Sacrifice of scapegoats is one of the oldest customs and methods of governance. It is common to see the primary person responsible for any grave mistake or action that provokes popular discontent, trying to deflect responsibility from themselves by blaming their subordinates, regardless of the different ranks. The head of state often sacrifices their prime minister to pay for their actions; prime minister sacrifices one of their ministers; the minister sacrifices one of their ministry officials, and so on. If we add to the above the usual tendency in patriarchal societies to treat women with hatred and contempt, even greater than what a man is treated in the same situation, we almost pity the dismissed Libyan Foreign Minister, Najla El-Mangoush, and feel sadness over what happened to her, especially since she was the first woman to hold her position.
The truth must be told in this regard: the appointment of women to government positions in our region, which has increased slightly in recent years, is not at all related to civilisational progress or a shift in the consciousness of Arab rulers to embrace the principle of gender equality, nor has it, unfortunately, resulted from an increase in the strength of the regional women’s movement. Rather, it is merely a symbolic gesture that male rulers seek to suggest the modernity of their ideas and to gain some appreciation in the eyes of Western governments, especially the American government. This is because the women’s movement in the US, like the black movement and other social movements, succeeded in imposing standards of equality on its societies, even if the matter is still fragile and susceptible to relapse, as we see with the rise of the patriarchal and racist far right, spearheaded by Donald Trump.
For example, Tunisian President Kais Saied’s appointment of Najla Boudin as Prime Minister two years ago, shortly after his coup against the Constitution, was nothing more than an attempt by him to soften his reactionary challenge to democratic institutions by suggesting that the matter opened the way for progressive societal measures. Saied threw Najla Boudin in the garbage at the beginning of this month, implicitly blaming her for his economic and social failure. Likewise, Libyan Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh’s appointment of Najla El-Mangoush as his Foreign Minister was nothing more than a means to curry favour with the Western governments, beginning with the US government.
We do not doubt for a moment that the same logic of currying favour was what prompted Dbeibeh to make his Minister meet her Israeli counterpart in Rome, a meeting that was supposed to be kept a secret from everyone except the American government, which was involved with both parties in the process.
The US State Department strongly condemned the far-right Zionist government’s disclosure of the secret in a cheap attempt to divert attention from the state of disobedience it faces as a result of the cold civil war raging in Israeli society.
We also do not doubt for a moment that Dbeibeh was completely aware in advance of the meeting that was scheduled to take place, and that this meeting would not have taken place had it not been for his decision to hold it. As for the claim that what El Mangoush did was a “lone act”, it is a claim that is demeaning to the Libyan people and a disregard for them. Adding insult to injury, Dbeibeh visited the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority embassy in Tripoli and announced his dismissal of Najla El-Mangoush from there. He believes that a visit by the representatives of an authority cooperating with the Israeli government would be enough to convey him as sincere in his support of the cause of the Palestinian people.
However, the dismissed Minister is fortunate in that Dbeibeh is too weak to act like some of the Arab tyrants, as it seems that he ensured that she left the country safely (on a government plane, according to media reports, and perhaps also guaranteed her a comfortable stay in exile in exchange for her silence) instead of throwing her in prison. He did not inflict a harsher reality on her, as is often done by Arab rulers who want to keep their sins a secret.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 29 August 2023.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.