12.03.2009

The Days of Iran's Last Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi

"Shah is a kind of magic word with the Persian people. " Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran 1941-1979







The Iranian past, similar to the Russian past, has been hidden for decades. Little did Stalin know in the 1930s that forcing a policy of kolkhozy or collectivization of peasants' lands, would create a radical resistance movement among the kulaks and peasants against collectivization. The Shah of Iran was not Stalin, in fact, comparably far from him. But his White Revolution as he phrased it, beginning in 1963 and ending in 1977, mobilized semi-industrial peasants known as the bazaaris in an alliance with the religious clerics against rapid modernization and the Shah. These modernization policies introduced a series of land reforms and Westernizing trends that would elevate Iran onto an industrialist and capitalist platform alongside the major Western powers of the day. The problem with the Shah's policies were not that he sought to ring in capitalism to the Iranian countryside, but that he aimed to do so without loosening his autocratic grip on government and economic controls. The Shahanshah began as far back as the 6th century Achaemenid Empire before Christ.The Shah was the 'king of kings', also referred to as the 'Aryamehr' or light of the Aryans, and the Pahlavis as well as their predecessors were in no way about to let that title go to the wind.
The Shah's advisors were often put to the arduous task of fulfilling the modernization policies promised by the Shah. Interestingly, none of them lasted in their position long enough to reap the rewards of their accomplishments. The Shah often deposed of them before they became too powerful, threatening his title. Agricultural minister Hasan Arsanjani, in 1962, began the first phase of the reform, selling land titles from large landlords to peasant sharecroppers. The transference of sharecroppers to landowners was staggering and the result benefited Arsanjani immensely. It is no surprise that the result of his success threatened the Shah and Arsanjani was forced to resign in 1963.

The Shah turned to the West for modernization, often times at the expense of what was best for his own country. Peasants whom became landowners began to over-invest in agricultural equipment, causing an import over export imbalance in Iran. As more cities modernized adorned with private factories, these factories needed the necessary tools and resources to keep up with modern technical advances. The result was that often times these tools and resources were managed and owned by foreign investors. Iranian historian and professor at the California University at Berkley states in her book, Modern Iran: Roots of Revolution, "Sophisticated foreign equipment demanded foreign technicians and workers, who in the 1970s streamed in by the tens of thousands. Americans and Europeans were concentrated in the high technical posts...the skilled foreigners, to the contrary, got higher salaries than Iranians--sometimes several times higher--and this, plus their behavior and their pushing up the price of scarce housing, helped to make them objects of resentment" (Modern Iran, 160). The oil industry in Iran was perhaps the leading precursor to the Revolution of 1979. In the early 1970s, the Shah has invested most of the oil money, not on boostering local traditional industries as textiles upheld by the bazaaris, or what Keddie termed as the 'petty bourgeosie' class of Iran, but rather on military fighter planes and defense buildup. Keddie states, "American military suppliers like Grumman, Lockheed, and Westinghouse took over key positions in the economy. Many potentially productive Iranians, including a high percentage of the technically trained, were increasingly concentrated in the armed forces and in building projects for army and naval bases and for facilities to transport and house military equipment" (Modern Iran, 164).

In addition to the Shah's monopolization of the oil revenue, grew deep discontent by the bazaari class and the ulama. As more of the ulama and religious clerics grew disenfranchised (they used to hold most of the land in the countryside as large landowners) with land reform, they began to foment the jargon of anti-Shah rhetoric that would spread across Iran like a forest fire. The bazaaris, feeling neglected by their Shah to massive industry and foreign enterprise, began to ally with the religious clerics demanding the end of Shahanshah rule. They both feared that with rising modernization, they would lose their religion, traditions, and Iranian way of life to the West.

