Al-Jazeera English’s chief political analyst offers a keen, journalistic look at the making of the Arab Spring and its ramifications.
Bishara (Palestine/Israel, 2001, etc.) characterizes the “invisible Arab” as the benumbed masses long brutalized under the military dictatorships of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi and others who finally found their voice in the Arab Spring uprisings. The corruption, oppression and sheer ineptitude of the Arab world’s autocratic rulers had long been acknowledged and monitored by U.S. officials (as revealed in recent WikiLeaks documents), yet the leaders had been propped up for “economic and strategic interests.” How have the once-mighty Arab people been kept down for so long? Bishara starts with the “humiliation” and “sadistic paternalism” caused by the arbitrary division of the Arab world by the imperialist powers, creating a corrupt, rapacious regime comprised of populist military leaders who consolidated power under the enabling complacency of the U.S. or Soviet leaders. A uniform ruling ideology kept their families and cronies in power, and democratic and Islamic movements in check. Yet the “miracle generation” has emerged with the information revolution, making the people “visible in public spaces” not through suicide bombings but by “the affirmation of life, dignity, and liberty through their protests.” From humble beginnings, community activists and coalition builders, marginalized, voiceless labor unions and women built the protest movement, from Tunisia to Egypt, and emboldened others. Bishara also looks at the negative role of the ayatollahs and Saudi Arabians and the positive role of Al-Jazeera and social media.
Unlike John R. Bradley’s skeptical After the Arab Spring (2012), Bishara does not believe the Islamists are poised to co-opt the revolution, but sees more “creative thinking” in the Arab transformation.