Links May 27th to May 29th

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About the MESH blog

When I first saw that Harvard had launched a blog that allowed Middle East experts to debate the issues of the day, I thought, good for them. But after reading it for several months, I am finding that most of the time it's full of the most right-wing drivel and venomous attacks on mainstream Middle East Studies academia you'll see outside of Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes' sites. And on top of it, it is reliably ultra-Zionist and unquestioning of Israel. It also features some reasonable people, mostly middle-of-the-road think tankers from Washington, but mostly it really appears to be the sort of folk who attend JINSA and WINEP conferences. Just check out this piece for instance. Does anyone know why this is so?
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Links May 25th to May 26th

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Links May 21st to May 24th

Links from my del.icio.us account for May 21st through May 24th:

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Don't be evil, work for Google

A recruiter from Google has written to send the following job ad-- they're hiring software engineers and more who have fluent Arabic. The whole job listing is after the jump for those interested -- good luck to those who'd apply, and if you get in please tell Google to allow filtering of Israeli ads in Adsense (I've had a long correspondence with them over this issue.) Oh, and that whole China thing. Dear friends at the Arabist, I hope you are all doing well. I am assuming that many people within your network, keep eyes and ears open to exceptional opportunities. I am sure that they would appreciate knowing about opportunities with Google located in the Middle East. Currently looking to fill the following Google Software Engineering Arabic Fluent Middle East positions : Engineering Site Director (Arabic Fluent) – Middle East Software Product Managers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East Experienced Software Engineers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East Software Engineering Technical Leads/ Managers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East Do not hesitate to post or share these job announcements below with your HFAA professional network and community of recipients and alumni worldwide and also with anyone or any group that could be interested. Also, any referrals of specific individuals would also be most appreciated. Anyone interested, please email a chronological resume to: nabilk@google.com Thank you in advance, Nabil Nabil Khatib Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, USA nabilk@google.com ========================= Google Engineering Site Director (Arabic Fluent) – Middle East Google is looking for a highly technical, hands-on Engineering Site Director to drive Product and Technology initiatives for the Middle East/Arab World. As the most senior engineer for Google in the region, the Engineering Site Director will be the face for Google's engineering effort in the Arab World. The Engineering Site Director will be responsible for the overall planning, execution and success of projects with both regional and global impact. In addition to leading the engineering team or teams in the Arab markets, the Engineering Site Director will work closely with Google's senior management team, as well as local officials, universities and professional organizations. Please note that engineering management at Google is technical, i.e., candidates are expected to have a strong track record of technical accomplishments in addition to management accomplishments. Consequently a candidate must posses a strong and broad background in most aspects of Computer Science. Candidates will be asked technical questions during your interviews. Requirements: At least 10+ years of exceptional technical competence and accomplishment with a strong product development track record and continuing and enduring technical leadership throughout career Software background and large scale success developing web-based applications, ideally launched in the Arab market Entrepreneurial drive plus demonstrated ability to achieve goals in an innovative environment Relevant experience as hands-on manager of a large fast-paced dynamic engineering team Solid leadership skills and success in building a strong engineering team Strong project-management skills and proven history in product delivery Ability to operate and thrive in the face of ambiguity Can fit in well within an informal startup environment and quickly establish credibility with very capable engineers MS in Computer Science/Computer Engineering or PhD (preferred) Please email a chronological resume to Nabil Khatib nabilk@google.com Do not hesitate to share with anyone or any group that could be interested. ============================== Software Product Managers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East One of the many reasons Google consistently brings innovative, world-changing products to market is because of the collaborative work we do in Product Management. With eyes focused squarely on the future, our team works closely with creative and prolific engineers to help design and develop technologies that improve access to the world's information. We're responsible for guiding products throughout the execution cycle, focusing specifically on analysing, positioning, packaging, promoting and tailoring our solutions to all the markets where Google does business. As a Product Manager at Google, you bridge the needs of our customers (users, advertisers and partners) and the creativity of our engineering teams. You combine outstanding product vision with the hands-on skills to work with engineers and deliver new products and features quickly to markets across Africa. Google Product Managers come from a wide range of backgrounds: many have successfully run their own software/web companies whilst others have delivered successful products for large software companies. They all combine a great instinct for developing compelling products with a strong academic background and technical aptitude to work with a world class engineering team and the business sense to drive local product goals and strategies. Responsibilities: Launch products Identify market opportunities and define product vision and strategy Understand customer needs and gather product requirements Develop new products and enhance existing products Engage closely with the engineering team to help determine the best technical implementation methods as well as a reasonable execution schedule Requirements: Computer Science degree. Masters or PhD preferred MBA degree highly regarded End to end Product Management experience of software / web technologies Hands-on developing Internet products and technologies Entrepreneurial drive with appreciation of user-experience, business, and commercial issues Understanding of the Internet, Search Engine, and On-Line Advertising spaces Please email a chronological resume to Nabil Khatib nabilk@google.com Do not hesitate to share with anyone or any group that could be interested. ============================== Experienced Software Engineers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East Software Engineering Technical Leads/ Managers (Arabic Fluent) - Middle East Software Engineering positions require a significant work history, experience developing web-based applications, expertise in data structures, algorithms, and complexity analysis, fluency in one or more of C, C++, Java, fluency in one of more of Shell, PHP, Perl or Python, solid working knowledge of Unix, preferably Linux, SQL and MySQL are a plus. Applicants must have BA/BS in Computer Science, MS or PhD (a plus). These positions require exceptional programming skills, excellent algorithmic and analytical skills, and a strong aptitude for building high-performance, scalable computer systems. Our recent work encompasses a broad spectrum of computer science research areas, including: Large scale distributed systems design, Information retrieval, Natural language processing, machine learning and data mining, algorithms and data structures research and user interface research. To get a clearer idea about experience, please briefly reply to these questions and email back with your chronological resume: What are your strongest areas of expertise and interest? What are your preferred programming languages? Please rate yourself in them as (beginner, intermediate or advanced). If working, how much programming do you typically do during a week in your last 2 jobs? Please indicate in percentage (%) form. Please briefly describe your experience and knowledge of the technology market in the Arab World. Please email a chronological resume to Nabil Khatib nabilk@google.com Do not hesitate to share with anyone or any group that could be interested. Nabil Khatib Google Inc. 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View, CA 94043, USA nabilk@google.com
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Links May 18th to May 21st

