The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Mary Wilson

Mary WilsonMary Wilson earned her doctorate at Oxford University and has taught Middle East history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst since 1989. Her first book, King Abdullah, Britain and the Making of Jordan (Cambridge University Press, 1987 and 1990) looks at the end of the Ottoman Empire and the expansion of British imperialism in the Middle East through the lens of state formation. She is also co-editor of The Modern Middle East which is a collection of path breaking articles on the 19th and 20th centuries (I.B. Tauris, 1993 and 2004). At present she is writing a history of Syria for a general audience under contract with Cambridge University Press. Her research has been supported by grants from the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She has served as Graduate Program Director and Chair of the UMass department of history, and during the academic year 2005-06 she was the Alfred H. Howell Visiting Professor of History at the American University of Beirut in Beirut, Lebanon.

To Drone or Not to Drone

The topic that excited most comment in President Obama’s May 23rd speech is the restrictions on the use of drones to carry out targeted killings. Those both strongly in favor of the use of drones and those strongly against it criticized the speech. The former believe that drone strikes should not be restricted as the President suggested. Those against drones believe that his comments in no way changed his drone policy, which they believe is immoral, illegal, and ineffective in diminishing numbers of terrorists.


Israel and the Arab Spring

According to Israel’s prime minister, the Arab spring is moving Arab countries “not forward, but backward.” It is an “Islamic, anti-western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli, undemocratic wave.” In other words, the Arab spring is bad for Israel. Netanyahu is right, the Arab spring is bad for Israel, but not for the reasons he gives. It’s bad because Arabs, by standing up to their own governments, have earned the respect of the rest of the world.


What Do Arabs Want?

My students sum up what Arabs want in one word: dignity.I’m writing from the American University of Sharjah where I’m teaching for the semester. My students and colleagues are a fair cross section of the region and of the population of the United Arab Emirates of which Sharjah is a part: Arabs, Turks, Afghans, Pakistanis, Indians, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, and Africans from various African states. They all desire dignity. Who doesn’t ?


Gaza, Why?

This month marks one year since Israeli land, sea, and air forces attacked the Gaza Strip, killing 1,434 men, women, and children and injuring upwards of 5000 according to the United Nations. The Gaza Strip became the Gaza Strip as a result of the creation of Israel in 1948. As a result of the 1948 war, refugees from the 78% of Palestine that became Israel crowded into the remaining portions of Palestine that then needed to be named. They were christened the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.


Israel’s Right of Self Defense, and Gaza’s?

There is a great deal of difference between Presidents Bush and Obama, not least in speech. President Bush spoke in short, often disconnected, spurts that gave him the appearance of not understanding what he was saying. President Obama speaks in complete sentences, one leading to the next at a steady pace that gives him the appearance of understanding exactly what he is saying. Yet both fall back on cant when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians.


Go Figure: Demographic Dilemmas in Israel and Lebanon

Israel and Lebanon are very sensitive to populationfigures. Israel was created as a Jewishstate, and its government is based on maintaining a Jewish majority. Lebanon was created as a state with manyreligious groups, and its government rests on the notion of a balance of powerbetween Christians and Muslims in proportion to their numbers. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert put Israel’s demographic goals succinctly: "to maximise [sic] the number of Jews; to minimise [sic] the number of Palestinians?”