Timeline: The Middle East conflict
A timeline of important events in the Middle East conflict since the first world war.
The Dome of the Rock lies at the heart
of the divided city of Jerusalem
1915-1916: Hussein-McMahon correspondence. Exchange of letters between Hussein ibn Ali , sharif of Mecca , and Sir Henry McMahon , British high commissioner in Egypt , regarding the future political status of the Arab lands of the Middle East .
Britain offered Arabs across the Middle East self-rule in exchange for their aid in defeating the Ottoman empire during the first world war.
1916, May 16: Sykes-Picot Agreement. Britain and France sign a secret pact outlining their spheres of control in the Middle East after the first world war. Palestine is designated for international administration pending consultations with Russia and other powers. The agreement is seen by Arabs as a betrayal of the Hussein-McMahon correspondence.
1917, November 2: Balfour Declaration . Arthur James Balfour , Britain’s foreign secretary, sends a letter to Lord Rothschild , president of the Zionist federation , stating the government’s support for the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine , the area consisting of today’s Israel, the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan.
The declaration reads: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
1922 , July 24: The League of Nations gives Britain a mandate to administer Palestine . Britain expresses an interest in Zionism , and describes its intention to develop a Jewish state.
The rise of fascism in Europe led large
numbers of Jews to flee to Palestine
– 1939 : In large part because of the rise of fascism in Europe, about 250,000 Jews arrive in Palestine during this period.
1929, summer: Arguments between Muslims and Jews over access to the Western Wall . More than 130 Jews are killed and 339 wounded and 116 Arabs killed and 232 wounded during clashes involving British forces.
1929, August 23: Hebron massacre: After hearing rumours of killings of Arabs in Jerusalem, rioters kill 67 Jews in Hebron. Many Jews survive by sheltering with Arab neighbours, and after the riots, the remainder of the Jewish population is evacuated by the British.
1930-35: Violent activities of Black Hand Islamist group led by Sheikh Izz al-Din al-Qassam against Jewish civilians and the British.
1936-39: Arab revolt to protest against Jewish immigration to Palestine led by Haj Amin al-Husseini. More than 5,000 Arabs are killed, mostly by the British. S everal hundred Jews are killed by Arabs.
1946, July 22: Bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the British civil, military and police command in Palestine, by the Irgun, a Zionist organisation. A total of 91 people are killed: 28 British, 41 Arab, 17 Jewish and five from other countries.
1947, November 29: United Nations General Assembly passes a p artition plan dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into two states. Accepted by the Jewish leadership but rejected by the Arab leadership.
1947-1949: The Nakba, meaning “disaster” or “cataclysm” in Arabic. Up to 900,000 Palestinians flee or are expelled from their homes in the part of the land that becomes the state of Israel .
1948, April 9, 11: Deir Yassin massacre. Between 100 and 254 Palestinian villagers, mainly women, old people and children are killed during and after an attack on the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem by Irgun members.
1948, May 15: Declaration of Israel as the Jewish state. British withdraw from Palestine. Arab-Israeli war. Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Lebanon declare war on Israel. Egypt, Jordan and Syria invade Israel.
1949, April: Israel and Arab states agree an armistice. Israel takes about 50 per cent more land than was originally allotted to it by the UN partition plan.
1956: Egypt nationalises Suez Canal (July 26). France, Britain and Israel plan invasion of Egypt. Israel invades the Sinai peninsula (October 29). Pressure from the US and USSR force France, Britain and Israel to withdraw.
1964, May: The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) is founded in Cairo by the Arab League . The PLO states its goal as the destruction of the Israel through armed struggle, and the restoration of an “independent Palestinian state” between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean sea .
1967, June: Third Arab-Israeli war (Six-Day War). Israel launches a pre-emptive attack on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel captures Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the Golan Heights from Syria and the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan.
1967: Israel begins settlement programme in areas captured during the Six-Day war.
1967, November 22: UN Security Council passes resolution 242, which calls for Israel to withdraw its armed forces from all territories occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The resolution affirms the right of all states in the region to “live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”.
1968-1970: War of Attrition. Limited war fought between Egypt and Israel in which Egypt attempts to regain the Sinai Peninsula lost in the Six Day war. The war ended with a ceasefire in August 1970 with the same frontiers as at the start.
1969, F ebruary 2: Yasser Arafat is appointed chairman of the PLO.
Yasser Arafat led the Palestine Liberation Organisation for 25 years
1972, September 5: Eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team and one German police officer are killed by Palestinian group Black September at the Munich Olympics.
1973, October 6: Fourth Arab-Israeli war (October war). In a surprise attack on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Egypt and Syria retake the areas in Sinai and the Golan Heights that were lost in the Six Day war. Despite initial gains they are soon forced to retreat by Israeli forces.
1973, October 22: UN Security Council passes resolution 338, which calls for a ceasefire in the on-going war between Israeli and the Arab coalition.
1978, September 17: Menachem Begin , Israel’s prime minister, and Anwar Sadat , Egypt’s president, sign the Camp David Accord , with Israel agreeing to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for peace and a framework for future negotiation over the West Bank and Gaza Strip .
1979, March 26: Peace deal between Egypt and Israel. Egypt becomes the first Arab country to recognise Israel.
1979: Arab League suspends Egypt’s membership of the league following Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel. The organisation moves its headquarters to Tunis.
1981, October 6: Sadat is assassinated by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad organisation, while reviewing a military parade, in retaliation for Sadat’s recognition of Israel.
1982, June 6: Israel invades Lebanon to remove PLO fighters who it claims are threatening its border.
1982: PLO relocates to Tunis as it is driven out of Lebanon by Israel during the six-month invasion of the country. It remains active in Lebanon but not to the same extent as before 1982.
1982, September: Sabra and Shatila massacre . Lebanese Phalangists (members of a Christian para-military group) kill up to 2,750 Palestinians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila .
1983, August: The Israeli army withdraws from most of Lebanon , maintaining a self-proclaimed “security zone” in the south.
1985, October 1: Israel’s Operation Wooden Leg attempts to kill Arafat with an air raid on his headquarters in Tunis. He survives, but 60 members of the PLO are killed including much of the leadership.
1987, December 8: First intifada (uprising) starts. Palestinians begin general strikes, riots and civil disobedience campaigns across the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli army replies with tear gas, plastic bullets, and live rounds. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin creates Hamas from the Gaza wing of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood .
1988, November 15: The Palestinian National Council, meeting in Algiers, unilaterally proclaims a State of Palestine.
1990, August 2: Iraq invades Kuwait, prompting UN sanctions. An international coalition force launch and air and ground assault against Iraq in January 1991. Iraq launches missiles in Iraq and Saudi Arabia during the fighting. The war ends on February 28, 1991 with a decisive victory for the international coalition.
1991, October: Middle East peace conference opens in Madrid, attended by Israeli, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Palestinian delegations. The conference opens dialogues on Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian relations.
1993, September 13: Oslo declaration of principles. PLO and Israel agree to recognise each other.
1994, February 25: Baruch Goldstein , an American-Israeli settler, enters Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi (The Cave of the Patriarchs), a religious site in Hebron, and kills 29 Palestinian s, injuring another 125.
1995, September 28: Interim agreement on the future of Israeli-occupied Gaza and the West Bank is signed by Israel and the PLO. The agreement recognises the formation of a Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority – an elected council.
1994, October 26: Israel and Jordan sign a peace treaty ending 45-years of hostility. Israel agrees to recognise the special role of Jordan over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
1995, November 4: Yitzhak Rabin, Israel’s prime minister, is assassinated by Yigal Amir, an Israeli orthodox Jewish student who is against the Middle East peace plan. Shimon Peres takes over as prime minister.
1998, October 23: Wye River Memorandum is negotiated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to implement the 1995 interim agreement. The memorandum examines redeployment of Israeli troops from areas occupied since 1967 and Palestinian guarantees on security.
2000, July: The Camp David summit between Ehud Barak , Israel’s prime minister, Yasser Arafat , leader of the Palestinian Authority, and President Bill Clinton. Aimed at reaching a “final status” agreement the talks break down after two weeks and the US and the Israelis blame Arafat for refusing to accept a proposal drafted by their negotiators.
Ariel Sharon was elected leader of the Likud party on February 6, 2001
2000, September: Palestinians riot after Ariel Sharon, of the Likud party in Israel, visits the Temple Mount (the Noble Sanctuary) in Jerusalem. Second intifada begins.
2001, January: Summit between Israel and Palestinian Authority is held at Egyptian resort of Taba. The talks are designed to lead to ‘final status’ agreements on refugees, territory, security and Jerusalem. Differences remained between Israel and the Palestinians despite the discussions.
2001, February 6: Sharon is elected the leader of Likud and refuses to continue negotiations with Arafat.
2001 , June 1: A Hamas suicide bomber attacks an Israeli nightclub. Twenty-one Israelis killed, mainly teenagers, more than 100 injured.
2001, October 17: Rehavam Zeevi, Israel’s tourism minister, is shot dead in Jerusalem by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
2001, December: Sharon sends troops into Ramallah, shelling and surrounding the Palestinian government’s West Bank headquarters Arafat is unable to leave.
Middle East Timeline
Jerico, built on an oasis on the bank of the River Jordan, is the world's oldest city, with a circular tower and encircling wall built of massive stones. Read more.
C. 7000BC–c. 6000 BC
Sculptures made of lime plaster from Ain Ghazal in Jordan are among the earliest surviving large-scale statues of the human figure. Read more.
7000 BC–5000 BC
Çatal Hüyük in central Turkey is the largest Neolithic settlement known in the Near East. The wall paintings, figurines and artefacts found there reveal a rich religious and cultural tradition, and some of the oldest textile fragments in the world have been found there. Read more.
4000 BC–3000 BC
A stately procession is carved in low relief on the famous stone Warka Vase of Uruk. Rows of sheep, priests and, at the top, the king present offerings to the Mesopotamian goddess of love and war, Inanna. This method of depicting important politico-religious events in horizontal registers continues to be used for the next two millennia. Read more.
4000 BC–3000 BC
The large number of copper alloy maceheads, sceptres, crowns and other presitigious items found at Nahal Mishmar in Israel are among the earliest and most skilfully crafted examples of the lost-wax casting method. Read more.
C. 3300 BC
Animal-shaped seals from Tell Brak, Syria act as good-luck charms and votive offerings, as well as providing a recognizable image that can be stamped into soft clay to proclaim ownership of an item. Read more.
C. 2900 BC–c. 2334 BC
Cylinder seals are used in Mesopotamia, Iran, and Syria during the 3rd millennium BC. The seal is impressed on a ball of clay that is then used to close documents, stacks of goods or doors. These figural and textual images form a rich and long-lasting source of information about this civilization. Read more.
C. 2700 BC
A group of Sumerian statues from Tell Asmar are distinctive for their columnar forms and large, round, staring eyes. Found in the Square Temple, the statues' folded hands and attentive attitude may indicate their role as supplicants. Read more.
C. 2600 BC–2400 BC
Several impressive wood lyres or harps, capped with bull's heads made of gold and lapis lazuli, are placed in tombs in the Royal Cemetery at Ur and may have been used as part of Sumerian funerary rituals. Read more.
C. 2250 BC
The two-metre tall Stele of Naram-Sin celebrates the military success of the Akkadian king by employing the innovative composition technique of showing the ruler conquering his foes in a single dramatic scene, rather than by means of the older method of a narrative composed of a series of horizontal registers. Read more.
C. 2112 BC–2095 BC
The Ziggurat at Ur, in modern Iraq is built of painted mud-brick to honour the moon god Nammu. This massive structure consists of a temple set atop a stepped pyramid and serves as a meeting place for the gods and man. Read more.
C. 1700s BC
When he unifies Mesopotamia, King Hammurabi establishes a legal code to ensure justice. His decrees are inscribed in cuneiform on a tall stone stele capped by a carving showing Hammurabi appearing before the sun god Shamash. Read more.
1300 BC–1200 BC
Among the earliest and finest glass made in ancient Iran are fragments of mosaic-glass beakers in blue, turquoise and white found in the remains of a palace near Hasanlu. Read more.
C. 950 BC
Solomon's Temple is built in Jerusalem. This magnificently decorated structure with abundant carvings and gold-plating houses the sacred Ark of the Covenant, which contains the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are inscribed. The temple structure is among the earliest in Jewish architecture. Read more.
900 BC–700 BC
Ancient Phoenician craftsmen make small plaques and toiletry articles of ivory, many of which are traded abroad over their numerous and extensive trade routes. Read more.
C. 721 BC–c. 705 BC
Inscribed with the dedication 'Palace of Sargon, King of Assyria', the translucent, light green Sargon Vase is a unique example of early Middle Eastern glass made by casting. Read more.
