Multiple Researchers, Gender Resistance (Beirut: Arab Council for Social Sciences, 2019). 118 pp. ISBN 978-9983-0-4969-4

Recognizing the growing role of women in the Arab region, including their active participation in protests and large demonstrations taking place in the area, this book highlights the importance of promoting gender studies with the aim of dealing with women’s resistance to prejudicial laws against feminist activism in the Arab world.

The book covers a wide range of topics, addressed by seven researchers, and can be divided into two main parts. The first part focuses on how women can resist inadequate and unfair laws and regulations. During the 2016 municipal elections in Beirut, for instance, Rasha Younis uses the “Beirut My City” campaign as a case study in order to analyze the resistance of female candidates to the sectarian “political game” and its strict rules. Maryam Mekki addresses feminism in Egypt, specifically in relation to gender-based spousal violence, with a view to deepen the discussion of women’s networking with the state and the participation of women’s rights activists in legal reforms. Iman Al-Rami focuses on the issue of marital rape in Morocco and how Moroccan civil society has turned a blind eye to this issue. Salma Hantouli ends the first part by presenting her critical positions on the concept of women’s empowerment as used by the Palestinian Ministry of Social Development, especially in dealing with women’s experiences with domestic violence.

In the second part, May Abou El-Dahab deals with the choice of upper-class women in Egyptian society to frequent social spaces in Cairo, reserved for women only, as a way to resist forms of pressure and harassment exercised by men in mixed places, and in addition to their lobbying for free private spaces for women in the city. Salma Abu Hussein criticizes the process of presenting the practice of female genital mutilation into a medical professional issue. Pascal Ghazali concludes with a presentation of the story of the writer May Ziada during the first era of the twentieth century, shedding a light on her prominence as a figure in the Arab feminist movement.

Ibrahim Hajjaj, Theater and Politics: The Implications of American Politics on the Discourse of Egyptian Theatrical Text (Alexandria: Dar Al Wafaa, 2019). 247 pp.

This book seeks to display the impact of American policy on the discourse of the Egyptian theatrical text in the light of the events and political transformations affecting Arab–American relations. Accordingly, it deals with several issues centering mostly on the attempts of Egyptian theater writers to manifest the trends of US policy in its relationship with the Arabs. It explores whether the theatrical text was able to reveal the reality of US claims to protect freedom and democracy and how US–Israeli interests are reflected in Egypt’s theatrical narratives. In addition, it examines the general features of US policy after “September 11” attacks and their impact on the Egyptian theatrical text.

The book is significant as it discusses the role of Egyptian theater in dealing with Arab issues that fall within the scope of local and social reality within which people live, in addition to external issues that are of interest to Arab World. It reaffirms the importance of the social role of the theater as one of the most relevant arts of society, expressing its issues and concerns and performing a cognitive function in raising awareness of the problems surrounding the Arab region, especially the thorny political issues that affect US–Arab relations.

In this context, the book deals with issues pertaining to US support for Israel and its negative repercussions on the Palestinian cause; the US failure to promote its claims of espousing freedom and democracy in the Arab world; blatant US interference in the affairs of Arab countries; the US position on radical Islamic movements; and US–Arab relations after the September 11 attacks and the attempts to link terrorism to Arabs and Muslims. The book investigates how all these issues are reflected in the discourse of the Egyptian theatrical text.

Burhan Ghalioun, Self-Destructiveness: The Facts of an Unfinished Revolution, Syria 2011–2012 (Beirut: Arab Network for Research Publ., 2019). 528 pp. ISBN 9786144311899

This book presents a critical reading of the performance of Syrian opposition leaders who, according to the author, focused their attention on how to compete among themselves for positions and achieve categorical gains and narrow partisan interests rather than coordinating their efforts against the Syrian regime, a matter which led to the loss of the “Syrian Revolution” and the state of deterioration that it reached. This state of affairs is affirmed by the author, the first president of the Syrian National Council (SNC), Burhan Ghalioun, who experienced the differences in the council’s links between the various factional leaders of the Syrian opposition, especially the contradictions that governed the relations between the “Muslim Brotherhood” and secular figures of the “Damascus Declaration,” issued in October in 2005 by numerous opposition groups and individuals calling for gradual and peaceful transition to a multiparty democracy in Syria.

The book consists of two main sections. The first is reminiscent of memoirs, describing Ghalioun’s political and academic career and his experience of the “Damascus Spring” after the death of President Hafez al-Assad and Bashar’s al-Assad assumption of power. The second analyzes and explains what happened to the Syrian Revolution. In this section, Ghalioun criticizes not only the performance of Syrian National Council leaders but also presents his analysis of the role of external powers in the Syrian crisis.

According to Ghalioun, the US administration had no interest in intervening in the Syrian crisis as it regarded the conflict as a Sunni–Shiite war intensified by a Gulf–Persian rivalry for influence in the region. The Europeans failed to intervene as they were waiting for US initiatives to resolve the conflict. The author explains that Russia’s intervention in Syria was not to support the strategies and interests that the opposition could have guaranteed. He highlights the difficulties for Syrian opposition leaders to succeed with the Russians as they had to consider rationally Russian interests which could be facilitated by the opposition. In short, the performance of the Syrian opposition leaders, in addition to international factors, were not conducive to the Syrian opposition.

Nonetheless, the author argues that self-criticism does not mean the death of the Syrian Revolution; rather, describing the facts and learning from mistakes could build a new effort that might bring the Syrians to safety. The author believes that the revolution achieved certain goals, most notably breaking the barrier of silence established by the regime and he expresses his belief in the continuity of the revolution.

However, many researchers and experts believe that the Syrian Revolution has failed as the Syrian opposition leaders failed in dealing with the complexities of the Syrian situation as well as its regional and international ramifications.

In this context, it is necessary to consider the factors that led to the success or failure of the Arab uprisings, most notably the position of the army in relation to the uprisings that took place in several Arab countries, in addition to regional and international stances. For example, the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt had no specific leaders to coordinate their actions and movements, but, unlike the Syrian revolt, were so comprehensive that they included most factional groups of society. The military in both countries stood on the sidelines. In relation to Tunisia, the European countries were not able to defend the regime of Tunisian President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali. The Barack Obama administration was also not inclined to support the survival of the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

On the contrary, the Syrian army stood by the regime, which declared a war on terror, accusing Turkey, the Gulf States, and the United States of supporting terrorism. In addition, Iran did not remain idle in relation to what was happening in Syria, as it lies at the heart of the axis of the politics of influence from Iran to Lebanon. The use of Russia’s veto by the United Nations Security Council (along with China) in October 2011 to prevent sanctions against the Syrian regime was a strong indication of Russia’s support for the Syrian president. Also, the support of Hezbollah in Lebanon for the Syrian regime against the Syrian opposition forces, backed by Turkey, and eventually dominated by Jabhat al-Nusra, then by Islamic State (Da’esh), could not be ignored.

In short, the complex reality resulting from Syria’s geostrategic position and conflicting interests of regional and international powers since the first year of the outbreak of the Syrian crisis marginalized whatever role the opposition leaders could play. As a result, Syria became a major arena for regional and international conflicts. In other words, it must be acknowledged that the Syrian opposition leadership failed to read accurately the regional and international dimensions of the Syrian crisis, and could not, in the final analysis, affect the course of events. Simply, the opposition was counting on the intervention of an international coalition led by the United States to topple the regime, something that did not happen.

Hajed bin Yahya al-Aslai, International Treaties: Between Theory and Practice (Beirut: Dar Al Fikr Al Arabi, 2019). 440 pp. ISBN 9789771034728

The future of mankind in the post-digital era depends on the strength or weakness of relations between nations. The future of these relations depends on the strength or weakness of treaties between nations, a fact that is now clearly marked by the phenomenon of breaching the legal provisions of national norms in several areas. Hence, this book affirms the importance of studying and analyzing the issue of international treaties in recent times.

In general, international treaties are regarded as agreements concluded between parties in international law (states and international organizations) underwritten by documents subject to the principles of international law and registered at the United Nations. The 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties affirmed the fundamental role of treaties as a source of international law and a means of developing peaceful cooperation among states, whatever their constitutional and social systems.

The convention noted the principles of freedom of will or consent, the rule of contract, the law of the contractors, the peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with the principles of justice and international law, respect for the sovereignty and independence of states, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all as fundamental elements on which treaties are based and pursued. The convention also underscored the importance of adhering to treaty obligations for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The adherence to treaties implies that states should not arbitrarily withdraw from them for the sake of the stability in international relations. It is incumbent upon the states to implement the provisions of the treaties signed by them and to harmonize their domestic legislation with their provisions without the pretext that there is no domestic national provision obliging them to implement them. The harmonization of national legislation with international conventions would also ensure the protection of human rights and freedoms.

Accordingly, the book affirms the overlap between national and international laws. It argues that if national laws or regulations arise from international relations, they are a natural product of the influence of the national community on international treaties. It also shows that international influence on national or internal affairs is evident in many areas, particularly as regards human rights, public freedoms, the environment, development, arts and literature, disarmament, democracy, and combating organized crimes such as terrorism, international drug trafficking, modern slavery, genocide, and international humanitarian law.

Ahmed Khalifa, ed., and prepared by Randa Haidar, The Current Strategic Situation in Syria and its Implications for Israel’s Security and Interests: Studies by Senior Israeli Researchers (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019). 162 pp. ISBN 978-614-448-065-6

The ongoing war in Syria since 2011 has prompted many Israeli researchers, experts, and military strategists to follow the events in Syria and in the Middle East closely, analyzing their potential ramifications for Israel while focusing on what Israel must do to defend itself against any potential dangers or consequences.

Hence, this book focuses on the situation in Syria, and its implications for the security of Israel. It seeks to assess the effectiveness of Israeli military operations in Syria along with the political and diplomatic steps taken by the Israeli government in relation to the Syrian situation.

The book is divided into two sections. The first deals with the developments at the northern front of Syria and Lebanon; while the second focuses on Iranian military intervention and the Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria and the threat posed, by its intervention, to the security of Israel, not to mention its association with Russian intervention that goes beyond Syria to other interests in the Middle East.

The Israeli researchers mainly focus on Iran’s intervention in Syria along with Lebanese Hezbollah. They argue that Iran’s Syria strategy progressively escalated in response to the possible defeat of its ally, the Syrian regime, and the deterioration of its deterrence capacities against the United States and Israel. Hence, Israel’s intervention aimed at targeting Iranian military positions in Syria to prevent further consolidation of its position along with Hezbollah on the northern front. This also explains why the Israeli government resents the announced US withdrawal from Syria owing to its negative repercussions on Israel’s security at a time when Iranian and Russian intervention in Syria have strengthened the position of their ally, President Bashar al-Assad.

However, many Israeli researchers argue that Israel recognizes al-Assad’s victory and his return to his former position on the Golan Heights, provided the Golan front remains calm. Nevertheless, Israel cannot ignore the immediate challenge posed by the Iranian presence in Syria.

Jamil Hilal and Khaled Farraj, eds., Readings on the Palestinian National Project between Yesterday and Today (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2019). 292 pp. ISBN 978-614-448-064-9

This book emphasizes the importance of formulating concrete plans for the realization of the Palestinian state project after the strategic failure of negotiations to establish a sovereign Palestinian state on part of historic Palestinian land, the failure of international resolutions, and the limited political prospects of armed resistance as presented by the forces adopting this option.

