What will you do?



By Jesse Bacon

My friend asked me, only half-jokingly “What if you have to change your name for your blog?”

I wish a swift and durable success to the people’s movements in Cairo. I was just coming of age

when the Berlin Wall fell (my “camp” was actually a nerdy kids Current Events class in June

of 1989.) I was starting to wonder if I would ever see another wave of revolutions like that,

sweeping aside regimes that everyone assumed were ominpotent only a short time before.

The answer to my friend is that the title of this blog is a question. Because democracy

is a conversation, and there have always been other voices raised in the various countries

of the Middle East. But for years, people have hurled the autocratic nature of many Arab

regimes at me, as if to suggest that Palestinians don’t deserve the democracy that was denied

the people who speak their language. Why don’t you speak out against Saudi Arabia?

I am asked, as if one crime justifies another.

Well the moment that previously existed only as a hypothetical is arriving. And I”m

thrilled by the jubilation, the inspiration being drawn from the Egyptians, the Tunisians

who in turn inspired them, and several other nations. I feel that we have been privileged

after years of criticizing U.S. and Israeli policy in support of dictators, to bask a tiny bit in

the hard-earned victory of the brave people staring down a far more invasive security

apparatus than we face in the West.

But what of the braggarts of Israel’s democracy? I am amazed how much fear and bitterness

pervade their reaction, furthering the divide between those who have to justify every Israeli

action and those who don’t. I read a solicitation for blogposts from a local Jewish website

“debunking” of the idea that Palestinains have anything to do with Egyptians, even though

the accompanying article  described Israelis and Palestinians carrying Egyptian flags together. 

Am I to tell them to NOT feel a connection with their neighbors finally gaining freedom?  or to

ignore the manufacturers of the same tear gas used against them both, as Joseph Dana


People in the street confronting police and army soldiers with revolutionary

aspirations. Some youth throw stones in symbolic acts of resistance as the

elders try to calm down their rage and focus on chants of unity. Armed forces

reply with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. This is a regular occurrence

in the West Bank in villages like Nabi Saleh, Ni’ilin and Beit Umar.  Over the past

week, it has been unfolding on the streets of Cairo, Suez and Alexandria as well.

From Ni’ilin to Cairo, the tear gas that is being employed against demonstrations

is made in the United States.

In a good summary of Israeli anxiety on the rise of democracy in Egypt, Yoav Fromer finishes

the list with this:

4. The Loss of Israel’s ‘Special Status’…But if genuine democracy takes hold in Egypt—

or anywhere else in the Middle East—it could also spell the end of Israel’s monopoly

on righteousness and endanger this special status, along with the lucrative benefits

that have come with it. Among them: gargantuan amounts of U.S. military aid

(which Sen. Rand Paul has justproposed eliminating) and the U.S. veto at the U.N.

Security Council, which has consistently parried any substantial attempts at

condemning Israel in the world body. Finally, and possibly most disheartening for

many Israelis, there is the chance that a genuine Arab democracy might raise the

bar for Israel and prompt international calls for it to get its own democracy in order,

end the occupation of Palestinian territories, and amend its discriminatory policies

toward its Arab minority.

So it turns out that Israel’s government can only carry on with a backdrop of more

obviously autocratic regime. It didn’t just require disenfranchisement of Palestinians

but millions in neighboring countries. And so the wall between more open minded

people in the Jewish community and in Israel and those who cannot take any pleasure

in another’s freedom will grow greater, and Israel will for a time look more like its ally

to the West. But all dictators will meet the same fate, I believe again.


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