Report Online
February 16, 2008
By Darryl Li

In mid-January, when Israel further tightened its blockade of the Gaza Strip, it hurriedly assured the world that a “humanitarian crisis” would not be allowed to occur. Case in point: Days after the intensified siege prompted Hamas to breach the Gaza-Egypt border and Palestinians to pour into Egypt in search of supplies, Israel announced plans to send in thousands of animal vaccines to prevent possible outbreaks of avian flu and other epidemics due to livestock and birds entering Gaza from Egypt. Medicines for human beings, on the other hand, are among the supplies that are barely trickling in to Gaza now that the border has been resealed. Full Story>>

In Annapolis, Conflict by Other Means
Middle East Report Online
November 26, 2007
By Robert Blecher and Mouin Rabbani

At an intersection in front of Nablus city hall, a pair of women threaded a knot of waiting pedestrians, glanced left, then dashed across the street. “What’s this?” an onlooker chastised them. “Can’t you see the red light?” Not long after, his patience exhausted, the self-appointed traffic cop himself stepped off the curb and made his way to the other side of the boulevard. Such is life in the West Bank on the eve of the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, where the Bush administration intends to create the semblance of a “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians for the first time since it assumed office. There is excitement in Palestinian towns about the urban order newly emerging from years of chaos; there is a willingness to play by the rules even as many remain convinced that doing so will not get them very far; and, lastly, there is the reality that when the waiting grows tiresome, people will again take matters into their own hands. As for the Annapolis meeting itself, it is being greeted with indifference, with few believing it will lead to either meaningful change in their daily lives or substantive progress toward the end of an Israeli occupation now in its fifth decade. Full Story>>

War Is Peace, Sanctions Are Diplomacy
Middle East Report Online
November 23, 2007
By Carah Ong

The White House is pressing ahead with its stated goal of persuading the UN Security Council to pass far-reaching sanctions to punish Iran for refusing to suspend its nuclear research program. Sanctions are what President George W. Bush is referring to when he pledges to nervous US allies that he intends to “continue to work together to solve this problem diplomatically.” The non-diplomatic solution in this framing of the “problem,” presumably, would be airstrikes on nuclear facilities in the Islamic Republic. Full Story>>

The Militancy of Mahalla al-Kubra
Middle East Report Online
September 29, 2007
By Joel Beinin

For the second time in less than a year, in the final week of September the 24,000 workers of the Misr Spinning and Weaving Company in Mahalla al-Kubra went on strike -- and won. As they did the first time, in December 2006, the workers occupied the Nile Delta town’s mammoth textile mill and rebuffed the initial mediation efforts of Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). Yet this strike was even more militant than December’s. Workers established a security force to protect the factory premises, and threatened to occupy the company’s administrative headquarters as well. Their stand belies the wishful claims of the Egyptian government and many media outlets that the strike wave of 2004-2007 has run its course. Full Story>>

Rallying Around the Renegade
Middle East Report Online
August 27, 2007
By Heiko Wimmen

Back in the fall of 2006, student elections at the American University of Beirut produced an unexpected aesthetic: female campaigners for the predominantly Christian Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of the ex-general Michel Aoun sporting button-sized portraits of bearded Hizballah leader Hasan Nasrallah on their stylish attire. “Hizballah stands for the unity and independence of Lebanon, just as we do,” went the party line, as reiterated by Laure, an activist business student clad in the movement’s trademark orange. “And imagine, the Shi‘a and us,” she mused, off-script and with a glance at her co-campaigners, covered head to toe in the black gowns of the staunchly Islamist party, but spiced up with bright orange ribbons for the occasion. “How many we will be.” Full Story>>

Boxing In the Brothers
Middle East Report Online
August 8, 2007
By Samer Shehata and Joshua Stacher