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Jeffrey Goldberg's ‘American Problem'

There's been much about Jeffrey Goldberg's New York Times piece about how the powerful members of Zionist groups in America are being, er, more Catholic than the Pope (more Talmudic than the Rabbi?) in their inflexibility on the issue of West Bank settlements. Yes, it's good that a prominent Jewish-American journalist and former IDF soldier says that. Even if he slammed Walt and Mearsheimer from bringing attention to the lobby a year ago, resorting to the usual slander of anti-Semitism. Yet, to me, most perplexing in this piece is this:

So why won’t American leaders push Israel publicly? Or, more to the point, why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question? The answer is obvious: The leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, in their polemical work “The Israel Lobby,” have it wrong: They argue, unpersuasively, that American support for Israel hurts America. It doesn’t. But unthinking American support does hurt Israel.
Several things here: Goldberg has a problem with the omerta on this topic in the US presidential election not because a small group is silencing the debate on a major foreign policy issue, but because he thinks the policy is wrong (for Israel). So he's more concerned about the problems in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than the damage to American democracy. And then the same line of thinking is seen again when he expresses concern not for the damage to US interests in support for Israeli extremism (one that would think has become amply evident after eight years of extremist Likudnik policies under Bush), but that this might hurt Israel. So basically he is saying we should have a full debate to consider various points of views of the Israeli political leadership (fair enough), but that this is the limit of the debate and benefits to America are not worth considering. Just look at the last line of the piece:
The people of Aipac and the Conference of Presidents are well meaning, and their work in strengthening the overall relationship between America and Israel has ensured them a place in the world to come. But what’s needed now is a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel. Barack Obama and John McCain, the likely presidential nominees, are smart, analytical men who understand the manifold threats Israel faces 60 years after its founding. They should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself. But this won’t happen until Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.
Quite amazingly, he does not seem to have a concern for the American political process, where discussion of a crucial policy question being banned by small but powerful interests. All his attention is focused on whether it might be good for Israel. Does he ever think that, for the majority of Americans who don't particularly care about Israel or Palestine, the fact that debate is being silenced is the most dangerous and offensive thing of all? Or that US policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict has hurt American interests? (And incidentally, let's not forget that Goldberg is among the most biased journalists who cover this conflict in the US, as Finkelstein has argued.)
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Ministry of Interior asks for funding to put down food riots

Poor, poor Egyptian Ministry of Interior: its repressive capabilities are being stressed to the limit by the constant strikes, riots, protests and other events. So what does it do? Ask for even more money, of course:

