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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Social media & global conflicts: #BinaryBattles

 A recent interview  about the social media wars published at the Tribune (with the international New York Times).

Social media & global conflicts: #BinaryBattles

War and conflict is no longer limited to battlefields. Every battle on the ground — whether it is for land, ideology or power — now has an equally strong and effective virtual dimension. In fact, even before you read this story, you may have seen hundreds of tweets, images and videos from the protests in Hong Kong. Some of you may have watched the Arab Spring unfold on Twitter as it happened, or winced in pain as your Facebook timeline flooded with updates or tweets from Gaza and Syria. This is an indication of the start of a digital battle in which each of us has a decisive role to play. View full post…

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Revolutions are a serious business

iran-riots.jpgNov. 10, 2009

Revolutions require zeal, energy and fervor – all of which need to be maintained. For the past 30 years, Iran’s Islamic regime has struggled to keep its revolution alive. The latest round of the nuclear deal is no different. It is already presented as another revolutionary victory, and it might strengthen the hold of the fragile government in Teheran that is desperately seeking legitimacy since its controversial elections in June. View full post…

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New media empowers Iran opposition

Ynet News

In Iran, where Facebook has been blocked for two weeks, it was Twitter. Anyone following the recent elections in Iran and the clashes that ensued could not overlook the central role the internet and the new media played in the events, especially at the hands of the opposition.

In an interview to al-Jazeera, Saeed Shariati, one of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s reformist opponents, said: “For us the internet is like the air force in a military operation. It bombards the enemy’s outposts and lays the ground for the invasion of the infantries – our activists, to win the battle.”

By this time Shariati has most likely been locked up and silenced.

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