Syrian Woman at Zaatari Camp in August, 2012; Photograph by Rick Westhead/Toronto Star

On Sunday, The New York Times a series of satellite photographs showing the increase in Syrian refugees at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in northern Jordan. There has been an increase in the total number of Syrian refugees abroad from 92,000 in July, 2012 to 554,000 in January, 2013.

BY Karim Sadjapour, Foreign Policy, June 15, 2011

How a couple of cows explain a changing region: equal opportunity offender edition.

In the early years of the Cold War, in an effort to simplify — and parody — various political ideologies and philosophies, irreverent wits, in the spirit of George Orwell, went back to the farm. No one really knows how the two-cow joke known as “Parable of the Isms” came about, but most students of Political Science 101 have likely come across some variation of the following definitions:

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one of them and gives it to your neighbor.

Communism: You have two cows. The government takes them both and provides you with milk.

Nazism: You have two cows. The government shoots you and takes the cows.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Over the years, the parables gradually expanded, using the two-cow joke to explain everything from French unions (You have two cows. You go on strike because you want three cows.) to the Republican Party (You have two cows. Your neighbor has none. So what?). While in its original iteration the cows were a metaphor for currency, capital, and property, they later began to take on different meanings.

Today, the Middle East has replaced the Cold War as America’s primary foreign-policy preoccupation. As opposed to the seemingly ideologically homogenous communist bloc, however, the 22 diverse countries that compose the modern Middle East are still confusing to most Americans. Why can’t the Israeli and Palestinians stop fighting already? What’s the difference between Libya and Lebanon again?

Herewith then is a satirical effort to simplify the essence of Middle Eastern governments so that, in the immortal words of George W. Bush, “the boys in Lubbock” can read it. And, rather than symbolizing property, the cows here symbolize people, which — funny enough — is how most Middle Eastern regimes have traditionally viewed their populations.

Saudi Arabia
You have two cows with endless reserves of milk. Gorge them with grass, prevent them from interacting with bulls, and import South Asians to milk them.

You have two cows. You interrogate them until they concede they are Zionist agents. You send their milk to southern Lebanon and Gaza, or render it into highly enriched cream. International sanctions prevent your milk from being bought on the open market.

You have five cows, one of whom is an Alawite. Feed the Alawite cow well; beat the non-Alawite cows. Use the milk to finance your wife’s shopping sprees in London.

You have two cows. Syria claims ownership over them. You take them abroad and start successful cattle farms in Africa, Australia, and Latin America. You send the proceeds back home so your relatives can afford cosmetic surgery and Mercedes-Benzes.

You have no cows. During breaks from milking on the teat of the Iranian cow you call for Israel’s annihilation. (more…)

Tall al-‘Umayri, field H, Early Iron I possible four-room building (courtesy Tall al-‘Umayri Project)

The American Journal of Archaeology is granting free access to an article by Barbara A. Porter, Christopher A. Tuttle and Donald R. Keller entitled “Archaeology in Jordan, 2010–2011 Seasons.” The images are online and the article is available as a pdf here.

The Pew Foundation has recently released a report entitled Most Muslims Want Democracy, Personal Freedoms, and Islam in Political Life on July 10, 2012. Click here to read the overview and gain access to a free pdf of the full report.

Here is what they say about Muslims views of extremists…

“Extremist groups are largely rejected in predominantly Muslim nations, although significant numbers do express support for radical groups in several countries. For instance, while there is no country in which a majority holds a favorable opinion of the Palestinian organization Hamas, it receives considerable support in Tunisia, Jordan and Egypt.

The militant Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah receives its highest overall ratings in Tunisia, where nearly half express a positive opinion. Sizable minorities in both Jordan and Egypt also have a favorable view, but Hezbollah’s image has been declining in both countries in recent years. In its home country, views about Hezbollah are sharply divided along sectarian lines: 94% of Shia, 33% of Christians, and 5% of Sunnis give the group favorable marks.

