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Arab-Israeli Conflict

When Peace Is Not Enough: How the Israeli Peace Camp Thinks about Religion, Nationalism, and Justice, by Atalia Omer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. 384 pages. $25. A self-defined Jewish atheist who grew up in Jerusalem, Atalia Omer reframes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by focusing on the perceptions of marginalized groups within the Israeli and Jewish context. She highlights how hybrid identities like her own provide creative resources for peace-building in a situation where ethnoreligious national conflict and political agendas are informed by a particular concept of identity. Her study focuses on three groups: the Middle Eastern Jews, the Palestinian Israelis, and non-Israeli Jewish thinkers and activists marginalized by dominant Zionist discourses. By critically examining how the Israeli peace camp thinks about religion, nationalism, and justice, Omer exposes its conceptual and ideological constraints and highlights the value of a broad range of marginalized identities. (LW)

Imperfect Compromise: A New Consensus among Israelis and Palestinians, by Michael Karpin. Dulles, VA: Potomac Books, 2013. 272 pages. $29.95. Israeli broadcast journalist Michael Karpin claims that the Arab-Israeli conflict has never been closer to a resolution than it is today. He argues that Israel’s liberal Zionist movement is steadily overtaking the traditional right wing, and the Palestinian Authority is proving to be a serious partner for peace by acting reliably and responsibly to create order and combat terrorism. Karpin proposes that a regional peace agreement based on the Saudi initiative of March 2002 will provide a sustainable and mutually beneficial settlement for all parties involved. By analyzing trends of Palestinian pragmatism, increasing secular post-Zionist sentiments, and various external and international factors, Karpin asserts that there is no better time for peace than the present. (LW)


Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution?, by Galal Amin, trans. by Jonathan Wright. New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2013. 360 pages. $29.95. The January 25 Revolution in Egypt was a moment of great optimism, national fervor, and hope for future economic, social, and political improvements. Economist Galal Amin examines the events preceding the revolution, the aftermath of rising hopes and successive disappointments, and grim assessments of current postrevolutionary concerns. Amin claims that the Egyptians were forced to choose “between a rock and a hard place,” resulting in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Dr. Mohamed Morsi. Amin prophetically explains how a once promising revolution may soon take a destructive turn, but also outlines the possibility of a brighter future for Egypt based on a balanced economy, true democracy, and a secular state. (LW)

Motherland Lost: The Egyptian and Coptic Quest for Modernity, by Samuel Tadros. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 2013. 220 pages. $20. Author Samuel Tadros, himself a Copt residing in the US, addresses the history of the Coptic Church in Egypt from the time of its founding by St. Mark to its modern manifestation after the Egyptian Revolution. Tadros states that the history of the Copts and the history of Egypt are not mutually exclusive, and that both institutions face a crisis of modernity. He frames the Copts as an at-risk minority in Egypt under a new Islamist government, and cites emigration as an evolving coping mechanism to avoid demotion to second-class citizenship. The narrative of the book is organized chronologically, but also includes pertinent details on Coptic theology. (EF)

Questioning Secularism: Islam, Sovereignty, and the Rule of Law in Modern Egypt, by Hussein Ali Agrama. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012. 288 pages. $24.75. This book explores the basis of Egypt’s laws, politics, and religious life. The book is divided into six chapters, each of which discusses a specific issue (e.g., hisba and fatwas) from both Islamic and secular viewpoints. (MB)

A City Consumed: Urban Commerce, the Cairo Fire, and the Politics of Decolonization in Egypt, by Nancy Y. Reynolds. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2012. 355 pages. $45. Nancy Reynolds assesses consumption-driven tensions in colonial Egypt, which culminated in the Cairo fire of 1952 that extensively damaged the downtown shopping district. She explores materialism as a factor of Egyptians’ perception of captivity under European [End Page 662] rule, which persisted not only through formal legal channels, but through informal daily exposure to — and in the elites’ case, adoption of — European culture. The book describes the urban colonial environment; explores consumer patterns of particular objects (including clothing); details boycotts of specific European goods and Egyptian market reactions to the protests; and touches on the political environment immediately preceding the fire, as documented in primary source material. (EF)

