The revolt in Tunisia has sent shivers down the spines of dictators across the region. Anne Alexander looks at the roots of the revolution and considers its broader implications, while Tunisian activists Héla Yousfi and Fathi Chamki give their accounts of the uprising and Dominic Kavakeb examines the role of the internet
There is no doubt that the uprising in Tunisia has cast a chill over the dictatorships of the Middle East while millions around the region have been inspired by the hope that their struggles against unemployment, poverty and corruption can break the machine of state repression. Street protests and cyber-activism have (albeit belatedly) caught the imagination of the global media, but the unfolding revolutionary process in January 2011 shows clearly that something more profound has shifted in Tunisia.
Eugene Rogan, Penguin Books, £25
This is an immensely readable history of the Arab world from the 16th century Ottoman conquests to the present. Rogan's narrative is packed with vivid images, such as the battlefield at Marj Dabiq in August 1516, where the medieval splendour of the Mamluk Sultan's army was obliterated by Ottoman troops armed with European muskets.
Israel's war on Gaza provoked huge protests across the world. People are asking what the solution is for Palestine. It lies with the working class in the region, argues Anne Alexander. Recent struggles in Egypt show that the road to liberation goes through the streets of Cairo.
The recent attack on Gaza has exposed the brutal nature of the Israeli state to millions around the globe. Gaza remains a potent symbol of Palestinian resistance. The area is crammed with refugees and their descendants who fled ethnic cleansing by Zionist militias in 1948. They suffered decades of direct Israeli occupation and the theft of their land and water by Israeli settlers. They have seen their already weak and stunted economy strangled by Israeli policies of "closure", transformed into a near total blockade since 2005.
Patrick Cockburn, Faber and Faber, £16.99
"The most dangerous man in Iraq" is how Newsweek described Muqtada al-Sadr in December 2006. The young Shia cleric has certainly been cast in many contradictory roles. Is he a leader of Iraqi Arab resistance to the US occupation, or a tool of Iran? A commander of sectarian death squads or a force for Iraqi unity? Patrick Cockburn peels away the layers of exaggeration and hypocrisy in the Western media's portrayal of Sadr, revealing a clever and cautious political leader, who has been one of the most dogged opponents of the US occupation.
Resistance to the neoliberal policies of the Egyptian government has led to a strike wave involving thousands of workers. Anne Alexander describes how women have played a key role in the struggle and Farah Koubaissy visits a tobacco factory where one woman, Hagga Aisha, has led the strikes.
"Egypt: open for business" runs a headline on the Egyptian government's investment website. World Bank officials appear to agree. Last October they named Egypt "Top Performer in Doing Business 2008". Economic growth is strong, averaging 7 percent per year over the past three years. At the urging of the International Monetary Fund, the government began a privatisation programme in 1991 which has led to the sell-off of hundreds of state-run firms, while cuts in corporation taxes have made life easier and more profitable for both foreign and domestic investors.
Anne Alexander spoke to Ghada Karmi about her new book and the situation in Palestine
June was a bad month for supporters of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It remains to be seen whether Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, will re-establish Fatah's authority over the Occupied Territories, or whether the survival of the Hamas-led government will mean in effect a "three-state solution", with Israel dominating a Fatah-led entity in the West Bank, while besieging Hamas in Gaza. But both scenarios underline the impossibility of constructing a viable Palestinian state side by side with Israel.
February 2002 has undoubtedly been Ariel Sharon's toughest month in power since his overwhelming election victory just over a year ago. A string of Palestinian military successes has created a climate of near panic in the Israeli press.
A large roadside bomb destroyed a Merkava tank, and an officer from the undercover Duvdevan Unit was killed by falling masonry while overseeing the demolition of a Palestinian house. Then six Israeli soldiers were ambushed and killed at a checkpoint and their Palestinian attackers got away. The Israeli army has responded by attempting to batter the Palestinian civilian population into submission.
Yasser Arafat faces considerable opposition from erstwhile supporters.
Hamas's suicide bomb attacks on Jerusalem and Haifa in early December had two targets. The first and dearest target was Israel. Hamas had sworn to revenge the Israeli assassination of one its leading activists. However, the second, indirect target was Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas's actions sent a clear message to the Palestinian leadership - the armed struggle takes priority over US-sponsored peace deals.