After writing my last post, Not your father’s Middle East, I came across an article in Al-Monitor — For Arab youth, the future is in the Gulf. It makes the same point made by Zvi in the comments to my post, namely that the Arab youth wants change, and sees the UAE as the example to follow in that direction.
the largest of its kind of the region’s largest demographic, and covers five of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia), and the Levant (Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen). [p. 6]
the historian John Lukacs famously said, “the isms have all become wasms.” I am reminded of this line as I reflect on the 12th Annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, a remarkable annual barometer of youth sentiments across a vital part of the world. For many young Arabs, it seems, the idea of an ‘-ism’ – an all-encompassing ideology to solve their problems – seems almost as anachronistic as a landline telephone. Pragmatism, not ideological ‘isms’, rules the day among young Arabs, and in an era of pandemic-driven insecurity and political upheaval, this essential fact offers us hope for the region’s future. [p. 28]
The oldest of the Arab youth cohort would have been born in 1996. This means they missed the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war, the Egyptian and Jordanian peace agreements with Israel, the first Palestinian intifada, and the Lebanese and Algerian civil wars, and probably have only the vaguest memories, if any at all, of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny in Iraq and his overthrow in 2003 or the second intifada, to name just a few of the seminal events that shaped the region.
This cohort’s formative memories are instead of the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, the coronavirus pandemic, and governing elites who seem to be doing more than fine themselves and stay in power for really long periods of time, but are unable to provide jobs, pick up the trash or keep the electricity running for the citizens they supposedly serve.
Following the events of the Arab Spring, when young Arabs in many countries took to the streets, calling for reforms and an end to corruption, four nations witnessed a change in government – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. Eight years later, 2019 recorded a similar surge in youth-led protests, especially in Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan, once again, leading to changes in leadership.When asked specifically, to young people in these four nations, 82 per cent of young people in Lebanon, 89 per cent each in Algeria and Iraq, and 88 per cent in Sudan said they supported the anti-government protests.Young Arabs in Iraq (82 per cent) are most optimistic that the protests will lead to real positive change. [p. 19]
One in four (25 per cent) young Arabs said resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must be a top consideration, while encouraging technological innovation was cited as a key driver of progress by more than one in five (22 per cent) young Arabs. [p. 25]
So what about the Abraham Accords?
The survey took place before the UAE normalized ties with Israel, but the guess here is that that decision is unlikely to dent the positive perception of the Emirates among youth. The Palestinian issue still holds sway in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon as a top foreign policy priority, not so in the Gulf, where concerns about Iran dominate, according to polling by David Pollack of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy last year.
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