Khul‘ Divorce in Egypt: Public Debates, Judicial Practices, and Everyday Life, by Nadia Sonneveld. New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2012. 272 pages. $39.50. At the turn of the 21st century, Egypt passed a law that allowed women to divorce their husbands irrevocably without the latter’s consent, for the first time in modern Egyptian history. Termed “khul‘ divorce,” the law sparked much controversy, with critics claiming that female irrationality would ruin Egyptian family life and that the law was designed only for rich, Western-influenced women. In a two-pronged research endeavor, Sonneveld explores the nature of public debates surrounding khul‘, including its portrayal in films and cartoons, alongside an examination of its application in courts and everyday life. Using the case study of a woman referred to as “Nura,” Sonneveld argues that the points of controversy bear little resemblance to the real lives of mostly lower-middle-class women who apply for khul‘. (LW)

Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir, edited by Samia Mehrez. New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2012. 340 pages. $29.95. This collection of research and translation conducted by a diverse group of AUC students gives the reader a unique insight into the complex and ever-changing atmosphere of revolutionary Egypt. Contributing students translated chants, banners, jokes, poems, interviews, presidential speeches, and military communiqués in order to interpret Egypt’s revolution from a personal perspective. While the translators came from different backgrounds, they all shared and lived the revolutionary moment in Egypt and were motivated by a desire to translate it, and thus disseminate a deeper and broader understanding of underlying relationships, transformations, and perspectives. (LW)


A Documentary History of Modern Iraq, edited by Stacy E. Holden. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2012. 384 pages. $64. This anthology of primary sources chronicles the political and cultural evolution of 20th and early 21st century Iraq, with particular emphasis on firsthand accounts of Iraqi citizens in particular subgroups, such as women, Jews, Kurds, Shi‘a, and Sunnis. The documents include official sources — newspaper articles, government documents, etc. — and informal sources, including personal correspondence and short stories. Editor Stacey Holden divides the compilation roughly into decade-length chapters, and provides a brief contextualizing introduction to each period and document. Holden poses questions to the reader ahead of each account in order to highlight important details and implications of the stated opinions and information. (EF)


Israel and the United States: Six Decades of US–Israeli Relations, edited by Robert O. Freedman. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2012. 320 pages. $45. This collection of essays by leading scholars from both the US and Israel examines the nature and extent of US-Israeli relations from 1948 through the Obama Administration. The authors focus not only on the more conventional diplomatic and economic ties, but also religious, legal, military, and strategic relations between the two countries. By bringing together a variety of academic voices from both Israel and the United States, this volume enables the reader to gain a comprehensive understanding of the US-Israeli relationship as it has evolved since 1948. (LW)

Narratives of Dissent: War in Contemporary Israeli Arts and Culture, edited by Rachel S. Harris and Ranen Omer-Sherman. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2013. 384 pages. $36.41. This collection of essays deals with the relationship between Israeli arts and Israeli wars. The essays show a shift in Israeli literature from documenting official histories to reflecting artists’ and writers’ individual experiences with the rise of individualism and the call for peacemaking after the 1973 Arab-Israeli War. (MB)

Palestine and Palestinians

Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, edited by Rich Wiles. London: Pluto Press, 2013. 240 pages. $24. The volume comprises essays by activists, professors, journalists, and artists worldwide analyzing the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS). BDS aims to achieve economic, political, and social justice for Palestinians by calling for grassroots action against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Part 1 provides a comparative historical context of popular, nonviolent resistance and boycotts, including apartheid South Africa, India’s struggle for freedom, and the US civil rights movement. Part 2 details Israel’s systematic violations of international law and explains why Palestinians decided to initiate the BDS movement in 2005. The remaining sections of the book provide perspectives on the implementation, challenges, and outcomes of the BDS movement. By embracing the power of popular movement when state-led change is absent, Generation Palestine depicts the international BDS movement as a promising path to justice for Palestine. (LW) [End Page 663]

Political Parties in Palestine: Leadership and Thought, by Michael Bröning. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013. 240 pages. $90. According to Michael Bröning, the prior scholarship on Palestinian political history is characterized as “the history of political factionalism” (p. 1). While Bröning’s book provides vital background information on Hamas and Fatah, it also focuses on smaller political factions that have defined the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The author provides valuable insights into Palestinian politics that have not previously been subject to scrutiny. Through profiles of party founders, interviews with leaders, organizational charts, and translated party programs, Bröning discusses the ideological outlook, historical development, and political objectives of major political actors in the Palestinian national movement. (LW)


