During the summertime war in Gaza, the two most progressive members of the US Senate stirred up controversy among their backers with expressions of uncritical support for Israel. At a town hall meeting, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the lone Senate independent, responded to a questioner that Israel had “overreacted” with its 52-day bombardment and ground incursion, but then proceeded to justify Israel’s actions with the usual pro-Israel talking points about “missiles fired from populated areas” and “sophisticated tunnels.”  An audience member began to shout objections, to which Sanders said, “Shut up.”
In the autumn of 2011, as the international outcry against Bashar al-Asad intensified, it was impossible for the government of China to avoid being drawn into the conflict in Syria. After China joined Russia in October of that year in vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning the brutality of the Asad regime, a series of demonstrations erupted throughout the Middle East. Many protesters reserved their strongest feelings for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who had become the most visible opponent of international intervention in Syria. Yet China, which up to that point had rarely inflamed such passions in the Arab world, was also a target of the demonstrators.
Some 43 years ago, a group of activists in the movement to end the war in Vietnam founded the Middle East Research and Information Project.
The impetus was that the American public, including the anti-war left, was poorly informed about the Middle East and the US role there. The region was commonly depicted as alien, its politics uniquely determined by religion and impossible to explain with ordinary categories of analysis. The original idea behind MERIP was to produce better reporting that would get picked up by existing left outlets.
David A. Korn, Stalemate: The War of Attrition and Great Power Diplomacy in the Middle East, 1967-1970 (Westview, 1992).
In a world conditioned to perceive the rhythm of the Arab-Israeli conflict from the vantage point of downtown Tel Aviv, the Egyptian-Israeli war of attrition of 1969-1970 along the Suez Canal has rarely merited serious attention. It was, after all, Egyptian society, politics and military organization that underwent important and costly changes during this period; in Israel the effects of the conflict were barely visible beyond the immediate vicinity of the front. Yet this war of attrition was the most intense and prolonged military encounter the Arab-Israeli conflict has yet produced.
On February 16, 1989, the leaders of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and North Yemen signed an agreement forming the Arab Cooperation Council (ACC), a four-country economic trading bloc, and expressed the hope that it would lead to an Arab common market. On the same day, the leaders of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania agreed to form a Maghrib Union, the first step toward a Maghrib common market.
For years, economic analysts of all political persuasions have been commenting on the protracted economic crisis which began with the global recession of 1974-75 and continues to be the defining feature of world capitalism today. Most have restricted themselves to those manifestations of the crisis which have been particularly acute at various moments: the oil price shocks of the 1970s, Third World debt, African famine and the inability of the market to ensure adequate food supply, the US balance of payments deficit, and so forth. By contrast, Joyce Kolko’s Restructuring the World Economy (New York: Pantheon, 1988) links these and other issues in a comprehensive analysis of the crisis.
Bernard Lewis, Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice (New York: W.W. Norton, 1986).
In the 1960s, nearly all university students in Middle East history courses read Bernard Lewis’ The Arabs in History (1950), The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961) and The Middle East and the West (1964). Our teachers almost universally admired these books for their professional scholarship and clear exposition. Their attention to economic and social issues, while modest by today’s standards, was striking compared to the almost exclusive concern of Lewis’ contemporaries with religious and narrowly political topics.
Mohamed Sid-Ahmed is a Contributing Editor of this magazine and Managing Editor of Al-Ahali, the weekly of Egypt’s left opposition party, Tagammu‘. Joe Stork spoke with him in Washington in early May.
You recently attended the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers. What were your impressions?
The current situation of the Palestinian people appears grim today. But it is revealing to compare it with the situation of 20 years ago, in the wake of the June War. For while many of the problems the Palestinians face today date back at least to that cataclysmic event, other problems were undreamed of in 1967. There have been a number of fundamental changes which enable us to place these two decades in proper perspective and to appraise both the achievements and the setbacks of the Palestinian national movement, headed by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The June 1967 war was immediately seen in the Arab world as an event of catastrophic proportions. It destroyed the credibility of radical Arab nationalism, strengthened the position of Israel in the region, and left Israel in control of large areas of Arab territory — Sinai, the Golan Heights, Gaza and the West Bank. (Gaza and the West Bank were parts of Palestine occupied by Egypt and Jordan in 1948.)
Rashid Khalidi, Under Siege: PLO Decisionmaking During the 1982 War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986).
Among the many books dealing with the 1982 war in Lebanon, Rashid Khalidi’s stands out by focusing on the perceptions and decisions of that campaign’s main target: the PLO. The book asks a series of questions in order to get to those at the core: Why did the PLO leave Beirut? What were the main pressures influencing the decision first to stand and fight and then to evacuate the city? Which pressures proved successful and which ineffective?
This article, by the Lebanese novelist and literary critic, Elias Khoury, appeared in the Beirut daily, al-Safir, on February 18, 1985, immediately following what Israel has termed the first stage of its withdrawal from Lebanon. Khoury highlights the contradictions of the current situation in the region: while the invasion dealt the Palestinian national movement a serious setback, this same invasion created the basis for a major Israeli defeat and the victory of the Lebanese national resistance.
March 26, 1985, will mark the sixth anniversary of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, brokered and signed in Washington, the culmination of the “Camp David process.” What have been the consequences of this pact, and where is the peace it was supposed to usher into the region?
This report summarizes impressions of Soviet foreign policy gained during a study visit to the USSR in July 1982. During this visit, under the auspices of the Oriental Institute of the Academy of Sciences, I was able to meet a wide range of experts working in the institute, as well as journalists and foreign policy analysts attached to other publications and institutes.
While I was extremely glad to see a wealth of factual information in your recent issue "Horn of Africa: The Coming Storm" (MER 106), I was bothered by the fact that Halliday, Molyneux and, to a much lesser extent, Gilkes see Ethiopia continuing to move in a revolutionary direction “toward socialism.” But I don’t see that happening, for some fundamental reasons. The point, to me, is that the revolution in Ethiopia is long over.
MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
DATE AND TIME: June 15, 1975 12:15 to 2:35 pm
PLACE: Suite 311, Hotel Pierre, New York City
SUBJECT: Meeting with Jewish Leaders (Klutznik Group)
Kissinger: First of all, I want you to know how much I appreciate your taking off on the weekend to come here.
An Egyptian Communist Party was first established in the 1918-1920 period, but was not active again until after 1939. In this period, through the late 1950s, there were several communist organizations, the principal one being the Democratic Union for National Liberation. Following the 1952 revolution, relations with the Nasser regime were often problematic. Two labor leaders including one Communist, were executed at Kafr al-Dawwar in 1952, and in 1954-1955 a number of cadre were jailed. In late 1958 there was a fusion of the various groupings under the name of the Egyptian Communist Party, prompted in large degree by their shared opposition to the formation of the United Arab Republic with Syria.