324463-History of the Middle East

The Development of Middle East Nationalism


The objective of this course is to survey the power of religion and secular nationalism in the Middle East, their development and clash within different national entities and across state boundaries.  In particular secular Arab nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism are locked in combat and Jewish nationalism (Zionism) remains in a conflictual relationship with much of Arab/Islamic society.


Class 1:  Early National/Religious Memories:  Geographical survey and brief review of the ancient Levant with a special emphasis on ancient Israel and Judea, the ancestors of today’s Jewish People.  History and religion are integrated as “The National Memory” drawing on secular and sacred events making the ancient memories of yesteryear into the beacon of hope for a better tomorrow.  Yesterday’s events and cherished values form the basis for today’s societies and conflicts.

We will survey ancient Jewish national understandings and touch on Christianity regarding its status as the national state religion in the Byzantine Empire and the Persian Zoroastrian impact on the Middle East will be discussed.

The Two Kingdoms of Israel –Jewish Virtual Library www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Kingdoms1.html

The Byzantine Empire


Zoroastrianism –


Class 2:  The Rise of Islam:  The course of Middle Eastern history is determined by the appearance of the Prophet Mohammed and the advent of Islam.  Over 1,000 years of successful Jihad bring the stamp of Arab and Muslim conquests from the Iberian Peninsula to India and beyond.  Historical/religious “Defining Moments” will be emphasized and compared with those of the ancient Jewish World and the Byzantines.

Islam Origin, Islam History, Islam Beliefs


Bernard Lewis, The Middle East, Chapter 3 “Origins,” pp. 51-74.

On Moodle

Class 3:  The Rise and Fall of the Ottoman Empire:  From the rise of the Ottoman Turks at the end of the 13th century to the height of power during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Decline sets in with the European challenge by the late 1600s.  The Jewish and Christian predicament under Islam and the rise of secular Arab nationalism as a non-Muslim (Christian) phenomena and its Enlightenment challenge to the traditional world.  Ottoman European penetration will arrive at the gates of Vienna in 1683.  Spurred on by the Enlightenment Europe moves on to the offensive and by the mid 19th century the Ottoman Empire is a shambles seeking direction and re-unification.  The final blow comes with WWI, Ottoman dismemberment and the rise of Turkish secular nationalism led by Mustafa Kamal (Ataturk).  Modern Turkey reconstitutes itself.

Ottoman Empire – read history through 1922


Erik J. Zurcher – Turkey: A Modern History “The Era of Tanzimat,” pp. 52-74

On Moodle

Class 4 Part 1: The Rise of Secular Arab Nationalism: The Arab World contained within the Ottoman Empire begins to stir.  European cultural and political penetration commences with outreach to the Christian communities in the form of secular nationalist ideals.  Islam as the unifying identity among the vast majority of Middle Eastern populations begins to falter as an emphasis on Arab identity begins to take hold.  Given to European influence, secular Turkish loyalties aid in fraying the once unifying religious factor of Islam.  In the aftermath of WWI the Arab World breaks off from the Ottomans, each going their separate way.  Led by Muslim Arab intellectuals the rise of secular Arab nationalism dominates the 20th century Middle East.  Islam as religious identity is still of great significance as evidenced by the backlash and establishment of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928.

Hourani, Albert, A History of the Arab Peoples, “European Empires and Dominant Elites” and “The Culture of Imperialism and Reform”, pp. 279 – 314.

Requiem for Arab Nationalism (written in 2003)


Class 4 Part 2: Egypt – Sunni Islam vs. the Secular Egyptian Arab Nation State – Using the military as his conduit, Mahmet Ali catalyzed the secular Egyptian national identity already at the outset of the 19th century much to the dismay of traditional Muslims.  The struggle continues between the Muslim Brotherhood and the secular state oriented armed forces.  The destiny of the Arab World hangs in the balance.

A Brief History of Egypt


Class 5:  Iran – Clash between Shiism and Iranian (Persian) National Identity– Iran is the Shiite center from antiquity until today.  Modern secular nationalism swept through Iran in the 20th century but failed under the Shah.  The 1979 the Khomeini Revolution proved the potency of radical Islam into the late 20th century and its continuing impact on the Middle East today.

Iran and Islam/the Iran Primer


Class 6:  Jewish National Liberation (Zionism):  A review of Jewish Messianism and the salvific hope – religious failure vs. secular success.  In the early modern period antisemitism and Enlightenment values of equality clash and the Jew hopes for acceptability in the emerging world.  With the rise of European secular nationalism and the rebellion against the Church, Jewry will be sorely disappointed when confronted with continuing Judeophobia in differing forms.  Jewish nationalism and a return to the ancient homeland are one of several solutions to “The Jewish Problem”.  A review of Herzl’s The Jewish State, the establishment of the Zionist Organization and success in obtaining the Palestine Mandate.