C. 645 BC
One of the most sympathetic images from the ancient world is the depiction of dying lions, lying in agonized postures after being shot with arrows and speared. The animals are part of a representation of an Assyrian royal hunt that covered the north wall of Assurbanipal's palace. Read more.
C. 575 BC
Tiles glazed in brilliant gold and royal blue decorate the Ishtar Gate at Babylon. Striding beasts and dragons rendered in low relief create an imposing quality typical of Mesopotamian royal architecture. Read more.
C. 515 BC
Darius the Great constructs the magnificent city of Persepolis. The palace is decorated with scenes in relief of royal processions and hunts that convey the king's power. Read more.
C. 100 BC–c. AD 100
The important trading city of Hatra in southern Iraq has heavily fortified walls of mud-brick on stone foundations, four large gates and the Great Temple inside the precincts. Some of the kings who sponsor various stages of the construction are commemorated with relief portraits on bricks set into the city walls. Read more.
AD 1–AD 100
Massive temples and tombs, including the Khaznat al-Fir`awn (Treasury of the Pharaoh), are carved from the stone cliffs at Petra, the capital of the Nabataean kingdom in Jordan. Read more.
C. AD 100–c. AD 300
Greco-Roman temples dedicated to the gods Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus are constructed at Baalbek in Lebanon at the site of an ancient caravan route. Read more.
C. AD 200–c. AD 300
Wall paintings from the synagogue in the Syrian city of Dura Europos provide the earliest known narrative depiction of biblical scenes, which challenges the assumption that early Jewish art prohibited figural imagery. Read more.
AD 306–AD 337
Emperor Constantine the Great unites the Roman Empire under his control and in AD 324 establishes his new capital, Constantinople (now Istanbul), on the site of the Greek town of Byzantion in Turkey. He vigorously sponsors art projects that glorify his rule, such as the colossal portrait statue of him, and enhance Christianity, which he adopts and makes the official state religion. Read more.
Construction begins on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in the form of a religius complex comprising a rotunda constructed over the Tomb of Christ, a courtyard and a basilica. Following several episodes of destruction and reconstruction, the entire complex is rebuilt by the Crusaders after their conquest of Jerusalem in 1099. Read more.
AD 537–AD 562
After the original 4th-century church is destroyed by fire, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople is rebuilt as one of the most influential Byzantine centrally-planned, domed churches. Read more.
C. AD 629
Large silver plates decorated with narrative scenes continue the classical tradition of metalworking in Constantinople. One particularly impressive set depicts the Life of David and is probably part of an imperial commission. Read more.
Jerusalem's Dome of the Rock is the earliest important Islamic building still standing. It is decorated inside and out with gold and green mosaics (only the interior ones survive), demonstrating the most extensive use of mosaic on a structure in both ancient and medieval periods. Read more.
AD 700–AD 750
The Umayyad caliphs build a desert palace at Qusayr 'Amra in Jordan that reveals their wealth and the innovation of their architects. Fresco paintings of rulers and narrative scenes still survive at this site. Read more.
AD 706–AD 715
Umayyad caliph al-Walid I builds the Great Mosque of Damascus, using architecture for political and religious goals for the first time in Islamic art history, and establishes Damascus as one of the caliphate's primary cities. Read more.
AD 800–AD 900
Potters working in Samarra' under the Abbasid caliphate may be the first to develop lustreware, a type of pottery that incorporates a metal substance into the glaze to create an iridescent effect that resembles glittering metalwork. Read more.
C. 800–c. 1000
Calligraphy, especially that devoted to copying the Koran, flourishes during the Abbasid caliphate. The prominent script style, known as early Abbasid or more generally kufic, is characterized by thick strokes and a horizontal emphasis. Read more.
Potters in Nishapur, an important city in ancient Iran, create a sophisticated type of pottery that features black inscriptions painted onto a creamy-white background. Read more.
AD 848–AD 852
Baghdad and Samarra' become the primary cities of the Abbasid caliphate. With the construction of the mosque of al-Mutawakkil at Samarra', craftsmen develop a new style of carving architectural surfaces that spreads throughout the Islamic world. Read more.
Master calligrapher Ibn al-Bawwab produces a richly ornamented copy of the Koran at the Baghdad court. Read more.
C. 1050–c. 1250
Saljuq rulers renovate the Friday Mosque (Masjid-i jum'a) at Isfahan and establish the architectural style used for future mosques in Iran. Read more.
Krak des Chevaliers, one of the most successful and best-known Crusader castles, is built in Syria by the Knights Hospitaller. The walls of the structure are so imposing that it is only finally conquered in 1271 with a forged order to surrender. Read more.
Aleppo in Syria is famed for the skill of its woodworkers. One of the best examples, although no longer extant, is the minbar commissioned by Nur al-Din for the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Read more.
Potters in Kashan, Iran develop a unique type of ceramic ware in which a turquoise or cobalt glazes were applied and fired, followed by the addition of paintings in black, red, white or gold. The overall effect closely resembles illuminated manuscripts. Read more.
Under the Abbasid caliphate, Baghdad is an important centre for learning and book production. The Mustansiriyya Madrasa, the first college for all four schools of Sunni law, is built. Read more.
The Ilkhanid rulers of the western regions of the Mongolian empire live part of the year in great tents that recall their nomadic heritage but are also decorated with splendid silk panels that express their new wealth and prestige. Read more.
C. 1250–c. 1390
Metalworkers of Egypt and Syria produce some of the finest inlaid brass wares in Islamic history, some of gold and silver inlaid designs depict narrative scenes. Read more.
The Mongol leader of Western Asia Ilkhan Abaqa constructs a magnificent summer palace on the site of a former Sasanian holy centre known as Takht-i Sulayman. An abundance of marble-carvings and lustre-glazed tiles indicate that the original structure was striking to behold and extremely costly to build. Read more.
The learned Grand Vizier Rashid al-Din writes the Jami` al-tawarikh ('Compendium of histories'), a history of the Mongol khans and lands that they conquered. These volumes are later richly illustrated. Read more.
The greatest example of Ilkhanid manuscript illumination is the Great Mongol Shahnama. This large folio takes the Persian Book of Kings and modifies it with adaptations of Chinese and European painting techniques to celebrate the might of the Mongol empire. Read more.
C. 1451–c. 1481
Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, known as 'the Conqueror', consolidates his control with an ambitious construction programme in his capital, Istanbul. He orders two palaces built and incorporates in their structure influences from various regions. Read more.
Bihzad, the most skilful and influential Persian painter, creates his only known signed work, a copy of Sa'di's Bustan. Bihzad is one of the talented artists and architects working in Herat at the conclusion of the Timurid period. Read more.
Continuing earlier traditions, the Safavid rulers call for large and finely made carpets, produced throughout Iran in royal workshops. Over 1500 Safavid carpets (and fragments) survive from this period, with many of them displaying complex designs that suggest the influence of book illustration. Read more.
Ottoman Sultan Süleyman I attaches a complex tughra or imperial monogram to all official documents. This highly decorative cipher combines his names, the names of his forebears and the descriptive phrase 'ever victorious' in a manner that is highly decorative and difficult to forge. Read more.
Safavid Sultan `Abbas I instructs two court painters Sadiqi and Riza to create a version of the Shahnama (Book of Kings) at his capital is Isfahan. The large manuscript pages are ornamented in the margins with sumptuous drawings. Read more.
Shah `Abbas, the greatest Safavid ruler and patron of the arts, moves his capital to Isfahan and subsequently commissions four monumental buildings that together represent the pillars of his rule: the royal family, Islam, trade and the military. Read more.
The Shah Mosque is completed by Sultan Safi in Isfahan and, despite its large size, achieves a lightness in the appearance of its domes and blue-glazed tile exterior. Read more.
Persian painter Mihr 'Ali creates the best of his series of full-length oil paintings of Qajar ruler Fath 'Ali Shah, showing the monarch in a gold brocade costume and large crown. Read more.
Muhammad Ghaffari combines European painting techniques and styles with local themes to create such works as The Fortune-teller. Given the title Kamal al-Mulk ('Perfection of the Kingdom'), he later founds Iran's first fine arts academy. Read more.
Middle East Wars: 1975-2007
I t’s popular to assert that the Middle East has always been a bloodbath, but it’s not true. Indeed, when the 1973 Yom Kippur War ended, a period of peace set in (interrupted, of course, with bouts of violence). It lasted nearly thirty years.
Israel’s relations with its neighboring Arab states were dominated by dynamics of peace, not war. Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in the 1977–1979 period. A strange state of theoretical war that was really peace operated on the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. Lebanon collapsed into a horrendous civil war largely instigated by Yasser Arafat and his PLO, and first Syria and then Israel let themselves get sucked into the infernal brew, with Syria getting by far the better of it. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Arab Gulf states all enjoyed peace, and all of them except Egypt prospered. Even in Egypt, there were welcome decades of peace and development in striking contrast to the heroic but hysterical and ruinous adventures of Nasser’s era.
Below is an article on Middle East Wars based on research from Martin Sieff.
Overview of Middle East Wars
Americans and Israelis in particular in the decades since the dramatic Israeli victories in the 1967 Six-Day War have widely embraced the myth that Arabs can’t win wars. This attitude appears to have been shared by Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and their handpicked advisors when they sent the U.S. armed forces sweeping into Iraq in March 2003 and thought they could redraw the political map of the country at will.
In fact, the military history of the twentieth century shows that not only can Arabs fight, but they can do so very well. The Arab Middle East was one of the last areas of the world to resist conquest and colonization by the great European powers. Britain and France got their hands on it only when the Ottoman Empire finally collapsed after a long, tough, bitter fight in late 1918. It should be noted that most of the soldiers who surrounded, trapped, and ultimately captured the Anglo-Indian army at Kut in 1915 were Arabs recruited by the Ottomans from within the region. And they were among the very first to drive out the British and French. By 1948 every major Arab nation except Algeria independent, and by 1958 every one of them had successfully ejected all British and French influence over their affairs. This was not the record of nations of cowards, incompetents, or defeatists. It is true that Israel has won all the major conventional military wars against its Arab neighbors, often against formidable odds. But the Israelis were almost always fighting for their survival. Mass conscript Arab armies were sent into wars far from home, like the luckless Egyptian armies Nasser sent into Yemen in the 1960s and those destroyed by the Israelis in 1948, 1956, and 1967.
But the performance of the Iraqi army against vastly numerically superior Iranian forces during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War was excellent. The Iraqis had brave and excellent field commanders—until Saddam Hussein, murderous and witless as ever, killed the best of them himself— and ordinary Iraqi soldiers fought long and bravely with great discipline. Most important of all, they won.
In conventional wars, whenever Arab soldiers have been equipped, trained, and armed to fight modern Western armies on anything like equal terms, especially in defense of their homeland, they have usually fought bravely and well. The Israeli troops who fought the Jordanian and Syrian armies in 1967 and the Syrians and Egyptians in 1973 have testified to the toughness of their opponents. It was true that U.S. forces quickly annihilated the Iraqi conventional forces in the 1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars. But that wasn’t because they were fighting Arabs. It was because weak, underdeveloped nations usually can’t stand up to major industrial states, let alone superpowers, in quick, straightforward campaigns.
But when it came to guerrilla war, Muslim Arab nations proved to be some of the toughest foes in the world in the second half of the twentieth century. The National Liberation Front of Algeria proved far more ferocious and ruthless than even the Vietnamese in their eight-year war of independence against France from 1954 to 1962. The Israelis have yet to destroy Hezbollah, whose forces eventually drove them out of southern Lebanon. The mujahedin guerrillas in Afghanistan eventually drove out the Soviets after another eight-year war. And the Sunni Muslim guerrillas in central Iraq, at the present time, have yet to be operationally defeated or destroyed by U.S. and coalition forces. That is a pretty impressive record by anybody’s standards. Over the past sixty years, the nations of Continental Europe, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa cannot begin to compete with it.
The Ba’ath Party’s socialist roots
Even opponents of the Iraq War admit that Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator, and his Ba’ath Party was a totalitarian oppressor. What you won’t find the Left admitting is this: Ba’athism has its source in the idealistic pipe dreams of elite, educated Marxists.
Throughout the past four decades, Syria and Iraq, the two great Arab nations of the Fertile Crescent, have been ruled by the Ba’ath Resurrection (Arab Socialist Party). Ba’ath rule brought endless economic stagnation, wars of foreign aggression, support for murderous terrorist organizations, apparently endless dictatorships, secret police tyrannies, massacres of tens of thousands of civilians in rebellious populations, and thousands of hair-raising examples of sadistic torture in underground dungeons.
