1. Sparks illumine “the day after”
Mazin Qumsiyeh, author of Popular Resistance in Palestine, writes in his newsletter
As people around the world evolved beyond dictatorship and racism, we in the Arab world will too … I have visited Tunisia twice and have many colleagues and friends that hail from Tunisia’s beautiful towns and villages. My single largest scientific collaborator is a Tunisian scientist living in Paris. I have commented on the similarity that Palestine and Tunisia have in geography, topography, climate, and village life.
Tunisians used popular resistance methods I discussed in my recent book on Palestine to get rid of a corrupt leader who had hung on to power for over 23 years. But there are other Arab leaders who have been in power even longer. It is time for real change, a change not to replace one face with another but to begin to form truly democratic institutions throughout the Arab world.
Our demands include democracy, transparency (including totally free and critical press), plurality, and justice. We have enough natural and human resources to build new, vibrant societies. All we have to do is muster the will to free our minds. Those of us who have done so and shed their inhibitions should also begin to discuss and ORGANIZE for the day after (after Zionism and after imperialism). We have to begin to examine how we may repair the damage caused by the corrupt systems and build a better future.
2. People’s uprising lamented by “only democracy in the Middle East”
As the world welcomed the democratic uprising in Tunisia, with dictator Ben Ali’s erstwhile western backers quickly denying him (and his bank accounts) sanctuary, the “only democracy in the Middle East” was not so pleased. Not at all. Israel’s Dep PM Silvan Shalom said he feared that “these developments would set a precedent that could be repeated in other countries, possibly affecting directly the stability of our system.” He was followed by Netanyahu also lamenting any loss of “stability”: i.e. the dead hand of dictatorship in which there’s no movement or sign of life. Israel and most of the Arab regimes have, they indicated, a common interest in preventing democracy.
Anxious as we all are to see such an uprising bringing real democracy and not being hi-jacked, it still cannot dampen the sheer joy of seeing people-power in action, and the scenes of demonstrators and soldiers fraternising and embracing. As Wordsworth wrote of the French Revolution 220 years ago, “oh bliss was it in that dawn to be alive!”, and his words are still true today.
But for an Israeli politician, there can be no such sentiment. “A democratic system”, in and of itself, is worrying: the inconvenience of dealing with governments that can be voted out, the difficulty of sharing intelligence and military coordination with a regime that allows freedom of information and is governed by a public that supports Palestine — all these are deeply disturbing.
And horror of horrors, it might undermine the claim to be “the only democracy”. In fact, what most undermines this bogus claim (apart from censorship, repression, apartheid, racism etc etc) is the failure to welcome a spread of democracy.
3. Sparks in Jordan too?
It may just be a coincidence, but as events were unfolding in Tunisia, in the south Jordanian town of Maan a thousand masked demonstrators set fire to municipal and court buildings and burnt police vehicles, cars, shops and a petrol station. The event had been sparked by the murder of three workers involved in a labour dispute. The police responded by rounding up 60 people and hunting down other suspects. 19 people were charged with “unlawful assembly” and “stirring unrest”.
While this did not start as an anti-government protest, if it turns out to lead to something bigger it would certainly put paid to the rumours coming out of Washington that Clinton and Obama are playing with the idea of attaching the West Bank to Jordan as an autonomous province. This was never a runner because Jordan would not have it, but one imagines that the last thing Israel wants is a democratic Jordan in its backyard.
4. Or will Iran be next?
Imagine the Zionist regime’s horror if Ahmedinejad is thrown out: or, more likely, impeached and/or arrested and imprisoned on 14 counts of violating the law. A parliamentary petition for his impeachment is past the half-way mark, and recently only the intervention of the Grand Ayatolla Khameini saved him. Or will it be “the economy, stupid” as prices of basic foods and electricity sky-rocket when government subsidies are stopped and his power-base is swept away? And what if the price of oil drops? A former member of the Iran parliament, Ali Mazrouei, said “When he [Khameini] realizes that Ahmadinejad’s incumbency is no longer in his best interest, he will cut off his support. And I think that day will come. Mr. Khamenei is astute.”
For the Israeli regime, heavily underpinned by an irrational and unfounded fear of the Iran bogey-man which most Israelis have bought into, such an outcome is to be dreaded.
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