Thursday April 17th, 2014, 8:37 am (EDT)

Middle East

Middle East

The Fall of Libya

Maximilian Forte, Slouching Towards Sirte (Montreal: Baraka Books, 2012), 341 pages, $27.95, paperback.

Perhaps no war in recent memory has so thoroughly flummoxed the Euro-Atlantic left as the recent NATO war on Libya. Presaging what would occur as U.S. proxies carried out an assault on Syria, both a pro-war left and an anti-anti-war left [gave] endless explanations and tortuous justifications for why a small invasion, perhaps just a “no-fly-zone,” would be okay—so long as it didn’t grow into a larger intervention. They cracked open the door to imperialism, with the understanding that it would be watched very carefully so as to make sure that no more of it would be allowed in than was necessary to carry out its mission. The absurdity of this posture became clear when NATO immediately expanded its mandate and bombed much of Libya to smithereens, with the help of on-the-ground militia, embraced as revolutionaries by those who should have known better—and according to Maximilian Forte, could have known better, had they only looked.… | more |

Seeds of Revolts

When the Arab peoples took to the street, they were not only shouting “The people want the downfall of the regime!” but also—and most of all—“Liberty, Dignity, and Social Justice.” The absence of dignity and social justice points to the larger question of the neoliberal economic world order and the post-colonial states, which are integrated into the world-system, not as peers to the developed countries of the capitalist center, but as dependent peripheral subordinates. The desperate act of self-immolation by the young Tunisian produce vendor Mohamed Bouazizi poignantly illustrates the inequity of this global system. Zurayk’s book is a severe indictment of how the cruel economic order affects agriculture and food sovereignty in the Arab world.… | more |

Faux Internationalism and Really Existing Imperialism

If truth is the first casualty of war, military intervention in the name of humanitarian ideals should likewise be the subject of skepticism. Such an approach is called for as the discourse of the Responsibility to Protect civilian populations is becoming a doctrinal principle in the West’s foreign policy toolbox. The notion that these big powers have the right to intervene in other (weak) countries’ internal affairs threatens to transform the foundation, if not the praxis, of international law.… Simultaneously, the ideology of “humanitarian interventionism,” which stands almost uncontested, can be interpreted as legitimizing a hidden political agenda. It has the potential of blurring existing ideological and political differences between neoconservatives, liberal internationalists in the United States and Europe, and a large section of left-wing forces around the world. All these currents have found common grounds in vindicating NATO’s military violations of the principle of national sovereignty.… | more |

December 2011, Volume 63, Number 7

December 2011, Volume 63, Number 7

» Notes from the Editors

The last month (late September to late October 2011) was to all appearances a historical turning point. The Arab Spring gave way to the New York/World Fall as protesters occupied Wall Street (basing themselves in Zuccotti Park), and the movement of the 99% spread across the entire globe.… MR authors and friends have participated in the Occupy movement from the start, sometimes playing prominent roles. We have heard from friends directly involved in Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Boston, Occupy Chicago, Occupy Eugene, Occupy Oakland, and from people associated with Occupy movements throughout the world.… | more |

The Political Economy of the Egyptian Uprising

Not long after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Hosni Mubarak would resign his post as President, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew to Egypt to congratulate the Egyptian people on a job well done. The revolutionaries had accomplished their goal, she said. Everyone could go home and feel proud of their historic achievement and leave the cleaning up to the responsible adults—the United States and the closely allied Egyptian military, which has ruled Egypt since 1952. To prove that there were no hard feelings against the Egyptians for overthrowing one of the closest and most important U.S. allies in the Arab world, the IMF, World Bank, the G8, and the United States itself—the very entities responsible for supporting Mubarak’s thirty-year rule and imposing draconian neoliberal programs on Egypt—have extended as much as $15 billion in aid and credit to Egypt and Tunisia to assist in their transitions to democracy. This generosity begs the question: why are Western governments, and the international financial institutions (IFIs) that are closely linked to them, falling over one another to show their generosity to the revolutionaries and to display their support for progress in the Middle East?… | more |

An Arab Springtime?

The year 2011 began with a series of shattering, wrathful explosions from the Arab peoples. Is this springtime the inception of a second “awakening of the Arab world?” Or will these revolts bog down and finally prove abortive—as was the case with the first episode of that awakening, which was evoked in my book L’éveil du Sud (The Awakening of the South)? If the first hypothesis is confirmed, the forward movement of the Arab world will necessarily become part of the movement to go beyond imperialist capitalism on the world scale. Failure would keep the Arab world in its current status as a submissive periphery, prohibiting its elevation to the rank of an active participant in shaping the world.… | more |

Quid Pro Quo?

