In order to get a flavour of the new order in Egypt, I recommend looking at Egyptian state television. Following the forced retirement of ex-President Hosni Mubarak the tone of the programmes and the variety of invited guests on discussions has undergone a distinct change. Who would have believed that we would see the doyen of Egyptian journalists, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, sitting in the Dream Channel studio on the brilliant Mona El Shazly’s programme? Or be able to watch our colleague Hamdi Kandil, who has toured many channels in the Arab world looking for a place to rest his pencil, as a guest on Al Mehwar Channel or the official satellite channel?
These Egyptian TV stations were administered by the main “moderate Arab” government which operated with a black-list of Egyptian and Arab journalists, writers and intellectuals; once the system in Cairo collapsed, the picture (no pun intended) changed completely. We now have a new stage with new faces and a new media that will change the spectrum of satellite channels. The Arab political spectrum will surely follow this change, as the mass media drives political agendas these days, not the reverse as has been happening over the past sixty years.
The great popular revolution which erupted in Egypt, and its immediate predecessor in Tunisia, has reformulated the region, drawing a new map for a new Middle East based on the view through Arab eyes. The future can be glimpsed through national interests, with an Islamic perspective included, not through American eyes or those of a dynasty-building dictator.
Martial law, police states, corrupt judiciaries and plundering the wealth of the poor and disadvantaged, whereby jobs, tenders and senior positions are limited to ruling families and corrupt inner circles, are all heading for extinction. And the change won’t stop at Egypt’s borders.
The country is witnessing a clean-up process that started in Tahrir (Freedom) Square with the youth, before moving on to reach all the symbols of corruption responsible for reducing Egypt and its avant-garde role in state institutions, the fraud of a parliament, the false Shura Council, the ministries, the media and the embassies; and in all parts of the country.
The winners in this revolution, the largest in the history of the region, are many. Foremost among them are Egypt’s poor and its freedom fighters who have suffered so much over the past forty years or so. With them we must include the hundreds of millions of Arabs who have been humiliated and shamed following Egypt’s withdrawal from the confrontation with Israeli aggression, and Cairo’s transformation from the progressive to the US camp, holding white flags of surrender and becoming slaves to American aid.
There are many losers too, at the top of which are the majority of Arab leaders who enjoyed humiliating their people as they turned their countries into personal estates; they now cower in fear as they watch the US administration show a bias, albeit reluctantly, towards the masses in Tahrir Square and abandon a president who was a loyal servant to American interests, who participated enthusiastically in America’s wars, and who was a loyal defender of Israel’s borders.
In losing Hosni Mubarak the United States of America has lost a cornerstone of its foreign policy and its projects to dominate the region; it has lost a strong ally in its next fight against Iran and the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the remaining Arab allies of the US – the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Jordan and North African countries remain marginal compared with Egypt. These allies have not fought a single war on their own or without the help of US troops, whether it was to get Iraq out of Kuwait, or to address the Iranian revolution by supporting that other discarded US ally, Saddam Hussain.
American influence in the region is in rapid decline, which is a logical consequence of policies that embodied western hypocrisy at its worst. Just how could America, which claims to lead the free world and be the cheerleader for democracy, actually support Middle East despots under the pretence of ensuring “stability” and the illusion of fighting Islamic extremism?
Agents of pseudo-peace in Arab capitals cannot hope to achieve stability because their priority is to fill their pockets and get support and protection at the expense of their people, the teachings of their religion and their nations’ long-held moral principles.
Israel is arguably the biggest loser, along with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, with the collapse of Mubarak’s regime; under the ex-President Cairo offered a sympathetic ear to both, as well as shield for their security, survival and legitimacy.
The regular pilgrimages of Israeli politicians to the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh – long-coveted by Israel – saw them receive the red carpet treatment. Such “summits” will be reduced in number, if not ended altogether. No longer will the warmonger Tzipi Livni be able to declare war on the Palestinians in Gaza while standing next to the President of Egypt; never again will an Egyptian minister of state be able to boast about breaking the bones of honest people trapped in the Gaza Strip. This malignancy has been cut out, hopefully never to return.
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah must return to its roots and reconsider its positions and policies, as the Egyptian president who provided it with support and sanctuary for the past twenty years has gone, haunted by the souls of the martyrs whose bodies were torn apart by his security forces. The current Palestinian Authority will be hard pushed to find an elected Egyptian president willing to stand by it in the wake of the leaks detailing the massive concessions it was ready to make on the issues of Jerusalem and the refugees’ right of return.
US President Barack Obama welcomed the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in dialogue with the Mubarak government during the people’s revolution. There is no reason, therefore, for him not to welcome a dialogue between his government and Hamas, an offshoot of the Brotherhood, and to lift the veto imposed on it by Israel. In fact, it would not be a surprise if Obama and others abandon the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority just as he renounced its most prominent sponsor, Hosni Mubarak. The region is changing, political logic is changing and so is America.
The crawl towards national democracy started with Tunisia’s “Dignity Revolution” before moving to the land of Egypt; it is inevitable that it will move on again. The coming weeks and months will reveal where to, but rest assured that there are many Arabs waiting for it to arrive. These are days of pride and dignity with long-overdue change on its way; the masses are tempted to say, “Didn’t we tell you this would happen?” and they have every right to do so.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.