In 2019, eight years after the Arab Spring uprisings, President Béji Caïd Essebsi declared that Tunisians would commemorate the abolition of slavery on January 23 each year. It was on this date in 1846 that the then-governor of Ottoman Tunisia, Ahmad Bey, signed a decree authorizing enslaved Black people to request manumission certificates. Dating back to the medieval period, this region—like other parts of the Mediterranean and the Muslim world—had relied on the work of African as well as European enslaved men and women.
Memories of enslavement are often silenced and yet suffuse everyday life in the Gulf. As governments across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries memorialize a maritime, pre-oil Indian Ocean past as part of their nation-building projects, the Bin Jelmood House—a museum in the heart of Doha—stands as a potentially subversive space. The museum forces visitors and Gulf residents to reckon with slavery and the exploitation of labor, in the past and present. Yet the larger context around the museum begs the question: How are national imaginaries produced and deployed in the international arena through museums and heritage projects and do they illuminate or obscure historical and contemporary injustices?
Hayoun identifies himself as a Jewish Arab and traces his family history to show how Jewish Arabs were maliciously separated from their societies and how their identities were used in a game of colonial domination.
The Israeli government is keeping many of the state’s archival documents classified, censored and out of the reach of potentially critical historians. But determined scholars continue to uncover tantalizing paper trails that challenge Israel’s air-brushed official narratives.
It is no exaggeration to say that Bernard Lewis is the most influential writer on Middle Eastern history and politics in the United States today. Not only has he authored more than two dozen books on the Middle East, he trained large numbers of two subsequent generations of historians of the region. Lewis is a public figure of the first order, publishing widely read articles on Middle Eastern politics. He is perhaps the only scholar of the Middle East to be well-known outside the field — most academics would be hard pressed to name another historian of the Middle East or the Islamic world, excepting colleagues at their own university. This is ironic, since, as we will see, his interpretation of Islamic history is essentialist and ahistorical. Furthermore, Lewis is greatly respected in US policymaking circles. His opinions on policy matters have been sought by governments run by both major American political parties, and by all reports have been especially heeded by the administration of George W. Bush. An August 29 op-ed by Lewis in the Wall Street Journal concisely states positions which are articles of faith for the Bush administration’s neo-conservatives — notably that the problems of post-war Iraq are caused by anti-American fascist or Islamist forces seeking to defeat Western Christendom, and that the Westernized former banker Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress are the best candidates to govern a stable Iraq in the future.
Beshara Doumani, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995)