Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Tsunami of Arab Nationalism

It still remains unclear whether or not the phrase "tsunami of Arab nationalism" is justified, but with the astonishing image of perhaps 2,000,000 Egyptians all walking calmly through Tahrir Square, "tsunami" is beginning to sound about right. One wonders if we will see soldiers fighting against police goons, one begins to start looking for the next regime to be fired, and one seems justified in asking if demands for liberty will translate into a full-blown Arab nationalist movement.

Freedom for Gaza is the natural next step following freedom for Egypt, but in Gaza, where the whole population has been tortured by Israel’s inhumane collective punishment policy, people are not waiting for the victory of the Egyptian people.

Under Mubarak, Egypt has cooperated closely with Israel in penning Gazans into their ghetto, but, as a result of the revolt in Egypt, Egyptian prison/border guards fled their posts, and it is now Hamas that is keeping Gazans from crossing into Egypt. Gaza’s busy tunnel import operation has also been disrupted, further strengthening Israel’s ability to cause pain with its collective punishment policy. Could Hamas, fearful of getting out in front of Egypt and perhaps even becoming worried about maintaining its own control, get caught on the wrong side of the sudden wave of Arab nationalism? Netanyahu and Lieberman must be laughing hysterically at the thought of Hamas doing Israel’s dirty work by guarding itself, but if Hamas is in control of the Gaza-Egypt border, that should send everyone a very clear message: Hamas is in control. Food for thought in Tel Aviv and Washington, still pretending that Hamas is the one guilty of terrorism.

Cairo sent additional troops to guard the Gaza border, but with the political position of the Egyptian army now questionable, those troops could as easily be used to protect Hamas as to imprison it. Israel should not take too much comfort from their presence.

A rational policy on the part of Washington, if not Tel Aviv, to deal with what is almost surely a new crisis in the making in Gaza would now be in order, but there is, so far, no sign of creative thinking on the part of officials who appear to be in shock and denial, rather than “shock and awe.”

Imprisoning Gazans while freeing Egyptians is a contradiction that will surely become obvious to everyone if the Egyptian people indeed win their battle not just to fire Mubarak but to overthrow the repressive, pro-Israeli ruling elite now symbolized by the newly appointed vice president Suleiman. Yet Egypt is not the only link to marginalized and victimized Gaza, the ultimate symbol of Western oppression of Arabs.

The other link is Jordan, whose population is now at least half politically marginalized Palestinians. A revolt in Jordan will be difficult to organize because the population is, conveniently for King Abdullah, split between Jordanians who hold political power and Palestinians who fled from their land when the European Jewish immigrants formed Israel through the barrels of British-supplied guns. But the Jordanian people succeeded over the weekend in getting their king to fire his whole cabinet and order his new prime minister to pursue a policy of “reform.”

In Egypt, the people’s momentum continues to build. If we have not heard the last of the Arab revolt in Gaza, we have not heard the last of the Arab revolt in Jordan either. If Washington fails to understand this, other countries are perhaps more observant, as suggested by Russian President Medvedev’s January visit to the West Bank and Jordan—but not to Israel, where pugnacious Russian immigrant Lieberman apparently tried to prevent his trip. The lack of initiative and creativity in Washington is opening the door for other countries to exert influence. Washington could save itself enormous difficulty by calling immediately and forcefully for removing Gaza from Israeli control and opening negotiations with an Hamas that is now behaving very conservatively. But no, it will not do so; rather, it will wait until forced by events, and then take steps both too little and too late, trying to block the tsunami of Arab nationalism with rowboats.

1 comment:

Jahn Ghalt said...

I wonder if the Palestinians will ever have their own revolt, toss out their violent leadership and start to play nice with Isreal.

Jahn Ghalt