1979 marks the year that the Ayatollah Khomeini took what Iran had once had--healthy diversity, complicated political pluralism, and a moderate religiosity, and threw a black veil over it. Now everyone in Iran was to conform to Khomeini's views on Islam and his treatise on 'religious governance'. He placed himself at the head of the government, calling himself the 'Supreme Leader' under Allah. The once voted for semi-secular Constitution of 1906 was completely changed to a predominantly religious constitution under the ayatollah and his Islamic Republic Party. Today, Iran is still trying to make sense of the past it once carried and the present it now shoulders. Did Iranians ask for what they received in 1979? Absolutely not. Most of the revolutionaries were Islamic moderates hoping for a renewed interest in the 1906 Constitution. Khomeini himself, prior to the revolution, promised to uphold these semi-secular tenets ingrained in the Majles' Constitution. He certainly did not uphold his end of the bargain.

The Shah no longer rules over Iran, but the legacy of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi still surfaces in the Iranian consciousness. Most Iranians despised the rule of the Shah, and resented his inability to uphold the Iranian Constitution. He tried to change his ways too far in the game, perhaps, seeking to bring democracy to Iran under his dictatorial rule. This was not good enough for the Iranians, but the Ayatollah's actions after 1979 were not either. Many Iranians now long for the days of the Shah, much the same way as Russians long for their former Tsar Nicolas. Others prefer the religious conservatism of the mujtahids. But most prefer to see a true democracy with elected representation. Maybe Iran can one day become a democracy like America, we will just have to have faith in the Iranian people in the meantime, and support them to the utmost.

Sources:

Keddie, Nikki R. Modern Iran: Roots and Results of Revolution; Yale University Press, New
Haven, 2006.







10.07.2009

Belgili Tanımlık Türk Dünya (The Turkish World)

Oriental historians are quick to reverance the art and culture of the 18th-19th century Turkish world, but often times against the measure of European standards. I am not quick to disfigure Oriental historians as the purveyors of a skewed understanding of the East, but I will say that when Orientalists measure the Eastern standard against the Western one, they are bound to come to muddled conclusions. Turkish identity has been molded by centuries of insularity, apathy for Europe, and complete rapture of all things Ottoman. After all, they were the coffee drinkers, the casbah owners, the Sultans of Istanbul, the harem seekers, the viziers, the pashas, the whirling dervishes, etc. What could the east possibly learn from the west? The answer could be found in a scientific revolution that only the secular west could provoke.

Although science was always part and parcel to Islamic understanding (Al-Farabi, Al-Ghazzali, Al-Razi, the list goes on), it remained a static subject. Muslims did not invest in weaponry and technological advancement the way that Europe did in the 16th century. Instead, the Muslim world focused on administering their Sultanates, keeping their kingdoms peaceful, maintaining amity among dhimmis (Jews and Christians) and Muslims, and exporting raw materials as textiles, coffee, and sugar.

Portuguese and Dutch ascendancy in the 17th century granted European investiture of colonial satellites in places like Borneo and Pandang in the South China Sea, and Hormuz north of the Arabian Sea, and not to mention China and Japan. Perhaps the most important colonial satellites rested in the Caribbean and South America, where coffee and sugar could be produced and finished in half the cost it took to import it from the Ottomans.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, the Ottomans were growing more interested in Europe. In 1721, Mehmet Effendi, an Ottoman envoy was sent to France to learn French culture and society. He was so entranced by what he saw. He wrote, "Of all the cities I saw in France, there is none which compared with Bordeaux. Its buildings are very beautiful, its situation charming, its appearance agreeable...The Garonne is so wide by the city that it resembles the port of Constantinople and as the Atlantic is only 20 leagues away, ships of 40 cannon can come there to anchor..." (Saudi Aramco World: A Turk at Versailles). Of course, much earlier than the 18th century, Europeans had been sending embassaries to the Ottoman world. Their reasons for travel ranged from sincere interest to diplomacy and trade. Bernard Lewis, author of What Went Wrong? Depicts the naivite of the Ottomans as unskilled diplomats compared to the French. He also mentions that Ottomans lacked any interest in the European realms, mainly because their holy sites rested in their own territories.

