The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolutions

The Invisible Arab: The Promise and Peril of the Arab Revolutions

by Marwan Bishara

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The Invisible Arab traces the roots of the revolutions in the Arab world. Marwan Bishara, chief policy analyst of Al Jazeera English and the anchor of the program “Empire”, combines on-the-ground reporting, extensive research and scholarship, and political commentary in this book on the complex influences that made the revolutions possible.


The Invisible Arab traces the roots of the revolutions in the Arab world. Marwan Bishara, chief policy analyst of Al Jazeera English and the anchor of the program “Empire”, combines on-the-ground reporting, extensive research and scholarship, and political commentary in this book on the complex influences that made the revolutions possible. Bishara argues that the inclusive, pluralistic nationalism that motivated the revolutions are indispensable to their long-term success.

The Invisible Arab is a voyage in time from the Arab world’s 'liberation generation’ through the 'defeated' and 'lost generations', arriving at today’s 'miracle generation'. Bishara unpacks how this new generation, long seen as a demographic bomb, has proved to be the agent of progress, unity and freedom. It has in turn used social networks to mobilize for social justice.

Bishara discusses how Israel, oil, terrorism and radical Islam have affected the interior identity of the region as well as Western projections upon it. Protection of Israel, Western imperial ambition, a thirst for oil, and fear of radicalism have caused many Western regimes and media to characterize Arab countries and people as unreceptive to democracy or progress. These ideas are as one-dimensional as they are foolhardy. Bishara argues that the Arab revolutions present a great window of opportunity for reinventing and improving Arab ties with the rest of the world— notably the West—on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest.

The revolutions will be judged by how they realize freedom and justice, and how they can pave the way for reconciling and accommodating nationalism and Islam with democracy. Bishara argues that these pillars—liberty and justice reconciled with religion and nationalism, form the bedrock that will allow stability and progress to flourish in the Arab world and beyond.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bishara, chief policy analyst for Al-Jazeera, provides a compelling and spirited history of the modern Arab nation, from colonial liberation to the recent revolutions. Painting an image of a past tainted by militaries that did not fulfill their anticipated goals, dictators that ruled through fear, and exploitation by more powerful nations, Bishara devotes most of his attention to the new youth movement: "People, especially the younger generation, couldn't see why they had a choice among...television sets, but not textbooks; news networks, but not political leaders." Despite the significant changes brought about by the revolutions that swept through Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria, Bishara does not see an easy road ahead; he advises emphasis needs to be placed on protecting the future-as opposed to punishing for the past-noting that this will involve a reassessment of international relationships: "No longer will rogue regimes be defined according to their proximity to Western powers." Bishara (Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid) concludes with a gentle warning that the unrest that set the stage for the Arab Spring is showing signs around the world, with the same root causes: unemployment, inequality, and corruption. Fast-paced, impassioned, and eloquent, Bishara's newest will interest activists, politicians, and others concerned with foreign affairs and current events.
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From the Publisher

Christopher Dickey, Newsweek/TheDailyBeast
Marwan Bishara's The Invisible Arab is the single most perceptive and accessible book I've read about the roots of revolt in the Middle East and the brave, chaotic, exciting and frightening new world they have begun to create.”

Kirkus Reviews
“A keen, journalistic look at the making of the Arab Spring and its ramifications.”

“[Bishara] brings a long perspective on the factors that have led to the Arab Spring and the challenges ahead as resisters take up the task of securing freedom and justice and reconciling the emerging sense of nationalism with democracy. Bishara captures the spirit and energy of the young resisters and the violent reactions in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria.”

Shelf Awareness
“Marwan Bishara’s The Invisible Arab is a clear-headed and thought-provoking appraisal of the precarious but joyously hopeful place so many Arab nations find themselves after the ‘Arab Spring’ of 2010-2011. Bishara…is well-positioned to offer an intelligent appraisal of the forces that brought these revolutions to fragile birth, the political players involved and their capacity to retain power in a relatively benign fashion or succumb to the chaos and corruption that have plagued these nations in recent years….An engaging history of recent Arab revolutions, with a guardedly optimistic look at the future.”

Huffington Post
“An engaging new book…[Bishara] delivers a sweeping, provocative and at times entertaining tale, revolution jokes and all….The Invisible Arab is an insightful and absorbing read for inquiring minds, and a valuable tool for students of the Middle East. As globally resonant events continue to unfold in the region, a sequel is clearly in order.”

Newsweek / Daily Beast
“Avoiding the pitfall of seeing the revolution in isolation, Bishara elegantly charts how the potent forces of national-ism, Islamism, and Western intervention all mixed to create last year’s revolutions.”

ID: International Dialogue, A Multidisciplinary Journal of World Affairs“[The Invisible Arab] is a must-read for students and scholars of the Middle East and the Arab world….The book does an excellent job of documenting the efforts at change, and suggesting how change might ultimately occur.” Wisconsin State Journal“There have been few events as consequential in recent history as the Arab Spring, and if one wants to understand its genesis, one should read this book. Engaging in a regionwide analysis with a concentration on Egypt and Tunisia, Bishara brings out little-known aspects of the tremors that have been felt around the world…. Bishara presents a clear-eyed assessment of the dictatorships that have blighted the Arab landscape.” Foreign Policy in Focus “Bishara tears down the Western media’s narrative of the Arab revolutions….[The Invisible Arab] helps make all that was invisible to the Western eye about the Arab Spring visible.” London School of Economics Review of BooksThe Invisible Arab is a small book that pulls a lot of punches….Bishara’s analysis is thoughtful and detailed.” Foreign Affairs“[I]nformed and engaging…” Thinking Fits (blog)“Marwan Bishara’s The Invisible Arab… sings like a canary…. The Invisible Arab is at its most resonant when reconstructing the building blocs of Arab misery that pinned down much of the 20th century.” Library Journal, Starred Review“Remarkably informative and thorough.” Publisher’s Weekly“Bishara…provides a compelling and spirited history of the modern Arab nation, from colonial liberation to the recent revolutions….Fast-paced, impassioned, and eloquent.” Mason County News, Texas“[The Invisible Arab] is a brilliant analysis on how the Arabs broke their own psychological barrier of fear to kindle one of the first significant revolutionary transformations of the twenty-first century.” Tucson Citizen“This is a rich exploration of the history of the contemporary Arab world from the colonial period through the present period of liberation.” 

Library Journal
The events of the Arab Spring in North Africa and the Middle East drew worldwide attention to the plights of people who for decades have endured injustice, repression, and often violence at the hands of corrupt and abusive regimes. Here Bishara (senior political analyst, Al-Jazeera English; Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid) focuses on those whose lives and actions influenced the uprisings, while providing a thorough review of the historical events that led to the revolutions and the influences of Western intervention, religion, economics, local culture, and other factors. Using anecdotes and examples from several Arab countries including Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Tunisia, Bishara also chronicles the varying responses of local regimes and world powers and discusses what the future may hold for the region and its peoples. VERDICT Highly informative and thorough, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in current events, intelligence studies, or evolving events in the Arab world.—Jennifer Harris, Mercyhurst Univ. Lib., Erie, PA
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

Nation Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Marwan Bishara is Al Jazeera English's senior political analyst and the editor & host of “Empire”, a program on the channel that examines global powers and their agendas. He was previously a professor of International Relations at the American University of Paris and a fellow at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes et Sciences Sociales. Bishara's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, The Guardian, Le Monde and The Nation, among other outlets. He is also the chairman of The Galilee Foundation, a UK based charity that provides over one hundred students annually with university scholarships. He lives in Washington DC, Paris, and Dohar.

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