Yet the Ba’ath Party was founded by misty-eyed, romantic revolutionaries (one might even call them innocents) who foresaw nothing but a bright golden age of peace, prosperity, and understanding for the Arab world under their enlightened rule. Provided no one got in the way, of course. It was the story of the Young Turks and their Committee of Union and Progress all over again. Like the Young Turks, the idealists of the Ba’ath Party proved the wisdom of British political philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin: every attempt to create a perfect utopia on earth is guaranteed to create hell on earth instead.
Two Damascus schoolteachers—Michel Aflaq, a Christian, and Salah ad-Din al-Bitar, a Muslim—co-founded the Ba’ath Party in 1940. They wanted to end hatred and distrust between Christians and Muslims. They wanted to create a single, unified Arab nation across the Middle East founded on peace and social justice. They wanted to abolish poverty. They were all in favor of freedom and democracy and, of course, all for socialism. They hated tyranny in every form—or thought they did. But far from uniting the Arab world, the Ba’ath movement shattered it.
Far from establishing freedom and democracy, it established the longestlasting, most stable, and bloody tyrannies in modern Arab history. The contrast with King Abdullah and King Hussein in Jordan, or with King Abdulaziz and his successors in Saudi Arabia, could not be greater. Far from joining together, the two nations where Ba’ath parties took and held power—Syria and Iraq—were the most bitter rivals and enemies for generations, each of them claiming to be the only heir and embodiment of true Ba’athism while the other was evil heresy. In the year 1984, two ver- sions of Big Brother that George Orwell would have recognized only too well were alive and ruling in Damascus and Baghdad. They would stay there for decades to come.
Arab tyrants: Assad and Saddam
After its humiliating defeat at Israel’s hands in the 1947–1948 war, through 1970, Syria changed governments faster than a revolving door swings. There were at least twenty-five different governments in twentytwo years. The Syrian republic became a laughingstock throughout the Middle East, and its armed forces were a byword for passive incompetence.
The Syrian army played no role whatsoever in the 1956 Israeli-Egyptian Sinai war. In 1967, after their air force was destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the war, they sat passively until Israeli defense minister Moshe Dayan was able to amass overwhelming forces to take the Golan Heights from them. But in the thirty-eight years since 1970, the Syrian government has not fallen once. The only change in its leadership came in 2000, when tough old President Hafez Assad died in his bed at the age of sixty-nine after thirty years of uncontested supreme power. His surviving son Bashar took over immediately as president and not a whisper of dissent was heard against it.
Assad also left behind as his lasting legacy the toughest military force in the Arab world, one that had faced the Israeli army in full land combat more often and performed more effectively against it than any other. Assad’s achievement contrasts not only with Syria’s past, but also with the fate of his fellow and rival Ba’ath dictator, President Saddam Hussein, in neighboring Iraq.
Both men came to power at almost the same time. Assad seized power in Damascus in 1970, determined to erase the humiliation and shame his nation, its armed forces, and most of all his air force had suffered at Israel’s hands in the 1967 Six-Day War. In 1968 Saddam became the number- two man and real power behind the throne in the Second Ba’ath Republic led by President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
Assad and Saddam were both merciless tyrants who routinely employed torture on an unprecedented scale. Both of them waged wars of aggression and conquest against their neighbors. And neither of them hesitated to slaughter many thousands of their own citizens whenever they felt it necessary or expedient to do so. Both of them looked to the Soviet Union for weapons and support, and both of them hated the state of Israel like poison. Ironically, through the 1980s, it was Saddam who was seen in American eyes (especially those of Reagan administration policymakers) as by far the more moderate of the two. Saddam was battling the Shiite Islamic fanatics of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran from sweeping across the Middle East. Assad, by contrast, was forging a long-term alliance between Syria and Iran.
American policymakers saw Syria, not Iraq, as directing and protecting the most dangerous terrorist forces in the region through the 1980s. In 1983, Shiite Hezbollah suicide bombers backed by both Iran and Syria killed more than 250 U.S. Marines and more than 60 French paratroopers as they slept in their barracks on the outskirts of Beirut. But it was Assad who died in his bed, with his son surviving to rule as his heir and his regime and formidable army securely in place.
Saddam, who had inherited a far larger and more populous nation with the second-largest oil reserves on earth and a far larger and more powerful army—the fourth largest in the world by 1990—squandered all those assets before dying on December 30, 2006, at the end of a hangman’s rope. Assad’s lasting success remains ignored or underrated by U.S. and Israeli policymakers to this day. But there are sobering lessons to be learned from why he succeeded where Saddam and Nasser did not. The fearsome Sphinx of Damascus was a study in contrasts. He commanded the Syrian air force in the worst defeat in its history, yet used that defeat as a springboard to power. He inherited an army regarded as a bad joke throughout its own region and within three years made it formidable. It remains so to this day.
Assad led an Arab nationalist regime, yet he slaughtered Islamic believers and fundamentalists more ruthlessly and on a far wider scale than Saddam ever dared to. He held power for thirty years through the use of torture and terror and he came from a tiny ethnic and religious sect traditionally distrusted by his nation’s overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim majority. Yet he appears to have enjoyed real support and respect, and his son has ruled relatively securely since his death. Assad was the most dangerous enemy the State of Israel had after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Yet he forged a lasting bond of respect with one of Israel’s greatest leaders: Yitzhak Rabin, whom he never met in person. He championed the Palestinian cause passionately, but he hated and despised the man who was the living embodiment of that cause: Yasser Arafat.
The first secret of Hafez Assad’s success was that he ruled according to Niccolo Machiavelli, not James Madison. He would have regarded the second Bush administration’s obsession with creating instant full-scale Western representative democracy and freedom throughout the Middle East not only as threatening his own power, but as a contemptible joke for ignoring the power realities of the region, its history, and political and military realities.
In the late 1990s, future Bush administration policymakers and intellectuals, led by David Wurmser, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East advisor, openly described nations like Iraq and Syria as “failed states,” ignoring the fact that they had been around as distinct national entities since the early 1920s. And Saddam in Iraq and Assad in Syria both solved the problems of chronic instability that had plagued both nations for the twenty years before either of them took power. Assad, heeding Machiavelli’s counsel, regarded being feared as vastly more important than being loved. But though he killed widely, he did not, as Saddam did, kill continually or indiscriminately. In Iraq the wives and even children of those who crossed Saddam, even by contradicting him or one of his murderous sons in a conversation, were tortured, raped, mutilated, and murdered. Assad did those things only to his enemies, although there were enough of them.
In 1982, Assad crushed a popular uprising on behalf of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in the western Syrian city of Hama by annihilating the entire city. Tanks and heavy artillery were sent in to pulverize the remains. When U.S. intelligence analysts compared before and after photographs of the city from surveillance satellites they could not believe their own eyes. The death toll of civilians is generally estimated at 20,000, and it may even have been much higher. Rifaat Assad, Hafez’s brother and longtime secret police chief, later claimed to U.S. journalist Thomas Friedman that the death toll was really 38,000. Not even Saddam ever authorized killing against his own people with such intensity. But where Saddam killed endlessly, and appears to have had a psychotic need to do it, Assad killed only when it clearly served his interests.
The domestic nature of the two regimes was very different. Saddam ran a grim, utterly totalitarian state that survivors of Josef Stalin’s 1930s terror would have recognized all too well. Every public utterance on anything had to be in total conformity with the decrees of the Great National Leader, otherwise the torture chamber, the firing squad, or the hangman beckoned. In Syria, by contrast, those who stayed out of politics and public discourse could expect to live their own lives and even modestly enjoy their own private property.
The foreign policies and patterns of aggression of the two regimes were very different. Assad craved to control Lebanon, as more ineffectual Syrian rulers before him had, just as Saddam was determined to reincorporate Kuwait as the nineteenth province of Iraq, as Iraqi nationalists before him had.
Both of them did it, but Saddam openly and brutally invaded Kuwait in July 1990 and brought the entire military might of the United States and its allies down on his head only six months later. Assad craftily encouraged dissent, civil war, and chaos in Lebanon before sending in his army—supposedly to restore order—in 1976. He was able to stay there for six years until the Israelis drove him out. Saddam was mercilessly invincible in Iraq for thirty-five years from the establishment of the second Ba’ath Republic in 1968, where he held the real power for eleven years before ousting the ineffectual figurehead al-Bakr. (He had Bakr murdered by being pumped full of insulin three years later.)
But Saddam knew nothing about the world outside Iraq, and he miscalculated catastrophically every time he provoked it. Assad never did. He retained the strong support of the Soviet Union and later Russia from beginning to end. The Sphinx of Damascus defied the United States and undermined its influence successfully for decades, then came to a kind of accommodation with Washington during the Clinton administration when he had to. He even hosted two U.S. presidents on visits: Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. ‘Assad’s relations with Israel were extraordinary in their achievements and complexity. Within three years of taking power, he unleashed the Syrian army to take the Jewish state by surprise in the first hours of the Seven Days War.
The Israelis eventually turned the tide against overwhelming forces in the Golan fighting against Syria and drove back to within artillery range of Damascus when a cease-fire was finally imposed. But although the Israelis could probably have taken the Syrian capital and could certainly have leveled it had the war continued, they never succeeded in routing the Syrians or in surrounding them, as Ariel Sharon was able to do against the Egyptian Third Army on the west bank of the Suez Canal. As guerrilla attacks, especially from Hezbollah, grew in 1982 after the Israeli military conquest of southern Lebanon, Assad was able to win back through guerrilla war and diplomatic skill what he had lost in direct war.
By 1984 Israel was forced out of most of southern Lebanon except for a buffer region north of its border. Some sixteen years later, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak pulled out of there too. Hezbollah was able to establish a state within a state in the southern part of the country, and Syrian military forces and intelligence organizations moved back in to dominate much of the country for almost the next quarter-century. Saddam, by contrast, had been unable to hang on to Kuwait for more than six months.
But even while he was supporting tough, ruthless, and firmly effective guerrilla forces fighting the Israelis as Syrian (and Iranian) proxies in southern Lebanon, Assad ran no risks with provoking them on the Golan Heights, where troops of both nations continued to face each other. In the twenty-five years from the signing of the Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement in 1975 to Assad’s death in 2000, not a single Israeli or Syrian soldier died in any incident on the Golan front. The long peace lasted through the first seven years after his death, though there are now many indications it may not last for much longer.
Ford’s Middle East successes
If you believe your PC history books, there have been only three kind of Republican presidents since Lincoln: evil ones (Nixon and Hoover), dumb ones (Reagan and Coolidge), and Teddy Roosevelt. For the media at the time and mainstream historians these days, there was no choice but to stick Gerald Ford into the dunce category.
He was supposed to be a brainless, muddling, old football player and political hack who had received one blow to the head too many. Gerald Ford ranks with his fellow moderate Republican Warren G. Harding as the most underestimated American president of the twentieth century. And his Middle East record was possibly the best of any president.
Dwight Eisenhower “lost” Egypt to the Russians, and Ford, by his approval of Henry Kissinger’s most complicated, subtle, patient, and successful diplomatic maneuvers, brought it back into the American orbit as never before. He also guided the American economy through the worst aspects of the 1973–1974 quadrupling of global oil prices and stabilized the economy with some of the strongest, most courageous, and most unpopular leadership it had seen in decades. On both the home and foreign affairs fronts, the quiet, hardworking Ford provided decisive, successful leadership that was increasingly respected around the world. Only the American people, led by liberal pundits foaming at the mouth over Ford’s pardon for Nixon to end the long national nightmare of the Watergate scandal, couldn’t see it.
Kissinger, curiously, did far better running around the region as Ford’s secretary of state than he had as Nixon’s right-hand man. It might have been that Nixon kept Kissinger on a much tighter leash than anyone realized while Ford loosened the reins. It might also have been that the almost cataclysmic consequences of the Yom Kippur War—the threatened destruction of Israel and the risk of a thermonuclear showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union—followed by the OPEC embargo had concentrated U.S. policymakers’ focus on the region. For the first time, Kissinger was not dealing primarily with the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, Iran, or the Vietnam War. The Middle East was the biggest issue on his agenda. In any case, with Ford backing him to the hilt, he did very well. First, Kissinger engaged in months of endless negotiations, charming, lies, flattery, bribery, and threats with Israel and Egypt to bring about the 1975 Sinai II Disengagement Agreement.
