And it happens, right there, for our eyes. The pattern, above all a product of the US-Israel alliance (inspired by Jesaiah 2:1-5), is unraveling. The pattern was always the same, by force or bribes or both to create “friendly governments”, “allies in the peace process” as Vice President Joe Biden – Obama’s foreign policy expert – says. These hours, these days. Some process.
The pattern has five layers: Palestinians inside Israel; Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; Israel’s Arab neighbors (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt); the rest of the 22 Arab states; the rest of the 57 Muslim states. Knowing that 350 million Arabs and 1,560 million Muslims cannot be controlled directly they go for indirect control via the governments. Anything but serious efforts to solve the conflict(s), bombastically even referring to this low level policy as a “peace process”. A hopeless project, at most a short-lasting unstable equilibrium.
The unraveling has no precise staring point in space or time; rather. It is a process, “peace by pieces”, resisted from the beginning. Palestinians inside Israel have been ambiguous, partly bribed into accepting second class citizenship in a theocratic state. Palestinians outside have been divided, PLO/Hamas being an important dividing line, West Bank/Gaza another. After the WikiLeaks revelations in The Guardian (24 January) of the moral corruption of PLO negotiators Hamas is stronger than ever, with a base in Syria that never boarded the US-Israel Titanic. Lebanon is increasingly ruled by Hezbollah; in Jordan where CIA outmaneuvered the peace oriented Crown Prince Hassan in favor of Abdullah there is revolt. In Egypt much more so; Yemen and Somalia revolted long ago; things happen in Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania, Sudan. And behind and above looms a (neo-ottoman?) Turkey.
Of course, there are at least two other issues at work, not only the machinations of the US-Israel alliance. There is the political issue of multi-party democracy with free and fair elections vs. dictatorship by one party, or autocracy by one ruler; of human rights vs. crushing the freedoms protected by them. And there is the economic issue of increasing misery and unemployment and inequality vs. sharing. The linkages between the three issues are often pointed out by demonstrators on posters about US-backed dictatorship and exploitation, about autocratic cliques and royal houses enriching themselves, etc. Which of the three is more important? All of them, of course. It is a solid US-Western-Israeli nexus with such crucial points as London establishing a Jewish “homeland” – not defined in international law – in Palestine, cutting Palestine into two with Jordan serving as a buffer state protecting the oil of “mandated Iraq” and that very same Churchill using gas against Iraqi “barbarians” threatening civilization in their struggle for their homelands – all familiar themes. Till an Israel declared itself a state more afraid of a peace that could set limits to its Zionist expansion than of war for expansion.
Till history catches up with them, these weeks, these days.
Which of the three factors the demonstrators, the rioters choose to spin their rhetoric around will vary, like with the distance to Israel. Another is the longevity of the autocracy, like 20, 30 years. Yet another is pure tactics, how to make more allies, by denouncing the USA or by downplaying that theme? Some US commentators are celebrating no “down with US imperialism” in some revolts, and the focus on democracy and human rights, maybe planning how to manipulate elections and bribing with freshly printed Fort Knox bills. Investment will be promised, known to benefit the rich more than the poor. Soon we will hear from China.
But right now let us celebrate. By and large nonviolent revolts in most of Maghreb and Mashreq reveal the fragility of even global and regional superpowers. They now face moments of truth with WikiLeaks truths that no doubt inspired and ignited the masses up front. US commentators with unfailing talent for choosing wrong levels of analysis point to demonstrators being mostly young, educated and unemployed. Give them fellowship and jobs? Maybe they need some agility to jump up on a water cannon tank, some education to see through the massive propaganda, and be unemployed to have time off for political work in the streets, no fear of losing a job? Being denied expression in free elections maybe the demos, the people, find ways of reclaiming power?
I remember a meeting in Cairo on 18 December, addressing Cairo University professors on world trends, including in and around Israel and the USA, and rising inequality, predicting revolts. Those attending said, our poor get poorer by the hour, but police and military make revolts impossible. I said that they might join being themselves repressed, exploited and alienated. And exactly that seems to have happened – and not only in Egypt – after initial brutality. A shock for the powers-that-were, now collecting their gold for oasis life in Saudi Arabia. Also soon to go.
And the USA? And Israel? An Israeli general recently revealed plans to attack Hamas and Hezbollah in Gaza and Lebanon. But many more planes are needed. Attacking a Muslim Brotherhood guided Egypt? Maybe too much even for Israel and the USA, given that both hegemons have very serious polity and economy problems.
Or, could this wave of people reclaiming foreign policy, the polity and economy from the clammy hands of small groups come to – miracle of all miracles – hit the hegemons themselves? And open for a real peace process, involving everybody concerned? Inshallah.