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Area and Ethnic Studies > Middle Eastern Studies

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Cross on the Star of David

The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy, 1948-1967

Uri Bialer

The official establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 constituted the realization of the Zionist vision, but military victory left in its wake internal and external survival issues that would threaten this historic achievement for decades to come. The refusal of the international community to recognize the political, geographic, and demographic results of the War of Independence presented Israel with a permanent regional security threat, while isolating and alienating it in the international arena. One of the most formidable problems Israeli foreign policy faced was the stance of the Christian world toward the new state. Attitudes ranged from hostility and categorical non-recognition by the Catholic Church, through Protestant ambivalence, to Evangelical support. Cross on the Star of David presents the first scholarly analysis, based on newly declassified documents, of Israeli policymaking on this issue. Uri Bialer focuses on the impact that modes of thinking rooted in the historical tradition of Jewish-Christian interactions had on Israeli policymakers and concludes that they were not innocent of the perceptions and biases that influenced the Christian world's behavior toward Israel. The result is a fine-grained, original interpretation of an important dimension of Israeli foreign policy from the founding of the State to the 1967 War.

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Crossing the River Kabul

An Afghan Family Odyssey

Kevin McLean

Baryalai Popal sees his Western-educated professors at Kabul University replaced by communists. He witnesses his classmates “disappearing.” The communist takeover uproots Popal from his family and home. Thus begins Crossing the River Kabul, the true story of Popal’s escape from Afghanistan and his eventual return.

Kevin McLean weaves together Popal’s stories in this memoir, which is also a fascinating look at Afghanistan from the viewpoint of Popal and generations of his politically influential family. From the exile of Popal’s grandfather from Kandahar in 1898 to his father’s tutoring of two boys who as adults would play important roles in Afghanistan—one as king and the other as president—to his uncle’s presence at the fateful meeting that led to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Popal’s family history is intertwined with that of his nation.

Popal fled his country following the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. After being imprisoned as a spy in Pakistan, he managed to make his way to Germany as a refugee and to the United States as an immigrant. Twenty years later he returned to Afghanistan after 9/11 to reclaim his houses, only to find one controlled by drug lords and the other by the most powerful warlord in Afghanistan.

Popal’s memoir is an intimate, often humorous portrait of the vanished Afghanistan of his childhood. It is also the story of a father whose greatest desire is to see his son follow in his footsteps, and a son who constantly rebels against his father's wishes. Crossing the River Kabul is a story of choice and destiny, fear and courage, and loss and redemption.
 

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Cultural Criticism in Egyptian Women's Writing

Caroline Seymour-Jorn

Seymour-Jorn delves into the works of five female Egyptian writers: Radwa Ashour, Salwa Bakr, Nimat al-Bihiri, Etidal Osman, and Ibtihal Salem. Drawing on a combination of interviews and chronicles of their literary work, the author analyzes a range of female emotional, intellectual, family, and professional experience.

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Dante and Islam

Edited by Jan M. Ziolkowski

Dante put Muhammad in one of the lowest circles of Hell. At the same time, the medieval Christian poet placed several Islamic philosophers much more honorably in Limbo. Furthermore, it has long been suggested that for much of the basic framework of the Divine Comedy Dante was indebted to apocryphal traditions about a “night journey” taken by Muhammad. _x000B__x000B_Dante scholars have increasingly returned to the question of Islam to explore the often surprising encounters among religious traditions that the middle ages afforded. This collection of essays works through what was known of the Qur’an and of Islamic philosophy and science in Dante’s day, and explores the bases for Dante’s images of Muhammad and Ali. It further compels us to look at key instances of engagement among Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

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The Dead Sea and the Jordan River

Barbara Kreiger

For centuries travelers have been drawn to the stunning and mysterious Dead Sea and Jordan River, a region which is unlike any other on earth in its religious and historical significance. In this exceptionally engaging and readable book, Barbara Kreiger chronicles the natural and human history of these storied bodies of water, drawing on accounts by travelers, pilgrims, and explorers from ancient times to the present. She conveys the blend of spiritual, touristic, and scientific motivations that have driven exploration and describes the modern exploitation of the lake and the surrounding area through mineral extraction and agriculture. Today, both lake and river are in crisis, and stewardship of these water resources is bound up with political conflicts in the region. The Dead Sea and the Jordan River combines history, literature, travelogue, and natural history in a way that makes it hard to put down.

