Crown Essays

Crown Essays are monograph-length commentaries intended to foster debate on contemporary issues related to the Middle East. Based on works of scholarship, this series allows for the authors to engage with and contribute to important issues in the region in an essay format.

January 2012 – State and Revolution in Egypt: The Paradox of Change and Politics
Abdel Monem Said Aly

Crown Essay 2 (Summary) — For years, indeed for decades, aged Arab leaders had retained power. Suddenly, Tunisia witnessed the fall of its leader, Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011. On February 11, the President of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, left Cairo for internal exile at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort area; within a short period of time, revolutions and calls for fundamental change gained momentum across the Middle East. This Crown Essay examines the Egyptian revolution, and particularly how the “Prelude to Change” — the 2005 parliamentary elections — set the stage for the current revolutionary ferment in the country. After examining the multiple causes, basic dimensions, and (mis)management of the present revolution, this essay will speculate about possible future directions the revolution might take.


Abdel Monem Said Aly is the President of al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo and a Senior Fellow at the Crown Center.

February 2009 – The Rise of Hamas In Palestine and the Crisis of Secularism in the Arab World
Asher Susser

Crown Essay 1 (Summary) — The Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections in January 2006 has more often than not been explained as the result of rampant corruption within the Fatah leadership, poor management by Fatah of the election campaign, and extreme divisiveness within its own ranks. This was contrasted with Hamas, which was seen as honest, well organized, and united. In this essay, historian Asher Susser argues that while these explanations are unquestionably relevant, they miss a key historical process that is at work: The rise of Hamas as part of a regional phenomenon of secularism in crisis, whereby secularizing Arab and Palestinian nationalism is in decline while Islamist politics is on the rise. Using Hamas’ rise as a starting point, Prof. Susser examines the crisis of secularism in the Palestinian and the broader Middle Eastern context.


Read a BRANDEISNOW: Interview with Professor Susser

Asher Susser is Associate Professor of Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. From 1989 to 1995 and from 2001 to 2007 he served four terms as the Director of the university’s Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. Susser is currently the Senior Fellow on the Myra and Robert Kraft Chair in Arab Politics at the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, a position he also held in 2007-2008. He is the author or editor of eight books, the most recent of which is “Challenges to the Cohesion of the Arab State” (editor, 2008) and is presently writing a new book on Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians.