On 15-16 October, 1991, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad spent more than 15 hours with James Baker, the then U.S. Secretary of State, discussing the terms and phrases which should be used in the Madrid peace process in order to express the Palestinian people's legitimate rights; he stressed that "East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Arab land occupied in 1967". He also emphasised the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees and their right to create their independent nation state. Citing letters written by US President Jimmy Carter on 27 March, 1978 and letters from Ronald Regan on 29 July, 1988, President Assad tried to prove to Mr Baker that "recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including political rights, has always been US policy expressed by US presidents". Al-Assad dwelt on the "the common factors which bring the Arabs together" and explained that "just and comprehensive peace and restoring all rights, including Jerusalem and the refugees, is the only viable peace". In a moment of spontaneity, Baker said, "I wonder how important the Arab world would be if all the Arabs reached consensus on this vision. It is a tremendous idea".
It is very rare for a western official to articulate the strengths which the Arabs enjoy, and which their leaders have failed to use so far, citing western agreements and "international" treaties as excuses not to. But the sub-text of all those agreements has always been to keep the Arabs divided. After the western nations split the Arabs into 22 states, they began, and continue, to sow the seeds of sedition and division in every Arab country. Attempts to divide Arab countries occur almost daily so that leaders are pushed to give priority to national interests even if they don't contradict Arab interests. Hostility to pan-Arab parties was promoted while takfiri groups were encouraged. The collective imagination of the masses has been fuelled by promises of economic prosperity for the countries which sign peace agreements guaranteeing Israel's hegemony, giving it the green light to swallow the whole of Palestine.
In return for Arab states' unilateral peace and for breaking ranks with the Arab nation, Israel became more arrogant and oppressive against the Palestinians; assassinating their leaders, settling on their land and depriving them of their freedom. For decades of "peace", frustration and desperation grew in successive generations of Arabs seeing Arab blood becoming cheap in the eyes of Arab rulers who persisted in making deals with the enemy and appeasing war criminals like George W. Bush as they waged war on Islam. Throughout these long and tough years, which saw tragedies and humiliation after humiliation for the Arab nation – including the destruction of Iraq, the ongoing war on Lebanon, the war on Gaza and the siege on the Strip imposed jointly by the enemy and the "brother" – I used to repeat one question to the western media: "If we Arabs are not worthy of life, as you portray us, why this continuing preoccupation with us and our region?"
Over the past two weeks, Washington has been on a rare high alert, with meetings of the National Security Council chaired by President Obama; Secretary of State Clinton has been giving statements every two hours; the White House and State Department spokesmen have been appearing on TV screens more often than their predecessors during the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. Why the frenzied activity? To support freedom, democracy and human rights somewhere? Ostensibly, but the real reason has been to lengthen the lifespan of "US-friendly" regimes. This unprecedented concern on the part of the United States reflects Israel's concern for its security which was guaranteed by unilateral peace agreements.
The Israeli war on Arabs, including black propaganda accusing them of terrorism, backwardness and fanaticism, aims to destroy Arab self-confidence and convince them that they are not worthy of life. Then, when they feel more frustrated and feeble, their enemies play havoc with their future and face little or no resistance in the process. Our enemies have realized that the Arab identity is what unifies and empowers us and that our strength lies in mutual cooperation. That is why they have worked overtime trying to undermine this sacred tie of Arab identity trying to replace it with religious, ethnic and sectarian infighting until our countries are weak and divided; sedition has been planted in the ranks of our people. This is the source of Arab weakness, politically, socially and economically. Could an investor imagine a single unified Arab investment space ruled by one set of laws, regulations and objectives in an Arab market of about 400 million Arabs instead of 22 small investment spaces governed by different laws and procedures? This in itself would have turned the Arabs into an emerging economic power in the footsteps of China, India, Brazil and Turkey, but our enemies in Israel do not want this to happen. Nor do their allies in Washington and other western capitals who pay lip-service to the benefits of democracy while expressing doubts over the prospect of an emerging Arab democracy.
The Arabs in Egypt, of all backgrounds, Muslims and Christians together, have highlighted this western dread of a democratic Arab world by confronting the oppressive security forces trained by the west to keep them in check. The main concern for western politicians and commentators is whether an Arab democratic regime will maintain the same relationship with Israel. Compare this reaction to what happened in Iran last year; when Iranian citizens protested against the regime, Neda Soltani became a universal martyr of freedom; and her photographs were published in all newspapers of the world. Obama himself expressed sadness for her death; how many Egyptian Arab martyrs have been named by the western media? Who can recognise any of them? The same is true of other Arab martyrs killed in the struggle for freedom. This shows that the west is not really interested in the cause of freedom or the cause of democracy in the Arab world. Western pro-democracy slogans are empty of real feeling. That is why Israel could kill Palestinian democracy with American support; and that is why you hear them wondering why the Arabs have risen calling for democracy. The Arab masses are now proving what the Arabs themselves have always known: they are a free and proud people who love freedom.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.