It seems that Tunisia was destined to be the catalyst for the greatest event in modern Arab history. And it seems that Mohammad Bouzeizi, who set fire to himself in protest against an insult to his personal dignity, triggered a revolt for the restoration of Arab dignity. But when Egypt is at the heart of events, it will be different from anything the Arab region has seen in the past few decades.
First, because the event was produced by the masses of Egypt, 'the mother of the world', the people who crossed the Suez Canal in the 1973 war, the people who built the pyramids, started the Arab revolutions of liberation from colonialism. Second, Egypt was forcefully taken out of the Arab-Israeli conflict by one tyrant and shamed, for three decades, by another through complicity with the enemy. This weakened and humiliated the Arabs who saw the West arming Israel with arrogance and intransigence while arming submissive regimes with dictatorship, oppression and tyranny. In this atmosphere of humiliation, Zionism prospered. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We have enjoyed thirty years of quiet and security" during which Israel attacked Lebanon and Palestine on a daily basis, continued to build settlements and became entrenched in extremism. Third, the 'free and democratic' West remained unable, for 18 days, to support the revolution of freedom and democracy which they claim to support in other countries. One more reason is that the process of democracy, intended by George W. Bush and his generals to be marred by the shame of foreign occupation, is now crowned by the triumph of people's will against oppression and tyranny.
What is striking to all Arabs, and maybe to the whole world, is the blanket Arab support of the revolutionaries of Tahrir square and their honorable fight for freedom and dignity, compared with the United States' and the West's opposition of this revolution.
The position taken by the United States, the West in general, and Israel towards this revolution should define the future of inter-Arab relations, on the one hand, and Western – Arab relations, on the other. The American position has been hesitant, contradictory and complicit with Israel and aimed at injecting Mubarak's regime with life in a manner that should be embarrassing to a country which claims to defend freedom, and launches wars to spread democracy. The reason might be the shock and confusion of the American administration caused by the events in Tunisia, in the beginning, and then in Egypt, which befits a new century and ushers a new era in which Arabs make history and do not only keep its record. This position flies in the face of the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.
Arabs now realize that the main drive for Western policies in the Middle East is that Israel should impose its hegemony on the Arabs, take over their land and suppress their aspirations for freedom, dignity and democracy. They now know for sure that the West befriends some Arab rulers in as much as they befriend Israel; it is pleased with them in as much as they please Israel. Four hundred million Arabs do not mean anything to Barak Obama, Catherine Ashton and other Western politicians who have suddenly become mute while they have been extremely vociferous against Iran.
The primary concern of all Western policies in the region is Israel, then their interests in terms of oil, ransacking our peoples' resources through laundering corrupt rulers' money in their banks, companies and economies. It has become clear that the West looks at Arabs with Israeli eyes, which was once articulated by Golda Meir when she said that "a good Arab is an Arab buried three meters deep under". We should recall that Arab decadence and the deterioration of their living conditions have been in direct correlation with Israel's creation and expansion in the second half of the 20th century. Israel has spearheaded the campaign to distort the image of the Arabs and branding them with terrorism after 9/11. It also spearheaded efforts to drum up the American war on Iraq and launched its own wars on Lebanon and Gaza under European and American protection.
People like Elliot Abrams, a staunch neo-conservative, were adamant in claiming that Bush's policies were the right ones and that he was right in wondering whether the peoples of the Middle East were capable of living freely, or whether they are doomed by their culture and history to live under despotism (quoting a speech by Bush in November 2003). The Egyptian answer today is that the Arab people can teach the world how to fight for freedom, but not the Bush way when he killed a million people for the sake of Israel. The answer given by the Egyptians to Obama and Bush supporters is: enough rhetoric; Arab people yearn for a freedom they make, their way and for their own historical, social and political reasons. They do not trust false friendships, illusory rhetoric and claims of embracing 'Western values'. Now everything is absolutely clear, and no power in the world can deceive the Arabs again.
The spring of democracy ushered on our Arab streets is the greatest event in Arab history since the revolutions which put an end to Western colonialism and its lackey regimes. Liberation today is rooted in the Arab will based on their conviction that the age of submission and humiliation is over; and that the dawn of pride, dignity and freedom has arrived.
Western reactions show that the West has not yet recovered from the shock; and that's quite natural. This shock should make a shift in Western thinking from branding Arabs with terrorism to acknowledging Arabs as major contributors to civilization, that they uphold important values, reject injustice, love freedom and are willing to die for democracy. The West should also realize that the Arab identity is the common element which brings Arabs together. It informs their conscience, and no power will be able to take it away from them.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.