The Jewish State by Theodor Herzl – http://ardeshirmehta.com/thejewishstate.html

Project Gutenberg The Jewish State – Theodor Herzl’s Program for Zionism

(Jewish State begins on page 68)

Israel Studies An Anthology: The History of Zionism


Class 7 Part 1: Development and Clash of Jewish and Palestinian Arab Nationalism: From the British Mandate to the Jewish State.  Here there will be an investigation into the clash with Arab and specifically Palestinian nationalism through the Partition Plan and Israel’s War of Independence and the failure of the Palestine national movement (1947- 49).

Class 7 Part 2: Israeli State Development and the Regeneration of the Palestine National Movement: Massive immigration, economic development and the institutionalization of the Israeli State ensue under Labor government guidance in particular under PMs David Ben Gurion and Levi Eshkol.  The Jewish national movement is viewed as a “success.”  Simultaneously the Palestine national movement reconstitutes itself under Yasir Arafat and the PLO.  Israel and the PLO clash on numerous occasions.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict


The Avalon Project : The Palestinian National Charter


Proclamation of Independence (Israel)


Class 8:  The Rise of Nasserism in Egypt and the Baath in Syria/Iraq: In the 1950s and 60s there is the all important rise and hope of solidarity through secular Arab nationalism – Nasserism (Egypt) and the Ba’ath (Syria and Iraq).  The dream of pan-Arabism dominates.  Comparisons will be made to find commonalities and conflicts between the two.

On the background of the solidification of clashing nationalisms, regionally Israel and the Arab world go to war in 1967 and again in 1973.  Moves towards conflict resolution begin in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War.

The Death of Arab Secularism – The National


Class 9:  Israel and the Arab World 1978 – 2000:  Massive immigration and ultimately the “brain gain” make the “ingathering of the exiles” a painful yet successful operation over a 60 year period while Israel’s socialist economy shifts capitalist.   Internally secularism gives way to a more religious “Jewish” society and the advance of the ideologically driven settler movement.

The Jewish State reaches partial conflict resolution through peace agreements with Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994).  The Oslo Accords (1990s) prove less than successful while relations with the Palestinians mix conflict with acceptance.

Jewish nationalism is self motivated “affirmative action” but where do minorities find their place?  Especially when they are culturally and religiously akin to the same Arab states with which one seeks conflict resolution.

History of the State of Israel – Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs


1993 Declaration of Principles (Oslo Accords) – Center for …


Class 10:  The 2000s and the Power of Religious Nationalism:  In conflict resolution with secular Palestinian nationalism the Oslo Accords stutter and come up short.   Gush Emmunim and religious Zionism dominate the ideological debate in Israel while Islamic fundamentalism sweeps the Muslim world.

Can the hopes of the 1990s be realized as long as the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas dominates much of Palestinian society?  Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but has battled Hamas in border wars from 2009-14.  Can a weakened Palestinian Authority come to conflict resolution with an increasingly skeptical Israel in the wake of so much hostility from the Muslim World?

The Avalon Project : Hamas Covenant 1988


Lustick, Ian, Article on Gush Emunim – For The Land and The Lord: – Article www.sas.upenn.edu/penncip/lustick/lustick13.html

Class 11: The Wider Middle East and the Jihadi/Khomeinist Challenge: Today’s Middle East pits Khomeinist Shiite Islam and the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood against the secular Arab regimes as represented by Egypt and Jordan.  Yet the extremist Shiites and Sunnis slaughter each other in Iraq and Syria as evidenced by the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and even “secular” Turkey is led by the Islamist prime minister turned president Erdogen.  Turmoil reigns through most of the region yet Israel is the focus of most media attention.  Much to Western chagrin the 2011 “Arab Spring” is truly an “Islamic Awakening.”

The Way of Jihad : Complete Text by Hassan Al Banna …


(Concentrate on section “Scholars of Jihad”)

What Does Jihad Mean? :: Middle East Quarterly – Middle …


Islamic State (ISIS) – Council on Foreign Relations


Islamic State Group – Full History BBC


Has secular nationalism failed in the Muslim and Arab world? And if so what are the regional and global implications?

Can Israel survive in an increasingly hostile environment?

Are Western liberal democratic values defeated?

Overall – What are the chances for peace or at least some form of stability?

Class 12: Field Study: Friday January 19 – This is a mandatory trip to Israel’s north to learn about Israel-Arab relations including the Galilee and Golan. We travel to Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria weather and security situation permitting.

***We will be departing the Technion at 7AM. Exact itinerary will be decided in conjunction with the expected weather.

Class 13:  Final Exam – 50 – 60 Names and terms will be given out earlier in the semester.  25 will be chosen for the final.

Date TBA – Most likely during the first week of February.