Staining the nails, skin and hair with henna is the favorite way of enhancing beauty amongst women in the Middle East. It is used as a hair treatment as well as a dye to make decorative designs on the skin. The art is known as mehndi. Henna markings remain on the skin for about twenty or thirty days. [more inside]
Women Explorers and Travellers of Asia and the Middle East - In an age where women struggled for basic human rights, these individuals were literal trailblazers. Leaving their homelands for varying motivations (but often due to dissatisfaction with their social lot in life), they devoted their lives to "explore these antique lands before they are irretrievably caught up in the cacaphonic whirl of the modern world." [more inside]
A Social History of the Surge by Juan Cole.
American-Dutch photographer Peter van Agtmael and English photographer Olivia Arthur are the two newest nominees recently welcomed into Magnum Photos. Agtmael's images of Afghanistan and Iraq are very powerful - he discusses his work in Conscientious. Arthur's recent work has focused on women's experiences in what she calls the Middle Distance. [more inside]
Birthright Israel, funded by the Israeli government and Jewish philanthropists, provides free all-inclusive 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. The program's goal is to promote Israel along with general Jewish unity and engagement. The blog Jewlicious has a category about these trips. (Scroll down past many promotional entries for the interesting stuff.) Some question its efficacy and results, while some Jews subvert the program. The trips end with a "Mega Rally" featuring entertainment, giant inflatable Stars of David, and speeches by dignitaries including PM Ehud Olmert. Here is video coverage (FLV) of the most recent rally. There is also a satirical Something Awful report.
Historian Robert Irwin reviews two books critical of Edward Said's Orientalism. Irwin's own critique received positive and mixed reviews. In this brief interview, Said explains what he was trying to do in Orientalism.
Two visions of the ideal city rise in the Persian Gulf: "Waterfront City will probably be where a lot of Middle Eastern investors will put their money—and where international architectural stars will build their putative landmarks—but if little Masdar develops successfully, it may hold much more important lessons for us all."
Leaders and Representatives of 57 Islamic countries (one exception is Mr. M. of Pakistan) and other dignitaries (including UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon are meeting in Dakar, Senegal from March 8th-14th (link to flash video) for the 11th summit of the organization of the Islamic Conference. The OIC "combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interests and secure the progress and well-being of their peoples and of all Muslims in the world." Topics to be discussed at the summit also include brokering a peace deal between Chad and Sudan . Some of Dakar's residents1 (2, both in French) are not happy about the summit. [more inside]
The Man Between War and Peace. "As head of U. S. Central Command, Admiral William 'Fox' Fallon is in charge of American military strategy for the most troubled parts of the world. Now, as the White House has been escalating the war of words with Iran, and seeming ever more determined to strike militarily before the end of this presidency, the admiral has urged restraint and diplomacy. Who will prevail, the president or the admiral?" [Via Think Progress.]
Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war.
Much of the Middle East has been without reliable internet access recently due to the somewhat suspicious cutting of four seperate underwater cables, in seperate locations, within a few days of each other. The problem has been alleviated by re-routing of traffic until ships can reach the cables to repair them, a process which may take several weeks. The problem was initially believed to be caused by anchors of passing ships, but that has since been retracted and deals have already been signed by several companies for new cables. [more inside]
Israel vs. Palestine: Against the Wall is a six-part series on VBS.tv about the separation wall which divides Israel from the West Bank. [more inside]
Vintage [album covers nsfw] and contemporary, Rashid Sales Co, music of the Middle East, packed with mp3s and links. [more inside]
In the U.S., motorists do not pay their way. The US government spends more on highways and other auto-related expenses than it receives from auto-related taxes, unlike almost every country in Europe. In a recent report [pdf], Mark Delucchi calculates automobile-related costs and revenues in three different ways and concludes the subsidy is around 20-70 cents per gallon or $24-105 billion in 2002. But what are automobile-related costs, you ask? [more inside]
Lessons from Past Western Incursions in the Middle East. A speech by Juan Cole at the New America Foundation in which he discusses his new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East, and the relevance and lessons of Napoleon's expedition in Egypt to the current American occupation of Iraq. A shorter version, covering many of the same points, is in this article: Pitching the Imperial Republic.