The latest crackdown by the Egyptian state on the Muslim Brotherhood began after a student demonstration at Cairo’s al-Azhar University. Dressed in black, their faces covered with matching hoods whose headbands read samidun, or “steadfast,” on December 10, 2006 several dozen young Muslim Brothers marched from the student center to the university’s main gate. Six of the masked youths, according to video and eyewitnesses, lined up in the middle of a square formed by the others and performed martial arts exercises reminiscent of demonstrations by Hamas and Hizballah. Full Story>>

Harbingers of Turkey’s Second Republic
Middle East Report Online
August 1, 2007
By Kerem Öktem

On July 23, the day after the ruling Justice and Development Party won Turkey’s early parliamentary elections in a landslide, Onur Öymen, deputy chairman of the rival Republican People’s Party (CHP), interpreted the results as follows: "If you are in need and hungry, if you are not at all content with your life, if you criticize the government every day from dusk till dawn and you then vote for the very same government, there must be something which cannot be explained with logic." Full Story>>

The Golan Waits for the Green Light
Middle East Report Online
July 26, 2007
By Nicolas Pelham

Since their government has not, Shoshi Anbal and a posse of her fellow Tel Aviv housewives are preparing to engage in diplomacy with Syria. On May 18, they assembled along the Israeli-Syrian frontier to applaud what at the time was Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s latest iteration of his call for negotiations to end the 40-year standoff over the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967, and indeed the legal state of war prevailing between the two states since 1948. “Asad! Israel wants to talk,” the women chanted. And, less reverently, “Let’s visit Damascus -- by car, not by tank." Full Story>>

Iran's "Security Outlook"
Middle East Report Online
July 9, 2007
By Farideh Farhi

Widespread apprehension attended the June 2005 election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least among those Iranians who had approved of the country’s direction under the reformist clerics led by President Mohammad Khatami. Their worries had little to do with Ahmadinejad’s signature campaign issue, the flagging Iranian economy, and much to do with potential reversal of the political and cultural opening under Khatami, now that hardline conservatives controlled every branch of the government. The opening had begun to close long before the hardliners’ accession to power, of course, but many Iranians feared that Ahmadinejad would seal it tight, by shuttering the remaining opposition or independent publications, for instance, or by censoring books, music, film and theater, dismantling satellite dishes, imprisoning political activists and more rigorously imposing an “Islamic” dress code. Full Story>>

The Collateral Damage of Lebanese Sovereignty
Middle East Report Online
June 18, 2007
By Jim Quilty

Residents of Lebanon might be forgiven for wanting to forget the last 12 months. The month-long Israeli onslaught in the summer of 2006, economic stasis, sectarian street violence, political deadlock and assassinations -- most recently that of Future Movement deputy Walid ‘Idu, who perished along with ten others in a June 13 car bomb explosion -- have weighed heavily upon the country. It is as if the dismembered corpse of the 1975-1990 civil war -- assumed to be safely buried -- has been exhumed and reassembled, all the more grotesque. Since May 20, the Palestinians in Lebanon, too, have been made to relive past nightmares. Full Story>>

Forty Years of Occupation
A Middle East Report Online Forum
June 6, 2007

An outpouring of retrospectives -- good, bad and indifferent -- has marked the fortieth anniversary of the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Predictably, and perhaps appropriately, most looks backward have also attempted to peer forward, and consequently most have focused on the impasse between Israel and the Palestinians. This question, though predating 1967 and not the only one left unresolved by the war, is nearly synonymous with “the Middle East” in the global media. Plentiful as the 1967 commentary has been, the relative silences have also spoken volumes. Middle East Report asked six critically minded scholars and analysts for their reflections on what has been missing from the conversation about Israel-Palestine occasioned by the passage of 40 years since that fateful June. Full Story>>

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 Intimate History of Collaboration: Arab Citizens and the State of Israel
Yoav Di-Capua
May 2007

