“I was an unformed lefty before my MERIP days,” wrote Lisa Hajjar. “I credit MERIP with teaching and steeping me in real leftist politics.” I hope Lisa won’t be embarrassed if I call her the quintessential “MERIP baby,” a person who, having cut her teeth as an intern in the office, went on to become a formative influence on the organization herself through her writings and other contributions. While few can boast quite the length and variety of her tenure, she is far from alone. Lisa mentioned two others—Steve Niva and Mouin Rabbani, her fellow interns with whom she “plotted world domination” on cigarette breaks in the late 1980s.
Joe Stork is one of the founders of MERIP and served as the editor of Middle East Report until 1995. He went on to be deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. Chris Toensing was executive director of MERIP and editor of Middle East Report from 2000 to 2017 and since 2018 is a senior editor at the International Crisis Group. They were interviewed by Lisa Hajjar, professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara and MERIP editorial committee member, in September 2021.
I was among a small group of activists who started the Middle East Research and Information Project (MERIP) in early 1971 and was chief editor of its monthly flagship publication, MERIP Reports (later Middle East Report) until 1995. Some of us had served in the Peace Corps or other volunteer organizations in the Middle East in the mid 1960s and had come together as an informal “Middle East caucus” in the Committee of Returned Volunteers, an anti-Vietnam War group.
Francesco Cavatorta examines MERIP’s 50 years of covering the complex phenomenon of political Islam and finds that much of it is based on field research, participant observation, interviews and ethnography. The result has been a rich diversity of approaches that comprehend the plural nature of Islamism, directly engage the words and deeds of Islamists and provide insights that prepare readers to understand real-world events. Forthcoming in the Fall 2021 issue “MERIP at 50.”
As Iran’s elections approach (June 18, 2021), MERIP revisits recent articles that provide a deeper context for understanding politics in Iran today. The pieces gathered here include a forum re-thinking US-Iranian relations as well as articles examining key elections in Iran over the last 20 years, from 2001 to 2021.
For more than 50 years, MERIP has provided a depth of analysis on Palestine and Palestinian politics that is unmatched. Here we dive into the archives to highlight both historical and recent MERIP articles that provide key context for the current crises in Gaza and Jerusalem as well as important background for understanding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.