It’s not about Israel or Palestinians

Those following the upheaval first in Tunisia, and now dramatically in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, will be well aware that Israel does not figure … a major issue is the dissatisfaction with the inequities and lack of opportunities, in particular for educated youth and young adults.  Some years ago, I remember chatting to a young Egyptian professional who was trying to pass overseas exams – he was well trained but complained that there was very little opportunity to practice his profession in Egypt.   The big fear is that uprisings that may have noble initial goals will be taken over by anti-democratic, radical factions.

Herb Keinon in an excellent article in the Jerusalem Post here begins that “the Egyptian revolution debunks the Israel-is-the-cause-of-Mideast-instability myth.”   

He continues “From an Israeli perspective, one of the most striking elements of the evolving revolution in Egypt, Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world is the degree to which all of this is not about us.  For the tens of thousands of protesters who took to Egypt’s streets over the weekend, defying the curfew and calling for the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, Israel and the Palestinians were simply not on the agenda.”

Keinon adds “One of the axioms repeated ad nauseum over the years by pundits around the world is that Arab despair breeds the radicalism that breeds the terrorism, and that the source of that despair is the Palestinian issue. Take that issue away and there will be far less despair, and thus far less terrorism. Hogwash.  True, there is hopelessness in the Arab world – but the source is not the Arab masses concern about the Palestinians; the source is the Arab masses concern about their own lives, their own unemployment and their own lack of freedoms. Fix that and you get stability; ignore that, and you get revolution.  But everyone – led by the US under Obama and the EU – ignored that, fixating instead on the building of another house in Ramat Shlomo, another apartment unit in Efrat.”  …..

“The Middle East is now at a crossroads. There is a democratic moment fast approaching, but one looks at it with fear and trembling. The events in Tunisia and now in Egypt may indeed represent the Arab world’s first popular revolutions, but they are by far not the world’s first revolutions.”  ….
“The fear and trembling is that what happened in France in 1789, in Russia in 1917 and in Iran in 1979 will repeat itself in Egypt and the Arab world in 2011. After the old was thumped out by the new in those countries, there was a brief moment when democratic forces arose – be it the National Constituent Assembly and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France, Alexander Kerensky in Russia, or Shapour Bakhtiar in Iran – only to be swept away by the radicals: Robespierre in Paris, the Bolsheviks in Moscow, Ayatolloah Khomeini in Teheran.  In Egypt, too, democratic forces are on the march, but the radical extremists are lurking in the shadows, ready to pounce.”


Keinon concludes “Now on the streets of Cairo, Tunis and Saana, the world is getting a good glance at what the people see as the main threat – their own governments.  Neither the people, nor the leaders, are holding Israel and the Palestinians up as the main problem. Is the West listening? Is Obama?”
Another example of the concern would be to ask .. who benefits from the turmoil in Egypt?   This Wall St Journal article, illustrates the present chaos in Egypt.  Besides the general looting, the article states “security officials said hundreds of inmates escaped prisons across Egypt on Sunday, including at least one jail that housed Muslim militants northwest of Cairo, the Associated Press reported.  The prisoners escaped overnight from four jails after starting fires and clashing with guards, AP said. The inmates were helped by gangs of armed men who attacked the prisons, firing at guards in gun battles that lasted hours and killed several inmates. ”  In the WSJ article, it is well worth watching the interview with former Ambassador Edward Walker.


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