Monday, March 14, 2011

obama does not get it...,

aljazeera | From Tunisia to Egypt to Bahrain, and in many places in between, protesters have been calling for free and accountable governments. Decades of bitter experience have shown them that unrepresentative governments are often willing to accept - or at the very least are unable to resist - subordination to Western, and particularly American, political and economic diktats.

The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, for example, was not signed by a democratic Arab government but was reached in spite of the strong opposition – that persists until today – within the Arab world’s largest country. Likewise, it is unlikely that the 1978 Camp David Accords would have been signed if it were up to the Egyptian people who, undeterred by the alliance of consecutive Egyptian governments with Washington and their close ties to Tel Aviv, continued to resist all attempts to impose normalised relations with Israel.

Over the years, the Egyptian people have repeatedly shown – through demonstrations, their media and even their cinema – that they oppose US policies in the region and Israeli aggression towards the Palestinians.

But now some American analysts, officials and former officials are seeking to rewrite history - and possibly to convince themselves in the process - by claiming that popular animosity towards Israel was simply a product of the Mubarak regime’s efforts to deflect attention from its own vices.

Jackson Diehl, a Washington Post columnist, has even blamed the former Egyptian regime for deliberately keeping the peace with Israel cold and for sometimes challenging the US. "Imagine an Egypt that consistently opposes the West in international forums while relentlessly campaigning against Israel. A government that seeds its media with vile anti-Semitism, locks relations with Israel in a cold freeze and makes a habit of publicly rejecting "interference" in its affairs by the United States. A regime that allows Hamas to import tonnes of munitions and Iranian rockets into the Gaza Strip," Diehl wrote of the Mubarak regime in an article published on February 14.

Diehl seems to think that a democratic Egypt will be friendlier to the US and Israel than what he deemed to be an insufficiently cooperative dictatorship. The same idea has been presented by Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state, who argued that Mubarak’s fear of the "Arab street" prevented him from fully endorsing US policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But what Rice and others seem not to realise – despite the fact that their statements implicitly acknowledge it – is that Mubarak’s supposed shortcomings reflected his realisation that he could go no further in his support of US policies without provoking popular anger.

Arab regimes have always sought to appease the opposition by paying lip service to the Palestinian cause, because they understand the place it holds in the Arab psyche. And while the revolutions have revealed that this tactic is no longer sufficient to keep the forces of opposition at bay, it is wrong to assume that the new Arab mood is somehow consistent with a friendlier posture towards a country that continues to occupy Palestinian land and to dispossess Palestinian people.

Defining democracy
This kind of misreading of the situation derives not from facts but from an Orientalist attitude that has long dominated American thinking and large sections of the American media.