Jüdisches Leben in EuropaMit der Hilfe des Himmels

Promises - endlich auf Video!


Middle East Review on Publications:
Recently released books and new publications


Bridging a Gulf:
Peacebuilding in West Asia

Majid Tehranian, editor
London: I. B. Tauris, 2003

This volume is the result of a “triple track” diplomatic initiative launched by the Honolulu, Hawaii, branch of the Tokyo-based Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research.  The goal of the project is to build a bridge between civil societies and governments and mobilize a social movement for peace in the Persian Gulf area.  The essays in the book are written by the scholars and diplomats who took part in the project.  They provide a range of perspectives on Gulf security and offer detailed suggestions for future visions of cooperative security regimes in the region.

The book’s strength lies in its authentic regional voices, many of which are rarely heard in analyses published in the West.  A professor from King Saud University in Riyadh writes on Saudi-Iranian relations.  Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican writes on “The Curse of Oil.”  Kuwaiti, Iranian, and Egyptian scholars all provide insights from universities in their home countries.

In diagnosing current opportunities in the region, several authors predict and support a thaw in relations between Iran and its Arab neighbors.  In reviewing current challenges, they note unresolved border disputes and the economic problems facing the Gulf Cooperation Council.  In addition, almost without exception, the authors point to U.S. interference as the primary cause of problems in the region.  Whether through its support of proxy regimes in the 1970s, its maintenance of military bases after Operation Desert Storm, or its rhetoric about the “axis of evil,” the U.S. is viewed as the root of conflict.  Some of the authors take this accusation beyond reasoned analysis and into overheated rhetoric, giving their chapters a haranguing quality and a sense that the Gulf states should be absolved of responsibility for problems within their borders.

While most of the book’s chapters were written before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and all of them were written well before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, they have sufficient historical and conceptual depth to make them worth reading.  In particular, the visions of future regional security regimes and possible confidence-building measures provide an optimistic blueprint for building a more peaceful Persian Gulf.

-By Gayle Meyers

Women and Globalization in the Arab Middle East:
Gender, Economy, and Society

Eleanor Abdella Doumato and Marsha Pripstein Posusney, editors
Lynne Rienner Publications, 2003
297 Pages

The contributing authors and editors of this volume provide a gender analysis of the economic impact of globalization in the Middle East - North Africa region (MENA).  The book’s chapters attempt to illustrate a contradictory relationship between new patterns of women’s access to jobs and their capacity to organize, with the evolution of gender ideologies in the MENA region. 

The authors argue that economic liberalization, specifically structural adjustment programs, constrains women’s access to public sector employment, a conduit for social change.  As a result, women’s activism has pursued a more conservative agenda, often creating more traditional gender ideologies in policy-making.  In this sense, globalization has not necessarily fueled a process of linear social change.  In the MENA region, globalization affects change in women’s lives. Their response to these changing socio-economic, socio-cultural and socio-political conditions becomes a variable determining both the shape of the globalization process in the MENA countries as well as the ways in which women participate in this process.

This book is divided into two sections.  The first section, chapters one through three, takes a broad view of economic development and liberalization in the MENA region, and is intended to provide the reader with a useful framework for the country-specific case studies that follow in the second section of the book.  In the second section, starting with chapter four, six country-specific case studies are presented from different authors.  Chapters four and five examine how structural adjustment programs affect women’s access to public sector employment in Egypt.  Chapters six and seven address globalization’s effect on the nature of women’s activism and ability to organize in Jordan and Tunisia.  Chapters seven and eight investigate the revision of gender ideologies in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. 

The authors’ research makes several important contributions. Primarily, it seeks to explain why disparities, in education, income and labor force participation, are greater in the MENA region out of the larger developing world.  Noting the importance of this endeavor, it sheds light on the complex and often contradictory relationship between globalization and social change. 

