The firestorm that greeted newly elected Congresswoman (D-MN) Ilhan Omar’s tweets about the Israel lobby’s clout in Congress reveals as much about her critics as it does about the rising tide of progressive politicians who no longer show deference to establishment prohibitions on criticizing Israel. Having lost the moral argument about Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinian people, Omar’s critics pounced on the allegedly antisemitic tone of her comments rather than address her criticism of the US’s one-sided support for Israel. We asked several commentators to reflect on this largely manufactured controversy and what it tells us about the current limits of debate about Israel in the US today.
While mass arrests and arbitrary detentions are nothing new to Egypt, the escalation and widening pattern of arrests over the past year indicate that the authoritarian mindset of the Egyptian regime has significantly changed. Egypt under President Sisi has succeeded in reestablishing authoritarianism in a manner that is far more brutal—and far-reaching—than that of the deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Once contested, albeit controlled, battlegrounds for politics are being decimated.
Protests in Iran’s holy city of Qom reveal that social fragmentation in Iran runs so deep that even within a community as intimately related to religious learning and the state as Qom, the divisions and boundaries go beyond easy distinctions between regime and opposition, hardliner and reformer or secular and pious. The uneven nature of Iranian society, which is being exacerbated by international sanctions and ever-expanding modes of privatization and deregulation, has worked its way into all sectors of a society that is at once cognizant of this condition and also still divided.
The end of 2018 witnessed potentially promising peace talks in Geneva between the Polisario Front liberation movement of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco in an effort to kickstart the stalled peace process for the nearly 45-year conflict over this North African territory. Nevertheless, the forces protecting the status quo, and thus Morocco’s ongoing colonization of Western Sahara, remain durable, and it is unclear whether this new round of talks will presage a broader resolution to one of the oft-forgotten conflicts of our times.
The attack on UNWRA is part of a full-spectrum assault on the Palestinian people’s rights and capacity to engage in politics undertaken by the Trump administration since entering office in 2016. While the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner is reportedly developing a Middle East peace plan, dubbed the “deal of the century,” the administration has been preempting negotiations by imposing “resolutions” to final status issues such as Jerusalem and weaponizing financial aid to coerce the Palestinians into compliance with the US and Israel’s demands.
Middle East Report
Since the failed July, 2016 coup attempt, Turkey’s President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have consolidated their unfettered rule over Turkey. This counter-coup has been undertaken through massive purges in the military, judiciary, media and academia—with tens of thousands detained or forced into exile—the shuttering of independent civic institutions and enshrining virtually unchecked executive power in a new constitution. Contributors to Confronting the New Turkey disentangle the social, political and economic factors that led to the manifestation of this global trend in Turkey. How Erdoğan accomplished this opens a window on the autocrat’s handbook for the twenty-first century. Contributors also illuminate lines of resistance, vulnerabilities and contradictions within the New Turkey under construction.
One of MERIP’s signature issues over the years has been the question of Palestine and the Arab-Israeli conflict—partly because of its intrinsic interest but largely because so much myth and cant clouds the mainstream media coverage of this subject that independent analysis is particularly necessary. This primer by Joel Beinin and Lisa Hajjar is a good place to start in understanding what is at stake as events unfold.
FROM THE ARCHIVE
Selected articles from MERIP’s 44 years of coverage that shed light on current events.
Background to Ongoing Protests in Sudan
Anti-government protests have rocked Sudan since the beginning of 2019, with police crackdowns leaving dozens of dead and many wounded. Large crowds have taken to the streets across the country to denounce a government decision in December to triple the price of bread and to demand the end of President Omar al-Bashir’s regime. The following articles and interviews offer accounts of earlier protests and regime repression as well as an overview of US policy toward Sudan leading up to the secession of South Sudan in 2011.