Egypt is back again as it once was when millions of Arabs used to turn to the radio to listen to the voice of the Egyptian masses. Those days, our parents used to fix themselves in front of old radio sets to hear the magic words charged with freedom, dignity and hope. Today, once again, everyone is glued to TV sets this time watching with pride what is happening in Egypt. Everything happening there indicates that a new era of development is ushered for all Arabs; for Egypt's awakening once meant an awakening for all the Arabs, its fight against colonialism ushered a phase of freedom for all Arab peoples. Today we hear the thundering voice of its people on the streets and know that they are making a new era.
Is this the time for Arab masses to go the streets to force their will on governments which have, for decades, imposed their will, slogans, gods, failures, alliances and differences on their peoples without achieving any of their aspirations. Grievances, frustration, betrayal and political, economic and social failure accumulated, while the Arab ruling elites did not feel the simmering anger of the masses?
The masses filled the streets of Tunisia, Jordan and Yemen. The West did not pay much attention. But when the voice of Egyptian masses rose, the 'free' world got into a frenzy of analyzing the conditions of the Arab world. They started to examine growth rates, youth unemployment rates, required growth rates in order to provide jobs for these young people and enable them to get involved in making the future of their countries. Western governments urged Arab governments not to use 'violence' or called on them to make 'political reforms' which allow for freedom of expression through a free press or through parliaments.
We all know very well that the West is not concerned about corruption or oppression; its only concern is oil and Israel's security. While Middle East 'experts' in Washington, London and Paris try to analyze what is happening and provide answers to their governments and their public opinion, none of them touched on the real causes, maybe because they are invisible to them.
There is no doubt that the needs of millions of young people throughout the Arab world need to be addressed in a manner different from what Arab governments have used so far. This is a generation living in the 21st century, and consequently it desperately needs to get seriously involved in building their country, their future and the future of their children. The reasons for this rage are complicated. They cannot be oversimplified or explained away by unemployment or poor living conditions. The Tunisian young man Mohammad Bouazizi, who gave the spark to the Tunisian revolution, was a university graduate working on his fruit and vegetable cart for years until he felt insulted and humiliated by the forces of oppression. His desperation pushed him to set fire to his body which stood for the body of a whole generation. His suicide was the last straw which removed the barrier of fear built between his generation and the might of governments. This is what sparked the call for change throughout the Arab world. So, it is a cry for the dignity of Arab citizens, a dignity humiliated by seeing their people besieged in Gaza and seeing six million Palestinians imprisoned in large prisons inside their occupied country, occupied since 1948 and in refugee camps and being killed on a daily basis amidst total Arab impotence.
It is interesting that the American reactions to demonstrations in Egypt exceeded by far the interest in what happened in Tunisia, Jordan or Yemen, which is understandable. Most American analyses and reactions focused on price rises, poverty, unemployment and corruption. No American official said anything about the factor of humiliating wars which infuriated people time and again and prevented the Egyptians from standing with their brothers in Gaza, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.
It is not difficult to trace back the critical moments which accumulated rage in the Arab conscience, particularly the feelings of humiliation, insult and impotence that millions of young people felt as a result of their governments' impotence and silence regarding the tragedies which befell Iraq and Palestine. This feeling is ignored by American and Western decision makers because they actually aim at humiliating the Arabs assisted by the ability of oppressive government forces to quell the voice of Arab masses calling for Arab solidarity.
WikiLeaks contributed to this factor by uncovering complicity with the enemy against the brother and getting what was happening behind closed doors into the public. That added to the people's desperation; because until recently they thought that their governments represented their interests. In reality, their behavior in secret was the exact opposite of what they claimed in public. 'Hakika Leaks' and 'Transparency' came to confirm that those entrusted with the destiny of their peoples have been inciting the enemy against their own brothers. Don't we all remember how young Arabs in many Arab towns and cities have been prevented even from demonstrating in support of the peoples of Iraq and Palestine? And how those trying to bring food and medicine to their besieged brothers have been tried like criminals, while war criminals in the wars on Lebanon and Gaza, like Tzipi Livni, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu were received and embraced?
That is why the United States' concern and monitoring of what is going on is in fact concern for a criminal entity in our region which is the real cause of all these wars, destruction and oppression against our people. If anger is directed today against governments and aims to change rulers and their methods, there is no doubt that the position of these rulers vis a vis the question of Palestine and the necessity of liberating it from Israeli occupation is a major factor in what is happening and will have implications and consequences in the next weeks and months.
Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is Political and Media Advisor at the Syrian Presidency, and former Minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer and professor at Damascus University since 1985. She has a Ph.D. in English Literature from Warwick University. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. She can be reached through [email protected]
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.