The Question of India’s Subordination to the ‘American Narrative’

In April 2011, the Wall Street Journal’s South Asia columnist Sadanand Dhume published a piece entitled “It’s Time to Re-Align India.” Meeting in Hainan, China, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) called for a multipolar world (i.e. one no longer dominated by the Atlantic powers, led by the United States) and for a less militaristic approach to common problems—with special reference to the imbroglio in Libya, fast becoming the twenty-first century’s Yugoslavia. Focusing on India, Dhume wrote in response: “Like a monster in a B-grade horror film, India’s love affair with non-alignment refuses to die. The end of the Cold War should have ended this approach to foreign policy. Unfortunately, it hasn’t.”… | more |

Jews Confront Zionism

One of the main accomplishments of the Israeli government’s bombing and invasion of the Gaza Strip last winter was to inspire new vitality within leftist and peace groups in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice and liberation. This wave of activity has continued after the supposed ceasefire, with demonstrations and direct actions from New York to Los Angeles, Paris, Jaffa, and Tel Aviv. Most noteworthy has been a coming out of sorts of an increasingly large and vocal segment of the Jewish world that is not only opposed to the Israeli government’s wars and military occupations, but critical of Zionism itself.… | more |

Inconvenient Truths about ‘Real Existing’ Zionism

The celebrations on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel brought forth mixed feelings for those of us who survived the Holocaust. The reason for this ambivalence is that, while the survivors of the Nazi genocide celebrated the creation of a Jewish state in 1948, few were aware at the time of the human costs and injustices that had been, were being, and would be perpetrated against Palestinian Arabs in our name. The slogan “Never Again,” which was the dominating thought in the Jewish psyche in those years, was mostly concerned with the fate of European Jews.… | more |

Analyzing Political Islam

A Critique of Traditional Historical Materialist Analytic

Political,1 more so, militant Islam has become an influential religious and social force in many post-colonial states.2 The militants face very little by way of real political opposition within Muslim-majority societies, but they are now targeted and attacked militarily by the United States, other Western imperial interests, and client post-colonial states. In the context of the war in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan, and the “war on terror,” much has been written by people on the left. But, there is little by way of understanding political Islam from a historical materialist perspective. Some months back, however, Samir Amin offered his traditional historical materialist analysis of political Islam (Monthly Review, December 2007) and very briefly touched on a range of issues, such as modernity, secularism and imperialism. Amin has been generally dismissive of political Islam and unambiguous in saying that Islamists have been in the “service of imperialism.” … | more |

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

March 2008, Volume 59, Number 10

» Notes from the Editors

This month marks the fifth year of the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq, which commenced on March 19, 2003. Despite setbacks for the U.S. empire, including unexpected losses in lives and money as a result of the continuing resistance of the Iraqi population, this war has succeeded in the U.S. imperial objective of eliminating Iraq, once a powerful force in the Middle East, as a nation to be reckoned with. Much of its population is dead, displaced, and divided. Its infrastructure is in tatters. The country is occupied on a seemingly permanent basis by U.S. military forces, allowing Washington to project its power more fully in the region, and making it easier to threaten Iraq’s neighbor Iran. Iraqi oil, designated as a vital strategic asset by Washington, is now largely in the grip of the U.S. empire.… | more |

Abu Ghraib and Insaniyat

The issues that I will cover in this article and the cases I would like to describe make for uncomfortable reading. But I believe that it is important to record the torture at Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere in Iraq and to deconstruct the culture that accommodated and legitimated it, because what happened cannot be relegated to a mere footnote in the history of the region. I feel the same about Halabja and the chemical warfare employed by Saddam Hussein with the sponsorship of the “international community,” which is why I covered it in my other writings.1 I do not want to be misunderstood as arguing that the cultural context I will explain here is all-encompassing, that the U.S. presence in international society is singularly destructive, and that the “West” as an idea is nothing but “intoxicating.”2 What I say is much more confined. I am arguing that Abu Ghraib could not have happened without a particular racist current in the United States, that the individuals who committed the atrocities against the detainees were not isolated, and that they were part of a larger constellation with its own signifying ideational attitudes toward Muslims and Arabs. Those are the general claims that I would like to qualify in the following paragraphs… | more |

Hippocratic Hypocricy in the War on Terror

Steven H. Miles, M.D., Oath Betrayed: Torture, Medical Complicity, and the War on Terror (Random House, 2006), 240 pages, hardcover $23.95.

