1967 in Focus

1967 in Focus

This week marks the 50th anniversary to the war of 1967, six days that have changed the Middle East as we know it. I was proud to participate in a special project that attempted  to recapture the dramatic moments occurred 50 years ago today and I hope that you will enjoy the results, a series of short –  three  minutes videos – that captures one of the most dramatic periods in Israeli history.  You will also find a special addition on the subject in the below link.

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Book Review Expat-ing Democracy: Dissidents, Technology, and Democratic Discourse in the Middle East

Book Review Expat-ing Democracy: Dissidents, Technology, and Democratic Discourse in the Middle East by Nir T. Boms (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2016), 246 pages

Reviewed by Patrycja Sasnal Director, Middle East and North Africa Project, Polish Institute of International Affairs, Warsaw

Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs, 2017

Looking at events around the world, one can not escape the impression that despite the monumental leap forward in communications technology and its availability, politically, we have taken a step into the unknown: the world of post-truth politics where information may no longer hold the central place of importance it once did. Disseminators of “alternative facts” meddling in elections; auto-censorship in private, yet government-friendly media; ideological wars fought via social media—these are phenomena whose political consequences we must face without fully understanding them. Meanwhile, since the 2011 upheavals in the Arab world, counterrevolutionary forces have reconquered most states in the region (but for the bright exception of Tunisia), with terrifying results in war torn Syria, Libya, and Yemen. 

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Syria’s New Map and New Actors: Challenges and Opportunities for Israel

Memo pic

The civil war underway in Syria since March 2011 has changed the Syrian nation beyond recognition, and the shockwaves caused by the war have made a very strong impact,  both  in the Middle East and beyond. Following four decades of relative stability, Syria has become an arena marked by internal, regional, and international conflict. The weakening of the central government in Damascus, along with the transformation of Syria into a battlefield featuring many actors with different and often conflicting interests, poses new challenges for Israel. In the uncertain reality marked by the multiplicity of hostile actors, there are also opportunities for Israel to strengthen and possibly forge ties with pragmatic Sunni opposition and minority groups with whom it shares specific interests. This memorandum surveys the main actors currently operating in Syria, especially in the southern portion of the country; analyzes their attitudes toward Israel; and formulates recommendations for a new, proactive Israeli policy in the dynamic Syrian arena. It proposes modes of military, political, economic, and humanitarian action likely to serve Israel’s strategic interests. Chief among these interests are the need to maintain tranquility on the Golan Heights and the need to prevent the entrenchment of “negative” players on the Syrian side. For the full report, click here.
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Review of “The Journey to the Arab Spring:  The Ideological Roots of the Middle East Upheaval in Arab Liberal Thought”

Spring is always too short, it seems, yet it is always awaited. “Is the spring coming?” asks Robin, the locked child in Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden.

“What is it like?”

“Well,” answers Mary, “it is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.”

Four years into the Arab Spring, we have indeed seen the sun shining on the rain, the rain falling on the sun, and much movement beneath the soil and sands of the Middle East. With Islamist powers on the rise, a bleeding Syria, a crumbling Iraq, and a growing Islamic State, it might be considered brazen for someone to write yet another book on the Arab Spring. However, Govrin’s work is important and useful exactly because of this complicated context and “things working under the earth.”

The Arab Spring, Govrin argues, certainly did not occur in a vacuum. Although it was triggered by a certain sequence of events, he maintains that it was very much influenced by some two decades of liberal discourse. That discussion, enhanced and propagated by the developments of new means of media and technology, is one of the factors that led to the events that brought down so many Arab regimes and destabilized others.

Adapted from Govrin’s PhD dissertation at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this book takes us on a journey with a unique group of Arab intellectuals, who have been working from inside and outside the Middle East since the 1990s to liberalize and modernize the Arab political reality. These individuals, often referred to as the “New Arab Liberals,” are characterized by their (often controversial) work, which offers a different understanding of core issues, including governance, morality, civil rights, and the role of religion in state and society. Govrin, a senior Israeli diplomat who served in Cairo and New York and who currently directs the department of Jordan and North Africa at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, presents a view that is mostly academic, although his perceptions had to have been influenced by the fact that he is a resident of the region and has experienced the turmoil up close. View full post…

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