Issue 304 (Fall 2022) Masthead

  Middle East Report, “Football—Politics and Passions,” Fall 2022, No. 304, Vol. 51 No. 3   Executive Director Mandy Terc mandyterc@merip.org Executive Editor Katie Natanel katienatanel@merip.org Managing Editor Marya Hannun maryahannun@merip.org Photo...

The Politics and Passions of Football

The Fall 2022 issue of Middle East Report, “Football—Politics and Passions,” examines the regional and global importance of the beautiful game in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. The authors of issue 304 reflect on the multiple ways football moves individuals and systems between South Asia, the Gulf states, Palestine, the Maghreb, Sudan, Egypt and Britain’s post-industrial North.

The Egyptian Legion

During the First World War, innumerable imperial subjects were called into military service. More than 600,000 Africans and Asians deployed to various European fronts. Approximately a million and a half Indians fought on behalf of the Allies.[1] The Middle East, one...

Rethinking Informal Labor Through the Lens of Film Production in Cairo

Many movies, television shows and advertisements film on location in the busy and crowded streets of Cairo. Mariz Kelada explains with ethnographic detail the complex and multilayered work of production assistants, fixers and sub-fixers to create the right conditions and relationships for filming in diverse neighborhoods and navigating inevitable tensions. Despite their precarious status as informal workers, she makes the case that their labor is integral to the formal system of media production in Egypt.

Bitcoin Cannot Free Palestine

Could the use of Bitcoin allow Palestinians to escape Israeli control over the economy and money in the West Bank and Gaza Strip? Hadas Thier examines the arguments of the crypto enthusiasts and finds serious problems with their vision of liberation via Bitcoin. Thier talks to political economist Sara Roy, whose scholarship on de-development in Gaza is being used by some Bitcoin boosters, about the real roots of Palestinian oppression and why cryptocurrencies are not the solution.

The Shifting Politics of Debt in Turkey

State-sponsored credit campaigns are not a new strategy for Turkish governments but the low-interest consumer loans that were extended to almost 7 million people in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic surpassed all earlier financial inclusion programs. Inviting masses into the financial sector amid stagnating or declining real wages and expecting people to reinvent themselves as entrepreneurs or small-scale investors were the main pillars of the project. It did not, however, solve the problems faced by low-income groups, women and minorities. Ali Rıza Güngen examines the state’s shifting approach to debt and the consequences for borrowers.

The Financial Ties that Bind the Arab Gulf Monarchies and the United States

In July 2021, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner obtained a $2 billion investment for his newly formed private equity firm, Affinity Partners, from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Notably, the deal was approved despite opposition from the Saudi fund’s investment screening panel. According to the minutes of the panel, objections to the investment plan included a major fee that “seems excessive,” the “inexperience of the Affinity Fund management” and a due diligence determination that the firm’s operations were “unsatisfactory in all aspects.” The panel was overruled, however, by the sovereign wealth fund’s board, controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

The Networks, Strategies and Implications of Chinese Industrial Cooperation in the Middle East

Special economic zones are fast becoming the instrument of choice for African countries looking to attract mobile capital and increase their integration into global markets. Among the many initiatives planned or in operation on the continent are a series of economic cooperation zones in six African countries, all established with financial and technical support from China. The Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (SETC-Zone) in Egypt, established in 2008, is a flagship of Chinese zone-based cooperation in participating African countries and an important example of the impact Chinese industrial zones have on the development pathways of host locations.

Currencies of Power

The summer 2022 issue of Middle East Report, “Currencies of Power,” examines the contemporary global economy to highlight how the tightening noose of global capital is suffocating the region’s working classes. MERIP has always been dedicated to issues of justice in the Middle East and North Africa—in Palestine, for gay and trans people and for victims of US imperialism and its dependent dictatorial regimes. But when it began in 1971 MERIP was also committed to a materialist political economy perspective and Marxist frames of analysis. Articles covered regional relations with the Soviet bloc and the (often largely symbolic) socialist features of the postcolonial Arab governments.