When he saw the pictures from Abu Ghraib, medical ethicist and practicing physician Steven Miles immediately wondered: Where were the doctors, nurses, and medics while these abuses were happening?… | more |

Israel in the U.S. Empire

Any reader of Israel Studies’s recent issue on the “Americanization of Israel” would be likely to conclude that the most important aspect of U.S.-Israel relations was cultural and religious exchange.* U.S. commodification of Israeli consumption is a key focus here, as is the impact of U.S. religious trends on Israeli religious practices. Though politics does feature in the issue, its place is largely restricted to the influence of the United States on the Israeli party political system and to the ideological convergence between Christian fundamentalism and the Likud Party. The informing conception of the issue, then, seems to be the endeavor to pinpoint those aspects of Israel that have been “Americanized” in recent years. Contributors are thus preoccupied with determining how specific U.S. forms and norms have migrated to and been translated into Israeli culture and society… | more |

A Cup of Tea, Summer of ‘72

My sister was the only one who had sensed something about the issue. I had just stepped into the room from the terrace one day when she jumped in front of me and said, “What the heck is going on with you? Every time the bell rings you grab your briefcase and step out on the terrace.” She was loud and her tone was angry. I don’t remember her exact words. She may have added, “Do you think that you can just grab your briefcase and jump over the wall if they suddenly show up?”… | more |

The New Israel

With the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin on November 4, 1995, a long interval of relative openness, liberalization, and attempts at peace and normal relations with the Arab world came to an end. By assassinating Rabin the Israeli right not only seized political power—including inside the Labor Party—but also drove the last nail in the coffin of a certain kind of Israel. That Israel gave way to a new kind of country, with its own particular values and, in the end, a new constitutional framework and set of institutions. How was the transformation to this new Israel accomplished? … | more |

U.S. Imperial Strategy in the Middle East

U.S. Middle Eastern strategy for the decade 1991–2000 had run up against its limits on both of its main fronts: the Israeli-Palestinian front, and the Arab-Persian Gulf… | more |

‘I Am in the Midst of a Genocide’: E-Mails from Gaza

I have been in Palestine for two weeks and one hour now, and I still have very few words to describe what I see. It is most difficult for me to think about what’s going on here when I sit down to write back to the United States. Something about the virtual portal into luxury. I don’t know if many of the children here have ever existed without tank-shell holes in their walls and the towers of an occupying army surveying them constantly from the near horizons. I think, although I’m not entirely sure, that even the smallest of these children understand that life is not like this everywhere. An eight-year-old was shot and killed by an Israeli tank two days before I got here, and many of the children murmur his name to me—Ali—or point at the posters of him on the walls. The children also love to get me to practice my limited Arabic by asking me, “Kaif Sharon?” “Kaif Bush?” and they laugh when I say, “Bush majnoon,” “Sharon majnoon” back in my limited Arabic. (How is Sharon? How is Bush? Bush is crazy. Sharon is crazy.) Of course this isn’t quite what I believe, and some of the adults who have the English correct me: “Bush mish majnoon”—Bush is a businessman. Today I tried to learn to say, “Bush is a tool,” but I don’t think it translated quite right. But anyway, there are eight-year-olds here much more aware of the workings of the global power structure than I was just a few years ago… | more |

Global Capitalism and Israel

Jonathan Nitzan and Shimshon Bichler, The Global Political Economy of Israel (London and Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press, 2002), 407 pages, cloth $75.00, paper $24.95.

One of the characteristics of much academic writing is an obsession with theory at the expense of empirical investigation. It is rare to find a book that combines genuinely novel theoretical exploration with rigorous empirical study, the more so in fields such as political science where abstraction seems to have become the norm. It is for this reason that The Global Political Economy of Israel is such a gripping read. A remarkable investigation into the concrete workings of the Israeli and U.S. economies that avoids the fatuous generalities of much of the globalization literature, it presents a challenging theoretical framework that not only clarifies the past but also seeks to understand the present… | more |

Punishment by Detail

Aside from the obvious physical discomforts, being ill for a long period of time fills the spirit with a terrible feeling of helplessness, but also with periods of analytic lucidity, which, of course, must be treasured. For the past three months, now I have been in and out of the hospital, with days marked by lengthy and painful treatments, blood transfusions, endless tests, hours and hours of unproductive time spent staring at the ceiling, draining fatigue and infection, inability to do normal work, and thinking, thinking, thinking. But there are also the intermittent passages of lucidity and reflection that sometimes give the mind a perspective on daily life that allows it to see things (without being able to do much about them) from a different perspective. Reading the news from Palestine and seeing the frightful images of death and destruction on television, it has been my experience to be utterly amazed and aghast at what I have deduced from those details about Israeli government policy, more particularly about what has been going on in the mind of Ariel Sharon. And when, after the recent Gaza bombing by one of his F-16s in which nine children were massacred, he was quoted as congratulating the pilot and boasting of a great Israeli success, I was able to form a much clearer idea than before of what a pathologically deranged mind is capable of, not only in terms of what it plans and orders but, worse, how it manages to persuade other minds to think in the same delusional and criminal way. Getting inside the official Israeli mind is a worthwhile, if lurid, experience… | more |