The Ottomans did lack some level of raison d'etre when it came to military maneuvers, but did that make them backward or unscientific? Absolutely not. The mere fact that Ottomans engaged in military battles against Italians and Germans exemplified their passion for territorial sustenance. However, the fact that they focused more on importing technology from Europe instead of creating it themselves showed a reliance on the West that from the 17th century onward made them prey to European powers. By the 19th century, particularly the Imperial Reform Edict of 1856, the Ottoman world was engaged in internal restructuring known as Tanzimat. These reforms included the abolishment of the jizyah tax for dhimmis and the ban for dhimmis on employment of public and military service. By the mid-19th century, the Ottomans were modernizing, but not Westernizing. They adopted the modern elements of freedom and equality from the European world, but they still preserved their distinct Ottoman identity. Pan-Ottomanism would eventually fall prey to nationalism and the birth of the nation-state in the Middle East. By the 20th century, under Kemal Ataturk, Turkey had become a 'Western' nation and other countries as Iran would follow suit.

So here we are in the 21st century, the Middle East is still brewing with war, technology is still imported from the west, and science continues to challenge religious radicals. Perhaps the West cannot save the East from its own identity. It will take the East time to recover its dignity and reform its own identity without losing its cultural vitality. This perhaps can be attained not only by the will of God, but by the will of the people.




Sources:

Lunde, Paul. Saudi Aramco World: A Turk at Versailles, Nov./Dec. 1993

Aral, Berdal. The Idea of Human Rights As Perceived in the Ottoman Empire, Human Rights Quarterly 26 (2204)
Lewis, Bernard. What Went Wrong? The Class Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, 2002.

























6.18.2009

The Hands That Built America

photo taken by Lewis Hine

"Rising above tension below Learn from the in-between; Blinded by trust, asleep to the truth, Awakened by disbelief; Somewhere I found strength in my soul, Still you refuse to see; Are you sure I'm not all right? 'Cause lately I've been feeling fine! Every lifeline leads its own way to the heavens, But I have seen you run in circles, unforgiven; Is there anything in this world that can make you stop? Oh, you're a machine!"


-Josh Groban, "Machine"

The farm-to-factory movement of the early 20th century paved the way for American economic hegemony of the world. Let's face it, the Protestant work ethic and the 'money doesn't grow on trees' mentality, established the economic boom of the 1920s, 50s, and 80s. But just how did we manage to pull it off after all those years? And better yet, how can we get it back in the years to come? Perhaps we cannot.
With industrialization comes great responsibility, and America took the reigns in the late 19th century to rapidly undergo an economic transformation that made Europe look like a disabled crone. In the 1860s, railroad construction, wheat production, land speculation and sales skyrocketed, allowing more people to buy land and establish businesses than ever before. But these high times had little foundation, and big banking firms as Jay Cooke and Company would declare bankruptcy just three years after the Civil War.
Although this depression lasted six years, the country would rehabilitate itself through massive production into the turn of the 20th century. McCormick, Rockefeller, and Carnegie were just some of the men able to create jobs in the country and inject the world's veins with American exports. The New York Times stated, "The total value of manufactures exported in May 1904 was $38,894,561, against $37, 891,838, the value of agricultural products exported".
The industrial and urban revolution would not have happened had it not been for the millions of children and immigrants employed in the early 20th century. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of 1910, Eastern and Southern Europeans constituted over four million people of the immigrant pool compared to Western Europe's three million. Furthermore, child labor laws were not implemented in all states and in a uniform way until 1941. As a result, children as young as eight years old were sent to work in factories, in coal mines, or on the streets as newsboys and blackboots.
So America had made its way to the top economically through hard tedious work and determination. But all at a price. The question is, how long can it last? And at whose expense?
Newsweek International's Fareed Zakaria has commented on the current state of American economics by saying that this transition is defined less by American decline than by “the rise of the rest.” (March 2009 The Atlantic) Let's face it, with today's globalization and China's rise in exports, 'made in the U.S.A.' just doesn't meet enough demand. Furthermore, some cities in this country lose out in the long run during a depression than other cities. More and more people are leaving behind the static cities of unemployment burgeoning throughout the U.S. to more economically savvy areas like Seattle, San Francisco, Austin, and Raleigh. The Rust Belt area of Cleveland and Detroit have been hard hit since the decline of manufacturing back in the 1980s. Now the Sunbelt, a once flourishing region beginning in the 1950s, is suffering from real-estate speculation and overdevelopment.
If we want to see the prosperity of earlier days, one thing is clear. We are going to have to change. Change our minds, our patterns, our comforts. No longer can we afford to be a nation of 'good enoughs'. The technological and dot.com revolution of the mid-1990s is catching up with us and we as a nation are going to have to shed our old habits and find new innovative ways of pooling our talents. In other words, relying on America's old patterns of success won't do well for us today. We are going to have to reinvent ourselves with an intellectual stimulus package, investing in education, technology, and enterprise. Capitalism with a mind, if you will.
Sources:
U.S. Census Bureau
The New York Times

