Arab intellectuals in doubt

Abdul Ilah Albayaty, Hana Al Bayaty and Ian Douglas , Thursday 20 Oct 2011

While the great earthquake of the Arab Spring continues, some Arab intellectuals cannot stop distrusting the Arab people

Many may wonder on the sharp division among some Arab intellectuals, between those who support the Arab regime dictatorships, especially the republican ones, and those who support not only pro-Western regimes, especially the kingdoms, but also support Western military intervention. Both positions are united in that they lack confidence that Arab people can build democratic regimes by themselves and for themselves. In reality, Arabs were never — not even for one day — more powerful than they are now. They have the rebel youth in all Arab countries. They have the economic potential that qualifies them to be among the leading nations in the world. And they have a human civilisation that is rarely matched by other civilisations. The existence of a class of intellectuals trusting their people is essential to make this potential a reality.

Some say that this sharp division is necessary because it will filter those who are patriots from those who are pro-Western. Arab dictatorships used this false argument for decades as a bulwark against criticism. They filtered people through repression and prisons. For our part, we do not understand why those who are against dictatorships and against foreign intervention are not patriots, and why Arab intellectuals cannot be against dictatorship and foreign intervention at the same time. To stand with dictatorships is standing against the youth of the nation aspiring to freedom and a better life, and it is the concept that the nation is sterile that produces but these regimes, which created the best conditions for foreign intervention because of the spread of injustice, sectarianism, oppression, poverty, unemployment, and divisions that have strangled the life of the youth, destroyed their energies and betrayed their dreams to live in freedom, wellbeing and creativity like the youth of other nations.

We did not ever believe that foreign armies, even internationalist ones, might have freed the Arab nation. A liberated nation is the nation that has control of its destiny, and so has been liberated by its own hands. But the scarecrow of foreign intervention will not prevent us from supporting the youths’ revolutions against dictatorships, whether republics or kingdoms. It is dictatorships, not democratic revolutions that beckon foreign interference. The youth should be prepared to struggle against both dictatorship and foreign intervention all over the Arab world.

The strength of the earthquake that the Arab revolutions created stems from the sufferings of the Arab nation and will not stop as long as the current circumstances of suffering continue as they are now. Therefore we think that democracy or democratic rights in Arab countries are not only necessary but also inevitable. And despite the complexity of alliances and conflicts between the regimes in the region, despite the diversity of conditions from one country to another, we think that the change towards more democratic regimes will affect all non-democratic regimes in the region, including Iran. It is the aspirations of young people for freedom, prosperity and individual and national dignity, on the one hand, and the impossibility of achieving any development without democracy, on the other, which is the motor of change.

Since before the invasion of Iraq, the Arab nation began to regain its self-confidence. This was reflected in the comprehensive and rigorous refusal of this invasion. It was reflected later in the rise of the Iraqi resistance — military, political and popular — and by its steadfastness despite the animosity of all surrounding regimes. The horrors of what happened in Iraq, on the one hand, and the United States’ military, political, financial and moral suicide in Iraq, on the other, spurred the Arab nation’s youth to realise that the repressive, heavily armed regimes that responded to imperial and Zionist demands as slaves are nothing but paper tigers. It has been proven so far. The youth were not scared when France threatened to intervene in Tunisia, nor when Israel threatened to occupy Sinai, or in the face of Mullen’s threats to occupy the Suez Canal during Egypt’s revolution. On the contrary, these threats led the army to join the revolution.

In Libya, the West stood at the side of the revolutionaries in order to abort and dominate the revolution and to prevent further unity between Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Will the West succeed in preventing the establishment of a free Libya in the final analysis? The West, especially Europe, is occupied more by selling its products than conquering lands. In oil, its aims are to keep the concessions given to them by the old regime. It is certain that there is competition between foreign powers to win the minds, hearts and money of the Libyan people. The issue depends on the consciousness and the will of Libyans. We do not think that the West in its current financial mess can engage in military battles against a united revolutionary people that defends its freedom and interests against dictatorship and imperial and Zionist plans. It is those who defend the falling dictatorship who undermine the revolution, creating conditions of weakness in the face of the West.

There is no doubt that the West and Zionism will try to thwart the earthquake of Arab revolutions, but the conditions of the global financial crisis do not allow the West to intervene with direct military force on all fronts, unless it faces a life or death situation, at least now. The Iraq war has proven that the US lost militarily and financially more than it had hoped to profit. Western countries use therefore indirect methods to create strife and division, throwing doubts on the integrity and intentions of the groups and participants in the Arab revolutions. These methods are not unknown to us. There are the same leaks by Zionist and Western agencies aimed at spreading the idea that these revolutions are a US plan. Do we forget the propaganda that Nasser, who led the nation against feudalism and colonialism and Zionism, is a US client? Some who now hail Nasser believed the sincerity of this Zionist propaganda in Nasser’s time, while the US’s real goal was to isolate Egypt’s revolution from the masses of the Arab nation.

With the revolution in Tunisia and Egypt, we are facing a unique and unprecedented revolution in the history of revolutions and rebellions. Any attempt to judge it with concepts belonging to previous revolutions will not lead to further understanding and discovery on its future, but rather to errors equalling political suicide by standing against progress.

The first characteristic of the current revolution is that it is a revolution of society against corruption and oppression and for a state of social justice. It is not a revolution of parties and revolutionary movements. There is no doubt that parties, revolutionary or not, want to jump into power and that they manoeuvre to this end, in both Tunisia and Egypt. However, with every individual having taken his own destiny into his or her hands, parties are unable to reach power except via elections and legislation. No doubt also, there are many splits and conflicts within political movements due to the unprecedented and sudden freedom of opinions and beliefs, be they just or not, flourishing in the Arab world. Democracy advances through pacific confrontation of programmes, demands and opinions. But this leads some supporters of Arab dictatorships to panic and be suspicious of the current atmosphere. Indeed, they are used to no one being allowed to say a word without the approval of the “leading party of the state and society”.

In reality, the theory that there is no revolution without a revolutionary leadership belongs to the museum. The flame of democracy will not be put out by words, or by force. The historic movement of the Arab nation towards new social contracts based on dignity, development, liberty and rights is evident and inexorable. It is a movement collectively and individually owned by all. Because a democratic revolution is a society that leads itself to build a democratic state, the absence of leadership is irrelevant. Society composes its leadership temporarily and on the ground. Arab intellectuals should accommodate themselves to this new reality of political life. Doubting the people will not roll back the force of the Arab Spring.

Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst. Hana Al Bayaty is an author and political activist. Dr Ian Douglas is a specialist in the geopolitics of the Arab region and has taught at universities in the US, UK, Egypt and Palestine.

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