What was Jiroft? An ancient civilization in what is now southern Iran that was lost to history until very recently. Many beautiful artifacts have been dug up. It is claimed that writing originated with the Jiroft civilization and that this is the legendary kingdom of Aratta, subject of one of the world's oldest works of literature, Enmerkar and the lord of Aratta. There is dispute over both. Either way, it certainly was a commercial hub as early as 3000 B.C. The site has been extensively plundered in recent years, but is so rich in artifacts that excavations can go on for decades.
A never-before-seen look inside a hospital in the Middle East. Yemen is a country where women have an average of 7.9 children compared to 2.7 in the rest of the world. This disparity might have something to do with a culture that censures contraception and allows marriages to be consummated when the bride is as young as nine years old. VICE gains exclusive access to a Yemeni hospital maternity unit...
"The station's gaffes have included broadcasting in December 2006 a 68-minute call to arms against Israelis by a senior figure of the terrorist group Hezbollah..."
Al Hurra television, the U.S. government's $63 million-a-year effort at public diplomacy broadcasting in the Middle East, is run by executives and officials who cannot speak Arabic, according to a senior official who oversees the program. That might explain why critics say the service has recently been caught broadcasting terrorist messages, ... from their About US page: Alhurra is operated by non-profit corporation “The Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc.” (MBN). MBN is financed by the American people through the U.S Congress. US Govt. Accountability Office abstract about other MBN problems here.
This opinion piece in Prospect magazine argues that perhaps the importance of the problems in the Middle East are overblown. Interesting read.
"While the West debates whether the Islamic world is ready for democracy, an equally appropriate question is whether the West is ready for Islamic democracy." Parties of God, by Ken Silverstein, is an interesting read on democracy in the Middle East.
22 basic suggested readings on the Middle East from history professor and informed commenter on Middle Eastern affairs Juan Cole.
The Redirection. "Is the Administration’s new policy aiding our enemies in the war on terrorism?" New article by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker.
War Photography Visual insight and more from the photographer Simon Norfolk.
This Israeli process could turn the gigantic oil shale deposits of the US into the largest energy production in the world, outstripping the Middle East's role and dramatically altering the world economy to be even MORE US-centric.
Which side are we on? We're on the side of the demons, Chief. We're evil men in the gardens of paradise, sent by the forces of death to spread devastation and destruction wherever we go. I'm surprised you didn't know that.
The Imperial History of the Middle East is a flash based map of the Middle East, with a sliding timeline showing the various forces that have established dominance in the region over the last 5,000 years. Just one of many interesting interactive demonstrations over at Maps Of War.
"imperial overstretch" Was a 1988 forecast a bit of a reach or closer to home?
The UN reports “ Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon." "What's shocking" (Read down) and quote "I would say completely immoral is that 90 percent of the cluster bomb strikes occurred in the last 72 hours of the conflict when we knew there would be a resolution, when we knew there would be an end. Most of them are from America." who may ban future sales. Some people are campaigning. A brief history (Scroll down). Bravo Belgium. An unexpected link between books and bombs. Last discussion.
Last night I saw this short film at the Breckenridge Film Festival which was an inspired and low-key effort at encouraging the two-state solution to The Problem. You can watch the video if you can watch a thirty-minute movie on your computer (I can't), or you can order a free copy to watch and hopefully share.
What would the Middle East look like if there was a just realignment of its international borders? Ralph Peters, writing for the Armed Forces Journal, performed such a Gedankenexperiment. The before and the after.
From Abadan to Zurvanism, The Encyclopaedia of the Orient is your one-stop shopping mecca for bite-sized info-bits on North Africa and the Middle East.