Historical Dictionary of the Sudan, Fourth Edition, by Robert S. Kramer; Richard A. Lobban, Jr.; and Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, 2013. 540 pages. $115. The most recent iteration of this dictionary, now in its fourth edition, provides a comprehensive compendium of data on Sudan from the early Islamic period until South Sudan’s secession in 2011. Entries vary in length and detail, comprising both Sudan-specific terms and other tangential, yet necessary, definitions on external concepts (such as Islamic laws) that formed Sudan’s policies and development over time. The volume includes detailed maps, an acronym list, and a lengthy time line subdivided into period themes. It also includes extensive appendices on current Sudanese economics, ethnic groups, political structure, and influential institutions. (EF)


The Tunisian Awakening, by K.A. Hussein. 2011. 104 pages. $16. In this illustrated history, K.A. Hussein traces the arc of the Tunisian Revolution of December 2010–January 2011, starting with vegetable seller Muhammad Bouazizi’s self-immolation to Mohamed Ghannouchi’s assumption of the presidency after former president Zine El-‘Abidine Ben ‘Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. Pencil illustrations complement simple text and provide nonexperts with an overview and time line of revolutionary events. Hussein concludes the book with an open ending concerning Tunisia’s future. (EF)


The Young Atatürk: From Ottoman Soldier to Statesman of Turkey, by George W. Gawrych. London: I.B. Taurus, 2013. 288 pages. $35. This biography of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk examines his role in the history of Turkey, commencing with his military training in the Ottoman Empire and ending with his assumption of power in the new Turkish Republic. George Gawrych constructs his narrative from primary sources — including Atatürk’s personal notebooks, letters, and speeches — to explore how Atatürk’s sentiment, mind, and conscience developed the military offensives and political stratagems driving him to the presidency. (EF)

Learning to Read in the Late Ottoman Empire and the Early Turkish Republic, by Benjamin C. Fortna. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 264 pages. $32. This case study on the acquisition of literacy through the lens of Turkey addresses reading during a time of serious political overhaul. Covering the period from 1880 to 1930, Fortna examines the learning process of reading, as well as technical aspects of publishing and marketing, with a focus on young readers and literature catered to them. He specifically examines the religious, generational, and identity tensions that elementary literature of the period revealed. He discusses the script change in the Turkish language under Atatürk in 1928, but that is not the main focus of the book. (EF)


Yemen Divided: the Story of a Failed State in South Arabia, by Noel Brehony. London: I.B. Taurus, 2013. 288 pages. $29. In this study, Noel Brehony presents an overview of the political history of Yemen in the postcolonial era. He details the rise and fall of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY) — the only Marxist regime in the Arab world — and explains the decision of Yemeni leaders to unify the country in 1989. The history is divided into four chronological sections, addressing the rise of the National Liberation Front and the secession of South Yemen; the reign of former leader of the PDRY, Salim Rubayyi‘ ‘Ali (Salmin); the unstable presidencies of ‘Abd al-Fattah Isma‘il and ‘Ali Nasir Muhammad; and the failed reform and unity process that led to the 1994 civil war. His conclusion both analyzes the influence of the PDRY on 21st century Yemen and assesses the potential for a new secession movement in the South and the descent of Yemen into failed statehood. (EF)

Unmaking North and South: Cartographies of the Yemeni Past, by John M. Willis. London: Hurst, 2012. 288 pages. $49.50. In this work, John Willis unravels Yemen’s history from 1857 to 1934. The subject matter is organized chronologically into six phases: Defining Authority on the Indian Frontier; Masterless Men; A Landscape of Uncertainty; Disorder and the Domain of Obedience; The Centre of Renewal and Reform; and the Return of Indeterminacy. (MB)

Where the Paved Road Ends: One Woman’s Extraordinary Experiences in Yemen, by Carolyn Han. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2012. 296 pages. $19. Carolyn Han’s memoir of working in [End Page 664] Yemen’s Ma’rib Province in the early 21st century focuses on her cultural experiences with Bedouin while living and traveling in the region. She anecdotally reflects upon the events she witnessed, both extreme (as in the case of a sandstorm that trapped her in her house) and mundane (her daily walks with her bodyguard, Muhammad). Han, an English teacher who had previously traveled in Central Asia to teach, went to Yemen to serve as an English instructor and eventually permanently moved to the country. (EF)