This proved to be one of the most successful, far-reaching, and overlooked diplomatic achievements in modern American history. It ended the apparently inevitable and endless cycle of wars between Israel and Egypt—five wars in twenty-five years to that point. It gave Israel a vital breathing space for recovery after its heavy casualties of the 1973 war but without paying anything like the price Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin had to pay for a full peace treaty with Egypt. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin won the far-reaching Matmon C arms package from the United States that forever changed the essential construction of the Israeli army. In paving the way for Matmon C, the disengagement agreement also laid the basis for the next thirty years of unquestioned Israeli security and military predominance in the region. Sinai II also prepared the way for Kissinger’s triumph of negotiating a similar armistice agreement between Israel and Syria, which proved just as successful and long-lasting. It even paved the way for an unlikely Israeli-Syrian strategic understanding that lasted for twenty-five years.
Finally, Ford grasped the opportunity with Anwar Sadat that Nixon had ignored after the expulsion of the Soviet diplomats in 1971: he started a long-lasting U.S. strategic relationship with Egypt. Sadat quickly knew the United States could give him far more than the Soviets had ever provided. And unlike Nasser, Sadat also realized that Soviet economic wisdom was the fast road to even worse poverty and destitution. U.S. economic aid and Western tourism were set to flood in to keep Egypt stable and afloat for at least another three decades. Given the huge rate of population increase during the same time, it was impossible to hope for, let alone achieve, anything more. Skillful and successful in their dealings with Egypt and Syria, Ford and Kissinger were also lucky in their experiences with Saudi Arabia.
In 1975, King Faisal, the most successful and formidable ruler since old Ibn Saud himself, was assassinated by a mentally disturbed nephew. His successor and half-brother, King Khaled, was a different kind of man— decent, cautious, and low-key. He in turn bequeathed effective power to his own heir and half brother, Crown Prince Fahd. And Fahd, while brilliant and forceful like Faisal, was profoundly pro-American. His takeover of effective power in Riyadh eased relations with the United States, took military confrontation with Israel off the front burner, and prepared the way for the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the United States under Ronald Reagan that would play such a huge role in bringing down the Soviet Union.
Oil prices remained high, times in the United States remained relatively tough, and Khaled and Fahd were not disposed to reduce the oil prices and cut off the financial bonanza Faisal had provided for them. For that matter, neither did the shah of Iran. But when Gerald Ford left office in January 1977—quietly, gracefully, with good humor and head held high, the way no American president had left the Oval Office since Dwight Eisenhower’s departure in 1961—he left behind a stabilized Middle East, full of opportunity and hope for his successor. Jimmy Carter would reap the rewards of the good seeds Ford had sowed, but he also wrecked nearly all of it.
The key to Ford’s success, admittedly, was Henry Kissinger. A German Jew whose family fled the Nazis in World War II, Kissinger was a brilliant Harvard professor of diplomatic history with a remarkable gift for political intrigue. So skillful was he that during the 1968 presidential campaign he was a front-runner to become national security advisor with both main candidates at the same time—Republican Richard M. Nixon and Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey. When Nixon edged out Humphrey in a squeaker election, Kissinger got the job. In 1973, he rose still higher to serve as secretary of state under Nixon and then under Ford.
Kissinger specialized in realpolitik policies that accomplished moral goals while appearing utterly cynical and confounding apparent common sense. Before he entered the Middle East arena, it was universally assumed that you had to back one side or the other in the Israeli-Arab conflict, and if the United States backed Israel, it would continue to steadily lose power and influence across the Arab world.
Kissinger confounded this assumption. By maintaining and strengthening the U.S. role as Israel’s chief supporter, he made Washington the place Arab leaders had to go if they wanted any concessions from the Israelis. As Israel was dependent only on the United States, it followed that only the United States could bring pressure to bear. It all seemed so obvious once you started to think about it. Kissinger went on to displace and replace Soviet influence in Egypt with American. He also brought relative peace and stability to the region by selling arms to both sides in the Israel-Arab conflict. This was good news for major U.S. companies hurting from the quadrupling of oil prices in the 1970s. It also dramatically revived long-lasting U.S. influence in the region.
Kissinger and Nixon were by no means infallible when it came to dealing with the Middle East. They came up with the Nixon Doctrine to maintain security in the oil-rich Persian Gulf by building up the shah of Iran as a regional military power comparable to Israel. But the shah proved to be first an ungrateful and backstabbing ally, and then a giant with feet of clay. He played a crucial leading role in the cartel with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in quadrupling global oil prices. Within another five years, he was gone entirely, toppled by a furious old Shiite Muslim cleric he had banished to Paris.
Kissinger also miscalculated in delaying crucial aid to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He wanted Israel to survive the war but to be chastened by it, so its leaders would be more willing to compromise with the major Arab states on his terms. But the war moved so fast that the Israeli army risked running out of ammunition and weapons against the Egyptians. Desperate Israeli appeals to President Nixon finally convinced Kissinger to resupply. But Defense Secretary James Schlesinger played the key role in pushing through the organization of the famous C-5A Galaxy airlift that got the crucial supplies to the Israeli troops in time.
Still, Kissinger’s subtle, cynical, micromanaged, hyperactive, and self-glorifying diplomacy worked, launching the first real peace process between Israel and its Arab neighbors and enemies. The 1975 Sinai II disengagement agreement he laboriously brokered between Israel and Egypt led, in little more than two years, to Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s remarkable visit to Jerusalem and then to the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty. And the disengagement agreement he brokered between Israel and Hafez Assad kept the peace on the Golan Heights for the next three and a half decades. For more than three decades, Kissinger’s record of achievement in managing the Middle East remains one that none of his successors ever neared. When it came to handling the region, he wrote the book.
Yitzhak Rabin: The dove who armed Israel
Yitzhak Rabin’s first three-year term as prime minister of Israel was vastly underrated. His second, far more famous one, was vastly overrated. Rabin’s first premiership launched a peace process with Egypt. His second launched a peace process with the Palestinians. Their outcome was very different, largely because Yasser Arafat was not Anwar Sadat.
In 1974 Rabin inherited the most ominous security situation any Israeli prime minister had faced since the first bloody struggle to establish the state. When Moshe Dayan became minister of defense in 1967, he knew he inherited the most powerful army and air force in the Middle East, fresh and poised to strike. But seven years later, Rabin inherited an Israeli army that had lost more than four times as many soldiers in the Yom Kippur war as had died in the Six-Day War. Three thousand Israeli soldiers had died out of a total population of only three million. This was proportional to the U.S. losing 300,000 dead in a war of only three weeks: three 1times the death toll of the Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
Also, the previously invincible Israeli army found that the tank and close air support strike forces that had served it so well in 1956 and 1967 were obsolete. The handheld, wire-guided, anti-tank missiles and handheld surface-to-air missiles supplied by the Soviet Union to Egypt and Syria had inflicted carnage on Israel’s elite, irreplaceable pilots and tank crews. Still massively outnumbered in manpower, Israel had lost the long-term tactical superiority it needed to survive.
Rabin’s solution was to look to the nation he had admired ever since studying and serving there as a young Israeli officer in the 1950s. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger were putting enormous pressure on Israel to withdraw from the western sections of the Suez canal. Dayan had been ready to contemplate such a move after the Six- Day War, arguing in vain to Golda Meir that Israel should not keep its front line on the canal in any case. Rabin came to the same conclusion, but he decided to get something for the concession. Rabin’s price for signing the 1975 Sinai II disengagement agreement was a U.S.-Israeli arms deal quite unlike any seen before.
More than any arms deal Israel had signed before, the 1975 deal transformed the nature of the Israeli armed forces. The Israeli air force had served as flying artillery for the army, providing the kind of close tactical ground support that proved so decisive for the U.S., British, Soviet, and German armies in the great land battles of World War II. But the heavy losses to simple surface-to-air guided missiles from poorly trained Egyptian and Syrian combat soldiers during the 1973 war proved that those days were over. Israel would have to rely on real heavy artillery now that its fabled “flying artillery” arm had been broken. Ford, Kissinger, and Schlesinger provided that artillery—the heaviest there was. They supplied every caliber of artillery heavy gun the Israelis needed, including massive 155 mm ones. Before the 1973 war, Israel’s conventional artillery arm had been nonexistent. After the deal in 1975, it had the most powerful artillery in the Middle East. The gifts in the gigantic $900 million package (more than $3.5 billion in today’s dollars) also included a new generation of main battle tanks. In follow-up agreements, U.S. funding flowed to finance development and production of the Merkava (Hebrew for “chariot”), Israel’s own home-produced main battle tank. Ford also agreed to supply Israel with the finest combat aircraft in the U.S. arsenal, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle.
The 1975 arms deal transformed the Israeli army in ways that continue to this day. It would no longer be the lightning-fast force of lightly armed elite troops attacking boldly by night, as envisioned by Orde Wingate and the blitzkrieg-influenced military commanders of the 1950s. It would now be a huge masse de materiel, more slow-moving but overwhelming in the firepower it could bring to bear. Rabin Americanized the Israeli army, and it remains so to this day.
Israeli pundits at the time and historians since have seen Rabin’s first premiership as a study in weakness and ineffectualness. They could not have been more wrong As the Jerusalem Post’s Philip Gillon presciently noted at the time, Rabin showed a determination and readiness to make hard, crucial decisions worthy of David Ben-Gurion himself. Ironically, it was the F-15 Eagles he so coveted for his country that brought Rabin down. In 1977, he held a proud ceremony at Israel’s Ben- Gurion Airport to welcome the first of the F-15s from the United States. But it was a Friday afternoon and the aircraft were flying behind schedule.
The ceremony stretched into the early hours of the Jewish Sabbath. Jewish religious parties Rabin depended on for his coalition majority in the Knesset pulled out of the government to protest the event running into the Sabbath. Their leaders expected the usually mild-mannered Rabin to simply practice business as usual and plead with them to come back. Instead, the infuriated prime minister resigned and called a general election. This led to the fall of his government and the end of the Labor Party’s three-decade-long control of the Israeli state. Rabin had boasted in the welcoming ceremony for the F-15s that they would usher in a vastly changed Israel. Even he did not dream how vastly changed it would truly be.
Did Jimmy Carter really bring peace to the Middle East?
In four short years, President Jimmy Carter taught the world and his presidential successors an unfailing formula to wreck the Middle East: focus obsessively on bringing peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, as if God chose only you and your personal “experts” to do it, and force friendly governments to slit their own throats by installing full-scale American-style democracy immediately. It fails every time. Carter proved conclusively, as Britain’s Neville Chamberlain had forty years before him, that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. A personally decent, honorable, incorruptible evangelical Christian, he wanted nothing more or less than to bring eternal peace between the Children of Abraham, the Jews and the Arabs.
Thanks to Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger, Carter came into office with an awful lot going for him. Even so, his bungling, rather than his skill, gave him his big breakthrough. In 1977, Carter wanted the Soviet Union to be the United States’ partner in running a Middle East peace conference or diplomatic initiative to settle the Israeli-Arab conflict. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat confronted the idea with understandable horror. He had risked his life and the future of his country to kick Nasser’s Soviet advisors out in 1971. The last thing he needed was some extraordinarily naïve U.S. president letting them come back, bound for revenge. So the man who had confounded all expectations by expelling the Soviets six years earlier announced that within days he was going to visit Jerusalem.
The move was astounding beyond imagination. Nothing like it had ever been seen in the history of the Middle East. Sadat was going to meet the (supposedly) most hard-line, ferocious, and implacable Israeli leader of them all: Menachem Begin, whose Likud bloc had finally won power in the 1977 general elections after he had endured six previous electoral defeats in a row as leader of the Herut and Gahal parties. Nor was Sadat just going to Tel Aviv, which would have been radical enough. He was going to Jerusalem, the city whose Islamic holy sites had been in Israeli hands for more than a decade, to the unending fury of the entire Arab and Muslim worlds.
Friends and enemies alike were stunned. General Mordechai Gur, the tough Israeli general who had led the forces that stormed the Old City in 1967, suspected a trap. Only Begin took the whole thing in stride. Thousands of reporters and television news teams flooded in from around the world. Bezeq, Israel’s justly reviled nationalized telephone company, which usually couldn’t install a simple phone in an apartment without a three-year delay, set up flawlessly working free global communications for all of them in less than a week. Sadat’s Jerusalem visit was the biggest thing of its kind since the Queen of Sheba had come to woo King Solomon. Sadat was less impressed. And there was certainly no love affair between Egypt and Israel to rival the famous biblical one. But they did share their hearts’ desire: peace between their two countries and, for Sadat, a demand that the entire demilitarized Sinai Peninsula be returned to Egypt.
What followed was more than fifteen months of long, exhausting, mean, and obsessive negotiations. Carter threw himself into the heart of them and obsessed over every detail. (Like Herbert Hoover, Carter, who personally planned the schedules for the White House tennis court, thrived on details, the more useless the better.) Eventually, it all came together at the 1978 Camp David peace conference, where Carter basically locked up the sovereign leaders of Israel and Egypt in what amounted to a luxury prison, with the Secret Service as their jailers, until they finally agreed on a peace treaty. The irony is that none of it was necessary, and that lasting peace between Israel and Egypt may well have been possible, on far more favorable terms for Israel, without it.
