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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What should be reconsidered after the Syrian peace talks in Moscow?

RD WEBCAST: With the first round of Syrian peace talks in Moscow now complete and the second on their way in March, talk is of how to adjust the “Moscow format” to produce a final settlement to the Syrian crisis.

The Geneva format for Syrian peace talks was supposed to pave the road to a comprehensive agreement and, ultimately, a settlement of the Syrian crisis. However, the last meeting in Geneva, which took place a year ago, delivered almost zero results and left the conflict without foreseeable hope for future settlement. In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry invited Syrian opposition leaders and the Syrian government to sit down and discuss the issues in Moscow from Jan. 26-29.

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share Humanitäre Diplomatie für Syrien im Stillen

Auf ihre Versammlung im vergangenen Mai hat die Weltgesundheitsorganisation WHO eine Resolution verabschiedet, die die „Verschlechterung der Gesundheitsbedingungen der syrischen Bevölkerung auf dem besetzten Golan als Ergebnis der unterdrückerischen Praktiken der israelischen Besatzung“ verurteilt. Die Resolution, Geistes Kind der syrischen und palästinensischen Delegierten, tat es anderen Versuchen gleich, Israel in internationalen und UN-angegliederten Institutionen zu verurteilen. Interessanterweise kam diese Verurteilung just zu dem Zeitpunkt, als eine weitere Gruppe verletzter Syrer die syrisch-israelische Grenze überquerte, um in einem Militärlazarett (oder Spital) behandelt zu werden, das aus eben diesem Grund auf dem Golan aufgestellt wurde. View full post…

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Some Quiet Humanitarian Diplomacy on Syria

The Journal of International Security Affairs

JERUSALEM— In its meeting this past May, the World Health Organization adopted a resolution condemning the “deterioration of the health conditions of the Syrian population in the occupied Golan as a result of the suppressive practices of the Israeli occupation.” The resolution, a brainchild of the Syrian and Palestinian delegates, joined sundry other attempts to condemn Israel in the international and UN-related institutions. Interestingly enough, this condemnation came just as yet another group of wounded Syrians had crossed the Syrian-Israeli border to be treated in a military hospital that was set up for that precise purpose in the Golan. As of this writing, over 100 injured. View full post…

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