The policy makers, commentators and analysts are speculating how far this revolutionary current will go in the Arab world, which was triggered by the tragic suicide of a young Tunisian graduate, Mohammed BouAzizi. It is painful to imagine what this young man was going through moments before he took his life. The cruel irony is he was punished by the police for trying to make an honest living; after failing to gain employment, he committed the ‘crime’ of selling vegetables in the market without a permit.
The Arab world as a whole is not poor. Many in Tunisia and Egypt are suffering from poverty, but their neighbour, Libya, is soaking in oil-money and Algeria is relatively wealthy. Across the Red Sea, Yemen, Syria, Palestine and Jordan are poor, however Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu-Dhabi, and Kuwait are drenched in oil-money. This division between the rich and poor nations is not entirely natural, because the borders were drawn after the First World War by the colonial nations; by that time, oil was discovered which was essential for the armed forces and the navy. Therefore, colonial Britain and France ensured the lands were divided to suit their interests and the US continued to endorse the same policy, because the division of Arab lands also helps to provide Israel with greater security; one of the reasons for the massive military intervention in 1991 to maintain the Kuwaiti borders. For Israeli’s security, the continuous funding of the various Arab-Zionist regimes like Mubarak becomes a necessity for the US. After the decades of funding, naturally the US is reluctant to support the call for his removal.
Using various ideologies, the Arabs have tried to remove the colonial shackles. First was Arab nationalism, inspired by Jamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt who gained immense popularity after the Suez crisis. The UAR (United Arab Republic) experiment in 1961 between Egypt and Syria ended in a disaster, as did the other initiatives by Nasser of Egypt. The Arab League has always been a social gathering, where clowns like Colonel Gaddafi and others put on a display. Arab unity was never going to work, because they could not overcome primitive nationalism. Most of the governments have been carving out their own dynasties. Everyone wants to keep it in the family.
Arab Socialism was another experiment that did not even take off. With the exception of Syria, which is nominally Socialist, everyone else belongs to the Capitalist free market camp. You can never curtail the human desire to poses wealth; profit is and always will be a central force in any economic system. Apart from the desire to own private property and make profit, the Arabs in general believe in God. Thus, Arab Socialism was dead, even before the demise of communism in Russia and China.
After the failure of nationalist and socialist movements, the Islamic movements started to surface in the late 70s and managed to offer some resistance to the constant aggression of Israel, supported by the US. In recent times, they had some success at political level, as they advanced in Egypt, Palestine, and Turkey through the elections. The FIS in Algeria came within an inch of acquiring power. However, after the Jihadi experiment (9/11 and Iraq), it seems everyone is taking a break, and reconsidering their approach to liberate the lands from colonial agents. A wise move indeed.
Whilst the Islamic movements take a respite, it seems the secular forces are on the move to free the Arab world. The current uprising in Egypt is largely secular and nationalistic, everyone is waving the Egyptian flag instead of the black and white Shahadah (there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger) flag in Arabic. There are no signs of Islamic slogans or placards, the Muslim Brotherhood has kept their distance and this is prudent. In desperation, the pro-Zionist elements are finger pointing at the Muslim Brotherhood for the Egyptian uprising, a glimmer of hope that the US might instigate a move with some Egyptian Generals to crackdown on the protestors and arrest the Muslim Brotherhood, and save the Arab-Zionist regime of Mubarak.
The King of Jordan and Saudi are the two other significant Arab-Zionist regimes. However, the US and Israel would not permit the current fervour for democracy to manifest in these countries, unless the odds were stacked in its favour.
Yamin Zakaria (email@example.com)
Published on 2/02/2010