Sadat frankly refused to make peace without getting all of the Sinai back, but since Kissinger’s monumental Sinai II agreement in 1975, he had the reality of peace anyway. The eventual treaty hammered out at Camp David was made possible only with enormous annual payments of more than $4 billion from the American taxpayer to Israel and Egypt alike. Israel got a little more than Egypt in absolute terms, but as it had a much smaller population, vastly more in per capita terms. But by giving up the Sinai, Israel lost the strategic depth it would desperately need if it made any long-term agreement with the Palestinians. It also lost the territory it would ultimately need if it ever faced an implacable enemy determined to acquire nuclear weapons. The more Israel’s population was concentrated in the area of greater Tel Aviv, the more tempting it would be for any genocidal-minded maniac to wipe out the bulk of the population at a single stroke. By giving up the Sinai, Begin made that nightmare a lot easier to achieve.
Retaining much of Sinai would also have made it far easier to maintain control of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians were adept, as the Viet Cong had been before them, in constructing endless arrays of tunnels to smuggle weapons into Gaza from Egypt when the Israeli-Egyptian border was right beside them. And in sharp contrast to Gaza and the West Bank, Sinai was almost uninhabited. Far from bringing peace with its neighbors, there is a good argument to be made that Carter’s work enabled Begin to start a disastrous war that his country has been paying for ever since. Peace with Egypt in the south freed Begin to launch his army into Lebanon to the north in spring 1982.
But Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s grand design for Lebanon quickly went disastrously wrong. Israel suffered hundreds of dead and thousands of wounded before it finally withdrew from much of southern Lebanon after a broken Begin left office. Had Egypt remained essentially powerless and in the U.S. orbit, but without a final peace treaty with Israel, and had Israel maintained control of most of the Sinai, but forced to be on guard in the south, Begin would never have dared to open up an ambitious new front in the north.
He and Sharon might still have swept the PLO out of the large enclave it controlled in southern Lebanon, but they would never have dared to push on into the heart of Lebanon. Hezbollah, created by this series of maneuvers, proved a far more formidable and long-lasting enemy of the Jewish state than the PLO had ever been. The Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty also cost America the life of its most important and constructive ally in the entire Middle East. On October 6, 1981, Anwar Sadat proudly reviewed his armed forces as they marched past him in massed array. A small group of Islamic extremist conspirators in his own army, furious at Sadat’s peace with Israel, broke ranks as their unit marched by the reviewing stand and stormed it, their automatic rifles blazing. Sadat died instantly. His fate was sealed by the most enormous decoration he wore on his chest: the Star of Sinai. It was just too big and garish to miss.
Had the 1975 Sinai II disengagement agreement been allowed to define Israeli-Egyptian relations, Sadat would have lived and extreme Islamism would never have won its greatest assassination coup to date. But by then, the other supposed great ally of the United States in the Middle East had also fallen, even more a victim to Carter’s romantic and farcical sense of priorities. Carter’s “great achievement” of peace between Israel and Egypt came at a disastrous price: it resulted in Iran’s fall to Ayatollah Khomeini, launching a virulent new form of Islamist extremism hitherto inconceivable. From November 1977 through March 1979, Carter was so obsessed with achieving an Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty that he ignored the increasing evidence that the shah of Iran’s position was crumbling with amazing speed.
Clinton: Carter all over again
At first glance, Bill Clinton’s dealings with the Middle East appeared the absolute opposite of the hapless Carter’s experience. And compared with many of the bungles the subsequent Bush administration would make, it arguably still looks good.
Under Clinton, peace and relative stability were preserved throughout the region, and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process seemed to advance. Even Iran appeared to become more moderate, with the 1997 election of the remarkably moderate (at least by Islamic Republic standards) Mohammad Khatami. And oil prices until 1999 stayed astonishingly low. Compared to Carter’s nightmarish record of buffoonish incompetence, this was a welcome contrast indeed.
But as it turned out, Clinton repeated Carter’s basic mistake of focusing obsessively on the Israeli-Arab peace process. He shared Carter’s megalomaniacal delusion that he could forge the lasting peace that had eluded previous generations on either side. As a result, like Carter, Clinton and his top experts on the region ignored or catastrophically underrated the remorseless—but otherwise highly preventable—rise of a ferocious enemy that would kill more Americans in a single day than the Japanese navy did at Pearl Harbor. Clinton cannot take either credit or blame for the Oslo Peace Process. It was former Israeli super-hawk (now turned ultra-dove) Shimon Peres who laid that egg. And it was Rabin—haunted by memories of the death cries of his young comrades in the 1947 fighting for Jerusalem—who made the crucial decision to go along with Peres.
But once Rabin and Arafat held that famous meeting and shook hands on the White House lawn in 1993, Clinton and his team eagerly jumped aboard the “Peace at Last” express. Where Carter had obsessively thrown himself into every nook and cranny of the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations for eighteen months, Clinton did so for a full seven years. The climax came in July 2000 when, with the sands of time running out on his second term, Clinton convened a Camp David II peace summit with Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the old and ailing Arafat.
Using Jimmy Carter as a model for anything, even for what still appeared to be his one undisputed great diplomatic achievement, should have given the Clinton team pause, but clearly it did not. The idea and driving force for the conference reportedly came from Barak, who capped a brilliant career as Israel’s top special forces commander (during which his exploits exceeded even those of Dayan and Sharon) with a short and utterly bungled premiership. But there is no doubt that Clinton and his top peace negotiators were exceptionally eager to make the effort. For such an ambitious endeavor, Barak and his team bungled the staff work for Camp David II abysmally. It is difficult to imagine that the man who had been the legendary commander of special forces and then a respected IDF chief of staff could have proven so sloppy in preparing for his greatest challenge as national leader.
But Barak, as his intimates later revealed, did not even do the basic diplomatic preparation of sounding out the Palestinians’ absolute bottomline terms for a settlement. What he offered was, from the Israeli perspective, immensely generous: more than 90 percent of the West Bank. But he didn’t yield on the right of return for the descendents of Palestinian refugees from the 1947 war, about which Arafat was insistent. He also insisted on maintaining total Israeli control over the entire city of Jerusalem, and on retaining the relatively small amount of territory beyond the 1967 borders on which 180,000 Israelis had built towns and settlements. This was 80 percent of the total Israeli settler population beyond the Green Line.
Over the previous seven years, Arafat had gained a vast amount for himself, and had made his first gains for his long-suffering people, by compromising for the first time in his life. But at Camp David II, when he could have won so much more, he turned it down. Demanding nothing but the entire cake, he lost the much larger slice of it he would otherwise have had. His decision was true to the patterns of bizarre behavior and logic that had governed his entire life. It also condemned Israelis and Palestinians alike to a new round of war and suffering greater than anything they had endured in more than fifty years.
For Clinton, the failure of Camp David II dashed his dreams of securing a lasting and secure peace for both sides. But worse by far, Clinton and his chief Middle East peace envoy, Dennis Ross, had forgotten the lasting wisdom of Henry Kissinger: when disputes are not resolvable, it is best to recognize what cannot be resolved and simply concentrate on improving the conditions that can be improved. Eventually, conditions and attitudes may change sufficiently to reconcile the previously irreconcilable, but trying to do too much too soon always backfires.
That was the consequence of Camp David II. When Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount in September 2000, an admittedly potentially incendiary move, Arafat used it to set off a new Palestinian intifada. The First Intifada had been fought with violent but non-lethal protests, because guns and explosives were not easily available on the West Bank and in Gaza after twenty years of effective Israeli control. The Second Intifada was far more lethal. Some 1,100 Israeli civilians died in the following four years of mayhem, and probably at least three times that number of Palestinians died from Israeli retaliation. Rabin’s idealism and Peres’s utopian visions had born bitter fruit.
The Middle East at the Beginning of the 20th Century - Introduction
This map is part of a series of 18 animated maps showing the history of The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century.
The Arab Middle East extended from the Mediterranean to Mesopotamia, including the Arabian Peninsula and the Nile Valley.
Arabic was the common language, apart from groups such as the Kurds in the north-east.
The region was host to a wide variety of religions. Most of the inhabitants were Sunnite Muslims but, even within the Islamic community, there were several schismatic groups, the largest being the Shiites found mostly in Iraq and Lebanon, the Wahhabites in the Arabian Peninsula, and the Alawites and the Druze found in the mountainous regions along the coast. Christian and Jewish communities had settled along the Mediterranean coast and in many urban areas.
Most of the Middle East was ruled by the Sultan of Istanbul, Protector of the Pilgrimage to Mecca with the construction of railway lines from Istanbul to Medina, his domain was extended as far as the Hejaz.
The Ottoman Empire was divided into administrative provinces: Mosul, Baghdad and Bassora in Mesopotamia, Aleppo, Damascus and Beirut in Syria. These provinces were further divided into districts, known as Sandjaks.
The Sandjak of Jerusalem was a special case, since it was under direct rule from the Ottoman Government, the Sublime Porte.
At the beginning of the 20th century, however, some regions were already shaking off their Ottoman rulers: the Arabian Peninsula, for example, was dominated by Ibn Saud, and Yemen was in permanent conflict with the Porte.
A similar situation existed in other regions, influenced by the presence of European powers for which the Middle East, straddling the crossroads of trade routes to Asia, was a very important strategic area.
Great Britain in particular wanted to maintain control of the route to India. Already dominant in Egypt, it established protectorates in Aden and the coastal emirates in the Gulf.
The other European powers, notably France, negotiated Capitulations which, together with their influence over minority communities and their trading posts along the Levantine coast, allowed them to establish their political, commercial and cultural dominance.
The impact of these European interests can be seen in the creation of an autonomous regime, known as the Mount Lebanon Governorate.
At the end of the 19th century, new ideas about the place of Arabs in the Empire and of Islam in a modern world were being discussed in Arab centres and from which emerged the first signs of Arabism and Islamism.
The Ottoman Sultan began to take greater interest in Arab affairs and in Pan-Islamism, but was soon opposed by a liberal movement in Anatolia, known as the &ldquoYoung Turks&rdquo, which became very influential in Istanbul from 1908.
Quickly, this movement imposed a Turkish and secular form of nationalism which excluded all other components of Ottoman society. At the same time, the rise of Zionism, the first groups of European Jews immigrating to Palestine and withdrawal of the Ottoman Empire from Libya and the Balkans strengthened Arab calls for recognition of their separate identity.
Britain makes gains
But even as Britain was dealing with the fallout from this revelation, it was making headway on the ground, and in December 1917 British-led forces captured Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Hussein seemed to accept British assurances that it still supported Arab independence and continued to fight on the side of the Allies.
Together, Faisal’s Northern Army and British-led forces pushed the Ottoman troops up through Palestine and into Syria, capturing Damascus on 1 October 1918. Prince Faisal wanted to seize this newly captured land for his promised Arab state. But, of course, Britain had already promised Syria to France.
News and Events
Students at the University of Minnesota may now minor in Islamic Studies. This new minor allows those in any major to participate in the critical study of Islam and Muslim societies and cultures. It encompasses historical, intellectual, artistic, social, and anthropological approaches to the study of Islam applied through the examination of Islamic texts and other cultural products and through the analysis of social and cultural developments across time and geographic locations.
The minor in Islamic Studies requires one foundational course in the category of Islamic Origins and Development, along with four other courses selected from the offerings of several CLA departments, including Religious Studies, Anthropology, History, Art History, Sociology, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, and others.
Students interested in the minor should contact the Religious Studies Program at [email protected]
October 17 - 19, 2019: Premodern Food Conference
Middle East/Islamic World-related talks:
“How Religious Conflict and Environmental Challenges Created Shared Culinary Traditions of Minority Groups in Lebanon”
Jody H. Eddy and Jad Kossaify (The Pontifical University of Rome and the Propaganda Fide of The Vatican)
“Regulating Taverns and Alcohol Consumption in Ottoman Galata”
Sultan Toprak Oker (Department of History, University of Minnesota)
“Bread in the Desert: The Politics and Practicalities of Food in Early Egyptian Monasticism”
Benjamin Hansen (Department of History, University of Minnesota
Registration for the conference is free, but required for all participants. Register here.
This event is organized by the Center for Medieval Studies, the James Ford Bell Library and the Wangensteen Biomedical Library. Please contact Michelle M. Hamilton at [email protected] with inquiries.