6.03.2009

Luther's Reformation and Achievements

If religion set the tone for the 15th century, extravagance and growing secularism set the tone for the 16th, giving rise to a Renaissance unparalleled in world history. The Italian Renaissance, founded on humanist scholasticism, brought forth a mental transformation, giving power to artistry, math, geometry, science, and reason. Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and Michaelangelo's Pieta were products of this artistic enlightenment, but it was the British and German philosophers that would formulate the most mental change among Europe's literary elites. Men like John Wycliffe and Johan Hus would question Catholic dogma in the 15th century, leading one particular man, Martin Luther, to carry on where these men left off.

Luther's reformation was a byproduct of growing hedonism in the Catholic Church. Ever since the Investiture Controversy of 1075, the Pope officially broke away from secular control and declared full power over spiritual and temporal matters, thus granting himself Dictatus Papae, or special authorities in place of God. One notable power among these was the right to depose the emperor. Since the 11th century, the pope and emperor would conflict over matters of rule, leading to the Church/State schism . But it was the Catholic Church itself, exempt from taxes and growing more powerful through the selling of indulgences and church offices that brought about the reformation.

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben, Germany in 1483 and at age 18 entered into the University of Erfurt to study law to appease his father. He ended up with a degree in Philosophy and spent many years teaching philosophy and theology. After he was ordained into the priesthood, he earned his doctorate of theology at the University of Wittenburg, and spent the rest of his life as a faculty member of the prestigious university. By 1511, Luther took a pilgrimage to Rome and experienced the world of decadence and materialism, overshadowing the spiritual and modest realities of religious life. He was deeply disturbed by his experience in Rome that he shrouded himself in faith alone to save himself from temporal sins.

Luther chose to write candidly about his views on religion and sought not to create a new religion, as had actually been the case, but to reform Catholicism from within. His 95 Theses and Address to the German Nobility were examples of his determination to end the Church's selling of indulgences and promote the idea that 'faith alone shall save all'. This new interpretation of religion brought many into Luther's camp, one person in particular, Frederick III also known as 'the Wise', elector of Saxony, who defended Luther against excommunication and protected him from assassination. Perhaps most notably, were the poor serfs of Germany who rallied behind Luther, championing him as the true "Master" here to free all of them from the chains of their landlords.

Luther never mentioned anything of the sort. Freedom according to Luther could be attained through submission, not revolution and violence. He often times publicly chastised serfs for violent acts including vandalizing church altars. But it was he who gave these serfs the ability to think for themselves. A chance to rise up from their oppression. An advancement from their previous status as powerless and underappreciated workmen.

Luther's reformation was not what he envisioned as a young man. He sought a peaceful life of monasticism and prayer, a true model Catholic. But his calling became one of forseeable change, leading him to strengthen his faith and propose reforms that would defend those who could not defend themselves. After his death, Lutheranism would take shape within and outside of Germany, leading many Europeans to decide their faiths. Whether one agrees with Luther or not, is irrelevant. We can all agree that his largest contribution to mankind was encouraging all who have faith regardless of socio-economic status, to become true agents of their faith.

