Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East


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KIRKUS REVIEW

Sort order. Aug 24, Paul Bryant rated it liked it Shelves: politics. In the governments of France and Britain were staring at the hideous mounting piles of bodies but contemplating what would happen when they won the war against Germany…and its ally the Ottoman Empire. This strange enormous and ancient empire was Turkey plus the Middle East plus North Africa.

It was vast. I know nothing about it, except it barges into all of the other history books I read. The History of the Ottoman Empire is on my to do list. But, you know, a lot of things are. The British already had an Empire but they also had complete faith in their ability to run the entire planet, so adding half of another one would be no trouble, a few promises made here and there, a couple of conferences.

There were therefore three big promises made : one, to the Arabs, that they would be independent; two, to the French, that they could control everything north of a line in on a map. And three, that was the Balfour Declaration of November which promised the Jews British support for a homeland in Palestine.

Shifting sands: Power in the Middle East

This latter was the doing of David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, and Avi Shlaim, in the first essay, says His support for Zionism was based on a huge overestimate of Jewish influence. In aligning Britain with the Zionist movement, he acted in the mistaken — and anti-Semitic — view that the Jews turn the wheels of history. In fact, the Jewish people had little influence other than the myth of clandestine power.

When the war was done and the victors came to gather their spoils, they drew more than one line. Countries which never existed before suddenly appeared on the map, poof! Because we westerners said so. A contemporary observed: Iraq was created by Churchill, who had the mad idea of joining two widely separated oil wells. Kirkuk and Mosul, by uniting three widely separated peoples, the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shiites.

It is this absence of legitimacy that has been a central feature of Middle East politics ever since the old order was blown away. We would only have to ask the stream of Syrian refugees trudging every day into eastern Europe. TEA BREAK Taking a break from writing this review I turn on the tv news, and lo, a new biography of David Cameron British prime minister is excoriating him for his imperialist incompetence in Libya — in British planes helped to bomb Gaddafi out of Tripoli and this typical Western bull-at-a-gate whiff-of-grapeshot arrogant intervention toppled Libya into the anarchic mess we see today.

But they have not come to unite Muslims in brotherhood, as we see each day in the news. He asks We the people have been in a state of constant rebellion for the past years… why has it proved so difficult for us to end our status as subjects in our own country and to force our state to treat us as citizens? Five reasons stood. And still stand, in the way of democracy in Egypt, and indeed in the whole of the Arab world.

The five reasons : 1. Despite their deafening rhetoric, Western powers have not spared any effort to thwart our struggle for democracy…. Washington did not miss an opportunity to support our dictators. Not only has the century-long Arab-Israeli conflict sapped our energy and diverted precious resources, but our despots have also used it cynically to postpone indefinitely democratic reforms.

Oil-rich despotic regimes could interfere in our country and support anti-democratic forces. Our inability to look back to our modern history and choose a moment we would like to resurrect. We the people. So who are we the people? The next essay, by Tamim Al-Barghouti, circles around another unexamined fact. So even without the interference and manipulation by Western imperialism and oil-rich despotism we have the dismal prospect of these countries if they are countries full of populations who despise each other.

Where does all this internecine hatred come from? We see that Europe had its couple of centuries of war and brutality between the two groups of Christians. Then an accommodation was reached. Justin Marozzi says The sectarian tensions that bedevil the region today have existed in Iraq since Baghdad was founded in the late 8th century.

Al-Barghouti says p94 Wars among communities of tens of millions, such as the Shiites and the Sunnis, are unwinnable. Despite the brutality, in time all factions will come to realise that no one can eliminate the other. Eliminate the other? Or was that just an unfortunate turn of phrase? These essays are a reasonable place to start thinking about this whole panorama of horrible problems but they really do not go very far and they tiptoe around the most difficult aspects.

More difficult thinking is needed. View all 17 comments. Jan 03, Ashley Power rated it it was ok. Other than two or three essays, this book was narrow minded and misleading. Hugely disappointed, for all its high minded aspirations, this book was one dimensional and to be honest I found it could be very condescending when describing people from the Middle East. The descriptions in one authors piece of the Tahrir Sq protests made out as though the whole thing was a love fest, everyone got together and there was law and order despite everything.

No mention of the heavily documented rapes that w Other than two or three essays, this book was narrow minded and misleading. No mention of the heavily documented rapes that went on, among other things. Not to take away from the protest, which was admirable, but why paint a near flawless picture of it and imply there was no need for policing because everyone behaved beautifully? Instances like this made me wonder how else my opinion may be being manipulated. Lesson here is stay well informed, keep an open mind and form your opinion based on varied sources.

