Israel’s Religious Right and the Peace Process

by Nicolas Pelham | published October 12, 2009

It would be easy to describe the residents of the outpost of Amona as radicals. In February 2006 they led protests of 4,000 settler activists, some of them armed, against 3,000 Israeli police who were amassed to make sure that nine unauthorized structures in the West Bank were bulldozed as ordered. In the ensuing clashes, 80 security personnel and 120 settlers were wounded, more than the entirety of the casualties during the 2005 “disengagement” from settlements in Gaza, in a showdown that became the symbol of the West Bank settlers’ resolve to resist the state’s efforts to tear down encampments, like their own, that were erected without the state’s permission.

Norse Code

by The Editors | published October 10, 2009

A Minnesota farm boy gets accepted to Yale. On his first day on campus, ambling down the oak-shaded lanes, he meets a toothy young swell whose blood matches his navy blazer. The two exchange words of praise for the pleasant autumn afternoon, and then the Minnesotan ventures a query.

“So,” he says, with rounded vowel, “could you tell me where the library is, then?”

The Yankee’s smile fades. “Here at Yale,” he remarks, with clipped consonant, “we do not end our sentences with conjunctions.”

“Oh,” the Minnesotan replies, pausing briefly before continuing. “Well, let me rephrase that. So, could you tell me where the library is, then, asshole?”

A Precarious Peace in Northern Iraq

by Quil Lawrence | published October 1, 2009

On a stifling August afternoon in 2008, just as Iraq was recovering from the worst of its sectarian civil war, the Arab and Kurdish parties allied with the United States came to the edge of an ethnic bloodbath whose consequences for Iraq and the region would have been every bit as frightening. The trouble started when the mayor of Khanaqin, a predominantly Kurdish city in the Diyala province along the Iranian border, received a frantic call from a police station beyond the Alwand River on the west side of town. “They told me that the Iraqi army was on its way,” said the mayor, Muhammad Mula Hassan. “No one had informed me. A minute later we heard that the Iraqi army was surrounding Khanaqin.

Dismantling the Matrix of Control

by Jeff Halper | published September 11, 2009

Almost a decade ago I wrote an article describing Israel’s “matrix of control” over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It consisted then of three interlocking systems: military administration of much of the West Bank and incessant army and air force intrusions elsewhere; a skein of “facts on the ground,” notably settlements in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, but also bypass roads connecting the settlements to Israel proper; and administrative measures like house demolitions and deportations. I argued in 2000 that unless this matrix was dismantled, the occupation would not be ended and a two-state solution could not be achieved.

Democracy, Lebanese-Style

by Melani Cammett | published August 18, 2009

Just as reports from Lebanon were indicating that a cabinet would be finalized within days, the notoriously fickle Druze leader Walid Jumblatt announced, on August 2, that his Progressive Socialist Party would withdraw from the governing coalition. Jumblatt criticized his coalition partners in the March 14 alliance, which had claimed victory in the June 7 parliamentary elections, for a campaign “driven by the re­jection of the opposition on sectarian, tribal and political levels rather than being based on a political platform.”[1] This view could apply to the campaigns of both major alliances that ran in the elections.

The Day After “Victory”: Kuwait’s 2009 Election and the Contentious Present

by Mary Ann Tétreault , Mohammed Al-Ghanim | published July 8, 2009

The May 2009 parliamentary election in Kuwait produced a number of surprising results. Occurring on the fourth anniversary of the achievement of full political rights for Kuwaiti women, the outcome attracting the most commentary was the victory of four female candidates. But there were other happenings of note. Doctrinaire religious candidates ran behind women in several districts. In fact, all of the “political groups” that function as Kuwait’s substitute for political parties did poorly on May 16, whether their orientation is center-left or religious. Even more telling is the fact that so many candidates, including several who had run as group representatives in previous elections, chose to run as independents.

Tehran, June 2009

by Kaveh Ehsani , Arang Keshavarzian , Norma Claire Moruzzi | published June 28, 2009

The morning after Iran’s June 12 presidential election, Iranians booted up their computers to find Fars News, the online mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic’s security apparatus, heralding the dawn of a “third revolution.” Many an ordinary Iranian, and many a Western pundit, had already adopted such dramatic language to describe the burgeoning street demonstrations against the declaration by the Ministry of Interior that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the sitting president, had received 64 percent of the vote to 34 percent for his main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

An Artist as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran?

by Shiva Balaghi | published June 8, 2009

Something’s happening here. In one of the largest street demonstrations in Tehran since the 1979 revolution, thousands filled Vali Asr Street (formerly known as Pahlavi Street) on Monday, forming a human chain nearly 12 miles long and stopping traffic for nearly five hours. They wore strips of green cloth around their wrists and heads in support of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi. They sang “Ey Iran,” the unofficial national anthem composed in the Pahlavi era by one of the leading figures of classical Persian music, the late Ruhollah Khaleghi. Banned for a time by the Islamic Republic, the song’s lyrical melody touches a deeply patriotic vein.