April 11 Lecture: "Mediterranean Captivity through Arab Eyes: 1517-1798"
Prof. Nabil Matar (Department of English Presidential Professor in the President’s Interdisciplinary Initiative on Arts and Humanities)
Thursday April 11, 2019, 4:00 - 5:00 pm
A reception will follow the lecture
Abstract: "Piracy and captivity were banes of the early modern Mediterranean basin. Thousands of men and women and children were enslaved, bought and sold, ransomed or escaped. However, all the stories of these captives have been told from European and Turkish sources, even though from Syria to Morocco, the language of large numbers of captives was Arabic. This talk will explore Arabic sources and tell the stories of an Iraqi family that was captured by Maltese pirates and of a Moroccan woman whose piety empowered her to liberate coreligionists from her home in Fez."
This event is the 2019 Samuel Russell Endowed Chair Lecture.
April 5 Lecture: "From Mare Nostrum to The Other Side of Hope: The Syrian Crisis and Clandestine Migration on the Global Screen"
Prof. Nadia Sahely (Baldwin Wallace University)
Dr. Nadia Sahely is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at Baldwin Wallace University. She earned her Ph.D. in French Studies at Brown University. Her primary research focus is in 20th and 21st-century French literature and philosophy, and she has published work on Georges Bataille and Colette Peignot. Her secondary research interest is in comparative literature, especially Arabic and Francophone literatures of the Machrek. Her current book project, (Re)Locations of Lebanon, takes into account transnationalism and the politics and aesthetics of postwar Francophone Lebanese literature, film and visual culture.
This event is funded by the Office of the Executive Vice President and the Provost’s Imagine Fund Special Events Grant. Contact Hakim Abderrezak at [email protected] for inquiries.
March 29 Guest Lecture:"Teach for Arabia: American Universities, Liberalism, and Transnational Qatar"
Prof. Neha Vora (Lafayette College)
Friday March 29, 2019, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
Neha Vora is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Lafayette College. She is the author of Impossible Citizens: Dubai's Indian Diaspora (2013) and of Teach for Arabia: American Universities, Liberalism, and Transnational Qatar (2018).
This event is sponsored by MENAIS contact Sonali Pahwa at [email protected] for inquiries.
March 13 Guest Lecture: "'Existence is Resistance': Carceral Capitalism in/and Palestine"
Prof. Jasbir Puar (Rutgers University)
Wednesday March 13, 2019, 6:00 - 7:30 pm
Jasbir K. Puar is Professor and Graduate Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. Her most recent book is The Right to Maim: Debility, Capacity, Disability (2017) published with Duke University Press in the series ANIMA: Critical Race Studies Otherwise that she co-edits with Mel Chen. Puar is the author of award-winning Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times (2007), which has been translated into Spanish and French and re-issued in an expanded version for its 10th anniversary (December 2017).
This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies and MENAIS. Contact Sima Shakhsari at [email protected] for inquiries.
February 28 Guest Lecture: "Archives, Paper, and the State under the Fatimids"
Prof. Marina Rustow (Princeton University)
Thursday February 28, 7:00 - 8:30 pm
A reception will follow the lecture
Abstract: "An old consensus maintains that until the advent of the Ottomans, the medieval Middle East produced few documents and preserved even fewer. That consensus has given way as the field has expanded from its near-exclusive interest in long-form texts to awareness of single-page documents on papyrus, paper and parchment. The conversation has concomitantly shifted from the putative absence of archives to the study of archiving practices from static caches of documents to the systole and diastole of the institutional mandate to preserve and from documents as containers for textual information to the forensic value of material support and paratext.
This lecture will consider the written instruments of the Fatimid caliphs (909–1171) — including their material form and afterlives — as expressions of imperial power and post-Abbasid caliphal ambition. The Fatimid state produced masses of documents. Its central archive was one locus of document preservation, but there were others: provincial bureaus, the stores of used paper-sellers, the writing-tables of ordinary scribes and, above all, the Cairo Geniza, which preserved more Fatimid state documents than any other site by several orders of magnitude. Most were reused for texts in Hebrew script, and they have yielded, paradoxically, better evidence of archiving practices than any continuously surviving archive could."
This event is sponsored by the Center for Medieval Studies contact Michelle M. Hamilton for inquiries.
January 25 Lecture: "A Shoot from the Stump of Abraham: Promise, Covenant, and Salvation in the Qur’an"
Prof. Mohsen Goudarzi (Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies)
Friday January 25, 2019, 2:00 - 3:00 pm
This event is sponsored by the "The First Millennium: Religion in Late Antiquity" Workshop.
October 25 Guest Lecture: "ʿĀlimāt: Female Religious Scholars of Classical Islam"
Prof. Asma Sayeed (University of California, Los Angeles)
Thursday October 25, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
A reception will follow the lecture.
Asma Sayeed is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at UCLA in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. Her primary research interests are in early and classical Muslim social history, the history of Muslim education, the intersections of law and social history, and women and gender studies. She teaches the survey GE courses “Introduction to Islam” and “Islam in the West,” as well as seminars on research methodologies in Islamic studies and Muslim social and intellectual history. She received her PhD from the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. She has published on topics related to Muslim women and their religious participation in journals such as Studia Islamica and Islamic Law and Society and has contributed a number of encyclopedia articles on women’s history in early and classical Islam. Her current project relates to Muslim education and in particular to an examination of texts and textual practices in diverse regional and historical contexts.
This event is sponsored by the Center for Medieval Studies contact Michelle M. Hamilton for inquiries. For further details, please refer to the relevant page on the University of Minnesota events calendar.
October 12 Guest Lecture: "What is Settler Colonialism?"
Prof. Maya Mikdashi (Rutgers University)
Friday October 12, 2018, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
Maya Mikdashi is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a lecturer in the program in Middle East Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is currently completing a book manuscript that examines the war on terror, sexual difference, religious and secular difference, and biopolitics from the vantage point of Lebanon. Maya is also pursuing research towards a manuscript on settler colonial affect as it is produced and circulated across family and academic archives. She is a co-founding editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya.com. Maya is also a filmmaker and writer. She is co-director of the feature length documentary film About Baghdad (2004), and director of Notes on The War (2006). Most recently Maya co-conceptualized, co-wrote (with director Carlos Motta), and performed in a queer historical fantasy film set in 19th century Beirut and Bogota, Deseos/رغبات.
This event is co-sponsored by the Imagine Fund the Interdisciplinary Center for the Study of Global Change (ICGC) the Race, Indigeneity, Gender and Sexuality Studies Initiative (RIGS) and the Departments of American Indian Studies, Asian Languages and Literatures, English, and History. Contact Sima Shakhsari at [email protected] for inquiries.
October 5 Guest Lecture: "Translational Infidelities: Authorship, Sexuality and Power in the Composition of Mohamed Choukri's For Bread Alone"
Prof. Kamran Rastegar (Tufts University)
Friday October 5, 2018, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
Kamran Rastegar is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Tufts University. His scholarship on film and literature has produced two books: Surviving Images: Cinema, War and Cultural Memory in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2015) and Literary Modernity Between Europe and the Middle East: Transactions in Nineteenth-Century Arabic, Persian and English Literatures (New York: Routledge, 2007).
This event is sponsored by MENAIS contact Sonali Pahwa at [email protected] for inquiries.
September 28 Guest Lecture: "Mobility and Migration in European Film: Cinéma-mondes and Screen Borders"
Prof. Michael Gott (University of Cincinnati)
Friday, September 28, 2018, 3:00 - 4:30 pm
Michael Gott is Associate Professor of French and Film & Media Studies BA at the University of Cincinnati. He is author of French-language Road Cinema: Borders, Diasporas, Migration and “New Europe” (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) and co-edited Open Roads, Closed Borders: the Contemporary French-Language Road Movie (Intellect, 2013), East, West and Centre: Reframing European Cinema Since 1989 (EUP, 2014), andCinéma-monde: Decentred Perspectives on Global Filmmaking in French (EUP, 2018).
This event is co-sponsored by the Department of French and Italian Studies and the Institute for Advanced Study contact Hakim Abderrezak at [email protected] for inquiries. For further details, please refer to the relevant page on the University of Minnesota events calendar.
Academic Year 2017-2018 Guest Lectures:
"Unsettling the Revolutionary Subject: The Feminist Implications of the Egyptian Revolution"
Prof. Nadine Naber (University of Illinois at Chicago)
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 4:00 - 5:30 pm
"Simplicities: A Colonial Archive (Al-Farabi, Aristotle, Benjamin, Paul)"
Prof. Jeffrey Sacks (University of California, Riverside)
Friday, November 3, 2017, 1:30 - 3:00 pm
On June 13, 2018, Patricia Lorcin spoke with Ahmed Rouaba of the BBC News Arabic radio and streaming service about the new edition of her book Imperial Identities. The interview was broadcast as part of the program ‘Alam al-Kutub. Listen to the interview here (starting at 16:00).
Additionally, in October 2018 Lorcin was interviewed by the New Books Network, about the volume French Mediterraneans: Transnational and Imperial Histories (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), which she co-edited with Todd Shepard. Listen to Lorcin and Shepard’s conversation with Roxanne Panchasi, host of the “New Books in French Studies” podcast on the New Books Network, here.
AWARDS AND GRANTS
In September of 2018, Giancarlo Casale was appointed Chair of Early Modern Mediterranean History at the European University Institute (EUI). The position is a multi-year research appointment that will allow Prof. Casale to continue work on his current research project, a history of the Renaissance from the perspective of the early modern Ottoman Empire. More information about the project, and his position, can be found here. During his time at the EUI, Casale will be on unpaid academic leave from the University of Minnesota, but will continue to participate in workshops and conferences in Minnesota, co-teach with CLA faculty, and host Minnesota graduate students at the EUI campus in Florence. He will return full-time to Minnesota at the end of his appointment.
In 2019, Shaden Tageldin will hold a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship to complete a new book, provisionally titled Toward a Transcontinental Theory of Modern Comparative Literature. The book argues that the long-nineteenth-century struggle to make language and “life” mutually translatable in Arabic, English, and French literatures —among others— informed ideologies of comparability that underpin the modern discipline of comparative literature.
Nabil Matar received a Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences award in the category of Comparative Literature and Literary Translation. (November 2017)
The Middle East Collaborative website is maintained by Katrien Vanpee. Please contact [email protected] with inquiries about the Collaborative or this site.
Middle East 1960 CE
The Cold War has had a major impact on the Middle East.
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What is happening in Middle East in 1960CE
The decades since 1914 have been ones of great change for the Middle East.
The Ottoman empire sided with Germany and Austria in World War 1 (1914-8), and afterwards was broken up amongst the nations of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. All except Turkey and Saudi Arabia were at first under British or French control. Iraq became independent in 1933.
After World War 2, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan became independent. In 1948 the British left Palestine, under fire from both Arabs and Jews. The Jews declared the independent state of Israel. Bitter fighting between Jews and Arabs followed, but Israel continued in being.
The politics of most Middle Eastern states has been autocratic, and frequently unstable. They have also been deeply affected by the Cold War, with some (Syria, Egypt) veering towards the pro-Soviet camp and others (the monarchies of the Arabian peninsula, Turkey, Iraq and Iran) towards the West. Israel, on the whole pro-West, has retained a western-style parliamentary system.
The oil industry is transforming many Middle Eastern countries, especially in the Gulf region, giving them hitherto undreamed of wealth.
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Middle East, the lands around the southern and eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing at least the Arabian Peninsula and, by some definitions, Iran, North Africa, and sometimes beyond. The central part of this general area was formerly called the Near East, a name given to it by some of the first modern Western geographers and historians, who tended to divide what they called the Orient into three regions. Near East applied to the region nearest Europe, extending from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf Middle East, from the Persian Gulf to Southeast Asia and Far East, those regions facing the Pacific Ocean.
The change in usage began to evolve prior to World War II and tended to be confirmed during that war, when the term Middle East was given to the British military command in Egypt. By the mid-20th century a common definition of the Middle East encompassed the states or territories of Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, and the various states and territories of Arabia proper (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, and the Trucial States, or Trucial Oman [now United Arab Emirates]). Subsequent events have tended, in loose usage, to enlarge the number of lands included in the definition. The three North African countries of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are closely connected in sentiment and foreign policy with the Arab states. In addition, geographic factors often require statesmen and others to take account of Afghanistan and Pakistan in connection with the affairs of the Middle East.
Occasionally, Greece is included in the compass of the Middle East because the Middle Eastern (then Near Eastern) question in its modern form first became apparent when the Greeks rose in rebellion to assert their independence of the Ottoman Empire in 1821 (see Eastern Question). Turkey and Greece, together with the predominantly Arabic-speaking lands around the eastern end of the Mediterranean, were also formerly known as the Levant.