In a briefing to parliament, Yusuf said the ministry was spending more money on advanced security equipment meant to quell riots. The official cited communications systems, plastic shields, tear gas and other non-lethal weapons. So far, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has agreed to increase the budget of the Interior Ministry. Yusuf said the Finance Ministry has allocated 1.18 billion Egyptian pounds, or about $220 million for 2008. The overall budget of the ministry was reported at $1.63 billion. But Yusuf said this was not enough for the needs of Egyptian security forces. He said most of the anti-riot gear and other security equipment were being purchased in euro, which has significantly increased against the dollar over the last year. Officials said Egypt has been recruiting villagers for the police and security forces. They said officers, many of them drafted for three years, were being trained to rapidly arrive at demonstrations and disperse protesters.
[From World Tribune — Egypt's interior minister seeks riot-control budget as food prices spike]
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Mahalla detainees appeal to civil society

Letter to head of the Judges' Club Zakariya Abdel Aziz from the three Mahalla detainees, Kamal El-Fayyoumy, Tareq Amin, and Karim El-Beheiry:

We would like in the beginning to correct certain information which has reached the press about our (the three of us) having been transferred to the prison hospital as a result of our hunger strike. The truth is that we are still in prison after the administration refused to call an ambulance to take us to hospital, and as a result of the inability of Karim el-Beheiry and Tareq Amin to stand on their feet - as a result of their extreme weakness. Instead, a “nurse” was summoned to examine Karim, whose condition has seriously deteriorated. We would like to know the reason why we remain in detention. We will continue the hunger strike until we either die or receive this information. We were tortured in the state security headquarters in Mahalla on the 6th, 7th and 8th April. Officers tortured Karim using electricity while Tareq Amin and Kamal el-Fayyoumy were insulted verbally and physically assaulted. We then spent eleven days in Borg el-Arab prison in a cell with individuals with criminal convictions. When the Tanta court ordered that we be released we were held for four days in the El-Salam police station [noqtat shorta] situated between Mahalla and Tanta before we were taken to Borg el-Arab prison were we began our hunger strike.
[From Fustat: Letter from Burg al Arab prison]
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Links for May 18th

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Links May 13th to May 18th

Links from my del.icio.us account for May 13th through May 18th:

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Bush on Dream

For the last week Dream TV's interview with President Bush has been talked up in Egypt, but can you understand any of this? And can Bush get any more condescending (and wrong) when he tells the interviewer she has her job because Egypt is a "society that honors diversity and gives people a chance to realize their talents?" I suspect the standard for Middle East reform that Bush has is having the same foreign policy as the Saudis and being slightly less bigoted than the Saudis -- then you pass the test.

Q Yes. My first question is, people in Egypt, sometimes they get confused -- on the one hand, they hear the U.S. statements, speeches that stress on the long-lasting relationships with Egypt, the strategic importance of Egypt to the U.S. and to the Middle East, Egypt as the major player in the peace process. On the other hand, they could see indications that contradicts with this -- U.S. depending on other parties in the region, your snatching visit to Sharm el Sheikh last January, the partial cutting of the U.S. aid. How would you comment on that? THE PRESIDENT: I would comment this, that from my perspective, the Egyptian-U.S. relationship is a very important part of our Middle Eastern foreign policy, for these reasons: one, Egypt has got a proud history and a great tradition, and a lot of people look to Egypt for help. Now, the United States can't solve a lot of problems on our own; has to have allies be a part of it. And so on the Palestinian issue, for example, Egypt can be very constructive, and has been constructive and helpful. Egypt has got a society that honors diversity and gives people a chance to realize their talents, like you. You're a very smart, capable, professional woman who has showed the rest of the Middle East what's possible in the Middle East. And Egypt has been on the forefront of modernization. Egypt is strategically located. And so our relationship is strong and good. We've had our differences, on elections, for example. But nevertheless, to answer your question, I would say the relationship is very solid and very important. Q Then how would you perceive the state of democracy in Egypt? THE PRESIDENT: I would say fits and starts; good news and bad news. In other words, there's been some moments where it looked like Egypt was going to continue to lead the Middle East on the democracy movement, and there's been some setbacks. But I guess that just reflects the nature of the administration and their -- on the one hand, their desire for democracy, on the other hand, their concerns about different movements. My view is, is that democracy is a powerful engine for reform and change, and leads to peace.
[From Interview of the President by Mona Shazli, Dream TV, Egypt]
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Links May 11th to May 12th

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Links for May 8th

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Egypt cuts off unregisted mobiles Egypt asks mobile firms to bar anonymous users | Technology | Reuters

Egypt is now moving in the direction of much more repressive regimes, wanting to control all communications:

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt has asked mobile phone companies to block service to anonymous subscribers as a public security measure, and at least two firms have begun efforts to comply, Egyptian officials and mobile firms said on Monday.

