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Reader riposte: Daily Show's Middle East map

Reader riposte: Daily Show's Middle East map
Published 17 Sep 2013 

Tzvi Fleischer from the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council writes:

Noticed you posted that skit about Middle East borders from the US 'Daily Show' today. It's cute as a skit but, as you would expect on a comedy show, its pretty lousy history and political analysis.

The whole trope about how European imperialists having ruined the Middle East  through their arbitrary borders and caused all subsequent conflict and backwardness there is one of those simple slogans that educated people who are not specialists in the region often seem to think is a sign of their sophistication. In reality, the claim as often articulated falls somewhere between a significant oversimplification and a myth.


For instance, I remember during the extended debate preceding the 1991 Gulf war, many commentators in Australia were writing about how Kuwait was an artificial colonialist creation anyway, so why shouldn't the Iraqis annex it and why should we fight for its independence? In reality, of course, Kuwait began to emerge as a semi-independent sheikdom in the 17th century, well before European colonialism started to affect the region. But many educated commentators had just assumed, because they believed this simple slogan about all Middle East borders being arbitrary products of colonialism, that Kuwait was likewise a colonialist creation.

Anyway, what I wanted to point out is that American analyst Nick Danforth has written a response to this common trope in the Atlantic inspired by the 'Daily Show' skit. I hope, having posted the skit, you might also consider posting a link to Danforth's deconstruction of this common but oversimplified claim about 'imperial' borders.

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