Just before I left for Damascus I went into a well-known socialist bookshop in London looking for some light holiday reading on the history of workers’ movements in the Middle East.
I went over to the Middle East section and found the usual assortment of books on the usual assortment of leftie causes. Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Big Oil. Nothing with the word ‘BLiar’ on the front cover but I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look very far inside. All looked very interesting and offered all manner of solutions to the Big Problems of today’s Middle East.
I asked at the desk: Is this it? Do you have anything on social movements, protest, workers’ rights?
In the Middle East? he replied. I’m afraid there’s not much published on that. We’ve got a lot of stuff on Iraq, Israel, Palestine…I think we might have something on Iran…
The conclusion I drew from this: Both the left and the right are guilty of looking at the Middle East as a collection of problems to be solved, and paying too little attention to what the people of the Middle East are doing to solve their own problems. I will now get off my high horse. The view is quite vertiginous.