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Defending the Holy Land

A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy

Zeev Maoz

Defending the Holy Land is the most comprehensive analysis to date of Israel's national security and foreign policy, from the inception of the State of Israel to the present. Author Zeev Maoz's unique double perspective, as both an expert on the Israeli security establishment and esteemed scholar of Mideast politics, enables him to describe in harrowing detail the tragic recklessness and self-made traps that pervade the history of Israeli security operations and foreign policy. Most of the wars in which Israel was involved, Maoz shows, were entirely avoidable, the result of deliberate Israeli aggression, flawed decision-making, and misguided conflict management strategies. None, with the possible exception of the 1948 War of Independence, were what Israelis call "wars of necessity." They were all wars of choice-or, worse, folly. Demonstrating that Israel's national security policy rested on the shaky pairing of a trigger-happy approach to the use of force with a hesitant and reactive peace diplomacy, Defending the Holy Land recounts in minute-by-minute detail how the ascendancy of Israel's security establishment over its foreign policy apparatus led to unnecessary wars and missed opportunites for peace. A scathing and brilliant revisionist history, Defending the Holy Land calls for sweeping reform of Israel's foreign policy and national security establishments. This book will fundamentally transform the way readers think about Israel's troubled history. Zeev Maoz is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis. He is the former head of the Graduate School of Government and Policy and of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, as well as the former academic director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Forces' National Defense College. Cover photograph: Israel, Jerusalem, Western Wall and The Dome of The Rock. Courtesy of Corbis.

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Defining Neighbors

Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist-Arab Encounter

Jonathan Marc Gribetz

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists, aspiring peacemakers continue to search for the precise territorial dividing line that will satisfy both Israeli and Palestinian nationalist demands. The prevailing view assumes that this struggle is nothing more than a dispute over real estate. Defining Neighbors boldly challenges this view, shedding new light on how Zionists and Arabs understood each other in the earliest years of Zionist settlement in Palestine and suggesting that the current singular focus on boundaries misses key elements of the conflict.

Drawing on archival documents as well as newspapers and other print media from the final decades of Ottoman rule, Jonathan Gribetz argues that Zionists and Arabs in pre–World War I Palestine and the broader Middle East did not think of one another or interpret each other’s actions primarily in terms of territory or nationalism. Rather, they tended to view their neighbors in religious terms—as Jews, Christians, or Muslims—or as members of “scientifically” defined races—Jewish, Arab, Semitic, or otherwise. Gribetz shows how these communities perceived one another, not as strangers vying for possession of a land that each regarded as exclusively their own, but rather as deeply familiar, if at times mythologized or distorted, others. Overturning conventional wisdom about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Gribetz demonstrates how the seemingly intractable nationalist contest in Israel and Palestine was, at its start, conceived of in very different terms.

Courageous and deeply compelling, Defining Neighbors is a landmark book that fundamentally recasts our understanding of the modern Jewish-Arab encounter and of the Middle East conflict today.

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Democratization and the Politics of Constitution-Making in Turkey

By Ergun Özbudun, Ömer F. Genckaya

Explores and illustrates how domestic and international factors shape the direction of democratization process with special reference to constitution making process in Turkey. Describes how all five Turkish constitutions were, by and large, the products of indigenous effort, although borrowing could be felt in certain limited areas. Argues that the constitutional reforms in the post-1983 period were the outco me of broad inter-party negotiations and agree ments as a response to the society’s demands for a more democratic and liberal political system. Finally, the constitutional revisions adopted since 1995 were strongly conditioned by Turkey’s hope of accession to the European Union. With these reforms, Turkey was successful in meeting the political criteria and started accession negotiations with the EU.

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Despair and Deliverance

Private Salvation in Contemporary Israel

The author examines the varieties of religious and secular salvation that have recently appeared in Israel as evidence for Israelis’ willingness to embrace private salvation in the face of immense cultural upheavals. Drawing on interviews, field observations, clinical data, and media reports collected over ten years, he surveys four roads to private salvation: the return to Judaism, new religions (sects or cults), psychotherapy movements such as est, and occultism. These dramatic forms of conversion are unique to Israeli society within the last decade, and Beit-Hallahmi provides a social history and social psychology of this transformation.

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