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Gijs Mom, Georgine Clarsen and Cotten Seiler

Last year President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela announced the appearance of what a Dutch national newspaper called an “anticapitalist car.” The two models, named by Chávez himself as the “Orinoco” and the “Arauca,” after rivers that run through Venezuela, are locally assembled under a preferential license agreement with the Chinese automaker Chery. The cars are sold for half the price of other makes and are marketed to the expanding Venezuelan middle class. They are intended as “new attainments of the revolution” that are meant to raise the “standard of life of the people.” This new venture was in a tradition that Chávez’s opponents claim started in 2006, when he came close to making a similar deal with Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

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Ian S. Lustick

As a state founded on Jewish immigration and the absorption of immigration, what are the ideological and political implications for Israel of a zero or negative migration balance? By closely examining data on immigration and emigration, trends with regard to the migration balance are established. This article pays particular attention to the ways in which Israelis from different political perspectives have portrayed the question of the migration balance and to the relationship between a declining migration balance and the re-emergence of the “demographic problem“ as a political, cultural, and psychological reality of enormous resonance for Jewish Israelis. Conclusions are drawn about the relationship between Israel's anxious re-engagement with the demographic problem and its responses to Iran's nuclear program, the unintended consequences of encouraging programs of “flexible aliyah,“ and the intense debate over the conversion of non-Jewish non-Arab Israelis.

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Anna Caffarena

In the early morning of 12 July 2006, Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas

kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on border patrol and killed a further

eight. A similar episode had occurred on 25 June at the Kerem Shalom

kibbutz. Members of the radical wing of Hamas seized Corporal Gilad

Shalit, leading to the death of two fellow soldiers. The government of

Israel’s prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had responded by initiating a

vast military offensive in the Gaza Strip, leading to the arrest of, among

others, 9 members of the Palestinian government and 20 parliamentarians.

The two events were closely related: the Hezbollah leader, Hassan

Nasrallah, stated that the movement, with this gesture, had intended to

support the struggle of Hamas, as well as solicit an exchange of prisoners.

The reaction of Israel was once again expeditious: the “asymmetric”

war lasted 34 days, with over 1,500 dead. The risk of the conflict

spreading—with the indirect involvement of Syria and Iran, traditional

supporters and financiers of Hezbollah—and the diffusion in the Middle

East of a belief in terrorism as an indisputable instrument for the

defense of national causes were evident. In the background was Iraq,

by now subject to increasingly severe convulsions.

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Soheila Shahshahani

Ceremonies are a very important part of Iranian life. They have definite order, ritual and objects associated with them. The political and economic situation of individuals taking part in a ceremony mark them, and if there are various classes, positions and gender, they are all markers of ceremonies. To study any topic in terms of the duality of traditional and modern versions has become banal and too simplistic. Looking at one single ceremony, indeed even looking at only a few hours of a ceremony can show how malleable are the boundaries of a ceremony, to be affected by many factors. Regarding the few hours that I am reporting about, the following factors are involved: an earthquake; the Islamic Revolution and the reactions to it; satellite television; and consumer goods; as well as changes in people’s way of life that have affected the availability of time, the availability of space, and, finally, the place of the visual, the centrality of the camera in organising a ceremony in a way that it can be recorded in an acceptable manner for later viewing. Responding to all these changes and trying to hold together a very important ceremony and a number of people who must be kept together through ceremonies is what gives the following its meaning and urgency of its reporting.

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Editorial

Today, Is 'Ethnicity' the Most Important Topic in the Middle East?

Soheila Shahshahani

It was decided by the editorial board of AME that some issues of the journal should be open-themed so that new topics of interest to researchers could have a place to be presented, and, in this way, perhaps new horizons of scholarship could be opened up. This issue was an open-theme issue but, amazingly, all the articles are concerned in one way or other with ethnicity. Would it be incorrect to call this the most important concern in the Middle East today? I think there is some truth to it, as our articles show: from concern with nation formation through enculturation in mahallah’s of Uzbekistan; to linguistic behaviour in two regions in Uzbekistan; to ethnic conflict and violence in Kyrgyzstan; the Turkish diaspora returning to Turkey and trying to set a superior example; and last but not least the emblem of a prosperous nation, Qatar, claiming not only tribal origins but also acting democratically through tribal delineation at times of voting. This is exactly what I have observed in southern Iran where people vote according to tribal lines. The same topic was evoked in ‘You Have Car Insurance, We Have Tribes’ (AME 6 no. 1, 2011).

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Shamanism in Inner Asia

Two archetypes

T. D. Skrynnikova

The author considers that the term 'shamanism' is inappropriate to designate the phenomenon generally so described. Materials on the shamanism of the peoples of Inner Asia lead to the identification of two separate archetypes, i.e. east-Asian and southwest-Asian. Two traditional cultural codes are discussed - that concerned with the principal 'personages' (the supreme deities), and that with the 'agents' (the performers of the ritual). In the east-Asian archetype, the two principal deities are the Sky and the Earth, and the major socially significant rituals - for example, New Year - are carried out by secular leaders, such as the khan, elders, heads of clans, and others. In the southwest archetype, which developed under the influence of ancient Iranian and Indo-Arian traditions, there was a triad of heavenly beings, of which the major one was the Sun, accompanied by groups of other, lesser deities - those of the 'right' and those of the 'left'. The author concludes that only where the cult of the Sun is observed (later possibly mingled with the Thunder-god) do 'white' shamans perform the sacred functions and rituals.

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Jens Kreinath and Refika Sariönder

beliefs, underlining possible Iranian roots ( Bruinessen 2017: 69–71 ). Erman and Göker (2000: 99) find that the number of Alevis in Turkey is estimated “by different sources” to range “from at least 10 percent to over a quarter of the total population