Sometime in the late 1990s, employees in the Israeli State Archive unintentionally declassified an array of police documents. Many of the files consisted of the unremarkable personal data of prostitutes, petty thieves and black marketeers, but others dealt with a far more sensitive matter: the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel during the 1950s and 1960s. Though these “Arab files” also contained records of mundane criminal cases, most of the documents concerned the politically explosive subject of Palestinian Arab collaboration with the Jewish state. By means of the mistaken declassification, the actions, methods and goals of multiple Israeli security agencies among the Palestinian Arabs of Israel -- in short, the entire history of two decades of espionage directed at a group of Israeli citizens -- lay exposed. At the heart of these documents was detailed information about individuals and families and the well-guarded secrets of what they “gave” and what they “got” in return. Many retired collaborators are still alive. Full Story>>

Strikes in Egypt Spread from Center of Gravity
Middle East Report Online
May 9, 2007
By Joel Beinin and Hossam el-Hamalawy

The longest and strongest wave of worker protest since the end of World War II is rolling through Egypt. In March, the liberal daily al-Masri al-Yawm estimated that no fewer than 222 sit-in strikes, work stoppages, hunger strikes and demonstrations had occurred during 2006. In the first five months of 2007, the paper has reported a new labor action nearly every day. The citizen group Egyptian Workers and Trade Union Watch documented 56 incidents during the month of April, and another 15 during the first week of May alone. Full Story>>

Behind Turkey’s Presidential Battle
Middle East Report Online
May 7, 2007
By Gamze Çavdar

“This is a bullet fired at democracy,” snapped Recep Tayy?p Erdo?an, Turkey’s prime minister and chairman of the country’s ruling party, in reaction to the May 1 ruling by the Constitutional Court. The court had validated a maneuver by the opposition party in Parliament to block the nomination of Erdo?an’s foreign minister, Abdullah Gül, to accede to the presidency of the Turkish Republic. To deny the ruling party the quorum it needed to make Gül president, the opposition deputies simply stayed home. The pro-government parliamentarians voted on the candidate anyway, but the Constitutional Court agreed with the opposition’s contention that the balloting was illegal -- and thus null and void. After Parliament tried and failed again to elect Gül president on May 6, he withdrew his candidacy. Full Story>>

Egyptian Textile Workers Confront the New Economic Order
Middle East Report Online
March 25, 2007
By Joel Beinin and Hossam el-Hamalawy

For the last ten years Muhammad ‘Attar, 36, has worked in the finishing department at the gigantic Misr Spinning and Weaving Company complex at Mahalla al-Kubra in the middle of the Nile Delta. He takes home a basic wage of about $30. With profit sharing and incentives, his net pay is about $75 a month. His 33-year-old wife, Nasra ‘Abd al-Maqsoud al-Suwaydi, makes about $70 a month working in the ready-made clothing division of the same firm. Full story>>

Western Sahara Between Autonomy and Intifada
Middle East Report Online
March 16, 2007
By Jacob Mundy

In late February 2007, Western Saharan nationalists celebrated the thirty-first anniversary of their government, the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic. The official ceremonies did not take place in Laayoune, the declared capital of Western Sahara, but in the small outpost of Tifariti near the Algerian border. This is because most of Western Sahara is under the administration and military occupation of Morocco, which claims the desert land as its own. The Western Saharan independence movement, led by the POLISARIO Front and the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic, exists largely in exile, as does nearly half the native population. Roughly 100,000 Sahrawis have lived in refugee camps in the southwest corner of Algeria, near Tindouf, since POLISARIO proclaimed an independent republic in 1976. A generation has come of age in the camps, knowing nothing but refugee life and cut off from contact with their homeland. The other half of the population, those Sahrawis living under Moroccan occupation, have become a minority in their own country, pushed to the margins by three decades of “Moroccanization.” Full story>>

Turkey, Cyprus and the European Division
Middle East Report Online
February 25, 2007
By Rebecca Bryant

