THE NEW MIDDLE EAST: ARAB SPRING OR ISLAMIC WINTER?

arab springMonday, March 11

5:00 – 7:00 PM

Rapaporte Treasure Hall

Brought to you by the Brandeis International Journal and the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee 

What are the consequences of the Arab Spring? Will the Middle East be more radical now? How will recent events affect the ever-changing demographics of the region? How does Egypt, Israel, and Iran view these uprisings? Come listen to experts address these questions and others.

Moderator: Professor Naghmeh Sohrabi
Panelists: Professor Eva Bellin, Karim Elkady, Jonathan Snow, and Payam Mohseni

Food will be served!

Co-sponsors: International and Global Studies Program (IGS), Politics, and Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES)

11 Replies to “THE NEW MIDDLE EAST: ARAB SPRING OR ISLAMIC WINTER?”

  1. This event was in the style where their was a moderator (Professor Sohrabi) and several speakers (Mr. Mosheni, Mr. Snow, Mr. Elkady, and Professor Bellin. Sohrabi asked the speakers questions in turn for the first hour, and then the second hour the audience was allowed to ask them questions, some of which Sohrabi expanded on. An example of a question asked is “To what extent can the Arab uprising be characterized as a revolution, and to what extent is it just change in government? Does it matter?” asked to Professor Bellin. Bellin responded by stating that revolution has a very precise meaning and that this is closer to a regime change than a revolution, neither of which is necessarily true yet. A prevailing theme throughout the discussion was that we don’t really know much about these Arab rebellions yet, and that we need more time in order to really see what is happening in the region. Another question that was asked was “Is Egypt a revolution that isn’t democratizing?” This was asked to Mr. Elkady. Elkady kept with this theme of saying that we don’t know if the revolution will be democratizing or not as its too early, and then stated that the people in Egypt don’t even know what they want, having to decide between many options, such as a socialist state.

  2. I attended this panel on the Arab Spring and I found most of it very informative. I had little previous knowledge on the subject and I wanted to learn more about the uprisings in the Middle East. The person who I thought had the most insightful comments was Mr. Karim Elkady who noted that we haven’t seen any real regime change or revolution in places like Egypt, and there is no singular political party, and no definitive structure to the government. And as everybody clamors for change, there are many discrepancies as to the kind of transformation people want to see in Egypt. It seems the only approach the panel could offer was “a wait and see” one. Everyone agreed that all we can do it wait and see what happens. It was a bit discouraging knowing that there is nothing much we can do for the people of these countries who have to endure the grueling process. But things seem to be changing quite rapidly, as moderator Professor Sarabi quoted from an article she read, “Anybody that says anything about Egypt past the next three days will be mistaken.”

  3. One aspect of this panel that I found interesting was the analysis of how the situation in Syria affects each of the different countries discussed; that is Egypt, Israel, and Iran. In the case of Egypt, Mr. Elkady explained that since the primary Egyptian focus is on trying to make some sense of the mess currently surrounding the country’s political and economic atmosphere, Syria is not particularly at the forefront of anyone’s minds. He did say, however, that already they are beginning to play host to Syrian refugees. Both Israel and Iran seem to have a bit more at stake in regards to Syria. Mr. Mohseni described that the fall of Syria would be a strategic loss to the Iranian regime and that it would make Iran more vulnerable to Israel. Israel, according to Mr. Snow, has for the past two years believed that the Syrian regime is going to collapse and has thus been able to spend that time preparing for the instability it will bring. Two concerns in particular are the flow of Syrian refugees into Israel and the matter of chemical weapons. Obviously geopolitics play largely into the effects that the crisis in Syria will have on other Arab nations. If the regime does fall, it will be interesting to see how whatever state structure follows will fit into the pattern of the “Arab Spring” (or “Islamic Awakening”) uprisings. I also found myself wondering at what point any sort of intervention would be imminent, and who in particular would be the ones to do that. I believe they said that the death toll at this point was 70,000 – and I found it deeply saddening to hear that this apparently wasn’t yet high enough to garner intervention for humanitarian means.

  4. This panel touched on a lot of lesser discussed concepts regarding the current state of the Middle East, and stepped back to look at some big picture questions as far as what we hope to see happen and re-examing our definitions of terms we might take for granted. The consolidation of democracy was a recurrent theme, along with the ideas of what makes for effective governance such as institutions and a constitution. The comparison was made to Latin America, where many countries lack these basic and suffer as a consequence. It seemed like most agreed that there needed to be a shift from general “power of the people” to such concrete structures and representatives. There was a frustration with the Egyptian “revolution,” which was said to not actually even fit the definition of a revolution, in its lack of structural or organization change, and its general disagreement as far as a plan. The panel provided a variety of perspectives as to the future of these uprisings and their effectiveness, but they seemed to agree that in most cases it really is too early to tell, and as these “revolutions” are unique from comparable past situations, we can only speculate as to their future.

  5. The panel discussion about the Arab Spring was very interesting and informative. I was able to understand what a regime change means (a change in government system) by Professor Bellin. Professor Bellin discussed how Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia need institutions that can offer effective governance, and effective civil service. Karim Elkady’s point it is too soon to determine the change needed to be made in Egypt, whether to a regime change or revolution, or something in the middle. Elkady also explains that there is no one or organization leading the Egypt revolution. Or as Elkady states, ” no one knows what kind of change they want to see in Egypt, but the people do want social justice and freedom, but don’t know what system to have to reach that goal”. What is it going for the citizens of Egypt to know what kind of system they want?
    Johnathan Snow discussed the consolidation of democracies in Israel, and how the country is waiting to see what is going to happen. Just as Egypt, Israel does not what is coming. Snow mentioned that Israel has to look at what is changing and not changing based on five different levels which are internal (Israel), Palestinian, neighboring countries, middle east, and the World.
    It was interesting to hear Snow say the talk of the Arab Spring to Israel are the interactions between the surrounding neighbors. Payam Mohshemi points about Iran not being an Arab Spring, but an Islam Awakening was interesting. Mohshemi’s points on Iran’s and Egypt’s relationship towards one another. Iran considers Egypt as a key economic and political country to build ties and interact with. All in all I enjoyed the panel discussions.

