Arab-Israeli Conflict: The Arab Spring

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Arab Spring

1. Introduction

The Arab Spring is a series of mass protests that are still going on today in some countries. It was sparked by mass corruption in Middle Eastern governments that was ultimately brought to light by the plummet in oil prices. The consequential decrease in civilian trust in government prompted a desire for a more bottom to top, democratic form of government.

2. Historical Background

2.1 Black Sunday

Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser became the leader of Egypt in 1952 and enacted a form of government coined as “Nasserism.” Here, the government holds the responsibilities of “land reform, banking, insurance, large manufacturing, and other industries” (doc 23) including a mass education system with higher education opportunities. Nasserism preferred an anti-imperialist foreign policy, and it achieved Egypt’s first widespread middle class. (doc) This made citizens of this area accustomed to their countries providing for them as welfare states. Later, when there was drop in funds due to the oil embargo causing governments to be unable to provide such extensive welfare programs, citizens became upset with the drop in aid they were receiving form their government, thus becoming one of the compounding factors that sparked the Arab Spring.

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2.2 Black September

Violence emerged on Black September when many Palestine Libertarian Organization (PLO) members were killed by King Hussain, an up and coming Arab leader who opposed the new Egyptian form of government. This was despite Nassar’s attempts to rule Egypt as an anti-imperialist state. A terrorist group emerged out of the event known as the “Black September Terrorist Group” (doc 24) determined to kill off those responsible for the events of Black September. This combined with the League of Arab States’ resolution to avoid negotiation, peace, and recognition with Israel (doc 24) proved to no avail as Nasser of Egypt had to accept financial support from his rivals in order to prevent his state from collapse. (doc) Such a failure caused citizens to lose faith in their country’s government’s ability to protect them. Further, their lack of faith in their government made them more inclined to riot against them as they believed the militia they were competing against was weak.

2.3 Camp David Accord

Egypt, now ran by President Sadat, began to strive for liberalization by agreeing to privatize state owned companies via the Camp David Accord. Many private investors found this to be lucrative at the expense of many middle- and lower-class citizens dealing with layoffs, inflated prices, and stagnant wages. The government became less of a welfare state as less and less of the government’s money and involvement was directed at the masses. (doc) While a capitalist economy theoretically provides room for individual growth among socioeconomic classes, it does not provide enough money for the government to be an all-inclusive welfare state to the masses as citizens are accustomed to. Therefore, the influx of privatized business proved to have various negative side effects for the majority of the country’s citizens.

2.4 Yom Kippur War

In 1973 on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, Egypt and Syria infiltrated Israel’s borders. Israeli was aware of the attack in advance, but they were ineffective in enacting any preventative defense. The war caused the Israeli state to rethink their status as a major power in the Middle East in regard to political and militarily terms. (textbook) Further, the loss made another country’s citizens doubtful in their government militia’s ability to protect and serve.

2.5 Intifada

Sparked by the Syrian assassination of new Lebanon President Bashir Gemayal the day before he was to take office, Palestinian citizens, who were allied with Lebanon, began fighting with the Israelies in the 1980s. The Palestinian boycott of Israeli products, mass strikes, and demonstrations “resulted in about 1,000 Palestinian and 56 Israeli deaths and thousands injured and arrested” as well as harsh policies enacted by the Israeli prime minister.(doc) Intifalda represents the beginning of citizens using force to make known their opinions in policy.

3. Fall of the Autocratic Regimes

3.1 Before the Fall

During this time in Middle Eastern countries, most jobs were from the public sector rather than the private sector. This means the government had control of most business and employed a large majority of its citizens. Known as “rentier states,” these governments derive a substantial portion of their revenue from selling off national resources or bargaining for foreign backing rather than extracting taxes from citizens. (pdf 113) (pdf) Due to this, most income for these countries went straight to the government, most importantly, oil revenue. This revenue allowed Middle Eastern governments to provide welfare to their citizens without charging taxes.

3.2 Elite Spending Increases

Because the needs of the middle- and lower- classes were met, rises in lavish expenses and corruption at the elite level were overlooked for a long period of time. By 2011, elite overconsumption got to the point where the extensive income derived from selling oil was not enough to pay for government spending, causing a deficit in the budget. Civilians caught onto this and began their first uprisings, demanding social change. Elites took to short term fixes, giving generous amounts of money to their outraged middle- and lower- class citizens to make them feel momentarily content instead of making changes to their governmental system.

3.3 Oil Prices Drop

Deficits became more detrimental in 2014 when the cost of oil cut in half. Middle Eastern governments began making strides to lower government spending. Without effective checks and balances, the elites running the government were quick to cut spending on welfare programs designed for the lower class rather than the excess money they set aside for themselves in their governmental budget. This prompted an additional spring of uprisings on the elites led by the middle- and lower- classes. Now, that governments did not have the funds to pay their citizens like before, the middle- and lower- classes became even-more focused on deriving social change in addition to economic change.

4. Conclusion

The Arab Spring is/was a series of mass uprisings by the citizens of Middle Eastern countries against their own governments in an attempt to enact change in economic and social spectrums. The consequences from the government’s corrupt tendencies combined with the plummet in oil prices prompted the Arab Spring. Citizens of Middle Eastern countries lost trust in their governments’ top to bottom protocols when their largely-export dominant countries were found in massive spending deficits. While still in action for some countries, the Arab Spring made strides toward an increase in bottom to top governments in Middle Eastern countries where their citizens now get to choose how the government rules them through newly founded democratic societies of checks and balances.


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