Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

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Showing posts for "Palestinian Authority"

Hasbara…Hasbara Everywhere

by Steven A. Cook
Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week Israel took criticism for sending a contingent of doctors and search and rescue specialists to Nepal to participate in the earthquake relief efforts. Read that again. There is no “not” in between “for” and “sending.” The Israel Defense Forces sent 260 doctors, nurses, and personnel trained in finding disaster victims to Katmandu after the major (7.8 on the Richter scale) earthquake…and it was quickly dismissed as propaganda to deflect attention from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have a lot to answer for when it comes to the Palestinians, from continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank to death and destruction in Gaza, but what do those issues have to do with earthquake relief in Nepal? Apparently everything the Israelis do is hasbara. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Informers, Algeria’s Political Complexities, and The Non-Intifada

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shouts slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, after the collection signatures for a petition in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shouts slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, after the collection signatures for a petition in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Belal Fadl characterizes Egypt as a state-sponsored nation of informers.

Anna Jacobs explores the complexities of the Algerian political system. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Trouble In Morocco, Egypt 1990s Style, and What Are The Palestinians Saying?

by Steven A. Cook
Israeli border police officers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli border police officers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Zineb Belmkaddem examines how the Moroccan authorities are clamping down on opposition movements.

Dina El Khawaga argues that the Egyptian government is reproducing the authoritarian measures of the 1990s to consolidate its power. Read more »

Salvaging Abbas

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. President Barack Obama walks down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas September 1, 2010 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama walks down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas September 1, 2010 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on TimesOfIsrael.com on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Almost from the start of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the commentariat has been seized with the idea of “empowering [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas” as the only way out of the recurrent violence between Israel and Hamas. The discovery of this idea in Washington (and Jerusalem for that matter) is rather odd, not because it does not make sense, but rather because the idea is so reasonable and obvious that one wonders why — ten years after he became the Palestinian leader — it took so long to recognize it. Almost from the moment of Yasser Arafat’s death, Egypt sent high-level emissaries to the United States, warning that the new Palestinian president needed help lest he gradually cede the political arena to Hamas. He did not get it then and now it is likely too late to salvage Abbas. Read more »

The Last Great Myth About Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, July 21, 2014.

In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger fell in love with Anwar Sadat. To Kissinger, the Egyptian president “had the wisdom and courage of the statesman and occasionally the insight of the prophet.” It was from this romance that a set of ideas about Egypt became inculcated in American Middle East policy: Egypt would be a bulwark against the Soviet Union, a base from which U.S. forces would launch in the event of a crisis in the Persian Gulf, and a mediator between Arabs — especially the Palestinians — and Israelis. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The King of the Kurds, Sexual Violence in Egypt, and Israel’s Accidental War

by Steven A. Cook
A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters). A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters).

Sarah Carr, writing for Mada Masroffers an in-depth and graphic look at sexual assault and the Egyptian state.

J.J. Goldberg explores the triggers to an “unintended” war in Gaza. Read more »

Social Work, Violence, and Palestinian Nationalism

by Steven A. Cook
An Islamic Jihad militant stands guard during a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the movement's foundation in Gaza City  (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters). An Islamic Jihad militant stands guard during a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the movement's foundation in Gaza City (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Is Islamic Jihad getting soft?  Most likely not, but last Sunday, Jodi Rudoren had an interesting piece in the New York Times about the group. For those not familiar with the details of Islamic Jihad (sometimes referred to as Palestinian Islamic Jihad), it was founded in the late 1970s by Palestinian students studying in Egypt, frustrated that, for all the rhetorical demands in the Arab world and beyond for the establishment of a Palestine state, no one was doing much about it.  As the group’s name implies, its focus was exclusively liberating Palestine—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean—through violence. Read more »

Yasser Arafat: Dead Again

by Steven A. Cook
Photo by Steven Cook. Photo by Steven Cook.

With all the important news going on in the Middle East this past week, Al Jazeera took time out to remind its audience that Yasser Arafat is still dead. It has been nine years since the Palestinian leader passed away in a French hospital, yet Abu Ammar is still making news, of sorts.  This week a Swiss investigative team reported that there are indications that Arafat was poisoned with polonium, yet others who took part in the examination of the remains and soil samples around the man’s grave at the Muqata’a in Ramallah have not been so definitive nor willing to release their findings.  Sounds suspicious. Read more »

Palestine in India

by Steven A. Cook
An example of Rangoli--Indian folk art that is intended as a welcoming of Hindu gods. An example of Rangoli--Indian folk art that is intended as a welcoming of Hindu gods.

Mumbai, India—A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to speak about the Middle East at an interfaith forum in Chennai.  India is not without its sectarian problems and periodic spasms of terrible religion-inspired violence, but the country’s well-deserved reputation for spirituality seems to take the edge off on a daily basis.  For that reason, I was looking forward to the interfaith dialogue.  This is a country of six major religions, and though 80 percent are Hindus, departments of Religious Studies at Indian universities teach about Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.  That’s not all, of course.  Another almost 7 million people adhere to a variety of other religions.  The interfaith forum provided an opportunity for me to see how the Indians make it all work.  I was imagining a lot of Namaste (a hard to translate expression of reverence and respect). The rangoli—a symbolic offering to Hindu gods—just outside the building where the dialogue was taking place only heightened my expectations about how the evening would unfold. The event started off well-enough with the director of the center giving a “Moon is in the 7th House—all religions teach love—peace is our destiny” oration that in a previous era inspired a generation of hippies. Read more »