In most parts of the modern Middle East, tribal groups represent the cornerstone of society. Bar-Ilan University lecturer Mordechai Kedar’s recent presentation by the Endowment for Middle East Truth offered great insight into the Middle East’s historical political order underlying often-fragile modern states. His content also provided expertise critical for proper policy formation.
Kedar invited his listeners to reevaluate the Middle East and North Africa region, where states possess borders drawn by past European empires. He said that in many cases, “borders were marked either arbitrarily or according to the interests of the colonialists.” He discussed European imperialists once ruling the Middle East and other parts of the globe, adding that they:
took a map and [would] make lines. Whether it was in London or Paris or wherever it was, they couldn’t care less about the local peoples of these places. Maybe you combine together some groups which do not live in peace; maybe you cut a group in the middle. But they couldn’t care less – let them kill each other, and the more the better.
The presentation noted the incongruous attachment of Sinai – a peninsula on the Asian landmass – to neighboring Egypt, an African country even though the Suez Canal (completed in 1869) now separates the two continents. While Sinai Bedouins speak an Arabic dialect related to Saudi Arabia’s (but incomprehensible to the Arabic spoken by Egypt’s peasant masses), past British desires for a buffer zone between the canal and the Ottoman Empire joined Sinai to Egypt. According to Kedar, as indicated by an Islamic State-affiliated Sinai insurgency, “Egypt until this very day is bleeding because of the struggle between Bedouins of Sinai and the Egyptian government – only because of the British interests of the 19th century.”
by Andrew Harrod