While the authors do identify common regional dynamics, they do not address any regional strategies that women in the MENA countries have undertaken or the benefit of such cooperation on these issues.  Furthermore, the reader ought to consider that this research was conducted prior to September 11, 2001.  While the editors include an additional post-September 11th chapter on women’s education in Saudi Arabia and an epilogue at the book’s conclusion, they fall short of offering any substantive commentary on how this event will undoubtedly affect regional economic development and its gender impact.

- By Anne Figge

Healing the Holy Land:
Inter-religious Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine

By Yehezkl Landau
United States Institute for Peace, September 2003.
Peaceworks N° 51

Since 2000, through its Religion and Peacemaking Initiative, USIP has worked at strengthening the capacity of religious communities to help resolve conflicts. “Healing the Holy Land” is part of a larger series on dialogue between religious leaders in Macedonia, Nigeria, between Jews and Christian from the United States and Muslims from both the United States and other countries.

“Healing the Holy Land: Inter-religious Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine” is an interesting exploration of religious peacemaking in Israel and Palestine. The author focuses on efforts to build bridges between religious communities, especially Jewish and Muslim communities, as well as interfaith efforts to promote peace.

The author advocates that even though the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is primarily a political dispute between two nations over a common homeland, it has religious aspects that need to be addressed in any effective peacemaking strategy. Therefore, the peace agenda cannot be the monopoly of secular nationalist leaders, for such an approach guarantees that fervent religious believers on all sides will feel excluded and threatened by the diplomatic process. Religious militants need to be addressed in their own symbolic language; otherwise, they will continue to sabotage any peacebuilding efforts.

The book goes through important inter-religious initiatives, the most famous among them being the January 2002 Alexandria Summit and its aftermath, where a group of Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt met in an attempt to open a dialogue between high religious authorities of the three Abrahamic traditions and explore ways of ending the violence in the holy land. The book also highlights other types of spiritually engaged organizations in the search for peace in the Middle East, like the peacemaker community, a multi-faith association that includes Druze, Buddhists, traditional Jews, Christians and Muslims. The book also highlights activities of other Muslim organizations like Muslim voices for Inter-religious Peacebuilding or other Jewish organizations that stand out like Rabbis for Human Rights.

One of the strengths of “Healing the Holy Land” is that it also highlights a variety of grassroots inter-religious dialogues throughout the holy land, therefore challenging the secular, commonly held view that religions are forces that cannot contribute positively to peace.

Aware of the potentially devastating impact of the mixture of religion and nationalism in conflicts, this book argues that religious elements must be incorporated into the theory and praxis of healing international disputes, taping into, in this case, the resources of both Judaism and Islam (since Jews and Muslims are the two majorities) while also examining the contributions that Christians can make. International religious bodies like the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), the International Association for Religious Freedom, Initiatives of Change, and the Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio can play their part in contributing to healing and reconciliation in the holy land as issues such as Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/ Haram Al-Shariff are international in character. Therefore transnational bodies like the Organization of the Islamic Conference should have a role in addressing them.

The book concludes with a set of important recommendations drawn from testimonies and model programs presented it the report.

-By Geoffrey Weichselbaum

Palestinian Refugees:
Mythology, Identity, and the Search for Peace

By Robert Bowker
Lynne Rienner Publications, 2003
267 Pages

In Palestinian Refugees, Robert Bowker analyses the complex interplay between identity, history, and memory in the psyche of Palestinian refugees and how these elements are mutually constituted by political changes in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His aim explicitly is to avoid passing judgment on these competing versions of “collective memory” as he calls it, but to provide insight into how such conceptions of the refugee self impact prospects for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis in the long term.

The role of myth and memory in this conflict is particularly important, notes Bowker, because it is intimately linked to imposing, literally and figuratively, one people’s reality upon another. Acknowledging the competing and contradictory “founding myths” about the roots of the conflict, Bowker focuses specifically on the multifaceted Palestinian refugee consciousness and its interaction with the general Palestinian society and the institutions of Israeli occupation since 1967.