Use of the term Middle East nonetheless remains unsettled, and some agencies (notably the United States State Department and certain bodies of the United Nations) still employ the term Near East.
The 20th (twentieth) century began on January 1, 1901,  and ended on December 31, 2000.  The term is often used erroneously to refer to "the 1900s", the century between January 1, 1900 and December 31, 1999. It was the tenth and final century of the 2nd millennium. Unlike most century years, the year 2000 was a leap year, and the second century leap year in the Gregorian calendar after 1600.
The century had the first global-scale total wars between world powers across continents and oceans in World War I and World War II. Nationalism became a major political issue in the world in the 20th century, acknowledged in international law along with the right of nations to self-determination, official decolonization in the mid-century, and related regional conflicts.
The century saw a major shift in the way that many people lived, with changes in politics, ideology, economics, society, culture, science, technology, and medicine. The 20th century may have seen more technological and scientific progress than all the other centuries combined since the dawn of civilization. Terms like nationalism, globalism, environmentalism, ideology, world war, genocide, and nuclear war entered common usage. Scientific discoveries, such as the theory of relativity and quantum physics, profoundly changed the foundational models of physical science, forcing scientists to realize that the universe was more complex than previously believed, and dashing the hopes (or fears) at the end of the 19th century that the last few details of scientific knowledge were about to be filled in. It was a century that started with horses, simple automobiles, and freighters but ended with high-speed rail, cruise ships, global commercial air travel and the Space Shuttle. Horses and other pack animals, every society's basic form of personal transportation for thousands of years, were replaced by automobiles and buses within a few decades. These developments were made possible by the exploitation of fossil fuel resources, which offered energy in an easily portable form, but also caused concern about pollution and long-term impact on the environment. Humans explored space for the first time, taking their first footsteps on the Moon.
Mass media, telecommunications, and information technology (especially computers, paperback books, public education, and the Internet) made the world's knowledge more widely available. Advancements in medical technology also improved the health of many people: the global life expectancy increased from 35 years to 65 years. Rapid technological advancements, however, also allowed warfare to reach unprecedented levels of destruction. World War II alone killed over 60 million people, while nuclear weapons gave humankind the means to annihilate itself in a short time. However, these same wars resulted in the destruction of the imperial system. For the first time in human history, empires and their wars of expansion and colonization ceased to be a factor in international affairs, resulting in a far more globalized and cooperative world. The last time major powers clashed openly was in 1945, and since then, violence has seen an unprecedented decline. 
The world also became more culturally homogenized than ever with developments in transportation and communications technology, popular music and other influences of Western culture, international corporations, and what was arguably a truly global economy by the end of the 20th century.
Technological advancements during World War I changed the way war was fought, as new inventions such as tanks, chemical weapons, and aircraft modified tactics and strategy. After more than four years of trench warfare in Western Europe, and 20 million dead, the powers that had formed the Triple Entente (France, Britain, and Russia, later replaced by the United States and joined by Italy and Romania) emerged victorious over the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria). In addition to annexing many of the colonial possessions of the vanquished states, the Triple Entente exacted punitive restitution payments from them, plunging Germany in particular into economic depression. The Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires were dismantled at the war's conclusion. The Russian Revolution resulted in the overthrow of the Tsarist regime of Nicholas II and the onset of the Russian Civil War. The victorious Bolsheviks then established the Soviet Union, the world's first communist state.
At the beginning of the period, the British Empire was the world's most powerful nation,  having acted as the world's policeman for the past century. Fascism, a movement which grew out of post-war angst and which accelerated during the Great Depression of the 1930s, gained momentum in Italy, Germany, and Spain in the 1920s and 1930s, culminating in World War II, sparked by Nazi Germany's aggressive expansion at the expense of its neighbors. Meanwhile, Japan had rapidly transformed itself into a technologically advanced industrial power and, along with Germany and Italy, formed the Axis powers. Japan's military expansionism in East Asia and the Pacific Ocean brought it into conflict with the United States, culminating in a surprise attack which drew the US into World War II. After some years of dramatic military success, Germany was defeated in 1945, having been invaded by the Soviet Union and Poland from the East and by the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and France from the West. After the victory of the Allies in Europe, the war in Asia ended with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan by the US, the first nation to develop nuclear weapons and the only one to use them in warfare. In total, World War II left some 60 million people dead. After the war, Germany was occupied and divided between the Western powers and the Soviet Union. East Germany and the rest of Eastern Europe became Soviet puppet states under communist rule. Western Europe was rebuilt with the aid of the American Marshall Plan, resulting in a major post-war economic boom, and many of the affected nations became close allies of the United States.
With the Axis defeated and Britain and France rebuilding, the United States and the Soviet Union were left standing as the world's only superpowers. Allies during the war, they soon became hostile to one another as their competing ideologies of communism and democratic capitalism proliferated in Europe, which became divided by the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. They formed competing military alliances (NATO and the Warsaw Pact) which engaged in a decades-long standoff known as the Cold War. The period was marked by a new arms race as the USSR became the second nation to develop nuclear weapons, which were produced by both sides in sufficient numbers to end most human life on the planet had a large-scale nuclear exchange ever occurred. Mutually assured destruction is credited by many historians as having prevented such an exchange, each side being unable to strike first at the other without ensuring an equally devastating retaliatory strike. Unable to engage one another directly, the conflict played out in a series of proxy wars around the world—particularly in China, Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Afghanistan—as the USSR sought to export communism while the US attempted to contain it. The technological competition between the two sides led to substantial investment in research and development which produced innovations that reached far beyond the battlefield, such as space exploration and the Internet.
In the latter half of the century, most of the European-colonized world in Africa and Asia gained independence in a process of decolonization. Meanwhile, globalization opened the door for several nations to exert a strong influence over many world affairs. The US's global military presence spread American culture around the world with the advent of the Hollywood motion picture industry, Broadway, rock and roll, pop music, fast food, big-box stores, and the hip-hop lifestyle. Britain also continued to influence world culture, including the "British Invasion" into American music, leading many rock bands from other countries (such as Swedish ABBA) to sing in English. After the Soviet Union collapsed under internal pressure in 1991, most of the communist governments it had supported around the world were dismantled—with the notable exceptions of China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and Laos—followed by awkward transitions into market economies.
Following World War II, the United Nations, successor to the League of Nations, was established as an international forum in which the world's nations could discuss issues diplomatically. It enacted resolutions on such topics as the conduct of warfare, environmental protection, international sovereignty, and human rights. Peacekeeping forces consisting of troops provided by various countries, with various United Nations and other aid agencies, helped to relieve famine, disease, and poverty, and to suppress some local armed conflicts. Europe slowly united, economically and, in some ways, politically, to form the European Union, which consisted of 15 European countries by the end of the 20th century.
Nature of innovation and change Edit
Due to continuing industrialization and expanding trade, many significant changes of the century were, directly or indirectly, economic and technological in nature. Inventions such as the light bulb, the automobile, and the telephone in the late 19th century, followed by supertankers, airliners, motorways, radio, television, antibiotics, nuclear power, frozen food, computers and microcomputers, the Internet, and mobile telephones affected people's quality of life across the developed world. Scientific research, engineering professionalization and technological development—much of it motivated by the Cold War arms race—drove changes in everyday life.
Social change Edit
At the beginning of the century, strong discrimination based on race and sex was significant in general society. Although the Atlantic slave trade had ended in the 19th century, the fight for equality for non-white people in the white-dominated societies of North America, Europe, and South Africa continued. During the century, the social taboo of sexism fell. By the end of the 20th century, women had the same legal rights as men in many parts of the world, and racism had come to be seen as abhorrent.  Attitudes towards homosexuality also began to change in the later part of the century.
Earth at the end of the 20th century Edit
Communications and information technology, transportation technology, and medical advances had radically altered daily lives. Europe appeared to be at a sustainable peace for the first time in recorded history. The people of the Indian subcontinent, a sixth of the world population at the end of the 20th century, had attained an indigenous independence for the first time in centuries. China, an ancient nation comprising a fifth of the world population, was finally open to the world, creating a new state after the near-complete destruction of the old cultural order. With the end of colonialism and the Cold War, nearly a billion people in Africa were left in new nation states after centuries of foreign domination.
The world was undergoing its second major period of globalization the first, which started in the 18th century, having been terminated by World War I. Since the US was in a dominant position, a major part of the process was Americanization. The influence of China and India was also rising, as the world's largest populations were rapidly integrating with the world economy.
Terrorism, dictatorship, and the spread of nuclear weapons were pressing global issues. The world was still blighted by small-scale wars and other violent conflicts, fueled by competition over resources and by ethnic conflicts.
Disease threatened to destabilize many regions of the world. New viruses such as the West Nile virus continued to spread. Malaria and other diseases affected large populations. Millions were infected with HIV, the virus which causes AIDS. The virus was becoming an epidemic in southern Africa.
Based on research done by climate scientists, the majority of the scientific community consider that in the long term environmental problems may threaten the planet's habitability.  One argument is that of global warming occurring due to human-caused emission of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuels.  This prompted many nations to negotiate and sign the Kyoto treaty, which set mandatory limits on carbon dioxide emissions.
World population increased from about 1.6 billion people in 1901 to 6.1 billion at the century's end.  
The number of people killed during the century by government actions was in the hundreds of millions. This includes deaths caused by wars, genocide, politicide and mass murders. The deaths from acts of war during the two world wars alone have been estimated at between 50 and 80 million. [ citation needed ] Political scientist Rudolph Rummel estimated 262,000,000 deaths caused by democide, which excludes those killed in war battles, civilians unintentionally killed in war and killings of rioting mobs.  According to Charles Tilly, "Altogether, about 100 million people died as a direct result of action by organized military units backed by one government or another over the course of the century. Most likely a comparable number of civilians died of war-induced disease and other indirect effects."  It is estimated that approximately 70 million Europeans died through war, violence and famine between 1914 and 1945. 
- After gaining political rights in the United States and much of Europe in the first part of the century, and with the advent of new birth control techniques, women became more independent throughout the century.
- Rising nationalism and increasing national awareness were among the many causes of World War I (1914–1918), the first of two wars to involve many major world powers including Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Russia/USSR, the British Empire and the United States. World War I led to the creation of many new countries, especially in Eastern Europe. At the time, it was said by many to be the "war to end all wars". greatly increased in its scale and complexity during the first half of the 20th century. Notable developments included chemical warfare, the introduction of military aviation and the widespread use of submarines. The introduction of nuclear warfare in the mid-20th century marked the definite transition to modern warfare.
- Civil wars occurred in many nations. A violent civil war broke out in Spain in 1936 when General Francisco Franco rebelled against the Second Spanish Republic. Many  consider this war as a testing battleground for World War II, as the fascist armies bombed some Spanish territories.
- The Great Depression in the 1930s led to the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe. (1939–1945) involved Eastern Asia and the Pacific, in the form of Japanese aggression against China and the United States. Civilians also suffered greatly in World War II, due to the aerial bombing of cities on both sides, and the German genocide of the Jews and others, known as the Holocaust.
- During World War I, in the Russian Revolution of 1917, 300 years of Romanov reign were ended and the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, established the world's first Communist state. After the Soviet Union's involvement in World War II, communism became a major force in global politics, notably in Eastern Europe, China, Indochina and Cuba, where communist parties gained near-absolute power.
- The Cold War (1947-1989) caused an arms race and increasing competition between the two major players in the world: the Soviet Union and the United States. This competition included the development and improvement of nuclear weapons and the Space Race. This led to the proxy wars with the Western bloc, including wars in Korea (1950–1953) and Vietnam (1957–1975).
- The Soviet authorities caused the deaths of millions of their own citizens in order to eliminate domestic opposition.  More than 18 million people passed through the Gulag, with a further 6 million being exiled to remote areas of the Soviet Union. 
- The civil rights movement in the United States and the movement against apartheid in South Africa challenged racial segregation in those countries.
- The two world wars led to efforts to increase international cooperation, notably through the founding of the League of Nations after World War I, and its successor, the United Nations, after World War II. in the subcontinent led to the independence and partition of India and Pakistan. 's nonviolence and Indian independence movement against the British Empire influenced many political movements around the world, including the civil rights movement in the U.S., and freedom movements in South Africa and Burma.
- The creation of Israel in 1948, a Jewish state in the Middle East, at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine, fueled many regional conflicts. These were also influenced by the vast oil fields in many of the other countries of the predominantly Arab region. of colonialism led to the independence of many African and Asian countries. During the Cold War, many of these aligned with the United States, the USSR, or China for defense.
- After a long period of civil wars and conflicts with western powers, China's last imperial dynastyended in 1912. The resulting republic was replaced, after another civil war, by a communist People's Republic in 1949. At the end of the 20th century, though still ruled by a communist party, China's economic system had largely transformed to capitalism.