More than three years after the opening of the ceasefire line that divides Cyprus, the island is closer than ever to rupture. When the Green Line first opened in April 2003, there was an initial period of euphoria, as Cypriots flooded in both directions to visit homes and neighbors left unwillingly behind almost three decades before. But a year later, when a UN plan to reunite the island came to referendum, new divisions emerged. While Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of the plan, their Greek Cypriot compatriots rejected it in overwhelming numbers. Visits stalled, and today social relations are mired in an increasingly divisive politics. Recent polls indicate that more Cypriots on both sides of the line favor partition than reunification, while Turkish Cypriots are anxious about a spate of lawsuits over property that they occupied when the island was divided. They perceive these suits as a direct threat to their existence in the absence of an acceptable plan for reunification. Full Story>>

The Pigeon on the Bridge Is Shot
Middle East Report Online
February 16, 2007
By Ayşe Kadıoğlu

“Sometimes they ask me what it is like to be an Armenian. I tell them that it is a wonderful thing and I recommend it to everyone.” These were Hrant Dink’s opening remarks at a conference entitled “Ottoman Armenians During the Collapse of the Ottoman Empire,” held in Istanbul on September 24 and 25, 2005. Those of us lucky enough to hear the mischievous introductory lines received them with joyous laughter, but we also knew we were witnesses to a lecture of historic significance, a momentous step forward in the efforts of Armenians and Turks to come to terms with the horrors of the past. Full Story>>

The Pakistan Taliban
Middle East Report Online
February 13, 2007
By Graham Usher 

A severed head is waved before a baying crowd. The camera zooms in to show a second bloodied corpse, the eyes gouged out and a wad of cash stuffed in the mouth, swinging from a pole. He is one of 29 “criminals, drug pushers, bootleggers and extortionists” executed for running “dens of iniquity,” says the voiceover on the videotape. The last reel shows a mess of bodies, some headless, being hauled in a pickup truck along a muddy street. Young men with shaggy black hair and guns slung over their shoulders are seen watching the lynchings. “The Taliban have done the job the ‘enlightened moderates’ refused to do. May God provide us with leaders like Mullah Omar,” concludes the narrator. Full Story>>

There and Back Again in Somalia
Middle East Report Online
February 11, 2007
By Ken Menkhaus

When 2006 dawned in Somalia, the war-torn Horn of Africa nation had been without a functioning central government for 15 years. The main claimant to the title, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) formed in 2004, was unable to extend its authority beyond a small portion of the countryside. An uneasy coalition of Islamists and clan-based militia leaders -- the “Mogadishu group” -- held sway in the capital and opposed the TFG. To the north, the unrecognized, secessionist state of Somaliland and the autonomous state of Puntland remained the only portions of the country to enjoy more or less uninterrupted political stability and rule of law. Full Story>>

Winter of Lebanon’s Discontents
Middle East Report Online
January 27, 2007
Jim Quilty

In the two months since the standoff between the government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora and the Hizballah-led opposition began in earnest, the atmosphere in the Lebanese capital of Beirut has oscillated between ambient anxiety and incongruous routine. Tensions exploded on January 25, when four Lebanese were killed and over 150 wounded in street fighting that began on the grounds of Beirut Arab University near the neighborhood of Tariq Jadideh, and largely pitted Sunnis against Shi‘a. The previous day, three youths were killed as opposition backers blockaded streets and burned tires in cities across Lebanon to enforce a general strike called by Hizballah’s secretary-general, Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah. Full Story>> 

A Reckoning Deferred
From the Editors
January 12, 2007

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? That haunting question, posed by John Kerry to Congress when he was a discharged Navy lieutenant in 1971, helped to slow, and eventually stop, a pointless, unpopular war in Vietnam. That question, in part because Kerry declined to pose it anew when he was a presidential candidate in 2004, has yet to slow the unpopular war in Iraq, if anything a more massive US strategic blunder than the Southeast Asian venture. But the question unmistakably haunts the senators who shuffle before the cameras to defend or denounce the planned “surge” of 21,500 additional American soldiers into Iraq as part of the White House’s latest ploy to postpone defeat. The only politician who can dodge the burdensome query is President George W. Bush himself, who effectively announced again on January 10 that his successor will be the one scrambling to answer -- and to ameliorate the anarchy the United States will probably leave behind in Iraq. Full Story>>