4.17.2009

The Golden Age of Islam [750-1258] and the Resurgence of Intellect





In the period between 786-809, during the reign of Haroun al-Rashid, a Persian nobleman wrote a letter to his father describing Baghdad as the 'City of Wonders'. He wrote, "It is difficult for me, with this pen which is of limited substance, to describe the glorious qualities of the city which are but a small part of the honor it achieves, as such that it prides itself in the splendor of power..." So much was told, back then, of this magnificent city of gold and wealth, that philosophers and scholars ventured to Baghdad to be taught the Greek and Roman classics. They named themselves the 'falsafa' or philosophers of the Arabian and Islamic world and spread their wealth of knowledge on architecture, politics, astronomy, math, and medicine to areas of Spain, Sicily, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, Persia, and the Hindu Kush.
Without the falsafa, a Renaissance in the West would never have happened. In the 8th century, Rome looked like an agricultural playing field, open to little, and holding on for dear existence. Christians were divided between Arian heretics (notably German Visigoths) and the universal Catholic Church which aimed its aggression on fighting off these visible heresies. St. Augustine's Just War theory (published in the 4th century) was designed to unify Holy Christendom under the Nicene Creed and kill off any detractors of the one and true form of Christianity.
While Western Christendom fought its way to survival, the Eastern portion relished in the education and vibrance of the falsafa. Although Byzantium was fighting for Christendom in the midst of an Islamic sea, Islam provided Byzantium and the eastern realms with an intelligentsia unparalleled in the West. Trade was booming, madrasahs were built throughout the cities, hippodromes provided entertainment, and the middle class grew.

When science was introduced to the Muslims via the Greek and Roman scholars, debates ensued. Can science and religion coexist? Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, one of the greatest Muslim jurists and theologians responded, "Mathematics comprises the knowledge of calculation, geometry, and cosmography: it has no connection with the religious sciences, and proves nothing for or against religion..." He goes onto mention, "It is therefore a great injury to religion to suppose that the defense of Islam involves the condemnation of the exact sciences." Here, al-Ghazzali takes a logical approach to understanding the importance of math and its irrelevance to religion.

Furthermore, the falsafa engaged in medicinal examination and scholarship. Men like Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, a Persian physician, was the first to diagnose smallpox and measles and the first to distinguish the difference between them. He composed the Kitab al-Hawi fi al-Tibb, also known as the Comprehensive Book on Medicine. His book "was translated into Latin in 1279, the title Continens by Faraj ben Salim, a physician of Sicilian-Jewish origin employed by Charles of Anjou to translate medical works"

Politics was another interest among the falsafa. Abu Nasr Muhammad al Farabi, a Turkish scholar, spent years studying and commenting on Plato's Republic. In his essay on The Perfect State, al-Farabi exclaimed the importance of the philosopher-king and went even further to distinguish the leader of the state as an almighty prophet. However, he devoted much time to including the importance of human interdependency and the communal factor for a healthy state to exist. He wrote, "In order to preserve himself and to attain his highest perfections every human being is by his very nature in need of many things which he cannot provide all by himself, he is indeed in need of people who each supply him with some particular need of his." Al-Farabi noted the importance of attaining perfection or working to attain the "perfect state". Although this is often times unattainable, he argued that the state is comprised of smaller divisions each working for the betterment of each other. Happiness is the fundamental goal for every city and cooperation among divisions is paramount to eternal happiness. Al-Farabi is clearly debating the role of government and the necessity of hierarchical relationships in working towards compromise and cooperation.
The falsafa were vital to the health and prosperity of the eastern realms. I argue that they were just as vital to the west. Without the falsafa, the Greek and Roman classics would not have been reintroduced and perhaps Charlemagne would not have sponsored his own Carolingian Renaissance in the 9th century.

3.19.2009

American Racism Unveiled

The period of Reconstruction beginning 1865 to 1877 is crucial to understanding America's present-day racial tensions. Although these tensions have subsided dramatically since the mid-1990s, American youth today and I would argue the older generations, have failed to acknowledge and understand the dichotomy of race and racial constructs since social darwinism raised its ugly head in the 1860s. The most prevalent existence of American racism persists in what Whites deemed 'utopia' back in the 1920s. This 'utopia' would emerge out of the growing pollution, immigrant infestation, and overcrowdedness of northern cities. It was this 'utopia' that would define the American dream and would enable Whites of middle and upper-class stature to create their own communities outside of the muck-ridden cities. I am talking about Suburbia, that which would not exist without the endless stretches of highway and commercial developments generating on every corner. But at what cost? And to whose benefit?

