For many Middle Eastern Muslims the “West” came to personify the ultimate “other,” occupying a space that was simultaneously appealing, intimidating, and often abhorrent. The multilayered, ambivalent interaction between Middle Eastern societies and the West has been a major theme in the history of this region for the past two centuries. The al-Qa eda terrorist attack against the United States on September 11, 2001, the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and Israel’s war against Hizbullah in the summer of 2006 have made the in-depth study of this interaction more critically important than ever. Taking the concepts of the Middle East and the West into account as useful analytical categories, the various articles in this volume examine and analyze a broad spectrum of Middle Eastern encounters and attitudes toward the West. This collection provides a fuller understanding of the complexities involved in both the historical and contemporary relationship between Middle Eastern societies and the West.
Meir Litvak is senior lecturer in the department of Middle Eastern and African history at Tel Aviv University and the author of Shi'i Scholars in 19th Century Iraq: The Shi'i 'Ulama of Najaf and Karbala.