Illusions of Unilateralism Dispelled in Israel
Middle East Report Online
October 11, 2006
By Yoav Peled

In 1967 Israel’s government was headed by Levi Eshkol, a politician said to be easygoing, weak and indecisive, who four years earlier had replaced the country’s founder, David Ben-Gurion, as prime minister. The Israeli public, tired of Ben-Gurion’s authoritarianism and constant exhortations to greater and greater sacrifice, had greeted Eshkol’s appointment with a sigh of relief. Israel’s chief Arab adversary at the time, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, sought to take advantage of the Eshkol government’s reputed lassitude in order to annul Israel’s achievements in the 1956 Suez campaign: the demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula and the opening of the Strait of Tiran to Israeli shipping. On Nasser’s orders, Egyptian soldiers moved into the Sinai, and Egyptian gunboats blocked the narrow waterway. Full Story>>

The Election Yemen Was Supposed to Have
Middle East Report Online
October 3, 2006
By Gregory D. Johnsen

It was supposed to be the election that changed everything. The “90 percent presidency,” wherein the incumbent of 28 years won successive terms in office by laughably large margins, would be relegated to the past. Instead, a more credible accounting of the popular will would prove to Western governments and institutions that Yemen was capable of holding a vote that was both fiercely contested and fair. That Yemen’s presidential election on September 20 would also leave the status quo firmly in place was the unspoken caveat. Full Story>>

Kuwait’s Annus Mirabilis
Middle East Report Online
September 7, 2006
By Mary Ann Tétreault

Kuwait has had an exceptional year, and it isn’t over yet -- though one might not know from reading even the alternative press in the West. Fast on the heels of two remarkable developments in the slow democratization of the emirate, a convulsion gripped another part of the Middle East, crowding Kuwait out of the news. This was a double pity. Serious news about Kuwait rarely penetrates far beyond the region in the best of times. When the story is about democratization rather than invasion or terrorism, even the most encouraging of news can evaporate without a trace. Is this because, in Kuwait, democratization has been more the product of peaceful politics than violent confrontation? If so, it spells a cavalier attitude toward a wave of progressive political change that Americans and others are presumably in favor of seeing happen across the Middle East. Full Story>>

Hizballah: A Primer
Middle East Report Online
July 31, 2006
By Lara Deeb

Hizballah, the Lebanese Shi‘i movement whose militia is fighting the Israeli army in south Lebanon, has been cast misleadingly in much media coverage of the ongoing war. Much more than a militia, the movement is also a political party that is a powerful actor in Lebanese politics and a provider of important social services. Not a creature of Iranian and Syrian sponsorship, Hizballah arose to battle Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon from 1982-2000 and, more broadly, to advocate for Lebanon’s historically disenfranchised Shi‘i Muslim community. While it has many political opponents in Lebanon, Hizballah is very much of Lebanon -- a fact that Israel’s military campaign is highlighting. Full Story>>

Israel’s War Against Lebanon’s Shi‘a
Middle East Report Online
July 25, 2006
By Jim Quilty

When Israel undertook its aerial and naval bombardment of Lebanon on July 12, one announced goal was to recover two Israeli servicemen seized by Hizballah in a cross-border raid earlier that day. The attacks upon civilian infrastructure -- beginning with Beirut International Airport and continuing with ancillary airstrips, bridges and roads, as well as port facilities in Beirut, Jounieh, Amshit and Tripoli -- were necessary, Israeli officials claim, to prevent Hizballah from smuggling the prisoners out of Lebanon. Full Story>> 