Economic Conditions

Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution Remaking the Middle East, by Christopher M. Schroeder. New York: Macmillan Publishers, 2013. 265 pages. $27. Leading technology and media entrepreneur Christopher Schroeder writes that an impressive wave of start-up companies is making the Middle East a significant hub of tech innovation and investment despite political change and turmoil. The author traveled to Dubai, Cairo, Damascus, Amman, Beirut, and Istanbul, and discovered that Middle Eastern entrepreneurs are playing three significant roles as improvisers, problem solvers, and global players; and creating new startups in fields ranging from mobile technology to solar energy. He acknowledges the Middle East’s narrative of top-down powers’ desire to control their societies and hinder transparent communication, yet expresses optimism that bottom-up creation and innovation are still happening as entrepreneurs find new ways to utilize technology and the internet. By stressing the importance of global cooperation and criticizing the West’s tendency to be “hyper-focused” inwardly, Schroeder suggests that both regions have much to gain by challenging traditional narratives and utilizing a new generation of critical thinkers and self-learners. (LW)

International Development in Practice: Education Assistance in Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, by Andrea B. Rugh. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. 242 pages. $90. Utilizing her extensive experience in the field of development, Andrea Rugh analyzes three major educational aid programs in which she was involved. The in-depth cases show the studies, planning, and implementation that went into donor-assisted primary education projects in Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Rugh describes successes and failures, and weaknesses of development case studies in hopes that past mistakes will not be repeated in the future. She ultimately argues that there is a gap between the grand schemes of policy-makers and the feasibility of implementation, which can be closed by striving for a clearer vision, achievable goals, and simplicity. Rugh presents clear and simple case studies that provide valuable lessons for students and development professionals in training who are seeking ways to improve the practice of development aid. (LW)


The Gulf Monarchies and Climate Change: Abu Dhabi and Qatar in an Era of Natural Unsustainability, by Mari Luomi. London: Hurst, 2012. 301 pages. $29. Mari Luomi addresses one of the key issues in the oil-rich Gulf monarchies: environmental and energy sustainability. Analyzing Qatar and Abu Dhabi specifically, Luomi investigates whether oil- and gas-dependent monarchies can keep their resource use in balance with environmental and political concerns. She argues that due to authoritarianism and strong rentier economies, the Gulf monarchies have already reached their “natural sustainability” limits as water resources dwindle and food import dependence rises. Keeping in mind that regime survival drives decision-making in these monarchies, Luomi examines the drivers of change that lead each country to implement certain environmental and energy policy changes. She warns that while Qatar and the UAE have made promising starts to environmental policy change, their monarchies are unlikely to survive without increasing their attention toward pressing environmental and natural resource concerns in the region. (LW)

Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa, edited by Alan Mikhail. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 352 pages. $24.95. A collection of essays in a wide range of disciplines and regions, Water on Sand fills a gap in the study of environmental history by holistically examining the case of the Middle East and North Africa region. Characterized by intense movement, circulation, and interconnection throughout history, the Middle East and North Africa come with crucial environmental implications. Each chapter uses physical, historical, literary, and administrative accounts of regional environmental history to illuminate the intimate connections between societies and environments, and how these relationships have shaped political, economic, and social history. This collection offers a broad outline of the area’s environmental history, and invites further conversation about an often overlooked discipline. (LW)

Modern History and Politics

A Concise History of the Arabs, by John McHugo. New York: New Press, 2013. 304 pages. $20. In his broad overview intended for nonexperts, McHugo traces the history of the Arabs from the time of Muhammad through the 2011 Arab Spring. The “concise, but not definitive, history” places heavy emphasis on the Arab role in the post–World War I modern world. McHugo avoids chronicling non-Arab groups in the region and the history of Islam as a religion, although he does examine sectarian conflict to explain Arabs’ relations with some of these groups. The author concludes with a skeletal arc of events during the Arab Spring. (EF) [End Page 665]

Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War, by Jeff D. Colgan. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 312 pages. $31.49. In this study, Jeff Colgan discusses the relationship between the domestic politics of petro-states and the nature of their foreign policies. He concludes that oil-exporting states with revolutionary governments and weak institutions tend to engage in more aggressive behavior than petro-states with stable governments supported by strong institutions. The book is divided into four chapters that explain Colgan’s theory and present his study’s quantitative findings; five chapters of case studies on Iraq, Libya, Iran, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia; and a concluding chapter on the relationship between oil and revolution. (MB)