The book does not aim to present an integrated national political project as an alternative to the two-state solution, or to forge a project for a single democratic state on the land of Palestine. Rather, it raises the debate in relation to the deadlocked two-state project and the prospects of establishing one democratic state that would end the historical injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people. Accordingly, the book discusses the possibility of working for a comprehensive strategy that could be adopted by Palestinian political figures to generate an anti-Zionist movement against racist settler colonialism and apartheid, espousing justice, equality, and self-determination. It also discusses ways to mobilize support for the one democratic state project that would bring together Palestinians and Israeli Jews based on equality and justice.

Shadi Samir Ewida, Natural Gas Exploitation in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin and its Impact on the Israeli Influence in the Region (Beirut: Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 2019). 222 pp. ISBN 978 9953572833

Since 2009, a series of large natural gas discoveries in the Levant Basin have changed the conflict dynamics of the eastern Mediterranean region. Israel’s discovery of the Tamar, Dalit, and Leviathan gas fields granted it a regional role in the gas market because these new discoveries have serious economic, strategic, and geopolitical implications. In this respect, gas may become an important pillar of the economy of Arab countries, and, in return, it may give Israel the chance to increase its prominence at the expense, and to the detriment, of Arab power. This fact is likely to augment Israel’s influence in the region and thus intensify the level of conflict between the Arab countries and Israel, in addition to the expected differences between Turkey and Cyprus.

Hence, this book explores Israeli’s conduct, attitudes, policies, and changed role in relation to the new gas discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean, and how they will be exploited economically, within a strategy of creating facts on the ground.

Certainly, in the light of the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict, Israel’s gas discoveries have increased international demand for the right of Palestinians to exploit their natural resources, which the United Nations has approved.

Israeli gas exploration has also been contested by Lebanon, which disputes an area of about 300 square miles along the two countries’ unsettled maritime border. The US administration has sought to mediate the maritime dispute between Israel and Lebanon, but, as yet, to no avail.

However, having the potential to become a gas exporter, Israel has become more interested in the eastern Mediterranean’s region conflicts, namely, the Turkish–Cypriot dispute, which has led to a political, economic, and military rapprochement between Israel, Cyprus, and Greece. This rapprochement resulted in a summit held in Nicosia in 2016, where the three countries convened to establish a new geopolitical entity in the eastern Mediterranean. The United States is likely to be interested in such a geopolitical entity, recognizing that the US firm Noble Energy discovered the Cypriot Aphrodite gas field in 2011, and has always expressed interest in the development of Israel’s resources.

The possibility of Israeli gas exports to Europe and even to Turkey cannot be ignored. These exports could either be shipped by the construction of a direct pipeline or by liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers crossing the Mediterranean.

Moreover, as a potential gas exporter, Israel has to increase its naval reinforcements in order to protect its energy infrastructure and meet any potential risk in the eastern Mediterranean, where other countries also seek to fortify their maritime presence, especially Turkey, in addition to Russia, which already has its fleet in the region.

Israel may also seek to make the gas discoveries a gateway to normalization with the countries of the region, looking to secure its political stability with the surrounding Arab states and, consequently, having its own energy security, especially in southern Lebanon.

For instance, though Egypt has the massive Zohr field, which was found in Egyptian waters by the Italian firm Eni in 2015, Egypt’s government is currently facing an energy crisis and will need to import gas to cover domestic demand in the near future. Hence, private Egyptian firms have already begun to negotiate agreements with Noble Energy to import Israeli gas, recognizing that direct Israeli gas imports are unpopular in Egypt. Jordan is another possible destination for Israeli gas as repeated attacks on Egypt’s Arab Gas Pipeline have decreased Jordan’s energy security and increased the need for it to find alternate sources of gas.

Yet, this book affirms that a real process of normalization between Israel and the Arab countries could ease tension between the countries of the Levant Basin and lead to greater cooperation between them, but this is unlikely without resolving the Arab–Israeli conflict. Also, it is of equal importance to underline that maritime boundaries must be determined and agreed upon in the region. Therefore, experts in diplomatic and military affairs should be involved in helping Lebanon and Israel successfully identify their economic zones and avoid further conflict. Likewise, the dispute between Turkey and Cyrus should not be ignored for the sake of the stability of the region.

