Posts Tagged Arabs

Arab democracy blooming from Spring, but not what you’re thinking

An item in the International Herald Tribune reveals that Jordan is beginning to develop a genuine civil society that is independent of Government. What has led to this? Well, not the common people rising up against their dictator — King Abdullah is one of the Arab rulers who looks to be emerging from the “Spring” mostly unscathed. Also, if there’s one lesson from the past year, it’s that in most cases the Arab public do not want democracy and will not vote for progressives or reformists — rather, they overwhelmingly support the Muslim Brotherhood.

The civil society that I am referring to, in fact, comes from the hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the carnage in Syria and one very wealthy Jordanian man whose conscience couldn’t bear to see them suffer.

Jordanian Donors Privatize Relief –

RAMTHA, JORDAN — Nearly every day, Thaer Al-Bashabsheh drives his BMW to the end of an unmarked road in Ramtha, in the northwest of Jordan, to check on the hundreds of refugees who occupy a five-building apartment complex donated by his family to house people fleeing from Syria.

In the past four months, aid workers say, more than 10,000 refugees — mostly from the southern Syrian city of Dara’a and central Homs — have made their way through the camp. Mr. Bashabsheh says one woman, who arrived with a bullet wound in her shoulder, recounted how she had been carrying her 3-year-old son when government forces shot him in the head, the bullet going through his skull and out the other side through her shoulder.

A 25-year-old man who died of a heart attack at the border is buried in the Bashabsheh family cemetery.

“When I’m go through the camp teardrops come to my eyes because I see kids my son’s age. It kills me to see them shoeless and dirty,” Mr. Bashabsheh, 36, said in an interview. “There’s a guy who lost his leg, and I see an old man, 95 years old, who cannot move and is sitting under the shade of a tree.”

“This is not a life.” …

The family subsidizes the camp for Jordan’s Interior Ministry at a personal cost of about 280,000 Jordanian dinars, or $395,000, per year. They also provide food, water, clothing and cigarettes for those who have fled President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, Mr. Bashabsheh said. The camp is supposed to hold only 600 people, but at one point it overflowed with 2,000 refugees, according to local news reports.

“You know, daily, my father is taking from the bank 1,000 Jordanian dinars, going to the camp, coming back in the night” without a dinar left in his pocket, Mr. Bashabsheh said, puffing on a Cuban cigar.

As I have mentioned many times, elections are the final step towards democracy and not the first. Steps like wealthy Jordanians feeling obligated to spend their personal money helping those less fortunate is a step towards democracy. This is the start of the classic Hobbesian “social contract”, whereby the society is united by common values and the ruling class is a part of that society and not a separate entity that spends its time consolidating power and wealth (as is the case in the vast majority of Arab states).

This idea can be exemplified by people like Andrew Forrest, the mining magnate who today outlined his new initiative to employ Indigenous Australians. He laments the decades of well-meaning enslavement of our Indigenous community through keeping them poisoned through welfare and not affording them accountability for their own actions. Instead, he is taking them into his company on his own initiative and giving them the skills they need for the dignity of being productive citizens.

Work is the key to living free of the curse of welfare and shame |

There will be some who will dismiss this great cause if I neglect to mention an important truth. A truth I have seen best taught by Aboriginal elders, leaders and scholars – some of whom are in this room.

I understand what they are saying to me: “When it comes to having the respect of others, being Aboriginal is not an achievement in itself”. It is not a right, a reward, or anything else that one earns by effort. It is a simple fact of birth which can be upheld with respect or cheapened by the actions of the indigenous individual. The same is true for all of us.

Those parents of Aboriginal youth who stereotype their own people through misbehaviour cannot turn a blind eye to the impact of their example. Nor can they blame anyone else. The family unit so deeply and traditionally honoured in indigenous culture means elders and parents take responsibility. No longer can they say: “There are no jobs, there is no place for me.”

The expectation is no different for Aboriginal people than for every other Australian. No segment of our society can excuse or blame bad behaviour on Aboriginality.

But we must make sure that the opportunity to work is well and truly there, and our expectation of their duty just the same as for any other Australian.

Of course, Forrest has been made a nemesis by Treasurer Wayne Swan, who figures that he — not Forrest — should be determining how Forrest’s money should be spent (probably on more welfare).

