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The shape of times to come

January 25, 2014 at 10:43 am

I was struck by the huge difference between the response to my article “No Room for Western Hypocrisy” in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper and the response of Western readers to the same article published in English in Gulf News. While some Arab responses were reactive in the extreme and gave vent to feelings of hatred, sectarian closure, preconceived positions and haphazard accusations, Western readers praised the exposure of the hypocrisy of Western officialdom; they expressed sympathy for the struggle of the Palestinian people, deprived for the past six decades of freedom, dignity and justice, the very things that the Arab masses are demanding from their rulers in their present uprisings. Some also apologized for the ignorance of their governments about the facts on the ground and the bias shown to the Israel lobby which orchestrates Western positions towards Arab despots in line with Zionist interests and their influence in the United States.

What is happening in the Arab world today is actually the beginning of a new Arab history written through peaceful struggle by millions of people, and sometimes with their blood; it is not through American tanks or conspiracies and coups d’état. With their spontaneous revolutions, Arabs are burying the fossilised regimes once and for all; enough of the age of frustration, apathy and despair!

Like other Arab writers and intellectuals, past and present, I laid my bets, in everything I wrote, on the fundamental nature of the values of freedom, dignity and justice for Arabs. I have faith in the vitality of this people and the inevitability of them rejecting the humiliation imposed by oppressive security agencies which spend more money on the equipment of oppression and torture imported from the West than on education and universities. That is why I reject insinuations that I have not written about regimes which do not represent the will and aspirations of their people and which spend national resources as if they are private property. We see now how billions of dollars are secreted in foreign banks by dictators, their families and the favoured few, while young people are humiliated by poverty and unemployment in their own countries or die trying to migrate in the hope of a brighter future.

Some people try to complicate matters, but it’s simple: if we want to contribute to a prosperous Arab future, we should embark on a transparent dialogue about the priorities of our people and the real means to achieve them in the most effective way.

There are common factors in Arab states, but they are not homogeneous. We should celebrate our shared values and the way that popular revolutions are moving from one country to another, as this demonstrates the unity of the Arab nation and the unity of its causes. Fighting for a free and dignified life, without foreign domination, is being translated by millions of young people into a struggle against corruption, unemployment, poverty and tyranny. Those who have always defended Arab causes and paid a high price for doing so cannot be equated with those who were rewarded by the enemies of the people and squandered the Arab birthright.

Who can claim that the masses breathing the air of freedom have forgotten the struggle for the liberation of Palestine in their fight to liberate themselves from corrupt regimes and despotism? That is wishful thinking on the part of the oppressors in Israel and their Western allies. Let them live with their illusions.

The old regimes could have reformed themselves gradually from within, as did the democracies themselves, but the despots persisted and ignored the will of their people and their aspirations. That is why people in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have been on the streets; demonstrations are the only way to push for political reform. This does not mean destroying the positive achievements through bloodshed, or regressing towards exclusion, isolation and oppression; far from it. The patriots who staff the state’s civil and military institutions in Tunisia and Egypt will complete the process of change. They too have the will, the interest and the vision to complete the required changes in the best interest of their country and their people.
Today, we see the real beginning of the Arabs’ move into the modern world. As part of this transformation, we need to respect the sacrifice of the martyrs and the fighters. To do this we should acknowledge that swapping accusations of treason and promoting revenge and hatred in a twisted version of George W. Bush’s “either with us or against us” absolutism is not appropriate for the changes taking place.

The people on the street are looking for common ground with the civil servants; they are not interested in the politics of exclusion, isolation and prohibition. The signals are promising as the revolutionaries adopt a culture of inclusivity wherein it’s possible for people to disagree while still aiming for and reaching an understanding that they can work together to spread freedom and the rule of law. They are adopting the principle that “difference is in the nature of things” as a clear rule of governance.

The shape of times to come is one of democracy, freedom and dignity for all. In the process, we shall never forget that we still have people suffering under foreign occupation in Palestine, and that the supporters of Israel’s brutal military occupation, settlement building and oppression are the self-same Western democracies which claim to support Arab democracy. All the while, of course, those Western politicians remain wary of allowing Arabs to have the same freedoms that they themselves take for granted, and continue to do their utmost to deny freedom and justice to the Palestinians.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.