Fuad Matar, Syria’s Military and its Parties: The Seduction of Coups, Fluctuations, and Bitter loyalties…Dramedy and Paranoia of Generals of Number One Communiqué (Beirut: Arab Scientific Publ., 2019). 296 pp. ISBN 978 6140 129085

This book presents a concise review of military coups in Syria in the modern era, starting with the coup by Husni al-Zaim in March 1949, which was the first military coup in Syria and the Arab world, paving the way for an era of military coups in the region.

The book shows that Al-Zaim’s coup was followed by dozens of military coup attempts in the Arab world, which were mainly characterized by a lack of confidence in the relations between the military and rulers or civilian governments. Several coups have succeeded in toppling targeted regimes, while many others have failed. All coup attempts, however, have either proved to be complete disasters as they failed to achieve their stated purposes or resulted in tragedies.

The author argues that almost all coup attempts were led by the military alone over the past seventy years. Yet, recently, a sort of cooperation between the military establishment and civilian political activists or figures has been manifested in several Arab countries. For example, many observers pointed to the cooperation between the military and civilian activists in the latest uprisings in Algeria and Sudan that resulted in the removal of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

The author regards the majority of these coups as the adventures of generals or high-ranking military officers that failed in the final outcome to achieve any sort of real development or stability. He explains that Al-Zaim’s coup is a model that has survived for some time in the Arab region, reflecting the unfriendly military stance against civilians and their parties. Al-Zaim’s coup has also served as a road map wherein the military could opt to share power with civilians or completely seize the reins of power.

The author also expressed doubts about the possibility of the coups’ military leaders to preserve the sovereignty of the state or defend the homeland, pointing out that these issues remained for them only “a matter of consideration.”

Multiple Authors, Citizenship in GCC Countries (Beirut: Centre for Arab Unity Studies, 2019). 351 pp. ISBN 978-9953-82-886-2

Citizenship in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries is the main concern of this book. It is regarded as the key to the chronic political imbalance in these “oligarchy countries” where the absolute rule of the few, usually elite families, is sustained and supported by major Western powers, vis-à-vis low popular participation in decision-making.

The book recognizes the importance of literature on citizenship in the Gulf countries that focuses on the ruling regimes. It also stresses the importance of addressing how the political movements, elites, and citizens generally deal with citizenship as a concept and in practice. Accordingly, it examines the meaning of citizenship in the GCC countries, dealing with the nature of governance in these countries, its historical development, and the role of citizenship therein. Hence, it examines the role of political movements and elites in the Gulf countries, both Islamic and national, in approaching the issue of citizenship, seeking to intensify debate on how to move toward true democracy and popular participation in decision-making and aspirations for unity and development.

The book asserts that citizenship is one of the most common concepts that has been circulated in the Gulf arena in recent decades, but it is still controversial and elusive due to the continued “rule of the few” and the absence of rules and regulations that guarantee that all citizens are equal before the law. Moreover, the various political movements including the Sunni and Shia Islamic movements have failed to deal with citizenship as a priority, while the civil society movements have had limited impact on promoting its practical aspects.

Thus, the book examines ways to address chronic political imbalances in the Gulf states, especially as the authorities, after the 2011 Arab Uprising, resorted to more coercive weapons against political dissent, including imprisonment, revocation of citizenship, and death sentences. It stresses that activating citizenship remains the key to addressing political imbalances and remains the main device to address other chronic economic and demographic imbalances in the GCC.

But how is it possible to activate citizenship in “oligarchy countries” with low political participation and restricted political and social elites? In answer, the book stresses the need for a comprehensive “historical bloc” representing the various political and social movements at the level of GCC countries, able to work for true citizenship through democracy, while taking into account each country’s specificity. The book raises the assumption that no real reform can take root unless it spreads across the Gulf region as a whole, so that people are united around the principle of citizenship exactly as the regimes are united around absolute rule.