Nov 24, David Kenvyn rated it it was amazing. This book began life as a series of talks at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in Nick Barley, the Director, was prescient enough to realise that the politics of the Middle East are incredibly important for the peace and security of the world in which we live. So he asked Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson to edit this collection of essays as a way of helping us all to understand what is happening.

I can only hope that our legislators read it before they take any decisions that will l This book began life as a series of talks at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in I can only hope that our legislators read it before they take any decisions that will lead us all further into war, destruction and revenge attacks. The story begins one hundred years ago when two diplomats, one British and one French, met to consider how best to divide up the spoils between their respective countries, when the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

There was no real indication at the time that this was going to happen, as the disastrous Gallipoli campaign made clear, but Sykes and Picot did not want their countries to fall out whilst they were allies in the war against Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. So they drew a line in the map, the Sykes-Picot Line, from the E of Acre to the last K of Kirkuk and France was allocated what lay to the north-west while the British Empire gained the territories to the south-east. Neither man cared what the indigenous peoples of these lands wanted for themselves.

They saw the deal as a way of preventing conflict between two imperial powers. This is as good a place as any to start if you want to understand the politics of the modern Middle East. The British were already playing with fire. They were encouraging the Sharif Hussein, the ruler of the Hijaz and the protector of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, to rise in rebellion against his suzerain, the Sultan.

This was because the Sultan, in his role as Caliph, had declared holy war against the British, the French and the Russians. The British, not understanding that their Shia Muslim subjects were not likely to take any notice of a Sunni Caliph, regarded this as a threat. So they stoked the fires of Arab nationalism, hoping for a revolt throughout the Fertile Crescent. The third stick of dynamite that the British threw into the fire was the Balfour Declaration, the promise of Palestine to the Zionists.

Shifting Sands Unravelling Old by Raja Shehadeh

The French meanwhile were encouraging the ambitions of minorities, especially the Maronite Christians of what became Lebanon and the Alawi sect of Shia Muslims in Syria. And so the stage was set fora century of conflict from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf These essays look at the ways in which the politics of the region have been affected by the decisions taken a century ago. Of course, the imperial powers were not responsible for all the tensions in the Middle East.

Marozzi tells how on the death of the Abbasid Caliph Abu Jafaar al Mansur, his son and successor entered a locked room, expecting to find treasure and had found, instead, the dead bodies of Shia leaders and their families, catalogued so that they could be identified. It is a simple recognition of the fact that not all the troubles of the Middle East are of their making. The heart of this book, however, is not the scheming of France and Britain, the two Imperial powers, nor the way in which the USA inherited what had been created.

Nor is it really about the way in which the USA, lobbied both by Zionists and the Oil industry, has intervened in the affairs of the region, usually to the detriment of the aspirations of ordinary inhabitants of those countries. And it is ordinary people, in all their glorious diversity, in their incredible tenacity, in their day-to-day heroism, who are at the heart of this book. The authors are at pains to make clear that the Middle East was an area of cultural diversity, in which many religions flourished, in which many languages were spoken and with a heritage stretching back thousands of years.

The epicentre of this story is the series of events that became know as "The Arab Spring", and the authors look at the achievements and failures of that year. It also looks at the fallout in the two non-Arabic speaking countries of the region, Turkey and Iran.

I am not going to attempt to summarise what the authors tell us about the region, because the complexities are enormous and, as is inevitably the case with fifteen authors presenting their views of events, they sometimes contradict each other. What is clear, however, is that there are no simple answers, especially in the case of intervention in Syria. The three essays in the section called "Syria in Crisis" should be essential reading for any decision-maker and, preferably, before they make a decision. The one thing that we have to remember as we try to come to terms with what has been done by our governments and others in the Middle East, is that the people who live there are ordinary people, just like you and me, and they have ordinary concerns like eating, keeping warm and well, clothing themselves and having occasional fun.

That is the essential point of this book. The last essay "Palestine and Hope" by one of the editors, Raja Shehadeh, makes that point very well. Raja Shehadeh was born in Ramallah in , after the flight of his family from Jaffa in He was a witness of the Israeli effective annexation of the West Bank following the war. A Season on the m: applied people of Nirala. New York: Columbia University Press, Endless Filth: The Saga of the Bhangis.

Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East by Raja Shehadeh

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Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East
Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East

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