Old Wine in Older Skins

Lebanon Elects Another Parliament

by Heiko Wimmen | published June 3, 2009

On June 8, when all votes are cast and counted between the glitzy urban quarters of Beirut and the dusty hamlets of the Bekaa valley, the Lebanese elections will have produced one certain winner: the local advertising industry. Despite a newly imposed cap on campaign spending, candidates have been falling over each other to plaster the billboards along the roads and highways of this miniscule country with their oversized likenesses and airy slogans.

The Shi‘a of Saudi Arabia at a Crossroads

by Toby Matthiesen | published May 6, 2009

Deep in the morass of YouTube lies a disturbing video clip recorded in late February at the cemetery of al-Baqi‘ and on surrounding streets in Medina, Saudi Arabia. An initial caption promises images of “desecration of graves.” Al-Baqi‘, located next to the mosque of the prophet Muhammad in the second holiest city of Islam, is believed to be the final resting place of four men revered by Shi‘i Muslims as imams or successors to the prophet: Hasan ibn ‘Ali, ‘Ali ibn Husayn, Muhammad ibn ‘Ali and Ja‘afar ibn Muhammad. The prophet’s wives, as well as many of his relatives and close associates, are also said to be buried here, making the ground hallowed for Sunni Muslims as well.

Pakistan’s Troubled “Paradise on Earth”

by Kamran Asdar Ali | published April 29, 2009

Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in areas of Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) as the army has launched ground operations and air raids to “eliminate and expel” the Islamist militant groups commonly known as the Tehreek-e Taliban or the Taliban in Pakistan (TIP). The targeted districts border Swat, a well-watered mountain vale described as “paradise on earth” in Pakistani tourist brochures, where the provincial government tried to placate the Taliban by agreeing to implement Islamic law (sharia). The February agreement, the Nizam-e Adal regulation, was approved by the lower house of the Pakistani parliament on April 12 and signed into law soon afterward by the president, Asif Zardari.

The Reawakened Specter of Iraqi Civil War

by Michael Wahid Hanna | published April 17, 2009

April has already been a cruel month in Iraq. A spate of bombings aimed at Shi‘i civilians in Baghdad has raised fears that the grim sectarian logic that led the capital to civil war in 2005-2007 will reassert itself. On April 6, a string of six car bombs killed at least 37 people; the next day, shortly after President Barack Obama landed in Baghdad, another car bomb killed eight; and on the morrow, still another bomb blew up close to the historic Shi‘i shrine in Kadhimiyya just northwest of the capital’s central districts, taking an additional seven civilian lives.

Bouteflika’s Triumph and Algeria’s Tragedy

by Jacob Mundy | published April 10, 2009

Shoes and pants soaked with rain, I tagged along with a journalist from the popular Arabic daily Echorouk—his paper my umbrella—while he visited polling stations in the Belcourt neighborhood of Algiers on the day of local elections in November 2007. At the first site, disgruntled party officials quickly ejected us. We did not have the right papers, they said, and the police who looked on bored were inclined to agree. At the second station, we kept our distance. Watching for half an hour, we could count the voters who entered on two hands. Next to us stood four youths, escaping the rain under a shop awning. They laughed at us when we asked if they were going to vote. Down the road we saw an older gentleman on his way back from voting.

Introducing Algeria’s President-for-Life

by Ahmed Aghrout , Yahia Zoubir | published April 1, 2009

Across nearly the breadth of North Africa, the head of state enjoys a lifetime appointment. Morocco has a king. In Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, president since 1987, pushed for a constitutional amendment removing term limits and has now announced a bid for a fifth term in office. President Husni Mubarak of Egypt, who assumed office in 1981, is already serving his fifth term. Libyan strongman Mu‘ammar Qaddafi, in power since September 1969, has never permitted a meaningful election.

The Hazy Path Forward in Sudan

by Sarah Washburne | published March 24, 2009

On the day after the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, the wanted man addressed a pre-planned rally of thousands in front of the presidential palace in Khartoum. Bashir was defiant, denouncing the warrant as “neo-colonialism,” and praising his supporters in Martyrs’ Square as “grandsons of the mujahideen,” a reference to the participants in the Mahdiyya uprising against Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1885. The atmosphere was almost one of jubilation; one might have mistaken the crowds for soccer fans celebrating a win.