The move comes as Egypt tries to combat a wave of public discontent over rising prices and low wages that have sparked a series of labor and anti-government strikes, organized largely by mobile phone and over the Internet.

The move is expected to affect several hundred thousand customers who did not register their names and addresses when they acquired phone lines -- still a small portion of overall subscribers in the most populous Arab country.

"Everyone who uses the telephone must be known," Trade Minister Rachid Mohamed Rachid told a news conference, adding that the move was needed for "public security."

[From Egypt asks mobile firms to bar anonymous users]
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Sick on Clinton's Arab strategy

Gary Sick, a Columbia University professor and eminent scholar of the Persian Gulf, has written a short essay on Hillary Clinton's recent threat to "obliterate Iran" should it attack Israel for the excellent Gulf 2000 listserv he maintains. Notwithstanding the chiefly domestic US political reasons that led Clinton to engage in rather vulgar sable-rattling, Sick analyzes Clinton's announced strategy of building an Arab security structure designed to isolate Iran, seeing in it both a continuation of Bush administration policies (they just call it the "Sunni-Shia divide") and a revival of the Clinton administration's "dual containment" policy towards Iran and Iraq in the 1990s, which enrolled the aid of Arab countries. This isn't too surprising, since the architect of dual containment was Martin Indyk, who also heads Hillary Clinton's foreign policy team and is a contender for Secretary of State in the (now hopefully) unlikely event of her election. Sick's essay, republished below, highlights something that has become increasingly clear to me in recent years: the continuation, despite superficial differences, between certain Clinton policies and those of the Bush White House when it comes to Middle East policy. It's not only that the Clintons had their own group of people who favored an invasion of Iraq to depose Saddam Hussein in the late 1990s, but also an attitude of refusing negotiations with Iran (or other designated enemies) and a strategic approach to the region that tends to prioritize not only access and control of oil resources, a perennial feature of US policy, but also puts Israel first in strategic considerations. Considering Indyk's own AIPAC background this is not surprising, but these policies have been extremely damaging to US interests and, more importantly, the people of the region (notably the Iraqis who suffered tremendously under the Clinton-backed sanctions regime). This is not to say that Clinton and Bush are the same -- over domestic issues and many international ones Hillary Clinton is light years ahead of GW Bush (although arguably not GHW Bush). But in their strategic approach to the Middle East, it's becoming clearer to me that we are seeing basically the same policies expressed without the bravado of the Bushies. A bad policy, even if implemented with caution, is still a bad policy. Sick, a Clinton supporter, provides an excellent analysis of why one should choose Obama as the better Democratic alternative on foreign policy. Read it all.
Hillary Clinton's warning that the United States could "obliterate" Iran if that country should "foolishly consider" launching an attack on Israel is, of course, pandering to a broad American constituency that wants to hear tough rhetoric about Iran. It is also intended to appeal to a constituency that needs constant reassurance that America's relationship with Israel is secure. And, by addressing a strategic hypothetical that would by any measure be many years in the future ("in the next ten years" in her words), it seems intended to convince doubters that a woman is tough enough - perhaps more than tough enough - to be commander in chief.
Although her use of the word "obliterate" was both excessive and ill-advised, it might be seen as a challenge to Obama to match her toughness, or even as simply pandering shamelessly to a constituency that thrives on political red meat. That is not very flattering to her, but it might be regarded as politics as usual. What makes this statement particularly troublesome is that it cannot be dismissed as mere off-the-cuff responses to a TV interviewer. Rather, it appears to be part of a broader, considered policy that would likely be at the heart of the Middle East strategy of President Hillary Clinton. The Clinton campaign, while explaining her remarks to skeptics, made it clear that this was no slip of the tongue. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post reports that the "obliterate" remarks are part of a more extensive plan, first advanced in the debate prior to the Pennsylvania primary, for a new defensive alliance with the Arab states and Israel, in which the United States would extend not only a "security umbrella" over Israel but also "provide a deterrent backup" that would extend U.S. nuclear guarantees to Arab states who renounce nuclear weapons. The apparent author of this strategy is Martin Indyk. See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/03/AR2008050301875.html Martin Indyk came into Bill Clinton's administration as director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council and later represented the United States as ambassador to Israel (twice) as well as a stint as Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs at the Department of State. He was present at every stage of the Clinton administration's Middle East policy, but he is most frequently remembered, at least by Persian Gulf specialists, as the