This, our two-hundredth issue of Middle East Report, addresses the sensitive topic of minorities in the Middle East. The articles examine the relations of power that create and preserve or challenge and displace the politics of difference in a variety of contexts. National, ethnic, religious and sectarian differences make conflict the most popular idiom of socio-political analysis in studies about the Middle East. Unlike the dominant assumptions in Western mainstream discourse — that conflicts among peoples in the region have existed since time immemorial and are motivated not by logic or history but by deep-seated primordial attachments — we argue that power and the politics of difference are always constructed, mediated and politicized in specific and contextualized ways.
In arguing that power and identity are both fluid and relational, we are intervening in a discussion about minority/majority relations that has come a long way from the days when the now infamous “mosaic” paradigm reigned supreme. Questions about the relationship between power and identity differences are fundamentally political, i.e. about power. A progressive agenda must engage these issues because they go to the heart of many of the hostilities that plague societies throughout the region. Efforts to redress identity based inequality and exclusion mark some of the most inspiring efforts of collective political action. We hope that readers of this issue will see the entire question of “minorities” in the Middle East as meaningful, problematic and in need of further critical inquiry.
As we noted in our recent appeal letter, 1996 marks MERIP’s twenty-fifth year as an organization. We are now well launched into a transition that will diversify the ways we carry out MERIP’s basic mission to educate the public about the Middle East. In addition to publishing Middle East Report, we are undertaking new projects both in the Middle East and Europe. We are cooperating with the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies to translate and disseminate throughout the Arab world selected articles from Middle East Report. We are planning a workshop in Cairo in 1997 to coincide with a future issue of Middle East Report that will examine the social geography of Cairo. These projects, and others to be organized in Europe, will expand the flow of information and analysis into the magazine, and provide fora for reaching new audiences.
These ambitious plans necessitate ambitious funding strategies, and we are actively exploring grant opportunities with North American and European foundations. As an independent organization, we also continue to rely heavily upon gifts provided by you, our readers. Even with the significant downsizing of MERIP staff, we still run an annual deficit of roughly $40,000 — the difference between what it costs to produce the magazine versus income generated by it. If you normally read Middle East Report in a library or buy it at a newsstand, please subscribe. If you are a subscriber but have not yet sent us a tax-deductible contribution for 1996, please do so now and be as generous as you possibly can. If you have already contributed, please consider an additional amount in response to this appeal. If you want to benefit your local library or friends, please send in gift subscriptions on their behalf.