Quote of the Day: How to Analyse the Middle East

Are the Arab uprisings a result of domestic issues or foreign interference?

From the editors of the Middle East Research and Information Project:

There are two political-intellectual prisms through which the recurrent conflagrations of the modern Middle East are conventionally seen. One casts the region’s stubborn ills as internally caused — by the outsize role of religion in public life, the persistence of primordial identities like sect and tribe, and the centuries-long accretion of patriarchal norms. The other espies the root of all evils in external interference, from European colonialism to the creation of Israel and assorted ventures of the imperial United States.

It is possible, of course, to view the Middle East through a multi-focal lens, one that projects neither of the above caricatures. Few who know the region well would adopt either explanatory framework wholesale; most would dismiss both. But debate on the Middle East rarely admits nuance, and, in time after time of crisis, even those with empathy and expertise find themselves pulled between these two poles, compelled by the “us-versus-them” terms of conversation to choose one or the other, perhaps despairing in the knowledge that the resulting discourse merely reproduces itself while doing nothing to help the suffering peoples who cry out for solidarity. [My emphasis – Chris]

The inability to accept that the ‘them’ may be in some ways correct is a fundamental error that is made across the board, and is not just limited to debate on the Middle East. Read the entire piece, it is well worth it.

Photo from Support for Syria

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