- The Great Chinese Famine was a direct cause of the death of tens of millions of Chinese peasants between 1959 and 1962. It is thought to be the largest famine in human history. 
- The Vietnam War caused two million deaths, changed the dynamics between the Eastern and Western Blocs, and altered North-South relations. 
- The Soviet War in Afghanistan caused one million deaths and contributed to the downfall of the Soviet Union. 
- The revolutions of 1989 released Eastern and Central Europe from Soviet supremacy. Soon thereafter, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia dissolved, the latter violently over several years, into successor states, many rife with ethnic nationalism. Meanwhile, East Germany and West Germanywere reunified in 1990.
- The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, culminating in the deaths of hundreds of civilian protesters, were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world. began in earnest in the 1950s, and eventually led to the European Union, a political and economic union that comprised 15 countries at the end of the 20th century.
- As the century began, Paris was the artistic capital of the world, where both French and foreign writers, composers and visual artists gathered. By the end of the century New York City had become the artistic capital of the world.
- Theater, films, music and the media had a major influence on fashion and trends in all aspects of life. As many films and much music originate from the United States, American culture spread rapidly over the world.
- 1953 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, an iconic figure of the century. became more dominant not only in films but in comics and television as well. During the century a new skilled understanding of narrativist imagery was developed.
- Computer games and internet surfing became new and popular form of entertainment during the last 25 years of the century.
- In literature, science fiction, fantasy (with well-developed fictional worlds, rich in detail), and alternative history fiction gained unprecedented popularity. Detective fiction gained unprecedented popularity in the interwar period. In the United States in 1961 Grove Press published Tropic of Cancer a novel by Henry Miller redefining pornography and censorship in publishing in America.
The invention of music recording technologies such as the phonograph record, and dissemination technologies such as radio broadcasting, massively expanded the audience for music. Prior to the 20th century, music was generally only experienced in live performances. Many new genres of music were established during the 20th century.
- revolutionized classical composition.
- In the 1920s, Arnold Schoenberg developed the twelve-tone technique, which became widely influential on 20th-century composers.
- In classical music, composition branched out into many completely new domains, including dodecaphony, aleatoric (chance) music, and minimalism. was created in Argentina and became extremely popular in the rest of the Americas and Europe. and jazz music became popularized during the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s in the United States. develops in the 1920s and 1930s in the United States.
- Blues and country went on to influence rock and roll in the 1950s, which along with folk music, increased in popularity with the British Invasion of the mid-to-late 1960s.
- Rock soon branched into many different genres, including folk rock, heavy metal, punk rock, and alternative rock and became the dominant genre of popular music.
- This was challenged with the rise of hip hop in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Other genres such as house, techno, reggae, and soul all developed during the latter half of the century and went through various periods of popularity.
- Synthesizers began to be employed widely in music and crossed over into the mainstream with new wave music in the 1980s. Electronic instruments have been widely deployed in all manners of popular music and has led to the development of such genres as house, synth-pop, electronic dance music, and industrial.
Film, television and theatre Edit
Film as an artistic medium was created in the 20th century. The first modern movie theatre was established in Pittsburgh in 1905.  Hollywood developed as the center of American film production. While the first films were in black and white, technicolor was developed in the 1920s to allow for color films. Sound films were developed, with the first full-length feature film, The Jazz Singer, released in 1927. The Academy Awards were established in 1929. Animation was also developed in the 1920s, with the first full-length cel animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in 1937. Computer-generated imagery was developed in the 1980s, with the first full-length CGI-animated film Toy Story was released in 1995.
- , Harry Belafonte, Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, James Cagney, Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Tom Cruise, James Dean, Robert De Niro, Harrison Ford, Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn, Bruce Lee, Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Sidney Poitier, Meryl Streep, Elizabeth Taylor, James Stewart, and John Wayne are among the most popular Hollywood stars of the 20th century. , Sergei Eisenstein, D. W. Griffith, Cecil B. DeMille, Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, John Ford, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, John Huston, Alfred Hitchcock, Akira Kurosawa, Spike Lee, Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Walt Disney, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, James Cameron, William Friedkin and George Lucas are among the most important and popular filmmakers of the 20th century.
- In theater, sometimes referred to as Broadway in New York City, playwrights such as Eugene O'Neill, Samuel Beckett, Edward Albee, Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams introduced innovative language and ideas to the idiom. In musical theater, figures such as Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and Irving Berlin had an enormous impact on both film and the culture in general. is born in America as both a 'rebellion' against centuries-old European ballet, as well as born from the oppression in America. Dancers and choreographers Alvin Ailey, Isadora Duncan, Vaslav Nijinsky, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, José Limón, Doris Humphrey, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor re-defined movement, struggling to bring it back to its 'natural' roots and along with Jazz, created a solely American art form. Alvin Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. His company gained the nickname "Cultural Ambassador to the World" because of its extensive international touring. Ailey's choreographic masterpiece Revelations is believed to be the best known and most often seen modern dance performance.
Video games Edit
Video games—due to the great technological steps forward in computing since the second post-war period—are the new form of entertainment emerged in the 20th century alongside films.
- While already conceptualized in the 1940s–50s, video games only emerged as an industry during the 1970s, and then exploded into social and cultural phenomenon such as the golden age of arcade video games, with notable releases such as Taito's Space Invaders, Atari's Asteroids, and Namco's Pac-Man,  the worldwide success of Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. and the release in the 1990s of SonyPlayStation console, the first one to break the record of 100 million units sold.  becomes a discipline and a job. Some game designers in this century stand out for their work, as Shigeru Miyamoto, Hideo Kojima, Sid Meier and Will Wright.
Art and architecture Edit
- The art world experienced the development of new styles and explorations such as fauvism, expressionism, Dadaism, cubism, de stijl, surrealism, abstract expressionism, color field, pop art, minimal art, lyrical abstraction, and conceptual art.
- The modern art movement revolutionized art and culture and set the stage for both Modernism and its counterpart postmodern art as well as other contemporary art practices. began as advanced architecture and design but fell out of fashion after World War I. The style was dynamic and inventive but unsuited to the depression of the Great War.
- In Europe, modern architecture departed from the decorated styles of the Victorian era. Streamlined forms inspired by machines became commonplace, enabled by developments in building materials and technologies. Before World War II, many European architects moved to the United States, where modern architecture continued to develop.
- The automobile increased the mobility of people in the Western countries in the early-to-mid-century, and in many other places by the end of the 20th century. City design throughout most of the West became focused on transport via car.
- The popularity of sport increased considerably—both as an activity for all, and as entertainment, particularly on television.
- The modern Olympic Games, first held in 1896, grew to include tens of thousands of athletes in dozens of sports.
- The FIFA World Cup was first held in 1930, and was held every four years after World War II.
Multiple new fields of mathematics were developed in the 20th century. In the first part of the 20th century, measure theory, functional analysis, and topology were established, and significant developments were made in fields such as abstract algebra and probability. The development of set theory and formal logic led to Gödel's incompleteness theorems.
Later in the 20th century, the development of computers led to the establishment of a theory of computation.  Other computationally-intense results include the study of fractals  and a proof of the four color theorem in 1976. 
- New areas of physics, like special relativity, general relativity, and quantum mechanics, were developed during the first half of the century. In the process, the internal structure of atoms came to be clearly understood, followed by the discovery of elementary particles.
- It was found that all the known forces can be traced to only four fundamental interactions. It was discovered further that two forces, electromagnetism and weak interaction, can be merged in the electroweak interaction, leaving only three different fundamental interactions.
- Discovery of nuclear reactions, in particular nuclear fusion, finally revealed the source of solar energy. was invented, and became a powerful technique for determining the age of prehistoric animals and plants as well as historical objects.
- A much better understanding of the evolution of the universe was achieved, its age (about 13.8 billion years) was determined, and the Big Bang theory on its origin was proposed and generally accepted.
- The age of the Solar System, including Earth, was determined, and it turned out to be much older than believed earlier: more than 4 billion years, rather than the 20 million years suggested by Lord Kelvin in 1862. 
- The planets of the Solar System and their moons were closely observed via numerous space probes. Pluto was discovered in 1930 on the edge of the solar system, although in the early 21st century, it was reclassified as a dwarf planet instead of a planet proper, leaving eight planets.
- No trace of life was discovered on any of the other planets in the Solar System (or elsewhere in the universe), although it remained undetermined whether some forms of primitive life might exist, or might have existed, somewhere. Extrasolar planets were observed for the first time.
- was unanimously accepted and significantly developed. The structure of DNA was determined in 1953 by James Watson, Francis Crick, Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins,  following by developing techniques which allow to read DNA sequences and culminating in starting the Human Genome Project (not finished in the 20th century) and cloning the first mammal in 1996.
- The role of sexual reproduction in evolution was understood, and bacterial conjugation was discovered.
- The convergence of various sciences for the formulation of the modern evolutionary synthesis (produced between 1936 and 1947), providing a widely accepted account of evolution.
- -controlled, randomized, blindedclinical trials became a powerful tool for testing new medicines. drastically reduced mortality from bacterial diseases and their prevalence.
- A vaccine was developed for polio, ending a worldwide epidemic. Effective vaccines were also developed for a number of other serious infectious diseases, including influenza, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), chickenpox, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B. and vaccination led to the eradication of the smallpox virus in humans. became powerful diagnostic tool for wide spectrum of diseases, from bone fractures to cancer. In the 1960s, computerized tomography was invented. Other important diagnostic tools developed were sonography and magnetic resonance imaging.
- Development of vitamins virtually eliminated scurvy and other vitamin-deficiency diseases from industrialized societies.
- New psychiatric drugs were developed. These include antipsychotics for treating hallucinations and delusions, and antidepressants for treating depression.
- The role of tobacco smoking in the causation of cancer and other diseases was proven during the 1950s (see British Doctors Study).
- New methods for cancer treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy, were developed. As a result, cancer could often be cured or placed in remission.
- The development of blood typing and blood banking made blood transfusion safe and widely available.
- The invention and development of immunosuppressive drugs and tissue typing made organ and tissue transplantation a clinical reality.
- New methods for heart surgery were developed, including pacemakers and artificial hearts. /crack and heroin were found to be dangerous addictive drugs, and their wide usage had been outlawed mind-altering drugs such as LSD and MDMA were discovered and later outlawed. In many countries, a war on drugs caused prices to soar 10–20 times higher, leading to profitable black marketdrugdealing, and to prison inmate sentences being 80% related to drug use by the 1990s.  drugs were developed, which reduced population growth rates in industrialized countries, as well as decreased the taboo of premarital sex throughout many western countries.
- The development of medical insulin during the 1920s helped raise the life expectancy of diabetics to three times of what it had been earlier.
- Vaccines, hygiene and clean water improved health and decreased mortality rates, especially among infants and the young.
Notable diseases Edit
- An influenza pandemic, Spanish Flu, killed anywhere from 17 to 100 million people between 1918 and 1919.
- A new viral disease, called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, arose in Africa and subsequently killed millions of people throughout the world. HIV leads to a syndrome called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. Treatments for HIV remained inaccessible to many people living with AIDS and HIV in developing countries, and a cure has yet to be discovered.
- Because of increased life spans, the prevalence of cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and other diseases of old age increased slightly. , due to labor-saving devices and technology, along with the increase in home entertainment and technology such as television, video games, and the internet contributed to an "epidemic" of obesity, at first in the rich countries, but by the end of the 20th century spreading to the developing world.
Energy and the environment Edit
- The dominant use of fossil sources and nuclear power, considered the conventional energy sources.
- Widespread use of petroleum in industry—both as a chemical precursor to plastics and as a fuel for the automobile and airplane—led to the geopolitical importance of petroleum resources. The Middle East, home to many of the world's oil deposits, became a center of geopolitical and military tension throughout the latter half of the century. (For example, oil was a factor in Japan's decision to go to war against the United States in 1941, and the oil cartel, OPEC, used an oil embargo of sorts in the wake of the Yom Kippur War in the 1970s).
- The increase in fossil fuel consumption also fueled a major scientific controversy over its effect on air pollution, global warming, and global climate change. , herbicides and other toxicchemicals accumulated in the environment, including in the bodies of humans and other animals. and worldwide deforestation diminished the quality of the environment.
- In the last third of the century, concern about humankind's impact on the Earth's environment made environmentalism popular. In many countries, especially in Europe, the movement was channeled into politics through Green parties. Increasing awareness of global warming began in the 1980s, commencing decades of social and political debate.
One of the prominent traits of the 20th century was the dramatic growth of technology. Organized research and practice of science led to advancement in the fields of communication, electronics, engineering, travel, medicine, and war.