The purpose of this new edition of the encyclopedia is to respond to the growing need for an upto-date, comprehensive compendium of knowledge about the Middle East and North Africa, from 1800 to the present. Indeed, much has changed in the Middle East since the first edition was published in 1996. The then leaders of Jordan, Morocco, and Syria have died and their sons have come to power. There have been two new prime ministers in Israel. Israeli–Palestinian negotiations failed at the Camp David summit in 2000 and were followed by the alAqsa Intifada. The events of 11 September 2001 triggered the United States’ invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, which resulted in the downfall of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and in the dispersion of Osama bin Ladin’s al-Qaida.
The encyclopedia is as timely as ever. During the United States–Iranian crisis in 1979, a Washington Post editor, Meg Greenfield, pointed out in her 26 March Newsweek column (p. 116) that there are two things to say about American involvement in the Middle East: “One is that no part of the world is more important to our well being at the moment— and probably for the foreseeable future. The other is that no part of the world is more hopelessly and systematically and stubbornly misunderstood by us.” In the wake of the tragedy of September 11, and the misunderstanding and hostility it generated towards Islam and the Muslim world among some groups, primarily in the United States, Greenfield’s comment is as relevant and prescient now as it was then.