After the Union Army left southern Blacks to 'fend for themselves' in 1877, the real focus on American domestic policy was to feed the cities and burgeoning industry. Interestingly enough, many Blacks in the south became enfranchised politically and held high political jobs in Congress and local legislatures. South Carolina and Georgia would boast a growing number of African-Americans in their state legislatures in the 1870s, offering them political agency that was unparalleled in any northern city. But the fear that Blacks may 'infiltrate' and downgrade the political system was evident among Whites. D.W. Griffith's silent film, 'Birth of a Nation', portrayed Blacks in their legislatures as idle, lazy, and uninterested in politics. In fact from the 1890s and onward, White Democrats made it their southern policy to disenfranchise most if not all Black politicians from their state legislatures. They would instill what would be termed, "Jim Crow" laws, that is, racial laws that emulated the 'Black laws' under slavery. From this point forward, the deep South kept Blacks from voting, intimidated Blacks from holding high status jobs, and instilled fear into the hearts of Blacks via the growing fraternity, the Ku Klux Klan.












[Grosse Pointe, MI boasts a sign outside of the park requiring a park pass for entry.]
It is to no one's surprise that Blacks felt the need to migrate north, after all, this area was deemed 'freedomland' prior and during the Civil War and raised moral awareness against slavery since its inception. But once Blacks migrated north, they found themselves more discriminated against than ever before. This is most evident in the rise of 'Sundown Towns' throughout the north. What was a 'Sundown Town'? "A sundown town is any organized jurisdiction that for decades kept African Americans or other groups from living in it and was thus 'all-white' on purpose" (Loewen, 4). The term 'sundown' reflects the reality that African Americans could work in these towns, but had to leave by sundown. In fact, most sundown towns had signs posted throughout the borders of the town telling Blacks to leave by sundown. Interestingly enough, these towns ONLY existed in the north! Furthermore, thousands of these sundown towns were in the Midwest states like Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. What makes this so disturbing is that many of these sundown towns continued to post their signs well into the late 1960s!

Why is all of this relevant today? Think about it, how many African-American families resided in your suburban neighborhood in the 1970s and 1980s? If you can boast more than three families within a three-block radius, than chances are your town was not sundown. But what about those homogenous communities that never emulated multi-racial realities or ethnic diversity? Chances are you resided in a 'sundown' town.

There are many reasons why towns went sundown after the 1890s and into the 1930s. Factors like increased crime, labor relations, miscegenation, etc. But all of these reasons provide little to no justification for a town to at one point house many African-American families and then go completely 'sundown'. For example, many Blacks served as strikebreakers in small mining towns in Illinois and Indiana. However, many were part of the United Miners' Union, protecting workers' rights in small mining towns. Regardless, Blacks were lynched or told to move their homes and families out of the town, resulting in a 'sundown' town. Moreover, if one African American set afire a White man's house, the entire Black community would be punished and therefore, many would be forced to leave the town. This illustrates that even though there were factors for a town becoming sundown, the justifications are most heavily dependable on racism than any other factor alone.

I did not know about sundown towns until a sociologist colleague of mine brought it to my attention. After learning that a few towns within Lorain County itself were sundown at some point, I was able to piece together why certain towns lacked a Black population if any, while other towns boasted a decent minority, such as Oberlin, OH. I encourage you to look into the history of your own town to find out whether or not it was at some point sundown. Perhaps then you may begin to understand the history and future of American race relations.

For more information on 'Sundown towns' and a comprehensive list of towns that were sundown, I strongly encourage James W. Loewen's book entitled, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism published by Simon & Schuster, NY, 2005 OR
check out James W. Loewen's site, http://www.uvm.edu/~jloewen/sundowntowns.php

2.19.2009

First Wave Arab Immigrants

Arabs have been immigrating to the United States since the late 19th century. These Arabs immigrated for economic reasons, hoping to strike it rich and then go back to their native homelands. Very few of the first Arab immigrants expected to lay down roots in America and establish communities similar to their own in the old country. But they did, like most all other immigrants, and became woven into the fabric of American history.

The first Arabs to set foot on American soil came primarily from Syria and Lebanon. They were majority Christian, Assyrian Orthodox, Maronite, or Melkite. When they entered Ellis Island for the first time, they were asked, "Where are you from?" Even further, they were asked to categorize themselves according to race and color, something immigrants knew little to nothing about. Ellis Island officials handled these cases by mislabeling these early immigrants. Historical census sources dated back to the late 19th century and early 20th century had mislabeled many immigrants primarily from Eastern Europe and Asia. They categorized them as 'Turks from Asia', or from the 'Greater Syria'. "The U.S. census of 1910 listed 497 individuals under the category "Turkey in Asia" (Asian subjects of the Ottoman Empire, most of whom were Arab); in 1920, the number was 1,320. " [http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=AA2] However, in the case of Arabs particularly, this group was extremely misunderstood by Americans, and their categorization as 'Turks' made them foreigners in the eyes of Europeans and American nativists alike.

Most Arabs would locate close to their Jewish counterparts in neighborhoods like Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens. This was common, as most Arabs and Jews started out their business careers as street peddlers. They sold fruits, coffee, coffee kettles, jewelry, and pretty much anything that was in demand. Not too long later, they would open up their own grocery stores, clothing and hardware businesses, laying ground for the growing capitalism of the 20th century.

Towards the mid-20th century, many Arabs migrated to areas around the Great Lakes, particularly Cleveland and Detroit. In fact, today, Dearborn, Michigan boasts the greatest number of Arabs. Most of the Arabs immigrating to Dearborn moved to join family members. This has alot to do with the Ford Rouge plant that employed a large number of Arabs in the 1920s and 1930s. Communities of these early Arab immigrants revolved around the church or mosque. In the case of Cleveland, St. Elias Melkite Church (est. in 1905)and St. George Antiochan Orthodox (est. in 1911) were key social and community posts for Arabs. These gave rise to Beit Haninah club, the Ramallah Club, and the Aitaneet Brotherhood Association. By 1967, the Islamic Center of Greater Cleveland would be established by several Arab families.

The first wave Arab immigrants assimilated quite easily into the American mainstream, much different from later wave immigrants. This has more to do with push and pull factors. Earlier immigrants hoped to grow wealthy and then move back to their native villages. However, most ended up staying in America and growing accustomed to democracy and capitalism. On the other hand, later waves often came to America to flee political realities. The 1948 Nakba and the 1967 war with Israel, spurred growing nationalism among Arabs distancing them from other Americans.

Regardless, many Arabs would enter into political and socially conscious careers including but not limited to teaching, the arts, media, law, and medicine. What have been your experiences as an immigrant or product of immigrants? Please share your stories on my blog!

For more information on Arab immigration see the following websites:
Syrian American History http://syrianamericanclub.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=54
The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=AA2
Arab Americans and Their Communities in Cleveland by Mary Haddad Macron http://www.clevelandmemory.org/arabs/
'Arab Americans Making a Difference' by Casey Kasem http://aai.3cdn.net/eb843914472c84a043_efm6ibdbq.pdf

1.08.2009

History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Very little is known about the true history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most historians and politicians like to surrender their hands in the air when this issue is brought up, wailing "Oh! This has been going on since the beginning of civilization!"

Not true. Since the beginning of civilization, tribes roamed the area labeled, the Holy Land. This area stretched from northern Asia Minor, including Syria, parts of Turkey and Armenia and moving southward into Judah and Samaria, the area bordering the Sinai peninsula. Tribes of Amonites, Sumerians, Canaanites, Hittites, Assyrians, Phoenicians, and the list goes on. The Israelites were a brand of Canaanites who had been led by their father, Abraham, and promised a land unto themselves, the land of Canaan (aka, Israel today). Jews, as they ascribed religiously, believed in one God, a God who finally revealed Himself to them as YHWH under the leadership of Moses. This God was one who not only promised land to the Israelites, but many descendants. This promise was twofold, if they obeyed God's commandments, their end of the deal would remain. This was the test for the Jews.

