Saturday, February 5

Exit Mubarak - Enter Democracy?

Members of the Kefaya democracy movement prote...
Image via Wikipedia

The Egyptian People's struggle to remove President Mubarak from power over the last couple of days seems to be gaining increasing momentum with pockets of resistance by Mubarak's thugs and hoodlums in a futile last minute attempt to prevent his downfall.

The crowds surging on Tahrir Square grows by the day and its determination to oust Mubarak and his corrupt regime is reaching a climax - how it will end remains unpredictable.

One thing is certain - the Egyptian people have shown their determination to rid their country of an autocratic despot who kept his country under emergency rule for as long as he has been in power. He has oppressed his people and had forged elections to maintain control for 30 years. Much of his opposition has been languishing in jails for many years - tried by Mubarak's kangaroo courts.

The Egyptian People have spoken. They want Mubarak to go now.

Meanwhile, the opposition seems to be united around one aim - the ousting of Mubarak and his exile from Egypt. No compromise is on the horizon yet. The Egyptian people have suffered enough! The lack of employment, rising food prices and immense poverty, despite an Egyptian economy that is attracting many foreign investors, and the wealth accumulated by the Mubarak regime has been a ticking time bomb. The so called financial successes have not trickled down to the Egyptian people.

The US and Israel are supportive of the most repressive and autocratic regimes in the world. Both countries have different reasons for this. The US has vital economic interests in Egypt as well as a window on the Middle East to protect those interests. Israel has another reason - the stability of the Peace Treaty signed between the two countries in 1979. Both countries never showed any concern for the suffering of the Egyptian people under the Mubarak dictatorial regime!

What will be the outcome of the Egyptian People's struggle for regime change is wide open for speculation. In a country of over 80 million people with many different ideologies, there are groups with various differing opinions. There is the Muslim Brotherhood which seems to be the most cohesive but whose power base is largely unknown. Within this group are relative moderates who are pragmatists as well as Islamic extremists. Israel's biggest concern is the maintenance of the peace treaty signed between Israel and Egypt. Rather a cold peace as in the past 30 years than a hot war, which is a matter of concern if an extremist Islamist group fills the chaotic vacuum that exists at present.

Israel should remain on the sidelines and not support Mubarak - even tacitly. Israel must support the progressive pro democratic forces of the opposition the moment this becomes evident. After all the Mubarak era is over and there is no point in supporting the despot who has oppressed the Egyptian people for so long. It would be detrimental to future relations between Israel and Egypt, if not the changing Arab world with which Israel has still failed to improve.

There are signs that the uprising in some sectors may turn against Israel especially from Moslem extremists. On the other hand, the secular people are crying for democracy which is incompatible with Moslem extremism. After the Mubarak era it is unlikely that the Egyptian people will agree to another despot whether he is an Islamic extremist or a corrupt secular leader.

Another point about the uprisings is the relative backseat position taken by the Moslem Brotherhood. It appears that the support it enjoys from the Egyptian people is not as large as many Israelis fear. We are all aware of the "democracy" that its offshoot organization, Hamas, has instituted in Gaza which is under Hamas rule. When order is restored in Egypt under a responsible transitional government, there will eventually be democratic elections under international supervision. The possibility that the Moslem Brotherhood may win these elections is a true concern. They may exploit democratic elections to replace the autocratic Mubarak regime with another autocratic Islamic regime. This, of course, is a great risk. On the hand, the absence of extremist hate filled Islamist slogans in this uprising is an important point to the credit of the majority of the Egyptian people. Perhaps this is a cause for cautious optimism in Egypt's future.

Today the Arab people are in many Arab countries are rising against their despotic rulers and the specter of violent Islamic extremism may not be as large as Israel claims Young Arab people are travelling more to Europe and the US. They see democracy in action enjoyed by their western counterparts that is denied to them. This, undoubtedly, has some influence in the direction of the uprisings in their respective countries.

I once spoke to a Lebanese friend some years ago who was complaining about the difficulties she faced in her  country and her wish that her people could enjoy the essential services that Israel gives its citizens, especially in the health services.

Another point is how the Egyptian People's struggle for a new order will affect the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The Hamas leadership in Gaza should be shaking as well because they are no less despotic than Mubarak and his croneys. The torture of those who oppose Hamas and the hate filled slogans of Hamas against Israel and the Jews in order to detract the Palestinians from their real problems remains the Hamas mantra for deceiving and exploiting their people.

The Palestinian Authority controlled West Bank - the future Palestine - is also not democratic and is being propped up by Israel and the US. There have not been elections there since 2006! The chance of a popular uprising is not as remote as one is led to believe. The Palestinians are not living in a vacuum. What happens in Egypt influences the Palestinians as well. It would be in the interest of both Israel and Palestine if Israel took concrete steps to end the occupation and to facilitate economic development there at the same time.

There is no doubt that Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and possibly Syria, Jordan, and even Saudi Arabia will soon be undergoing dramatic changes in government - hopefully in the direction of true democracy and basic human rights which are non existent. The status of Moslem women must also change for the better. Hopefully, there will be separation of Islam and state where true religious freedom can take its rightful place. There is also a lesson for Israel to learn as separation of state and synagogue is partial.


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