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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גם צעירים ליברלים הם מזרח תיכון חדש

גל המחאה שהחל כנגד הריסת הפארק הציבורי גזי באיסטנבול צבר תאוצה הן בגלל התגובה הכוחנית של המשטרה ברחבי טורקיה הן בגלל הצטברות של כעס על השיטות הכוחניות של הממשלה בכלל ועל האסלום הזוחל של המרחב הציבורי (בגרפיטי קולע ליד שכונת טקסים נכתב: “אסרתם על מכירת אלכוהול אז האנשים התפכחו!”). בזמן שהתקשורת הישראלית התמקדה בעסקת הפיצויים למשפחות נפגעי המאווי-מרמרה, הטורקים החלו במחאה חברתית משלהם במטרה לשנות את מדיניותה של הממשלה, ואם אפשר, גם את אלה העומדים בראשה.

 טורקיה, הדמוקרטיה המוסלמית בעלת החזות האירופאית כמעט הנשקפת מרחובות איסטנבול, רחוקה מלהתנהל בסטנדרטים של האיחוד האירופי שאליו ביקשה להצטרף. כבר כמה שנים שהיא מככבת במקום השני ברשימת המדינות המובילות במאסר עיתונאים. על פי הארגון לשיתוף פעולה אזורי באירופה, ה-OSCE, שישים ושבעה עיתונאים טורקיים נמצאים מאחורי סורג ובריח, המספר הגבוה ביותר מבין חמישים ושבע חברות הארגון. בשנה שעברה עמד מספר העיתונאים הכלואים על תשעים וארבעה, מספר שעבר את המספר המדווח של העיתונאים הכלואים במתחרותיה, איראן וסין.

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A Solid Start

Election season has arrived in the Middle East. It seems that most of the residents of this troubled region have cast ballots in the past 12 months. Truly, what appeared impossible a few years ago is now happening before our eyes. While there is justifiable anguish about Hamas’s recent victory in the Palestinian elections and the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise in Egypt, we must not lose sight of the broader trend toward democratization. This trend provides reason for hope, as well as reason to place more emphasis on the liberal institution-building that can build a democratic tradition in the long run View full post…

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Illiberal Democracy on the Rise?

published in THE WEEKLY STANDARD

Recent events highlight the need for liberal institutions in the Middle East; here’s how to promote them.
by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross & Nir Boms
04/13/2006 12:00:00 AM

When Americans learned that 41-year-old Afghan citizen Abdul Rahman could be put to death for converting to Christianity, they were outraged. Chuck Colson spoke for many when he wrote, “Is this the fruit of democracy? Is this why we have shed American blood and invested American treasure to set a people free?” (Although Abdul Rahman was ultimately whisked away to the safety of Italy, the apostasy laws used to charge him haven’t been repealed.) When the Abdul Rahman case is added to Hamas’s electoral victory in the Palestinian territories and the Muslim Brotherhood’s gains in Egypt’s recent parliamentary elections, a disturbing trend emerges: the rise of illiberal democracy in the Middle East. View full post…

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