author of the so-called "dual containment" policy. "Dual containment" basically postulates that the way to deal with recalcitrant states in the Persian Gulf (i.e. states that are unsympathetic to U.S. interests and objectives) is to isolate them and "contain" them, relying on sanctions and superior military power. It was also quite explicit in linking "containment of Iraq and Iran in the east" with "promotion of Arab-Israeli peace in the west." This was a new twist in U.S. policy which had previously maintained that the Persian Gulf/oil could be separated from the Arab-Israeli dispute. The policy was therefore viewed by many as attempting to wall off the troublesome Persian Gulf region so that the United States could focus on the Arab-Israel issue, or, as it later evolved, on Israel alone. It was also a unilateral policy: collaborators would be nice, but in their absence the United States could and would act alone. Although the name "dual containment" is no longer used, especially after the invasion of Iraq removed one of the policy's targets, it is nevertheless true that the dominant premise of the policy - that you deal with your enemies and rivals unilaterally by isolation and threats rather than engagement - is one Clintonian policy that has been adopted unabashedly by the Bush administration. It has defined U.S. policy in the region for the past decade and a half. Dual containment was first announced by Indyk in May 1993, in the early months of the Bill Clinton administration. The previous administration of George Bush pere had held out the promise that "Good will begets good will," to entice Iran to intervene on behalf of the American hostages in Lebanon; Iran did so, but by the time the hostages were successfully released, Bush was deep into a presidential campaign and could not fulfill his commitment. Then, of course, he lost the election and the Iranians were told that they would have to forget about any U.S. promises. Still, Iran had taken a serious decision to try to open channels to the United States, and when Bill Clinton was elected, they put out new feelers (in which I had a small role). These were ignored in favor of dual containment. Iran tried again with unilateral economic offers in 1995, but the Clinton administration responded by enacting far-reaching economic sanctions against Iran. Dual containment and its accompanying sanctions were adopted with the stated objective of changing Iran's behavior on a number of issues: nuclear, Arab-Israel peace process, and terrorism, among others. After a full quarter of a century, with the United States doing everything in its power to coerce and threaten Iran economically and militarily, Iran's policies have changed to some degree, but it would take a real ideologue to claim that they have evolved on anything other than an Iranian schedule according to Iranian political objectives. In short, U.S. policies have failed utterly in their key objectives. Yet our answer - and the answer of the Clinton campaign from what we can tell - is more of the same. Clinton-Indyk give lip service to engagement, but then so does Bush-Cheney. The "new defensive alliance" with Arab states of the Middle East that Sen. Clinton has been proposing in the past few weeks is so similar to the anti-Iran alliance that the Bush administration has been trying to sell to the Sunni Arab states (with Israel as a silent partner), that I must admit I cannot see the difference. In fact, the "Bush Doctrine" toward Iran and the Arab states was nothing but a continuation of the "Clinton-Indyk Doctrine" that preceded it, and it now appears that if Hillary should win the presidency, we will come full circle back to Clinton-Indyk redux. I have known Martin Indyk since we were at Columbia together, and I respect him as a professional. But I thought dual containment was a terrible idea from the first time I heard it, and Martin knows it. By emphasizing threats and sanctions above even the most minimal engagement, I think this concept was the origin of many of our worst mistakes and missed opportunities over the past 15 years. Characteristically, this latest version never stops to ask how the regional states may react to our unilateral unfolding of an "umbrella," much less our anticipation that they will respond with gratitude and formal recognition of Israel. That is what Indyk specifies as the price. This sounds like the kind of unrealistic expectations that we have built into our Middle East policies repeatedly over the past dozen years. As my friends know well, I have been a stout defender of Hillary Clinton's campaign from the very beginning, while maintaining my admiration for Barack Obama. (In the most recent case, I was impressed by the fact that Obama refused to rise to the bait, while she accepted the hypothetical and ran with it.) I respected the depth of her politically skilled network, her grit and determination, and her ability to take a punch. My major argument, of course, was Clinton's experience. But experience is a two-edged sword. The chance for a fresh start - for "change" in the current political lexicon - was to me the great hope of this presidential campaign. But Clinton's recent remarks, and the underlying policy from which they apparently sprang, are evidence that, at least on this issue, we might only look forward to more of the same under a Clinton presidency. In that sense, I think we would be losing one of the great chances of this generation to begin to fashion a more sensible policy in a region that I care about greatly.
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Links April 26th to May 4th

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