In Annapolis, Conflict by Other Means

by Robert Blecher , Mouin Rabbani | published November 26, 2007

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.

War Is Peace, Sanctions Are Diplomacy

by Carah Ong | published November 23, 2007

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.

The Militancy of Mahalla al-Kubra

by Joel Beinin | published September 29, 2007

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.

Boxing In the Brothers

by Samer Shehata , Joshua Stacher | published August 8, 2007

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.

Harbingers of Turkey’s Second Republic

by Kerem Öktem | published August 1, 2007

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:

The Golan Waits for the Green Light

by Nicolas Pelham | published July 26, 2007

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.” 

Iran's “Security Outlook”

by Farideh Farhi | published July 9, 2007

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 Collateral Damage of Lebanese Sovereignty

by Jim Quilty | published June 18, 2007

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.

Forty Years of Occupation

A Forum

by Lori Allen , Yoav Peled , Samera Esmeir , Robert Blecher , Mouin Rabbani | published 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.

Strikes in Egypt Spread from Center of Gravity

by Joel Beinin , Hossam El-Hamalawy | published May 9, 2007

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. [1]

Behind Turkey’s Presidential Battle

by Gamze Çavdar | published May 7, 2007

“This is a bullet fired at democracy,” snapped Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan, 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 Erdoğan’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.

Egyptian Textile Workers Confront the New Economic Order

by Joel Beinin , Hossam El-Hamalawy | published March 25, 2007

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.

Western Sahara Between Autonomy and Intifada

by Jacob Mundy | published March 16, 2007

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.

Turkey, Cyprus and the European Division

by Rebecca Bryant | published February 25, 2007

More than 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.