Meanwhile, as the Project on Middle East Democracy has reported, Tunisia is also seeing an incredible amount of civil society activity and looks to be the only Arab revolution that may actually lead to democratic rule. The situation in Tunisia is largely because Tunisia has been the only Arab country that did not elect an Islamist majority in Parliament — the ruling Ennahda party has had to form a coalition with secular groups. This is more proof that the centralisation of power is the enemy of freedom, a lesson that many in Australia could do well to learn.

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How to really help Africa/International Women’s Day-after

Our friend Joseph Kony totally overshadowed International Women’s Day yesterday — which is a horrible thing to do, add that one to the list. Also, a lot of people criticised me for being too negative about Kony because I was “trying to stop people to take action”. But more on that later. Anyway, I thought I would post a few items that would have been relevant yesterday while also making a few positive suggestions of campaigns that would help Africans more than wearing a Kony armband.

1. The “Girl Affect”

The crux of this is described in the following moving infographic:

Or much more eloquently by Nicholas Kristof in a recent New York Times Magazine article:

The Women’s Crusade –

if the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater. “Women hold up half the sky,” in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that’s mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized, and it’s not an accident that those same countries are disproportionately mired in poverty and riven by fundamentalism and chaos. There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

And it can be found on Facebook.

2. Holding Islamists to account

The downside to that Kristof piece was this:

Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room. That’s in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls’ education in countries like Afghanistan — and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls’ schools in his best seller, “Three Cups of Tea.” Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

This almost certainly confuses cause and effect. The “Islamic teachings about infidels or violence” are, by and large, the reason behind the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force. I particularly dislike calling these teachings “Islamic”; they are not Islamic, they are Islamist. I have spoken to plenty of Muslims who have explained to me in detail why there is nothing Islamic whatsoever about not educating women and slaying the infidels.

Moreover, the denial of Islamist discrimination is an example of a third-worldist well-meaning condescension. This leads to the kind of situation described yesterday by Isobel Coleman, Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at Council on Foreign Relations:

Why the Arab Spring Hasn’t Been Better for Women – Isobel Coleman – International – The Atlantic.

One theme is that women played an essential role in the Arab world’s uprisings, only to be marginalized once transitions began. Moushira Khattab, a former Egyptian ambassador to South Africa and minister of family and population, writes that women joined men in calling for freedom in Tahrir Square. Since then, though, “the train of change has not only left them behind, but has in fact turned against them…

Dormant conservative value systems are being manipulated by a religious discourse that denies women their rights.” Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner and human rights activist, says flatly that “the ‘Arab Spring’ is not an accurate description” of what has occurred. She notes that after Iran’s revolution, “a dictator fell from power, but a religious tyranny took the place of democracy.” The uprisings will only be fulfilled, she argues, “when women achieve their rights.” For many, the rise of traditional and religious-based politics is deeply harmful to women. Rola Dashti, a former member of the Kuwaiti parliament who lost her seat in the election last month (in which Islamists surged and no women were elected), says that “women’s presence and participation in public life–specifically in politics, decision-making positions, and state affairs–moved from marginalization during repressive regimes to rejection with Islamist regimes.” She pulls no punches when it comes to moderate Islamists: “the promotion of moderate Islamism by Islamists in power is nothing more than a hidden agenda of radical and extremist ideologies when it comes to social issues and citizens’ rights, especially as it concerns women.” Rend Al-Rahim, who served as the first ambassador to the United States in Iraq’s post-Saddam government and now runs the Iraq Foundation, says that “the retreat in women’s rights has more to do with the resurgence of patriarchal, narrowly conservative social mores embedded in ancient tribal customs than with religion. Sharia is only a convenient peg for the deeper instinct of male dominance.”

I’ll also throw these two videos in while we’re at it:

3. Mentorship

A little less international relations focussed for a second (well not really, but anyway), some interesting ideas came to light in this post on the Council on Foreign Relations site:

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action » Ask the Experts: Where Are the Women in Foreign Policy?.

There’s a gap in the types of tasks women and men are assigned early in their careers. Intentionally or not, women tend to given more administrative or support work rather than policy or research work; path dependence takes over from there. I recall a prominent scholar regularly asking his female research assistant (RA) to pick up his dry cleaning and take his car to the shop—things he didn’t ask of male RAs.

