A wave has been sweeping over the Arab world, and US Foreign Policy journal wondered that who would be the next Arab dictator to go down.
I would like to dissect the latest events and their broader implications for the long run:
The Revolutions themselves
Several Westerners considered the revolutions as sparked by a man who set himself on fire in Tunisia. This is a reductionist approach where US intelligence misread (probably on purpose given the available wrath of your average Arab “Joe” or “Omar”) with the hope that stability would prevail over the wishes of the average Arab citizen.
I have to admit, I did anticipate that Tunis would eventually go head to head with its dictator, but like many, I thought that the first spark would be in Egypt. Moubarak’s regime has bled dry his society and the Egyptian revolution informally started since 2000 against the regime. By revolution; I define people going down the streets and demanding a simple request under the threat of the gun: “Freedom of Expression.”
General Petreus warned last year that the Arab-Israeli conflict (well I would like to define it these days as Palestinian/Lebanese conflict with Israel) has serious impact on the US interests. The brutality of the Israeli conflict on different fronts and the fact Israel on daily basis is criticized for its on-going settlements, destroying the prospects of peace, and a regional bully. The fact that the US Administration blindly supports Israel; US troops are under constant threat and furthermore US interests in the region are under threat.
General Petreus’s comments came 9 years late (if not at least four decades late). As the Second Intifada exploded; its spill-over hit Egypt. Protestors hit the streets in solidarity with the Palestinian civilians while Hosni Mubarak’s apparatus simply crushed the demonstrators with an Iron Fist. Since then, solidarity with the Palestinians became the symbol of resisting Hosni Mubarak.
For those who have no clue about Palestine’s symbolism on the Arab world (and by Arab I do not mean Muslim only). Palestine proper (which includes currently Israel) has been regarded as the last of European colonialism by the Arabs; especially the Western support it harvested. The fact dictators of the Arab world (excluding Syria even though Syria and the US always flirted with each other) shook hands with the following agreement: “Pro-West alliances at the expense of the average citizen.” The Arab citizen has been oppressed by dictators who seek to renew their mandate indefinitely and the West who seek “stable Middle East” (a synonym for oil and imposing normalization with Israel on the people without Israel itself coming into terms on how it was founded on genocidal base).
In my opinion, pride as humans, economic repressions, Orientalism, and ongoing colonialism played its role. The Arab-Israeli conflict is included within all of them. The Palestinian question, as Arabs (Christians and Muslims) regard that the Palestinians historically have been most wronged among the Arabs. The fact the UN has been (till recently Libya) has been regarded a muscle show forum among the regional and international powers). They remained crippled against on-going atrocities (especially due to the veto power) and the very fact that the US-UK coalition simply by-passed the UN and invaded Iraq for securing the oils.
In a way, the average citizen lost voice; their dictators are praised as democratic or “friend of the West”. The Arab citizen has been depicted as stupid, Islamist conservative, and a hopeless case for evolving towards Western standards (as if your American average Joe as a clue at least about the geography of the world or Israel itself is really Western). There was no greater irony than Obama giving the greatest speech on Human Rights in Cairo in 2009 amidst mass demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak. Whether Obama was aloof (on purpose or not), but he did not mention the dictator of over 80,000,000 people.
Some people argued that faceook created those revolutions., I doubt that at all. In my opinion, online means of communications and reporting (in Egypt people read blogs to know what is going on and not puppy like official newspapers). If anything, the facebook phenomenon became a catalyst for the forthcoming rage of citizens oppressed for decades.
What are the implications due to the rise of the Arab spring?
For starters, there is no longer media blackout. The world became too small to cover the incidents across the Arab world. Just as the revolution resurrected on new levels in Egypt, the Western media (most of it) tried to marginalize the revolution as another factory rebellion and stressed on the peace process. Despite the fact that Tunis was the first to shoot down its dictator in the most heroic manner, Egypt was on the spotlight due to the peace treaty. Israel informed all its embassies across the world that they should pressure governments globally to support Mubarak. The US administration itself fluctuated its speeches depending whether the revolution appeared at its final breath or not. When it looked like Mubarak was about to reassert his iron grip, Clinton insisted that Mubarak should “lead” the democratic wave. When Mubarak finally fell down, Merkel appeared as ignorant as it can gets: “New Egypt should respect the peace treaty with Israel.” Israeli officials were pushing support to Hosni Mubarak without realizing that this accelerated his downfall.
The selfishness of Israel in imposing Hosni Mubarak on the Egyptian people for its own interest will have (hopefully) repercussions in the near future. Israel disregarded the beautiful images of demonstrators’ heroics because that entity expects a special treatment from the world. Even if we believe that Israel represents the interests of the Jews across the world (which we all know it is false), the number of Egyptians outnumbers the Jews globally).
Due to the dense coverage of al-Jazeera English in Tunis and Egypt forced other media outlets to follow pace with the Arab media. As a matter of fact, even US officials were depending on al-Jazeera to issue statements. With al-Jazeera proving its superiority against Western outlets, more and more non-Arabs will be exposed to the real situation in the Arab world, and actually hear Arab opinions on whatever happens anywhere (the next war on the Palestinian or Lebanese, I bet plenty of Westerns will be shocked to see the brutality of the Israeli army and its fascistic elements).
Just as Hosni Mubarak was promoted as a true friend of the West, it changed in a week as the horrible dictator. The same can be applied on Israel. It takes only a week of objective reporting to change the US mainstream towards Israel. Already the Palestinian papers showed that it was the Palestinians who were the true partners of “peace” (whatever that peace Fatah thought of) and they declined it. Pro Human Rights groups, Palestinian solidarity groups, Jewish and Arab organizations, American NGOs, the stupidity of the current Israeli leadership in not hiding its on-going genocidal policies, and other factors exerts more pressure on AIPAC to maintain its iron grip in the main hubs (DC, New York, Chicago, others).
