In light of both historical and recent events, it could easily be argued that the Middle East is and has been of central importance to many developments around the world. As in Africa, this region saw first wave anarchism develop primarily along the margins of the region; Armenian anarchists, for instance, were already being brought under control by the Ottoman Empire by the late 19th Century due to their widespread agitational activity. Of the Armeniananarchists, Alexandre Atabekian maintained the highest international profile and had the most connections to the international anarchist movement, befriending Petr Kropotkin, Elisee Reclus and Jean Grave while studying in Geneva. His friendship with Kropotkin was so great in fact that he was actually with him at his deathbed and subsequently helped to organize the famous funeral procession through the streets of Moscow. Atabekian translated severalanarchist works into Armenian and published and distributed an anarchist journal calledCommonwealth (Hamaink) that was translated into Persian as well.
Atabekian made a serious attempt to make the politics of anarchism relevant to the political situation of the Middle East. Throughout his writings there is a clear pattern of opposition to both the domination of the Ottoman Empire over Armenia and to European intervention and domination over the region in general. These culminated eventually in the development of the Revolutionary Armenian Federation (Dashnaktsouthian), which was a coalition of anarchists, nationalists, and socialists who amongst other activities, published and distributed severalanarchist tracts throughout Armenia. Though their manifesto was early on compared to the rhetoric of the Russian nihilists, Dashnaktsouthian anarchism seems to have been largely replaced by Marxism-Leninism within a few years. However, even as Marxism-Leninism rose to popularity in Armenia, anarchist ideals became popular amongst Armenian immigrants heading to the nation-states of the West, as is evidenced by the publication of several anarchist journals in theArmenian language in the United States around the same time (Stiobhard).
Apart from Armenia, Malatesta is known to have spent time in anarchist communities in the port cities of Beirut, Lebanon as well as Izmir, Turkey (Stiobhard). However, very little is known about the nature of these communities or the extent to which these communities were successful in building an anarchist movement locally amongst the non-immigrant populations. As we have seen in the case of Alexandria and Tunis, Mediterranean port cities were often very diverse and chances are that these anarchist communities were primarily composed of Italian immigrant workers. But there is one more country that anarchism has been present in that has not been discussed: that is Palestine / Israel.
Before the creation of the Israeli state, in the first quarter of the 20th century, an anarchistmovement had already begun amongst both Palestinians and Jews which resisted the creation of the Jewish state and worked instead for a stateless, directly democratic, pluralistic society of both Jews and Arabs. Anarchist sections of the “communitarian” movement, inspired by the collaboration of notable Jewish anarchists such as Gustav Landauer and Rudolf Rocker, formed the basis for the early Kibbutzim movement in Palestine, and according to Noam Chomsky, was the original meaning of the term “Zionist.” The original communitarian Zionists opposed the creation of the state because it would “necessitate carving up the territory and marginalizing, on the basis of religion, a significant portion of its poor and oppressed population, rather than uniting them on the basis of socialist principles” (Barsky, 1997, p. 48). Of the anarchist-communitarians at the time, Joseph Trumpeldor was one of the most important, drawing members of the first kvutzot over to the anarchist-communist thought of Petr Kropotkin. By 1923, Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid had become one of the first books ever to be translated into Hebrew and distributed throughout Palestine; this early anarchist groundwork by activists like Trumpeldor became a major influence in the thought of Yitzhak Tabenkin, a leader in the seminal Kibbutz Hameuhad movement. Theanarchist-communitarian newspaper, Problemen was the only international anarchist periodical to be published in both Yiddish and Hebrew, and was one of very few voices calling for the peaceful coexistence of Jews and Arabs in the communitarian manner that existed before the creation of the Israeli state. This movement began to die out after 1925, with the creation of the movement for an Israeli state and the solidification of the party (Oved, 2000, p. 45).