Across all six nations, less than 20% have a positive opinion about al Qaeda or the Taliban. In Turkey and Lebanon, support for these groups is in the single digits. However, fully 19% of Egyptians rate these extremist organizations favorably.”

The Guardian has an interactive and updated timeline on the events labeled the “Arab Spring,” with links to articles in The Guardian. You can choose the time period and the country and the type of event or issue. It is current through September 26, 2011.

Diana Abu-Jaber is the author of five award-winning books, including the forthcoming novel Birds of Paradise

From One Writer To Another: Shut Up, V.S. Naipaul

by Diana Abu-Jaber, NPR, June 3, 2011

Dear V.S. Naipaul:

You recently remarked, “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”

I was sad to read this, to realize that you’re apparently unable to think beyond schoolyard rankings and peevish comparisons, that you’re incapable of recognizing grace and power from unexpected and unfamiliar places, such as a woman’s experience.

But what worries me more is your comment that that women write with “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world,” because, “inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.”

Your use of the word “master,” is chilling. (more…)

King Hussein with Queen Noor, 1985; Photograph by Carol Spencer Mitchell

[Webshaykh’s note: Carol Spencer Miller (1954-2004) worked as a photojournalist in the Middle East, covering the crises there for some of the major American and european journals and newspapers. She had access to the elites, including King Hussein and Yassir Arafat, as well as ordinary people. Although she died before publishing her reflections on this experience, her book has been edited by her sister as Danger Pay: Memoir of a Photojournalist in the Middle East, 1984-1994 and is now available as an intriguing first-person memoir of events that seem to recycle more than disappear from the news cycle. I provide here a second excerpt about her interview with King Hussein about the murder of his grandfather in which he himself was almost killed.]

On the Loss of His Grandfather

CS: What do you remember about the day your grandfather was assassinated?

KH: (He is silent for a moment,) You want me to go through the whole experience? I remember it very vividly … very vividly. (He is silent again.)

My grandfather was everything to me – a father, an example – who a few days before had asked me a strange question, which I’ve tried to live up to ever since. He asked me to ensure that his work was no lost and that I would continue to serve the Arab nation and this country as he had done. That particular day, I went with him to the city of Nablus because people insisted that we spend the day with them. We had the intention to go pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. I remember being in the uniform that he insisted I wear that morning. It was the only one that I had. I remember the meeting that he had in Jerusalem with certain Palestinians that fateful Friday. I remember him speaking about his relations with some of them. The fact that his differences with people were not always of a personal nature, but were matters of policy and approach. I remember him speaking of death and that he wished he would go while he was still in possession of his faculties and the best way in his view would be from a bullet from an unknown assailant. (more…)

Hofstra University Announces Middle Eastern and Central Asian Study Day
A Series of Presentations Focused on Faculty Research

Who: Hofstra faculty who have conducted research on Middle Eastern and Central Asian (MECA) studies
What: MECA Study Day
When: September 16, 2009
Where: 310 C.V. Starr Hall and 117 Berliner Hall, South Campus
Why: To highlight and learn about the research Hofstra faculty have done on MECA studies

Hofstra faculty from a variety of departments such as fine art, art history, anthropology, history, comparative literature, economics, political science and religious studies will give presentations on their research in MECA studies. Topics from their research will include archeology, women’s issues, history and the contemporary Middle Eastern and Central Asian world. These talks are free and open to the public.

MECA Schedule

Western and Central Asia in the Middle Ages
9:30 – 11:15 a.m., C.V. Starr Hall, 310
Moderator: Dr. Stefanie Nanes, Department of Political Science

• Greeting by Dr. Bernard Firestone, Dean of Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
• Opening remarks by Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco, Department of Anthropology

• Dr. Aleksandr Naymark, Department of Fine Arts/Art History
Amazing Sogdians: Masters and Creatures of the Silk Road

• Dr. Anna Feuerbach, Department of Anthropology
The Damascus Steel Sword

• Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco, Department of Anthropology
The Sultan’s Green Thumb: Yemeni Agriculture in the 14th Century (more…)

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