There’s also a mentorship gap. Young women have trouble finding men willing to act in that capacity because there are few mechanisms to develop the rapport that underlies a good, productive mentoring relationship.  Conversely, men may be concerned about how a mentoring relationship will be perceived and shy away as a result. But mentors are vital for opening doors and offering suggestions and feedback about career choices—efforts that are particularly valuable in the foreign policy world.

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Having your cake and eating it too on United Jerusalem

Nathan Diament from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America writes on uniting Jerusalem in the Atlantic. Some of the arguments that he uses (which are by no means his original material) really tend to bother me; the more religiously motivated Jews have a way of making extremely disingenuous attempts to sound like they are reasoning objectively, when they are quite transparently creating these arguments after-the-fact as a way to justify their ideological beliefs.

The Case for a United Jerusalem – Nathan Diament – International – The Atlantic.

The reality, however, is that Jerusalem today is a demographically intertwined city. To be sure, there are neighborhoods, particularly east of the security barrier, where Jews seldom venture. But modern-day Jerusalem is far more an interwoven checkerboard of Jewish and Palestinian enclaves. The Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa, for example, lies between the Jewish neighborhoods of Talpiot and Gilo, while the Arab neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah lies between the Old City and the Jewish neighborhood of French Hill. Separating these neighborhoods between two countries would create an unwieldy and unsustainable border.

What he is saying has some truth to it, but only if you are trying to draw a line that cuts every Jewish neighbourhood from every Arab neighbourhood. If there is some wiggle room so that maybe some Arab neighbourhoods are absorbed into Israel and others are handed-over, then there is no longer such an issue with dividing the city. After all, Diament is pretty adamant that keeping the Arabs in Jerusalem is a good thing (look at this map to see what I mean, although it has been carefully designed to make the Israelis look bad so don’t read too much into it). Also, it’s not a coincidence that some of the Jewish neighbourhoods cut Arab neighbourhoods off from one another – in many cases, that was why they were placed there.

The other argument that really irks me is the one below (emphasis mine):

One significant reason against dividing Jerusalem is that many of the Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem wish to remain under Israeli sovereignty. Recent polling indicates that, despite the fact that municipal resources and services have not been evenly allocated between Jewish and Arab Jerusalem segments of the city, a plurality of Palestinians residing in eastern sections of Jerusalem would move from Palestinian Jerusalem to Israeli Jerusalem, if given the opportunity, should the city be re-divided.

The hypocrisy in this this argument is unbearable. Diament is not for a second criticising the poor treatment of Arabs in Jerusalem or demanding that they are allocated resources evenly, and yet he is trumpeting the fact that even though we treat them badly, we’re not quite as bad as the alternatives. Now that’s a hasbarah line that can sell!

Israel: sure we treat our Arabs badly, but we’re still slightly better than an Arab dictatorship.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. If you truly believe in uniting Jerusalem, then start working to unite it. That means reaching out to the Arabs and including them in Israeli society; it means advocating for equal treatment and equal allocation of municipal resources; it means finding money to make up for the years of neglect and bring their infrastructure up to the same standards as the Jewish residents; it even means allowing Arabs to buy land in Jewish areas.

If you aren’t comfortable doing that but you are still adamant that we cannot cede one inch of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, then the reality is you are not arguing for a united Jerusalem, just a Jewish-controlled but segregated one. That is something that I am a little uncomfortable with. Of course, this is in fact what Diament wants. He reveals his true argument near the end of the piece.

Proposals for joint sovereignty, deferred sovereignty, or even divine sovereignty ignore the deep-rooted significance of the holy city. The search for a “split the difference” compromise also ignores the fact that the Old City of Jerusalem has been the national capital of the Jewish people for the past 3000 years and is Judaism’s holiest site, while it is Mecca that plays that role for Muslims. The international community would never expect the Islamic world to cede sovereignty over Mecca; the Jewish people ought to be accorded no less respect with regard to the Old City of Jerusalem.