Letting Lebanon Burn
From the Editors 
July 21, 2006

Israel is raining destruction upon Lebanon in a purely defensive operation, according to the White House and most of Congress. Even some CNN anchors, habituated to mechanical reporting of “Middle East violence,” sound slightly incredulous. With over 300 Lebanese dead and easily 500,000 displaced, with the Beirut airport, bridges and power plants disabled, the enormous assault is more than a “disproportionate response” to Hizballah’s July 12 seizure of two soldiers and killing of three others on Israeli soil. It is more than the “excessive use of force” that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan decries. The aerial assault dwarfs the damage done by Hizballah’s rocket attacks on Israeli towns. Entire villages in south Lebanon lie in ruins, unknown numbers of their inhabitants buried in the rubble and tens of others incinerated in their vehicles by Israeli missiles as they attempted to escape northward. As it awaits the promised “humanitarian corridor,” Lebanon remains almost entirely cut off from the outside world by air, sea and land. As of July 20, thousands of Israeli troops have moved across the UN-demarcated Blue Line. Yet virtually the entire American political class actively resists international calls for an immediate ceasefire, preferring to wait for an Israeli victory. Full Story>>

Converging Upon War
Middle East Report Online
July 18, 2006
By Robert Blecher

"WAR," proclaimed the three-inch headline in Ma‘ariv, Israel's leading daily, the day after Hizballah launched its cross-border attack on an Israeli army convoy on July 12. With the onset of Israel's massive bombing campaign in Lebanon that evening, its aerial and ground incursions into Gaza were transformed into the southern front of a two-front conflict. But are the two fronts, in Lebanon and Gaza, part of a single war? Speaking in such terms risks misidentifying what really links Israel's actions on its northern and southern borders. Full Story>>

Gaza in the Vise
Middle East Report Online
July 11, 2006
By Omar Karmi

Five-year-old Layan cupped her hands over her ears and screwed her eyes shut when she tried to describe the effect of a sonic boom. She said the sound scares her, even though her father, Muntasir Bahja, 32, a translator, has told her “a small lie to calm her” -- that the boom is nothing more than a big balloon released by a plane and then popped. Full Story>>

Is Time on Iranian Women Protesters’ Side?
Middle East Report Online
June 16, 2006
By Ziba Mir-Hosseini

In early June, Zanestan -- an Iran-based online journal -- announced a rally in Haft Tir Square, one of Tehran’s busiest, to protest legal discrimination suffered by Iranian women. The demonstration was also called to commemorate two landmark events in women’s struggle for equality in Iran. The first was the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, when women agitated for emancipation. The second was the June 12, 2005 women’s rally for revision of the constitution of the Islamic Republic. Full Story>>

Under the Veil of Ideology: The Israeli-Iranian Strategic Rivalry
Middle East Report Online
June 9, 2006
By Trita Parsi

When Iran’s hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” in October 2005, the world appeared to be light years away from the end of history. It seemed that ideologues had once more taken the reins of power and rejoined a battle in which there could be no parley or negotiated truce -- only the victory of one idea over the other. Full Story>>

Return of the Turkish “State of Exception”
Middle East Report Online
June 3, 2006
By Kerem Öktem

Diyarbakır, the political and cultural center of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces, displays its beauty in springtime. The surrounding plains and mountains, dusty and barren during the summer months, shine in shades of green and the rainbow colors of alpine flowers and herbs. Around the walls of the old city, parks bustle with schoolchildren, unemployed young men and refugees who were uprooted from their villages during the Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s. The walls, neglected for decades, have been renovated by Diyarbakır’s mayor, Osman Baydemir of the Democratic Society Party, successor to a series of parties representing Kurdish interests. Full Story>> 

Israel’s “Demographic Demon” in Court
Middle East Report Online
June 1, 2006
By Jonathan Cook

A low-key but injudicious war of words briefly broke out between Israel’s two most senior judges in the wake of the May 2006 decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law. A temporary measure passed by the Knesset in July 2003, the law effectively bans marriages between Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israeli citizens. Full Story>>

How UN Pressure on Hizballah Impedes Lebanese Reform
Middle East Report Online
May 23, 2006
By Reinoud Leenders

