Mideast News Round-Up
With so many developments from North Africa and the Middle East, we wanted to take a close look at the stories and commentaries offered by publications around the world. Below is a round-up of pieces that have captured a number of perspectives along with some of the important themes and cultural notions of recent events.
One important questions comes to mind: Would we see the same domino effect or chain reaction in another part of the world, or is this a unique reaction to authoritarian rule we’d only see in the Middle East, a region united in large part by linguistic (Arabic) and religious (Islam) commonalities? We welcome your thoughts and comments.
We start the round-up with two articles from Al Jazeera:
I. “The project for a new Arab Century”
…One constituency which the US had long ignored (and continues to ignore) is the people.
Toppling disobedient leaders and oiling the wheels of pliant ones proved useful so long as the populations of these countries remained voiceless. As the people begin to find their voices, however, the Middle East as we have long known it is beginning to alter. Unfortunately for the decision-makers in the US (and their policy advisers and legions of “intellectual” think tanks) the dramatic changes are not in the direction that they had conceived.
…the birth pangs of a new Middle East are now definitely being felt, but not in ways that many outsiders imagined.
Why is the revolution that ousted Tunisia’s Ben Ali proving to be infectious? The reasons can be summed up by the following factors: the presence of a Ben Ali-type hegemon; dynastic and nepotistic rot; monarchical republicanism; rampant corruption; the marginalisation of young people; human rights violations; information control and a police state.
All of these conditions apply to Libya. The only good in Gaddafi’s Libya is the absence of elections, which spared the Gaddafi’s revolutionary committees the additional misdemeanour of rigging them.
III. “A mass expression of outrage against injustice” from the Jerusalem Post shares two interviews, the following excerpt from one with Natan Sharansky.
There are increasing numbers of people in the Arab world who look with, I would even say, with wonderment at what they see in Israel, at the functioning of a free and open society. I read an article quite recently by a Palestinian Arab whom I will not endanger by naming, in which he said that ‘as things stand in the world at the present time, the best hope that an Arab has for his future is as a second class citizen of a Jewish state.’ A rather extraordinary statement coming from an Arab spokesman. But if you think about it, he’s not far wrong. The alternative, being in an Arab state, is very much worse. They certainly do better as second class citizens of the Jewish state. There’s a growing realization of that.
Two from Foreign Affairs:
IV. “Post-Colonial Time Disorder”
Summary: Hosni Mubarak came of age at a time when leaders in the postcolonial world saw a strong, repressive state as necessary to secure national liberty. That era, however, has passed. Will the region’s other autocrats now meet similar fates?
Summary: This is a threshold moment for the entire Middle East. It is still unclear how far revolution will spread and what will come of it, but the president’s deft handling of the crisis has strengthened his foreign policy record.
VI. “Freedom makes you giddy” from Le Monde diplomatique
There is no longer an Arab exception to the worldwide desire for dignity, human rights, and possibly democracy.
The authoritarian regimes of the Middle East and North Africa failed to take their people into account.
…The ‘Arab exception’ will not last much longer. The way ahead will not be easy but the Tunisian revolution opened the door; and in the words of French songwriter Jean Ferrat, ‘an air of freedom that crosses borders and makes you giddy blew in.’
VII. “The Autumn of the Patriarchs” in The Economist looks at the evolving mindset of Egypt’s younger generations and how their opinions are being met with a fresh perspective by older generations. Also, see our previous post on the role the Bibliotheca Alexandrina played in Egypt’s revolution.
…two top generals from the military council now ruling Egypt hosted a chat with some of the youthful campaigners whose organisational genius, to their own surprise as much as anyone’s, finally toppled Mr Mubarak on February 11th. In a Facebook post, the visitors described the meeting as encouraging. Not only did the generals, both in their early 60s, affirm the army’s commitment to the goals of the revolution, including a swift transition to democracy under civilian rule. They also showed ‘unprecedented respect for the opinions of young people’.
The frustration of the vast throngs in Cairo and Tunis was directed not so much at the leaders themselves as at what they stood for: paternalistic, unaccountable authority.
VIII. Finally, check out The Economist’s Arab League interactive map, which makes for a great comparative view of the region.