Not just another news blip; UN Security Council passes Lebanon cease-fire resolution. The resolution calls for a "full cessation of hostilities" and tells Hezbollah to stop all attacks immediately and Israel to end "all offensive operations". Let's hope this brings about an end to all the madness.
The practical future of the country formerly known as Iraq. [NewsFilter, but a significant acknowledgement of something long-in-coming.]
An official comic book adaptation of the 9/11 commission report is due to hit bookstores this month. The U.S. Army seeks an Arabic-speaking comic book creator. Meanwhile, an Israeli blogger suspects a Kuwaiti company of misusing Marvel and DC comics. These are just the latest incidents in a long-running history of using comic books for propaganda purposes, ranging from Mussolini and Hitler to Captain America vs. the Nazi-affiliated Red Skull to anticommunist comics for Catholic parochial schools to a phony Black Panther comic book created by COINTELPRO to a comic book of the American invasion of Grenada. However, my favorite site of comic book propaganda tends to focus on more innocuous domestic issues such as bicycle safety, USDA nutrition standards, and fighting crack cocaine. (OK, that last issue isn't so innocuous, but comic book propaganda about health & safety issues still generally blows.)
How To Put Your Thumb on the Scales of World Opinion. In the past week nearly 5,000 members of the World Union of Jewish Students (WUJS) have downloaded special “megaphone” software that alerts them to anti-Israeli chatrooms or internet polls to enable them to post contrary viewpoints. A student team in Jerusalem combs the web in a host of different languages to flag the sites so that those who have signed up can influence an opinion survey or the course of a debate.
In 1988, 12% of the public thought the media was biased. Today, the figure is 62%; and, paradoxically, the reported bias is almost always to the opposite political view of the person surveyed. Introducing the Hostile Media Effect. Partisans on either side of an see the media as being biased against them, and the more educated about a situation they are, the more strongly they see bias. Unsurprisingly, news of the Middle East conflict is one area where the effect has been frequently noted. If you want a lot more information, see this academic PDF. [If media bias isn't your thing, Mixing Memory is full of many other interesting articles, from the cognitive science of patriotism to the science of art.]
PINR presents a well educated guess over what is going to happen with the Israel - Hezbollah conflict. They also offer significant background and insight into the mood and motives of some surrounding states.
Comments that didn't get quoted because they weren't made.. Prominent Liberals have been jumping into the fray about the crisis in the Middle East and the evacuation of Canadians from Lebanon. Here are some (parodied) comments from them.
From Democracy Now!, Noam Chomsky offers an interesting look at the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. There's really no good that can come from the current escalation of conflict. Although the Bush Administration has remained complacent in the situation, the conflict will have direct repercussions toward the United States. There's also the argument posed by the EU that the attacks are "disproportionate." Inevitably this could be caused by the growing "Shiite Revolution."
Tony Bourdain trapped in Lebanon. (On Jason Perlow's very good blog; also seen in the NYPost via TFS Appetizers.)
"If Hamas fails to agree to a permanent ceasefire, we will have to create another leadership, just as we did before with Sheikh Yassin." Former head of the double ISO (Mossad), Efraim Halevy Spoke at the Middle East Forum in Boston last week (yes, he's selling a book) and had some interesting things to say. Earlier post here. (More inside).
Slashdot interview with Jordanian blogger Isam Bayazidi, focusing on open source in the Arabic world.
Last week, the Guardian posted a three-part special report by their Middle East correspondent (and former South African correspondent) Chris McGreal on the similarities between the current situation in Israel and the South African Apartheid regime. The report provoked many heated responses, a selection of which is reproduced here and here. The Guardian responded by inviting Benjamin Pogrund, former deputy editor of the famously anti-Apartheid Rand Daily Mail in Johannesburg, author of a number of books on South Africa and founder of Yakar, a Jerusalem center for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue to weigh in with a response.