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The humiliation of Arabs

October 29, 2020 at 2:00 am

Palestinian artists write in arabic “Anyone but the Prophet” as they draw a mural bearing the portrait French President Emmanuel Macron in the Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on 28 October 2020, as they denounce Macron’s defence of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images]

The past few days have witnessed two major incidents of extreme cruelty and unprecedented humiliation launched against Arab regimes. These incidents are evidence of the lows that Arab nations have recently experienced. Yet the question remains, why are these regimes accepting the humiliation and blackmail?

The first incident concerns the degradation of Sudan by the US, and the extent of President Donald Trump’s contempt when he reduced the celebration of normalisation to a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, informing him that Khartoum agreed to US dictations. The following day, Sudan was removed from the State Sponsors of Terrorism blacklist, in exchange for bowing in front of the Israelis.

It goes without saying, that President Omar Al-Bashir and his regime resisted all US dictations on Sudan for decades, not just years. This means that saying “no” to the Americans is indeed possible, and that the only change that took place altering the Sudanese position is that rulers of Sudan have changed, and the ones in office now have interests in the American support that would keep them in power. This backing does not benefit the Sudanese people, but rather means that they could find themselves living under a new authoritarian regime endorsed by Washington.

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The second incident was the French official statement asking Arab countries not to boycott French products, in conjunction with a tweet in Arabic by French President Macron, confirming that he does not retract his offences. The irony here is that France, which offended the Arabs, instead of apologising or even being silent at the very least, is demanding that Arab regimes stop any protest or boycott of French products. The French statement conveys the height of arrogance. It carries the highest levels of indignity towards the Arab regimes, as it not only disregards Arab popular anger, but also asks Arab countries to suppress their people, preventing them from the peaceful protest represented in campaigns calling for a boycott of French products. This statement is evidence of the disregard with which France deals with Arab countries.

Palestinian demonstrators lift placards protesting the Sudan normalisation agreement with Israel, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip on 24 October 2020. [SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images]

Palestinian demonstrators lift placards protesting the Sudan normalisation agreement with Israel, in Rafah town in the southern Gaza Strip on 24 October 2020. [SAID KHATIB/AFP via Getty Images]

We should not be asking ourselves why Western countries treat us this way, because any country that has the ability to dominate will do so, without hesitation. The question we should be asking ourselves is: why have our Arab regimes sunk to this low standard of dignity, and why are they accepting the humiliation? The answer is clear and simple – the regimes that come to power through the will of their people do not accept humiliation, will always enjoy independence and reflect the will of the masses. However, any political regime that seizes power by force of oppression, tyranny and authoritarianism, will fear the anger of Trump, Macron and others, while worrying about their position of power and disregarding the masses.

Elected democracies do not bow to outside pressures. As for rulers who come on the back of a tank or through repression, tyranny and intimidation of the people, they will always be looking for any legitimacy or support from the outside. There are many examples of this theory, the most prominent of which is the difference in Egyptian positions between 2012 and today. In 2012, the elected president was able to stop Israeli aggression on Gaza, while today, there was not even a statement denouncing Macron’s abuse. The main problem with Arab countries is the absence of democracy and human rights, and the marginalisation of the people, which makes Arab regimes closer to Washington and Paris, than to their own people. Arab rulers do not care about the people in their countries because they are not concerned with electoral votes, nor ballot boxes.

Stopping the current attack on Arab dignity requires a real democratic transformation. It demands regimes that represent their people, and necessitates rulers who fear them more than they fear Trump and Macron – and who also worry about the outcomes of elections and ballot boxes. Unless this occurs, Arabs can only expect more contempt towards themselves, their religion and their symbols coming from the rest of the world.

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Translated from Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 26 October 2020

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