Figuring largely in this analysis for Bowker is the phenomenon of “imagined community”: how refugees construct their identities not on the basis of any shared geography but rather by a common experience of social and political disenfranchisement. Bowker emphasizes two key elements that arise from the “potency of refugee identity as imagined community”: one, that such an identity was inevitable given that refugees were and still are isolated from non-refugee Palestinians by their lack of land and home, and two, that sharing the common experience of being refugees afforded a strong resistance to compromise without redress for prior injustice.

The book also examines some of the central themes of the collective refugee memory, with a lengthy discussion about the right of return for Palestinians to Israel proper, which continues to be the most essential to refugees and the most contentious for any peace accord.

Bowker dedicates a chapter to analyzing the peace process in “Mythologies and the Palestinian Leadership in the Oslo Period”, looking at the more obvious manifestations of the interplay between mythology and political history and how the two dynamics continually define one another. Oslo’s failure within Palestinian refugee society, Bowker argues, stemmed from the external demand for change with concessions and compromises that stood wholly outside the acceptable realm of collective memory.

The closing chapter, “Mythology, Identity, and Future” seeks to synthesize his previous discussion of the dynamics between memory, identity, and its role in the peace process by raising two major questions: are political mythologies ever receptive to external changes, and are they able to coexist with political approaches that contradict them? A successful resolution of the conflict will only be possible with a comprehensive redress for refugees including reconciling mythology with an unfriendly political reality. The author argues that this will require real participation by the PLO, Israel and the international community.

-By Fatima Ayub

From Cold War to Democratic Peace:
Third Parties, Peaceful Change, and the OSCE

By Janie Leatherman
Syracuse University Press, December 2003

This book thoroughly describes the history of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which, in 1995 became the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The book claims that the CSCE/OSCE played a key role in ensuring that the shift from the Cold War to a democratic peace took place without large-scale violence between East and West. It did this by helping to institutionalize cooperation between the two opposing blocs, especially by creating methods for resolving disputes. The author is mainly interested in developing a normative account of the role third parties, such as the OSCE, play in bringing about peaceful change.

Many of the concepts discussed in this work also seem applicable to the Middle East. For example, Leatherman describes the OSCE as an emergent, or ascendant, security community. Although the nations of the Middle East are far from such a level of regional security, it is conceivable to imagine such a community forming sometime in the future. An arms control and regional security working group emerged from Madrid in 1991, which, although ultimately unsuccessful, opened up the discussion on such issues. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) also tried to explicitly develop a regional security regime, though was also unsuccessful. Possible features of such a security community have been discussed recently, especially in the context of WMD. For example, if the nations of the Middle East were to move toward a biological- or chemical-weapons-free zone, including mechanisms for verification, it could conceivably be the first step in such a direction.

Another concept that the author discusses is the important role of outside powers in pushing the opposing parties to develop cooperative mechanisms. In the case of the CSCE/OSCE, Finland played a crucial role as a facilitative mediator. However, a crucial part of playing this role successfully required Finland to assume a neutral role in the East-West conflict. As many now believe, as evidenced by criticism of the US’s pro-Israeli policies, perhaps a neutral stance is what is needed, but missing, in mediation attempts in the Middle East.

Ultimately, what made the CSCE/OSCE successful in helping to transform the Cold War into a democratic peace in a largely non-violent manner was the acceptance of the principle of “the indivisibility of security.” In essence, this meant, “security cooperation in the CSCE had to be based on enhancing all participating states’ security,” which was a very different starting point from previous superpower arms-control talks.

Although the Middle East still has a long way to go before it can reach the level of cooperation currently enjoyed by OSCE members, this book makes the important point that the gradual development of the CSCE/OSCE was one of the factors that made the transition from Cold War to peace as smooth as it was.

-By Elyte Baykun

hagalil.com 22-02-2004



Refusenik Watch,
Gush Shalom
New Profile
Shalom achshav

[Hevenu Schalom

Radio Hebrew:
[Kesher israeli]

Copyright: hagalil.com / 1995...

haGalil onLine