On April 26, 2010, the student senate at the University of California-Berkeley upheld, by one vote, an executive veto on SB 118 — the student body resolution endorsing divestment of university funds from General Electric and United Technologies, two companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Proponents of the resolution needed 14 votes to override the veto and, as 16 senators had spoken in favor of doing so, it appeared a simple task.
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.
Militant Islam is under global scrutiny for clues to conditions that foster its rise, and to strategies for reversing that growth. But the key is not in Islamic doctrine, US foreign policy or formal ties to various nations, as many analysts have asserted. It lies at the community level, with clan and local leaders.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, jihadists remain a minority in Muslim countries. Yet armed militants and suicide bombers continue to wreak havoc worldwide and militant recruitment shows no sign of abating. The reason is found where most recruitment occurs: ungoverned areas of failing or repressive states where public resources are stolen, wasted or otherwise not used for productive social ends.
Widespread apprehension attended the June 2005 election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, at least among those Iranians who had approved of the country’s direction under the reformist clerics led by President Mohammad Khatami. Their worries had little to do with Ahmadinejad’s signature campaign issue, the flagging Iranian economy, and much to do with potential reversal of the political and cultural opening under Khatami, now that hardline conservatives controlled every branch of the government.
The longest and strongest wave of worker protest since the end of World War II is rolling through Egypt. In March, the liberal daily al-Masri al-Yawm estimated that no fewer than 222 sit-in strikes, work stoppages, hunger strikes and demonstrations had occurred during 2006. In the first five months of 2007, the paper has reported a new labor action nearly every day. The citizen group Egyptian Workers and Trade Union Watch documented 56 incidents during the month of April, and another 15 during the first week of May alone. 
As the Bush administration struggles with occupying Iraq, the anti-war movement is in the midst of intense self-evaluation. For all of the movement’s success in raising doubts about and opposition to the March 2003 invasion, as of July George W. Bush’s war is still popular among Americans. The war caused thousands of Iraqi civilian deaths, and Iraqis may be dying for years to come due to widespread use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium munitions. While some local Kurdish and Shi‘i leaders have cautiously decided to work with the occupation regime, the inability of US forces to restore law, order or public services, along with the imperial style of US viceroy L. Paul Bremer, have led to increasing opposition to the occupation among ordinary Iraqis. Yet sentiment among Americans, amidst concerns over post-war casualties and the missing weapons of mass destruction, still supports (albeit cautiously) the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The 1979 Camp David peace treaty may have brought an end to formal hostilities between Egypt and Israel, but their peace is a cold one. Moreover, there has always been a wide gap between how this treaty shapes Egyptian foreign policy and popular Egyptian sentiment toward Israel. Since Camp David, Egyptian academics, artists and professionals have expressed their opposition primarily through a policy of “anti-normalization,” whose logic is simple. While Egyptian citizens cannot erase President Anwar Sadat’s signature from the accord, they can ensure — by refusing to travel to Israel, by blocking the kind of cultural and professional ties expected of neighbors at peace — that relations between the two countries will remain distinctly abnormal.
For a few days in October 2000, near the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, it looked as though Egypt's student movement had finally found its voice again after years of quiescence. Students at Cairo University and other schools demonstrated daily and even clashed with security forces during attempts to march on the Israeli embassy to show their solidarity with the Palestinians. When this movement petered out soon after it began, most observers sympathetic to the student movement shook their heads and lamented the loss of Egypt's activist spirit.
Under pressure to solve immediate economic problems, Middle Eastern countries seek to industrialize as quickly and as cheaply as possible. While developed countries around the world are very slowly adopting technologies and production methods that exert less pressure on the environment, Western industry at the same time sells its old, polluting technologies to less developed countries at cut-rate prices. Too often, the myopic drive for quick economic gains means that destruction is taken for development and deterioration for progress. Greenpeace and other international and local organizations are combating this mindset on several fronts.
In 1990, citizens of Alexandria organized to fight the loss of public access to a street in a main downtown square. The city had given the street to the World Health Organization for a planned expansion of their local offices. In a landmark case against then-governor Ismail al-Gawsaqi, the citizens’ group, Friends of the Environment and Development-Alexandria (FEDA), argued that city authorities had denied the public’s right to “locational memory” and open space in overcrowded Alexandria. Elderly residents testified in court about their memories of promenades on the street. In a piece of effective political theater, group members sitting in court attached flowers to their lapels and laid flowers on the street outside, to symbolize their mourning of the passing of urban space. The group’s tactics were mocked at first. But in the end, the judge ruled that the allocation of the street for the WHO expansion violated the constitutional principle that “public resources should be used in the public interest.” The WHO announced it would move to Cairo, though the offices are still in Alexandria at present.
As US policy supporting the continuation of sanctions on Iraq becomes ever more isolated abroad, domestic criticism of sanctions also mounts. Opponents of sanctions gained new visibility in February 1998 at Ohio State University, when pointed questions from the audience disrupted the Clinton administration's carefully staged "town meeting." (See Sam Husseini's "Short-Circuiting the Media/Policy Machine," Middle East Report 208, Fall 1998.) Activists now speak of an anti-sanctions movement drawn primarily from faith-based and peace groups.
Mordechai Bar-On, In Pursuit of Peace: A History of the Israeli Peace Movement (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1996).
Iman Abdel Megid Hamdy, “Dissenters in Zion: The Bi-nationalist and Partitionist Trends in the Politics of Israel,” unpublished PhD dissertation (Cairo University, Department of Political Science, 1996).
Reuven Kaminer, The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada (Brighton: Sussex Academic Press, 1996).
Simona Sharoni, Gender and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995).
Cairo — a city home to upwards of 14 million inhabitants — is known to be one of the most polluted cities in the world. Although measures of pollutants in some places in Cairo exceed internationally recognized standards, popular collective action organized around environmental issues is rare. The case of ‘Izbat Makkawi, an industrial area in northern Cairo, and the successful struggle of the residents there to close local lead smelting factories is a reference point regarding possible forms of popular organizing in response to environmental pollution and sheds light on the limits and merits of community participation as experienced within the wider political context in Egypt.
The scandal has not yet received the national media attention it deserves, but West Coast activists are up in arms about revelations that the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith secretly employed a self-styled art dealer named Roy Bullock to collect information on a wide range of individuals and organizations deemed anti-Jewish or hostile to Israel, including Rep. Ron Dellums, the ACLU, New Jewish Agenda, MERIP and many Arab-American, Palestine solidarity and anti-apartheid activists and groups. Bullock, who was employed by the CIA in El Salvador in the 1980s and also served as an FBI informant, worked for the ADL for more than three decades, amassing a database that included files on some 12,000 individuals and 950 organizations.
We may come to recall 1992 as the year of the peace activist in the burgeoning literary and cinematographic record of the Palestinian intifada. By rupturing the structure of the occupation, Palestinian popular collective action and the decisions of the nineteenth Palestine National Council expanded the possibilities for political initiatives by Palestinian and Israeli supporters of a “two-state solution,” including new forms of Palestinian-Israeli collaboration. As this perspective gained credibility as a realizable historical project, its proponents received increasing attention.
Once again the American peace movement faces the threat of war. In the 1960s and 1970s it was Vietnam, in the 1980s Central America and the nuclear threat, and now it is Arabia. This dangerous moment calls for a major change of direction for peace and anti-intervention forces. Activities underway before the crisis — the peace dividend campaign, redefining global security — have been sidetracked. Everything now depends on the outcome of the crisis in the Middle East.
Although press coverage has been scant, many groups in cities across the country have already begun organizing, and a growing movement is emerging. Most groups are united around five political demands: