By Mohamed El Mokhtar
Tunisia is a compelling case study for the Arab world. Here is a repressive ‘secular’ police state imposed, with the flagrant complicity of the West, upon one of the most economically dynamic and culturally vibrant Arab societies. Despite its well-educated and entrepreneurial middle-class, this open and modern country was heavy-handedly ruled, with an iron-fist, by an autocratic ruler, and it turns out a very corrupt and cruel one too, for more than two decades unrelentingly. She remained all this time politically completely isolated from the outside world and its many democratic convulsions, ubiquitous class struggles and universal search for freedom. The main reason to this desolate state of affairs and underserved longevity lies within the following scam:
The regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has cunningly portrayed himself as a shining beacon of secularism and an indispensable bulwark against religious extremism and Islamic terrorism in an otherwise unruly and turbulent region. A marketing strategy that worked so well for so long to the extent that the French foreign Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, unashamedly suggested, just few days before the fall and disgraceful escape of the hated dictator, to the National Assembly (the French parliament), in Paris, to urgently give her the authorization to send in anti-riot police to help the Tunisian security forces quell the popular unrest and keep the situation under control before it is too late. But the urge of change and the tide of anger in the street of Tunisia were a lot stronger; in fact, stronger than anything the French Quai d’Orsay, or the Elysée, could have ever expected, wished for, or even remotely envisioned.
Not only there will be no French special forces in Tunisian soil but Zine Abidine Ben Ali and his entourage are, all of a sudden, being told that they are not only unwelcome in France but their bank accounts, and numerous other undisclosed assets, will be frozen until further notice; after all it is the birthplace of human rights and democracy, isn’t it? So what is the reason behind this hasty change of heart of the French government: simple realpolitik or a little bout of genuine made in France hypocrisy? One can only guess!
This is just another telling example of the West’s habitual politics of double standard cynically at play once more again in the region. When it comes to democracy and Arabs, Europe and America held views diametrically opposed to their standard attitude about this subject as regard, let’s say, Iran or Sub-Saharan Africa. To get a better sense of this undisputable fact, let’s ponder the following examples:
They loudly supported (and still do) the so-called Iranian “Green movement” and insidiously encouraged political unrest in Teheran even though the opposition has, by all counts, lost the elections; they also constantly shed an ocean of ( crocodile!) tears about the plight of the people of Darfur and the predicament of the southern Sudanese by underscoring, urbi et orbi, the importance of their struggle for democracy and yearning for freedom while at the same time ironically turning their backs to the atrocities committed by their allied puppets in Ethiopia and Uganda; worse they go as far as overtly enticing sectarian tension and division, under the preposterous banner of international law, and at the risk of potentially endangering the future of an already fragile nation (Lebanon) in order to achieve some unfulfilled (mythical) imperialist design.
Can anyone, I mean any decent or reasonable person, sincerely, believe in the obsession shown for the rule of law and the primacy of justice for the sake of a single dead man , Rafick El Hariri, by these Western powers? That would be a most preposterous belief when the whole world knows very well that one million and a half living human beings, for the most part refugees (the bulk of which are poor women and children) are being, at this very moment, slowly squeezed to death and starved to submission in Gaza by virtue of a collective punishment-in complete contravention to the most basic principles of international law- by a state blatantly assisted and abetted, in this dreadful mission, by the very Western powers who vie to obtain justice, by all means, for EL Hariri even if that means destroying Lebanon and setting ablaze the entire region.
I hope that this “Jasmine revolution” encompasses more just Tunisia to include, among other countries, Egypt, for as long as this important Arab country is secluded from the wind of change, the impact of this supposedly shock wave will be at best minim. Egypt is undoubtedly at the heart of the Arab world. It is the single most geo-strategically important state and its people the most demographically significant and its ruler the most malign one as regard the vital and long term interests of the region in general and the Arabs in particular.
As revealed in the Wikileaks documents dispatched from Cairo by Ambassador Margaret Scobey, Muburak seems, as expected of course, to have his personal interests and those of his foreign sponsors in the West, more at heart than those of his own people. The documents flagrantly reveal the criminal complicity of the Mubarak’s regime in the illegal embargo depriving the Gaza strip from such things as basic commodities and material of construction. A secret report of April 30, 2009 citing a conversation between Omar Suleiman, the head of the Intelligence Service and US Navy Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff confirmed a shared strategic goal between the US, Israel and Egypt in this regard.
Gamal Mubarak, the corrupt and greed-driven son of the senile autocrat, goes even further by stressing that “the battle lines are clearer for Egypt than ever”. In other words, Egypt can be counted on in starving Gaza and killing its children at will. Can there be any worse successor to Mubarak than his coward son?
– Mohamed El Mokhtar Sidi Haiba is a political analyst. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.