The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Faultlines and Pelham on Sinai

Our friend Anjali Kamat of al-Jazeera has a terrific new documentary on Sinai that was released a week ago — you can watch the whole thing above. It looks at some of the issues regarding the armed militants operating in the territory, whether their threat is exaggerated, continuing heavy-handed repression of local populations by security forces, international interest in the area, and more.

After you watch it, you might want to read Nic Pelham's latest NYRB piece on the peninsula, on the uprising of the Bedouin. Here's what's at stake:

Enriched and empowered by the tunnel economy, Gaza’s Islamists and Sinai’s Bedouin obtained the means to protect their assets, and by 2011 the tribes had stashed sufficient quantities of weapons to arm defense squads large enough to outgun Egypt’s policemen, who are limited by the Camp David Accords to carrying light arms. When Egyptians rose up against Hosni Mubarak’s rule in January 2011, armed Bedouin tribesmen turned on the Egyptian security apparatus, ransacking their bases and chasing them from the peninsula. Freed from the grip of the regime, they enjoyed their first taste of autonomy and regional power in the land bridge linking Africa and Asia.

Two years on, the Bedouin have acquired real power across the peninsula. They have launched raids on Israel, hobbled and threatened to oust the multinational force that is supposed to protect the Egyptian–Israeli peace treaty, and disrupted the region’s supply of gas, which passes via pipeline through their terrain. The Suez Canal on their western borders, through which 8 percent of the world’s sea-borne trade sails, falls within the range of the Bedouins’ antiaircraft missiles; so do shipping lanes in the Mediterranean and Red Sea.