A Suggested Reading List on Settler Colonialism

To complement MERIP’s special issue on settler colonialism, this reading list includes books and articles that map the burgeoning field of settler colonial studies. Although the practices of theorizing, teaching and activism are entwined, we broke the list into sections to aid readers who wish to explore settler colonialism and decolonization from slightly different angles.

Genocide, Historical Amnesia and Italian Settler Colonialism in Libya—An Interview with Ali Abdullatif Ahmida

In the late 1920s, the Italian fascist regime implemented a campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern Libya to create more land for Italian settlers and quell armed resistance to colonization. Ali Abdullatif Ahmida’s new book, Genocide in Libya: Shar, a Hidden Colonial History, examines this forgotten case of settler-colonial violence. Jacob Mundy talks to Ahmida about the genocide, the kind of research methods he had to develop to uncover this history and its present-day relevance.

How the Fishing Industry Strengthened Morocco’s Occupation of Western Sahara

The United Nations considers Western Sahara to be the last African colony. Until 1975 it was a non-self-governing territory legally recognized as being administered by the European colonial power of Spain. Instead of achieving independence when Spain withdrew, Western Sahara and its offshore waters were seized by Morocco in what many observers view as a settler-colonial occupation.

The Question of Palestinian Statehood and the Future of Decolonization

Is statehood the desired end goal of decolonization struggles or is it instead a useful tool along the way to achieving national liberation? The answer to this question has been at the heart of many national liberation movements since the twentieth century. Most struggles for decolonization have pursued the creation of a sovereign independent nation state as a right that is enshrined in international law with the 1960 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514, which defined colonialism as a crime and specified that “all people have an inalienable right to complete freedom, the exercise of their sovereignty and the integrity of their national territory.” This resolution granted colonized people the internationally recognized right to political independence and self-determination.

Indigenous Wine and Settler Colonialism in Israel and Palestine

In 2008 the first Palestinian wine made from indigenous grapes was released, introducing a discourse of primordial place-based authenticity into the local wine field. Six years later, Israeli wineries started marketing a line of indigenous wines. Since then, a growing number of Palestinian and Israeli winemakers and scientists have been using the research, production and marketing of indigenous wines to bolster their historical claims to the land. These producers have emerged in a global era in which terroir—defined as an idiosyncratic combination of soil, climate, culture and history that gives food its distinct taste—shapes economic and cultural value. Against the dominance of international grape varieties, the indigenous turn in the wine world is mobilizing genetics, enology and ancient texts to rewrite the Israeli and Palestinian landscapes.

“But if I don’t steal it, someone else is gonna steal it” – Israeli Settler-Colonial Accumulation by Dispossession

In a video clip widely shared on social media platforms in late April 2021, Mona al-Kurd (a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood) is seen confronting Jacob Fauci (an Israeli Jewish settler from Long Island) in the yard of her family home.[1]Mona al-Kurd speaking with Yaakov Fauci in Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, April 2021 (Screen shot from video posted to Instagram.)“Yaakov, you know this is not your house?” she said. “Yes,” he replied, “but if I go you don’t go back [either]. So, what’s the problem? Why are you yelling at me? I didn’t do this. I didn’t do this…It’s easy to yell at me but I didn’t do this,” he categorically responded. “You are stealing my house,” al-Kurd continued, to which Fauci countered, “Yes, but if I don’t steal it, someone else is gonna steal it.”

Settler Entanglements from Citrus Production to Historical Memory

Although settler colonies are often depicted as unique and distinctive, Muriam Haleh Davis argues that analyzing settler colonialism in a global framework reveals their multiple commonalities. Here she examines the large-scale production of citrus in Algeria, Israel and California as one fascinating example of the myriad links—both economic and ideological—that bound different settler-colonial projects. Davis also explores the serious ramifications for historical memory and contemporary politics of viewing these projects as exceptional.

France, a Settler Postcolony?

With the French presidential election currently underway, Olivia C. Harrison’s timely intervention explains the central role that the history and memory of French Algeria continue to play in the country’s politics, culture and society. She shows how the perverse calls by nativist and right-wing groups for the “decolonization of France” and the repatriation of immigrants have been shaped by the experience of settler colonialism and the Algerian War of Independence, with repercussions that go beyond France.

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