Mona Eltahawy has been touring the media circuit as the champion of freedom and democracy in Egypt and the Arab world, but what would a free and democratic Arab world look like? And what would it mean for those few who share Eltahawy’s views.
Now that Mona Eltahawy is posing as the voice of the oppressed Arab masses, and an advocate of democracy, we think it would be helpful to compare her political outlook to the well-known, and repeatedly verified views held by a vast majority of the Arab public.
We can begin by contrasting Mona’s pride in being “the first Egyptian journalist to live and to work for a western news agency in Israel” with the Egyptian people’s refusal for over 30 years to normalize with the Zionist entity. Like many of the wonderful chants of the unfolding Egyptian revolution the phrase “The first (government) to sign, but the last (people) to normalize” rhymes in Arabic.
To help us compare the views of the New York-based advocate of Arab democracy with Arab public opinion, we will rely on a very revealing article she wrote about two years ago with the obnoxious title “Israel is the opium of the people, and other Arab taboos.”
The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza had killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to tow the party line: Hamas is good, Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough, you’re not Muslim enough, you’re not enough.
Well, yes Mona, but you don’t have to be an Arab or a Muslim to oppose war crimes during a barbaric assault, even by Israel’s standards, on an unarmed population trapped in a large, open-air prison. It’s not about a lack of Arabism or faith which nobody really cares about, but rather a very disturbing lack of humanity.
Has Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni forgotten that, just last year, she was close to ousting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his handling of Israel’s 2006 war on Lebanon, launched under very similar circumstances to those that preceded the bombardment of Gaza? And yet, there she was making the rounds of U.S. news shows to explain why Israel had to act against Hamas. Does Israel want to make heroes of Hamas in the way it did Hezbollah?
So the problem is not Israel’s massacre of more than 1400 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, but that it would turn HAMAS into heroes? Sorry to break the news to you Mona, but there hasn’t been anyone in history anywhere that resisted foreign military occupation and colonialism, and NOT been considered a hero. And most of them were not Arabs or Muslims so get used to it.
Talking about Hezbollah, has Hassan Nasrallah forgotten that, while he rails against Egypt for aiding the Israeli blockade of Gaza, he lives in a country – Lebanon – that keeps generations of Palestinian refugees in camps that serve as virtual jails?
So does that mean you support the Egyptian regime’s policy of working with Israel to impose a genocidal siege on the people of Gaza? And if Egypt had free and fair elections would they have elected anyone who ran on a platform of cooperating with Israel in imposing the siege? And did you forget the Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon were ethnically cleansed from Palestine in 1948? And why couldn’t you wait until they return to their homes before you begin to normalize with Israel? And did you stop to consider for just a moment that the violent, colonial occupation of Palestine, and the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population may have something to do with Arab rejection of Israel? It’s not an opium Habibti, it’s a war.
And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that, in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon, where, in 1982, the Phalangists – Christian Lebanese militiamen – slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camps?
Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defence minister, indirectly responsible for the killings during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
Now Mona, you know these are all undemocratic, dictatorial regimes who rule through brute force. Why would you hold the oppressed Arab people responsible for the policies and crimes of regimes they never elected or asked for, and that exist through the support and protection of Western powers. The Hashemite regime in Jordan has been under the direct security umbrella of Israel since the massacre of Palestinians you referred to during Black September in 1970, a massacre he could not have carried out without the support of Israel and the US.
Similarly, the massacre by the Phalange at Sabra and Chatilla was carried out under the protection, and with the assistance of the Israeli occupation army which surrounded the refugee camps, set their proxy militias loose, and then lit the Beirut night sky with a continuous series of flares so the Phalange can find their way through the narrow alleyways of the refugee camps. Of course the fascists of the Phalange should be held responsible. How many Arabs do you think support the Phalange? How many Lebanese support the Phalange? All the Phalange type political parties combined don’t enjoy more than a tiny fraction of support among the Lebanese people, but the Israel which you applaud for holding Sharon “responsible”, although he was never put on trial and punished, elected him as Prime Minister years later. And today as he lays in a bed wasting electricity he continues to enjoy the status of a national hero based on his long, bloody career as a war criminal. That’s a sick society you’re defending and praising, Mona. We couldn’t defend that if we were high on opium.
For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people.
What does the separation of religion from politics have to do with foreign occupation and colonialism? Hamas is one of several Palestinian resistance organizations, all of which were established in response to a violent military occupation, and has taken care of many of its people through a large network of social services. Can we assume you support the non-religious oriented resistance factions?
As for Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power since 1981, has presided over a disastrous policy that, on one hand, maintains a 1979 peace treaty Anwar Sadat signed with Israel and, on the other, unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.
Are you opposed to the peace treaty with the Zionist state or are you upset the government has not been able to win the hearts and minds of Egyptians for Israel? And do you think the Egyptian people are opposed to Israel simply because of the state-owned media, which contrary to what you claim, is far friendlier to Israel then the Egyptian people. If Egypt was a democracy in the late 70s, do you think it would have signed a peace treaty with Israel? Using “hysterical hatred” to describe Egyptian opposition to Israel’s wars on Arab peoples and occupaton of Arab lands is an unfortunate echo of the worst Zionist propagandists, not to mention silly. C’mon Mona, you can do better. That was just one step away from shouting “anti-Semitism.”
Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians, but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy.
Ok, now you got it. That’s correct. And it’s also correct that in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world there is no space for any discussion of Israel as anything but an enemy. Can you offer an example of any people under any foreign occupation who did not take the same position towards their foreign occupier? So as the revolution in Egypt unfolds, and the Egyptians prepare to take control of their future through a representative, and responsive government you should prepare yourself. Real democracy in Egypt and the Arab world would relegate the tiny fraction of people that share your views towards Israel to the outer fringe of political society and public discourse.
But my question is: Where is the anger of Egyptians and others across the region at the human-rights violations and oppression in their countries? If such large crowds turned out in Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago.
How do you feel now? And are you prepared to admit some of that Egyptian anger we are currently witnessing is directed towards Mubarak’s policy of collaboration with Israel which is the one aspect of the regime you appear to support?
Focusing on internal issues in each Arab country and ignoring the opium that is Israel? Egyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese and Syrians should do it before their states fail for the sake of Palestine.
Palestinians still have no state. What a shame it would be for one Arab country after another to fail in the name of Palestine.
Internal issues of any state are always directly linked to regional, and international factors, and nowhere is that more true than in the Middle East, and Egypt. The survival of the Camp-David regime has been directly dependent on American sponsorship and support which, in turn, was linked to the regime’s willingness to sign an unpopular peace treaty with Israel, pursue neo-liberal economic policies, and ignore Egyptian popular opinion. It is these international and regional considerations that lead the regime to pursue policies directly responsible for the poverty, unemployment, and political repression which have culminated in the current revolution.
The liberation of Egypt, and other Arab states from an internal repression intrinsically linked to foreign hegemony will unleash a new and free Arab world. It will be democratic, more united, and just as committed to the liberation of Palestine as it was in 1948, with a newly unleashed potential, energy, and determination to achieve that goal. It’s time for you to dispense with the hypocritical rhetoric of democracy and freedom, and embrace the true meaning of these values. In the Arab world the struggle for freedom, democracy, and human rights is part of the same struggle against Zionism, colonialism, and Western imperialism.
Your friends in Israel know that, and they’re trembling at the impending fall of the Egyptian dictator. For the enemy, Arab revolutions, freedom and democracy are a nightmare, and you may end up feeling the same way.