  6. The panel started out with Professor Bellin addressing the question of whether or not the Arab Spring could be classified as a revolution. She goes on to explain that with the Arab Spring so far, there is no change in government, no regime change, and no free and fair elections. As a result, the Arab Spring is not really a revolution. One panelist even says that what is happening in the Middle East is not the Arab Spring; it is instead the Islamic Awakening of the time. After hearing about these ideas, I gained a better understanding of the what the Arab Spring is. Protestors in the Arab Spring are heading to the streets after hearing about what happened to people in their country, such as Fathi Terbil and Mohamed Bouazizi. According to the panelists, the Arab Spring is unpredictable, and in terms of what people outside of the Middle East can do to help with this movement, people should only provide humanitarian aid to them. I found the panelist’s prospective on different countries in the Arab Spring and how each of the countries are dealing with the problems in their government and economy, to be quite interesting. In Egypt, it is difficult to ask the government for help, and Egyptians need to solve this issue before it becomes worse.

  7. The panel started out with an general question of whether or not Arab Spring could be considered a revolution. In my opinion this was the most interesting part as I did not really have that much in depth knowledge regarding this matter. As a student living in Shanghai when the events of Arab Spring was happening, I remember how everyone around me thought that this was the next “big” revolution. Revolution was an idea that was foreign for me and yet also not that far away. Living in a country that created through a revolution, but being a foreigner in that country it was a weird relationship that I had with the idea of revolution. However I clearly remember considering the Arab Spring as a revolution, but I learned during the panel meeting that I could not be considered an revolution. A revolution required a change in power, but with that a shift in who is in power. It was a really educational panel meeting that I enjoyed going to.

  8. I found the panel discussion on the Arab Spring to be extremely interesting. I liked having different panelists who presented different views on the current situation. It was also interesting to compare and contrast what the panelists spoke about to what we have been reading in International and Global Studies. The panelists gave their definitions of a revolution, and then followed up by discussing if we could call the Arab Spring a revolution. One panelist explained that a true revolution brings about change not only within the government itself, but also brings about change on a lower level– change among the people and a change in the distribution of power. One of the panelists discussed how even though there has been a change among the governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, we can not truly call these changes revolutions. The panelists all agreed, though, that it really does not matter what we call these changes, whether it be regime changes or revolutions- the label does not matter.

    One panelist also talked a great deal about Israel. I found this part of the discussion very fascinating, as the panelist mentioned the Democratic Peace Theory and explored the possibility of a more peaceful Middle East with the creation of more democracies. Professor Bellin discussed that the way to peace is not to provide more arms. Weapons do not create peace, they only foster violence. These different perspectives taught me a lot about the present situation in the Middle East and the Arab Spring.

  9. The New Middle East Panel was not only informative, but highly thought provoking. Prior to coming to the event, I had understood that Arab Spring was a revolution that would ultimatley overthrow orthodox ideologies, and ruthless dictators, and fight for secularity and liberalism in the Middle East. I was particularly captivated with Professor Eve Bellin’s remarks. She noted that despite the fact that Mubarak was toppled more than two years ago, violent demonstrations and unrest continue to plague the region. On closer examination, the new president, Mohamed Morsi is very much an authoritarian in his own right. Mohamed Morsi has under the table ties with the Muslim Brotherhood which at it core appears to be antidemocratic and deeply theocratic. Protesting remains primarily because he ruined the spirit of the revolution and refused to give them equality. Another interesting point she made was that by arming people with weapons, more bloodshed is generated and there is no viable solution at the end of it.

    IGS 10A

  10. When analysts are asked about their feelings towards the Arab Spring revolutions, their feelings are very hostile. Many have major problems with it because it does not coincide with the precise definition of what a revolution is: The polar mobilization that leads to a dual outcome. Its name is also a reference to the Prague spring, which failed. Most of these countries that have experienced “revolutions” have had no political change with little distribution of power. Even though there have been revolts, countries such as Tunisia and Egypt are struggling because Tunisia does not have a written Constitution so there can not be elections, and in Egypt free elections are declared invalid by high court, which causes an interference in later elections. Elkady believes that it is too early to tell if most countries are experiencing revolutions. The only viable option would be to “wait and see” if these countries will actually turn Democratic.
    Before this panel, I believed the Arab springs to solely be positive events. I was not aware of the progress following the major revolts. It will be very interesting to see how countries will oppose authoritarian rulings.

  11. People have a hard time describing the Arab Spring with a revolution. People recognize that the Arab spring is a way of dismissing orthodox Islamic ways and cultivating more liberal ideologies into the Islamic culture. I like what Professor Eve Bellin’s said violent demonstrations continue to haunt the Egyptian region even though Mubarak isn’t the leader anymore. Mohamed Morsi is the epitome of an authoritarian ruler. With his connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, he seems to be in it for wrong reasons. He ruined the spirit of the changing revolution that was happening in other Arabic countries and refused to give his people equality, rather leading through the Muslim Brotherhood in order to please them. Another point that she made that I like is that there will be no end to killings since so many terrorists groups are armed with weapons and have the capabilities to do whatever crazy things they want to do with them.

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