on 17 February 2013
I was looking forward to reading a good book on events in the Middle East in 2011 and 2012 and I was attracted to this book for two reasons: the first is obviously because of its title "Arab Spring", so you cannot go wrong if this is what you want to read about. The second is almost my blind trust in every book that comes out from Zed Books. However, I regret to say that I was very disappointed. The author delves into a very lengthy monologue about cultural analysis from every corner of the western canon which takes a fair deal of the pages of the book. If you take off all the material about Iran and its supposedly 2009 spring, the remainder is a thin account of the "Arab Spring". My disappointment did not end here. I was wondering all the time when reading the more relevant sections about the Arab context why would Zed Books publish such a book: the author generously helps himself every few pages to material from Al Jazeera website which it seems he strongly believes in its credibility. The same goes for material from CNN. Moreover, there is pretension to objectivity while the book sails safely around the roles played by Qatar and Saudi in the events and that fact that Al-Jazeera championed Islamist militants everywhere did not bother him. Worst still is his continued enthusiasm that what happened in Cairo and Tunis are signs of big things to happen in the world, comparing them to great events of history. His attack on the Arab Left and his glorification of Fawaz Traboulsi and Azmi Bechara as the greates Arab intellectuals alive betrays his biases and preferences. One will not find serious critqiue of the roles of the United States or the West or Turkey or Saudi, etc., in the "Arab Spring", partly because the author lacks insights and skills into the economic/political and strategic dimensions of the crises, and stays safely in his cultural studies domain.
It was a great relief to finish reading this book (since I spent money to buy it) and I am glad to give it away to charity. I should credit the author with his effort to search for articles and books, which I plan to look up, and I cannot deny that there were passages that I enjoyed. His English prose is good and for that I grant him one star.