But conflict did not derive simply between Jews and non-Jews. In fact, Jews coexisted with pagans and other religions throughout the Holy Land. Though Jews saw themselves as distinct from the others due to their laws and habits, many of their neighbors respected them and actually began to ascribe to the concept of monotheism in their own cultures. Zoroastrians in Iran, Manicheans in Iraq, and of course, those who ascribed as Gentiles during the life and times of Jesus Christ.

The word Israel was nonexistent in the days of Jesus. He roamed the pastures of the land of Philistia or as the Romans named it, Palestine, under Roman occupation. Jews were often times chastised under Roman and Hellenized leaders and discriminated against for their beliefs. In return, Jews often fought for their rights and defended themselves through resistance. One perfect example, was the Maccabean Revolt in 167 BC. After this revolt, the Jews were able to reside in their land, for the most part, peacefully and under their own rulers including their own courts, labeled the Sanhedrin.

For centuries, Jews and others who lived in the territory who may have at one time been Jewish but converted to Christianity after the resurrection of Christ, cohabitated peacefully. Both Jews and Gentiles, including those who identified as Arabs under Muslim rule, traded and carried out business maneuvers between one another. It was a thriving civilization and one that had little problems, until the Crusades began in 1099 A.D. It was then, when full-scale wars would be fought in the name of religion.

The Palestinian and Israeli conflict truly began in the late 19th century. It was during this time that many European Jews started to migrate to Palestine (as a result of anti-Semitism and pogroms in Europe) in the hopes of creating a land they could at some point, call their own. By the 1920s, many a kibbutzim were thriving in Palestine, and economic development increased under the funding of the Zionist Europeans who hoped to one day call their land Israel.

It is important to note that Jews and Arabs did work together at times, most notably in business deals. Land was often sold and bought between one another, spurring a mercantile economy in Palestine, like no other found in the Arab world. Palestinians were probably the most Westernized and educated comparative to other countries, and this can be ascribed to their close relations with the Jews.
But what was to happen changed the course of history for the entire world. By 1917, during the British Mandate of Palestine, Lord Balfour issued a declaration allowing more Jews to migrate to the Holy Land from Europe. This declaration called for,
"...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." Mind you, the object of this declaration was to make certain that the indigenous population of the country would not be obliterated.
In 1948, immediately after World War II, President Harry Truman signed the 'card blanche' for Israeli military maneuvers under the leadership of General David Ben Gurion to enter into Palestine and declare the land now fully under the auspices of the Israeli people. The country was named Israel and the Arab population thus residing there was to either relocate to another country, be forced into exile, or stay, but at their own risk.
"750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their
homes between 1947 and 1949. In addition, 13,000 Palestinians were killed, 418 Palestinian villages were completely depopulated, and half of all villages in Palestine were physically destroyed."

For the next fifty and more years, the world would watch as the Arab world went under fire. Who is to blame for today's atrocities? Some blame the militant forces of Hamas, an organization that has fostered orphanages, schools, and hospitals for Palestinians under seige in Gaza. This organization also carries out suicide bombings that have terrorized both the Arab world and Israelis in the region. Some blame the Israelis for their disproportionate military endeavors and inhuman treatment of the Palestinians who have for so long endured an occupation without end.

Many blame America for its unquestioning support of Israel since Truman's policy of the late 1940s and continuing today.

We could debate who is in the right and who is in the wrong. But in the meantime, millions of lives will be lost, and a generation of anger and resistance will flourish. Today, most Palestinians in the region suffer from uneducation, unemployment, disabilities, disease, and unsanitary conditions. Perhaps by turning a blind eye, we are all to blame. Israel may want to consider taking the advice of the late W.E.B. DuBois, African American scholar and writer, when he addressed the American people, “To stimulate wildly weak and untrained minds is to play with mighty fires.”


Pictures:
"Celebration of the Partition of Palestine" http://zionism-israel.com/ezine/Palestine_Partition_celebration.jpg
"Palestinians forced into refugee status along the Iraqi border" http://palestinethinktank.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/nakba.jpg
"1948 Concentration Camps for Palestinians" http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a6/Man_see_school_nakba.jpg