The Dynamics of Egypt's Elections

by Mona El-Ghobashy | published September 29, 2010

No one thinks parliamentary elections in Egypt are democratic or even semi-democratic. The elections do not determine who governs. They are not free and fair. They install a parliament with no power to check the president. The government National Democratic Party (NDP) always manufactures a whopping majority, never getting less than 70 percent of the seats. The opposition is kept on a tight leash, restrained by police intimidation, rampant fraud and severe limits on outreach to voters. And citizens know that elections are rigged, with polling places often blocked off by baton-wielding police, so few of them vote.

Contesting Past and Present in Silwan

by Joel Beinin | published September 17, 2010

On September 1, Elad -- a Hebrew acronym for “To the City of David” -- convened its eleventh annual archaeological conference at the “City of David National Park” in the Wadi Hilwa neighborhood of Silwan. Silwan, home to about 45,000 people, is one of 28 Palestinian villages incorporated into East Jerusalem and annexed by Israel after the June 1967 war. It lies in a valley situated a short walk beyond the Dung Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. Elad, a militant, religious, settler organization, claims that Silwan is the biblical City of David mentioned in the second book of Samuel and that the Pool of Shiloah (Siloam) located there watered King Solomon’s garden.

Hizballah's Domestic Growing Pains

by Marlin Dick | published September 13, 2010

The term dahiya (suburb) is a staple of Lebanese political discourse, practically shorthand for Hizballah, the Shi‘i Islamist party seated in its infamous headquarters just south of Beirut. Before the civil war, the suburb, or more precisely suburbs, consisted of several small towns surrounded by orchards that began where the capital ended. Today, it is a heavily congested urban sprawl replete with higher-income neighborhoods, such as Jinah, where international chains such as Burger King, BHV, Monoprix, Spinneys and the Marriott have opened since the end of the civil war in 1990. Administratively, the dahiya lies in a half-dozen municipalities, and only one of these, Harat Hurayk, home to Hizballah’s party offices, is usually the “dahiya” that politicians and pundits have in mind.

Hamas Back Out of Its Box

by Nicolas Pelham | published September 2, 2010

Every year or so the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas confounds the Western policymakers who have worked to deny it power since its electoral triumph in January 2006. If the goal of Western policy is to keep the Islamists out of sight, out of mind, then Hamas is like a jack-in-the-box, periodically jumping out of its confines to general surprise and consternation.

Disaster Strikes the Indus River Valley

by The Editors | published August 17, 2010

The flooding of most of the Indus River valley in Pakistan has the makings of a history-altering catastrophe. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 20 million Pakistanis are in dire need, many of them homeless or displaced, others cut off from help by fallen bridges and submerged highways, untold numbers lacking supplies of food and potable water. In the August heat, waterborne disease is a mortal peril, especially to children, 3.5 million of whom are said to be vulnerable. Measured in numbers of people affected, says OCHA spokesman Maurizio Giuliano, “This disaster is worse than the tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and the Haiti earthquake.”

The PKK and the Closure of Turkey's Kurdish Opening

by Alexander Christie-Miller | published August 4, 2010

At a community hall in Diyarbakır, a majority-Kurdish city in southeastern Turkey, a shrine is draped with the illegal flag of the Kurdistan Workers Party, otherwise known as the PKK. On top of the flag is a framed photograph of Özgür Dağhan, a young man who died fighting for the outlawed rebel group. Looming above, a poster shows the grinning visage of the imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, whose organization’s war with the Turkish state has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives. Since the PKK canceled its one-year ceasefire on June 1, scenes such as this one are once again common.

Travesty in Progress

Omar Khadr and the US Military Commissions

by Lisa Hajjar | published July 26, 2010

At 23, Omar Khadr is the youngest of the 176 people still imprisoned at the US military’s detention facility in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He has been there for eight years, one third of his life.

Jordan's Risky Business As Usual

by Jillian Schwedler | published June 30, 2010

Political reformers in Jordan are struck by a sense of déjà vu. Jordan has been parliament-free since November 2009, when King ‘Abdallah II dissolved the legislature for not moving fast enough on his program of economic reform. The deputies had yet served even half of their four-year terms. Since then, a hastily assembled rump cabinet has been publishing its own laws, largely the very measures championed by the king but rejected or stalled by the last legislature. The king has done this before; for two years between 2001-2003, Jordan was without an elected assembly, during which time the cabinet introduced more than 200 “temporary laws.”

The Green Movement Awaits an Invisible Hand

by Mohammad Maljoo | published June 26, 2010

It is the custom of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, to devise a name for each Persian new year when it arrives. On Nowruz of the Persian year 1388, which fell in March 2009 Gregorian time, he proclaimed “the year of rectifying consumption patterns.” But Iranians would not be content to mark 1388 simply with thrift. That year of the Persian calendar turned out to be the most politically tumultuous since the revolution that toppled the Shah, as the loosely constituted Green Movement mounted massive street protests against election fraud.

Grave Injustice

Maher Arar and Unaccountable America

by Lisa Hajjar | published June 24, 2010

On June 14, the Supreme Court buried the prospect of justice for Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin who was “extraordinarily rendered” by the United States (via Jordan) to Syria in 2002. Arar was suing the US officials who authorized his secret transfer, without charge, to a country infamous for torture. With the justices’ 22-word statement, the case of Arar v. Ashcroft exited the American legal system and entered the annals of American legal history under the category “grave injustice.” Alphabetically, Arar precedes Dred Scott v. Sanford, which upheld slavery, and Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the internment of Japanese Americans. In this case, however, the grave is literal: Arar spent ten months of his year in Syrian custody confined in what he describes as “an underground grave.”

Israel's Palestinian Minority Thrown Into a Maelstrom

by Jonathan Cook | published June 16, 2010

The first reports of Israel’s May 31 commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla surfaced among the country’s 1.4 million Palestinian citizens alongside rumors that Sheikh Ra’id Salah, head of the radical northern wing of the Islamic Movement of Israel, had been shot dead on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara. Salah is alive, but at the time his demise seemed confirmed when it emerged that large numbers of police had been drafted into northern Israel, where most of the Palestinian minority lives, in expectation of widespread violence.

Cyprus' Continuously Returning Past

by Rebecca Bryant | published June 3, 2010

The April 18 victory of a nationalist candidate in the Turkish Cypriot presidential election threw international observers of the Cyprus negotiations into mourning. They had to bid farewell to Mehmet Ali Talat, the leftist leader who had swept to power in 2004 in the wake of a popular revolution against long-time leader Rauf Denktaş, a man known for his ties to military and ultra-nationalist elements in Turkey and his intransigent stance toward negotiating with Greek Cypriots. Talat’s backers also saw conservatives cement the hold on power they had begun to regain in parliamentary elections in 2009.