Critical marxist evaluation of women’s situation in the Middle East is almost non-existent. Women have been relegated, much as they are everywhere else, to an oblivion somewhere between the private realm of the home and the bottom end of the labour market, while in a growing profusion of material which purports to subject the region to political, historical, economic and social scrutiny, the question of women has been all but ignored by bourgeois and revolutionary writers alike.

In attempting to reflect, express and participate in the struggles for national and social liberation, revolutionary socialists often forget that the struggles of the Palestinian people, of the anti-zionist forces inside Israel, and of the labouring classes in all the countries of the Middle East are not merely the struggles of men who happen to have mothers, sisters, wives and daughters in tow.

In this issue of Khamsin we make an attempt to remedy these deficiencies. The rudimentary character of our attempt implies not a belated afterthought but rather the opening of a discussion of the position of half the popular masses in the region. On the other hand, we do not wish to write a token feminist history of women in the Middle East. Articles about Israeli women or about Palestinian women in Israel or Arab countries tell as much about the nature of zionism and of Arab reaction as they do about women themselves.

In addition to the material on women in the Middle East, we have included in this issue three articles dealing with topics which are also of central importance to revolutionary socialist thinking on the Middle East.

Zionist propaganda has erected a number of scarecrows to deter attack by the left. One of the most effective of these is the bogus identification of anti-zionism with anti-semitism. The article on Zionism and its scarecrows will, we hope, arm the left in the struggle against zionist ideology and propaganda. This article was originally published in German in Probleme des Klassenkampfs (West Berlin, October 1975). The need for an English translation became especially evident recently during the debates on zionism in the British students’ movement. In the present translation we have omitted a passage dealing with the current zionist propaganda concerning Soviet Jews, since this topic is covered in greater detail in an article by one of the two authors in Critique 9.

The article on National formation in the Arab region is intended as a contribution to the task of laying down the historical and theoretical foundations upon which a marxist evaluation of Árab nationalism should be based. The first step must be a demystified account of the historical origin of the Arab national formation. This article launches the discussion, which will be resumed in one of our forthcoming issues whose central theme will be nationalism in the Middle East.

Events in the Middle East move so fast that by the time the present issue of Khamsin is published, much in the article on Israel and the new order in the Middle East will have almost certainly been over- taken by fresh developments. However, we decided to include this article in the belief that if the analysis contained in it is correct, it may help to throw some light not only on previous events, but also on new developments which will have taken place between the time of writing (May 1978) and the time of publication.

Khamsin Issue 6 (1978)