The Arab Revolts: Dispatches on Militant Democracy in the Middle East, edited by David McMurray and Amanda Ufheil-Somers. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2013. 272 pages. $28. This collection of essays, originally published in the Middle East Report, covers the 2011 uprisings and their underlying causes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, and Bahrain. Each collection of essays starts in the thick of the uprisings, then takes the analysis back over the past two decades, and returns again to the present to comment on current conditions. Each collection focuses on a single country and its local manifestations of a regional mass movement for democracy, freedom, and human dignity. While each country’s story varies in detail, all are tied together by similar pre-revolt situations: authoritarian practices combined with economic inequality, leaving the region faced with a crisis of governance. Authors ranging from journalists to activists describe the uprisings as “citizens battling to reform and restructure institutions” in a way that ensures basic rights, accountability, decent wages, public services, political participation, and social justice. Written for a broad audience of students, policy-makers, analysts, and general readers, The Arab Revolts provides an engaging and straightforward account of the uprisings and the region’s recent histories. (LW)

Best of Enemies: A History of US and Middle East Relations; Part One, 1783-1953, by Jean-Pierre Filiu and David B. London: SelfMadeHero, 2012. 120 pages. $24.95. This nonfiction graphic novel utilizes humor and illustrations to present the history of US and Middle East relations from 1783–1953. The book begins with a clever comparison of the mythical Gilgamesh and Enkidu with George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld in 2003, then touches upon significant historical events ranging from Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary pirates, to the birth of US-Saudi oil relations, to the US-backed coup in Iran. The authors and illustrators bring historical events to life by creating humorous, and often despicable, characters that provide an easily understood portrayal of US escapades in the Middle East. (LW)

The Violence of Petro-Dollar Regimes: Algeria, Iraq, and Libya, by Luis Martinez. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 208 pages. $36.19. In this study, Luis Martinez revisits the theory behind the “oil curse” and applies it to Algeria, Iraq, and Libya to find that oil rent does not directly lead to violent authoritarian rule, as traditionally thought. The author analyzes the policies of the three states’ regimes, all of which took power in revolutions during the 1970s, over three periods in the global oil market in the ensuing decades. The 1973–85 oil crisis provided the nascent revolutionary governments with income to fund policies based in revolutionary ideologies involving violence instead of democracy. The failure of these governments to establish democratic financial institutions to manage oil wealth in the 1970s instead led them to fund security agencies charged with protecting revolutionary values by restricting freedoms into the 1990s. A lack of established financial institutions to manage oil revenues, paired with a policy focus on maintaining power distinguished the violent nature of Algeria, Iraq, and Libya’s authoritarian regimes from their peaceful, oil-rich counterparts in the Gulf. (ABG)

Philosophy, Religion, and Science

Understanding the Qur’an Today, by Mahmoud Hussein. London: Saqi Books, 2013. 176 pages. $12. In this brief reader, Mahmoud Hussein explains the Qur’an in its historical context, and argues that its words cannot be interpreted without an understanding of the time and place in which it was revealed. He deconstructs particular verses to highlight important teachings, and frames the Qur’an as a conversation with God rather than a monologue. The book includes an overview of the major schools of Qur’anic interpretation, an abbreviated history of the Revelation, and specific teachings on Muslim responses to Judaism, Christianity, and polytheism. (EF)

The Longest Journey: Southeast Asians and the Pilgrimage to Mecca, by Eric Tagliacozzo. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. 368 pages. $23. Southeast Asian pilgrims are the focus of this historical examination of transnational pilgrimage. Eric Tagliacozzo investigates the hajj as a Southeast Asian Muslim tradition, beginning with the wealthy individual medieval pilgrims, followed by the colonial-era pilgrims (who received European state funding to complete their journeys), and ending with personal accounts of the modern-day hajj. Tagliacozzo thoroughly details the logistical details of the journey, including detailed analysis of medical considerations and sponsorship issues. Throughout, he considers the personal and communitarian aspects of the hajj. Concise chapters incorporate detailed maps, data tables, and historical photographs. (EF) [End Page 666]