The final question goes: “ok, what about Syria?”. Syria as I mentioned earlier as always flirted with the US Administration. The US regarded al-Assad regime as the lesser evil in the face of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. From such a view, al-Assad is a darling angel. When the tyrant Saddam hid, Bush declared that the Syrian Baathi Party shall follow the Iraqi Baathi, Tony Blair in less than an hour went on TV and gave a detailed speech why al-Assad is different than Saddam. Al-Assad regime has been brutal on its people; the difference is al-Assad gambled on a heavy security apparatus, provide the minimum of welfare (when available) to his people, and relied on the Arab-Israeli conflict to marginalize his opponents. I still find it amusing how he dubs the Syrian opposition as American or Israeli agents even though the ones accused are loud and clear Marxists.
The current situation teaches us that anything can happen in the Arab world. Just as CNN, despite AIPAC’s iron grip on the US media, tried the impossible to blackout the incidents of Egypt, started reporting the incidents as they were happening. CNN only reported objectively (despite blaming the victims themselves) was during the Qana massacres of 1996 and 2006 in Lebanon, where the CNN were present on site. Despite the challenges, Israel’s true face will one day be exposed and the US mainstream media will change its opinion (a growing fear for the past five years in Lebanon).
The current countries that have been affected by the Arab spring as follows: Tunis, Egypt, Libya, Yaman, and Bahrain. To a lesser extent, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria. You never know where the Arab spring will explode.
Now when looking at the bigger picture, a different set of lessons are prevalent
1) The Arabs are not waiting for Western blessings to proceed and seek their freedom
2) The Revolutions are completely sparked from the inside.
3) Once the revolution picks up, the Arabs are willing to go seek their freedom or just die trying, as the case of Libya taught us. The Libyans from day 1 warned al-Qazzafi to step down or go ahead and kill the people; if the latter had happened, the Libyans were proud that Qazzafi would just rule empty buildings.
4) (This is my favorite part) The Arabs are teaching the whole world about freedom, human rights, and even democracy; something the average citizen has forgot about in the West or 3rd World due to media alienation and class struggle.
The other dimension to focus on is the decline of the West
Almost all the leaders facing protests and revolutions have been the friends of the West. AL-Saleh of Yamen or lunatic Qazzafi (Tony Blair’s best friend) were regarded as tyrants installed by the West. The West’s interests fluctuates and it is apparent on how they react. A dense media blackout was imposed on Bahrain (easiest way to call the Bahrain incidents as Iran led revolution, reminds us of Lebanon in 2006) as Bahrain is in the direct sphere of influence that is owned by Saudi Arabia. Bahrain in specific is a new battleground where the revolution in Al-Jazeera itself has been blacked out. Bahrain is a monarchy , and the only Arab state where the Arab spring has threatened a monarchy. While most gulf states are monarchies, they have to support militarily the Bahraini monarchy in order to maintain their own rule. Last thing the Monarchs of the Arab gulf want a domino effect spreading in their own turf (although factory strikes did start briefly in Saudi Arabia).
The other dimension to focus on is the stupidity of the US foreign Administration in approaching the Arab world historically. Their blatant arrogance of dictating terms on the dictators in returns of arms (Egypt’s entire aid from the US went to the pockets of Husni Mubarak who turned out to have more money than the Hariri family itself) cost it several allies. Whether Tunis’s Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak, or excommunicating Qazzafi served as a lesson for the rest of the Arab dictators. They can be replaced. Tunis was swift and ended up in the downfall of its dictator. Egypt was a greater battle arena as Mubarak tried to contain the situation by draining the protestors’ energy, and stepped down just as the evening before the protestors started to become more militants and started to form a siege across governmental locations. Libya is the most brutal of all; because the nature of its dictator= insane with enough militias across the African continent. Anther blow for the US came when its primary ally, Saad el Hariri was ousted from the government (even though that is not related to the Arab Spring, but fits the picture of the different slaps the US administration has been facing).
As for Lebanon, the leftist youth tried to ride the wave and now are pushing for the abolition of the sectarian system. On weekly basis there has been the most beautiful demonstrations against the system. Sadly, we cannot go against our own leaders (for now) because Lebanon does not have one Hosni, one Qazzafi, or one Ben Ali. Each of Lebanon’s sects has three or four Hosni style of dictators and the battle in Lebanon is yet to rage on. In one of my greatest wishes and hopes to see the Left in Lebanon unified as the heroics of the proletariat across the Arab world inspired us.
As for the Palestinians, as hopeless as it is, especially for those in Palestine proper, their leaderships turned out to have one thing in common with the Israeli fascist government: they did their best to block demonstrators express solidarity with the Arab freedom lovers. Hamas, Fatah, and Israel are the biggest bad news for their people, with a bigger highlight on the fact that Israel is the biggest bad news for the global Jewish world as the latter bargains on the racism of the West to renew their legitimacy.
Finally , I would like to add the last lesson acquired from the Arab Spring. Several bourgeoisies in the Arab world and the West stressed that the civil society is the best option to reform the Arab world and make it democratic (for my readers’ information US AID was promoting in Tunis Ben Ali as the man for democracy). Some NGOs may achieve a tiny (irrelevant) progress but without impacting the structure of the state. In the end of the day, a class awareness is needed to demolish those dictators in power, with or without the approval of the West. The entire hopes on the civil society should be understood by now that it is false. Some NGOs are good in reporting and documenting violations or propose some changes (as long as it is not a free market or neocon logic).
The day of the proletariat in the Arab world has come. Decades of boiling wrath can no longer be subdued.
I apologize for not writing as often for different reasons that I will explain thoroughly one day.
No war but class war