When the last Syrian soldier left Lebanese territory in April 2005, jubilant crowds gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square to celebrate the coming of a new era. In Washington and Paris, the mood was also festive, as officials praised what they called Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution” as the first in a projected series of popularly led regime changes, or at least changes of regime behavior, all across the region. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proclaimed at the American University in Cairo in June, Lebanon’s “supporters of democracy [were] demanding independence from foreign masters [and] calling for change. It is not only the Lebanese people who desire freedom.” Full Story>>

The Emergence of a “Coptic Question” in Egypt
Middle East Report Online
April 28, 2006
By Issandr El Amrani

In the early morning of April 14, 2006, Mahmoud Salah al-Din Abd al-Raziq, a Muslim, entered the church of Mar Girgis (Saint George) in Alexandria’s al-Hadra district and stabbed three parishioners who had gathered for a service. Abd al-Raziq then proceeded to attack worshippers at two other churches, according to police accounts, before being arrested en route to a fourth. Nushi Atta Girgis, 78, died from his stab wounds, while several others were injured, some severely. Full Story>>

Fatah Ventures Into Uncharted Territory
Middle East Report Online
April 19, 2006
By Charmaine Seitz

Immediately after the results of the January 25 Palestinian parliamentary elections were announced, President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the public. “I am committed to implementing the program upon which you elected me,” he said. “This is a program understood by the whole world. It is a program based on negotiations and a peaceful solution for the conflict with Israel.” Abbas pointedly ignored the program of the party that won a clear majority of seats in the legislature, the Islamist movement Hamas, which advocates an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, and has claimed responsibility for tens of suicide bombings in Israel since 2000. Full Story>>

Foreboding About the Future in Yemen
Middle East Report Online
April 3, 2006

By Sarah Phillips

Within days of Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih’s departure in January to Germany for medical care, the regime’s next most prominent personality, Sheikh Abdallah bin Hussein al-Ahmar, left for Saudi Arabia. At the Sanaa airport, al-Ahmar, speaker of the Yemeni parliament, head of Islah, the country’s most popular opposition party, and paramount sheikh of Yemen’s most influential tribal confederation, pointedly announced that he was “leaving [Yemen] to Ali Abdallah Salih and his sons,” according to a source close to his family. Al-Ahmar’s words signaled that the alliance between him and the president, the cornerstone of the political status quo for nearly three decades, is close to coming undone. “He is smart,” says one local analyst. “He sees the regime’s problems and knows when to start to move independently.” Full Story>>

Dual War: The Legacy of Ariel Sharon
Middle East Report Online
March 22, 2006

By Yoav Peled

The elections scheduled for March 28, 2006 will conclude what has got to be one of the more bizarre campaigns in Israel’s history. The series of totally unexpected events began with Amir Peretz’s surprise victory over Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres in the race for the Labor Party leadership. Peretz immediately withdrew Labor from the coalition government, forcing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to call early elections. Full Story >>

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.

Reel Casbah
Peter Lagerquist with Jim Quilty
March 2006

To live the East as film is to be in Dubai in mid-December, perched front-row in the outdoor cafés that dot the Madinat Jumeira Oriental theme park. An integrated hotel, shopping and entertainment “experience” sprawled on the city’s booming beachfront rim, the Madina and its whimsy of stucco battlements mass an Arabian fort effect plucked straight from an Indiana Jones set, and as such, the red carpets and film banners that have also come to adorn it in wintertime key a double sense of enframement. From December 11-17, 2005, the Madina hosted the second annual installment of the Dubai International Film Festival, a production whose rumored budget of $10 million has quickly distinguished it as the richest Middle Eastern event of its kind. The money already draws a bevy of Arab glitterati, led in 2005 by Egyptian screen icon ‘Adil Imam. A few Bollywood players were also in attendance, and though the Hollywood guest list remains modest, returning festival guest Morgan Freeman echoed the ambition of the week with assurances that Dubai will soon be bigger than Cannes. Full Story>>



To join the MERO list (at no cost) via email, please use the following form. MERIP respects your privacy and will not sell or exchange your information.

Email Address

Join  Unjoin 


Search MERIP

Middle East Report Online Subject Index