See, what he does right there is say that our claim over Jerusalem is stronger than their claim because it’s our number one whereas they have their number one already. That’s not quite how religion works. I don’t see many Jews saying “well, I guess the Mearat Ha Machpelah is less important than the Kotel, so we can give them that one and keep the more important one”. You can’t barter over who the site is more holy to, it’s holy for both and that’s pretty much as far as you’ll get.

Plus the Mecca comparison doesn’t hold up. Fortunately for the Muslims, Mecca is not claimed by two other religions. That said, I can definitely see a future where Shiite Muslims start demanding that Sunni Muslims cede control over Mecca and it’s administered by a joint Muslim authority rather than just Saudi Wahabbis.

The point is, Diament does not really want to keep the Arabs in Jerusalem and he doesn’t really want a united city. He doesn’t particularly care whether or not Muslims have access to their holy sites, which are not quite as holy to them as they are to him anyway, or so he says. No, he believes that Jerusalem was given to us by God and that means it should be a Jewish -controlled city. Arabs can live there if they want, but they can’t expect us to make it easy for them, they should just be grateful that they aren’t living in Syria or something like that.

Ironically, there is one point that he was completely right about, only he doesn’t seem to be doing much to change this:

One reason peace in the Middle East has not yet been possible is because most efforts to achieve it have been aspirational but untethered from reality

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Covert racism and the people we don’t want to know about

Sobering stuff from former South Sudanese Slave Simon Deng. Here is a record of the things that the world tends to ignore through our “we don’t care about black people” policy.

If you’re about to tell me you do care about black people, I call bullshit. The $20 you threw into a Somalia aid relief basket does not count. Look at this, I bet you had no idea this kind of thing was happening:

Everybody at the United Nations is concerned about the so-called Palestinian refugees. They dedicated a separate agency to provide for them; this agency, UNWRA, treats them with a special privilege.

Meanwhile, my people, ethnically cleansed, murdered and enslaved, are relatively ignored. The UN even resisted using the word “slavery” to describe the enslavement of tens of thousands of my people. Why? Because slavery is a crime against humanity, apparently no one committing it wanted to end up before an international court. When Khartoum insisted that the term “abducted people” be substituted for the word “slaves,” the UN, caved to Arab pressure and agreed. Try that in America. Try calling Frederick Douglas an “abducted person.” It is outrageous.

The UN refuses to tell the world the truth about the root causes of Sudan’s conflicts. Take Darfur, for example. Who knows really what is happening in Darfur? It is not a “tribal conflict.” It is a conflict rooted in Arab colonialism, as it has typically been practiced in Africa. In Darfur, a region in the Western Sudan everybody is Muslim. Everybody is Muslim because the Arabs invaded the North of Africa and converted the indigenous people to Islam In the eyes of the Islamists in Khartoum, the Darfuris are not Muslim enough. And they also do not want to be Arabized. They like their own African languages and dress and customs. They resist Arabization. The Arab response is genocide. But nobody tells the truth about Darfur.

In the Nuba Mountains, another region of Sudan, genocide is taking place as I speak. The regime is targeting the black Africans — Muslims and Christians. This happened to the Nuba people before. In the 1990’s hundreds of thousands were murdered; a large number of women were raped; children were abducted and forcibly converted to Islam. Nobody at the UN told the truth about the Nuba Mountains.

See? We don’t care about the Africans.

Look at the pages of the New York Times, or the record of the UN condemnations, What you will find is “Israeli crimes” and Palestinian suffering. My people have been driven off the front pages by the exaggerations of Palestinian suffering. Why? Because what Israel does is portrayed as a Western sin that we are all supposed to address.

The truth is that the West commits a real sin when it abandons us: the actual victims of non-Westerns. Our suffering has become almost taboo.

And there’s more. We also don’t care about atrocities carried out by Arabs. We care about things done to Arabs, but not about things they do.

That means that when Arabs do things to each other, we’re in an awkward position. We don’t know whether we should care, so we care selectively. We care about Libya and Egypt but not Bahrain and Syria. We don’t particularly care about Arab women, but we will jump to defend Muslim sensibilities.

And while we’re navigating this convoluted web of post-colonial guilt and patronising racism, this kind of thing is happening to people like Simon Deng:

I was only nine years old when I was made a slave. An Arab neighbor named Abdullahi tricked me into following him to a boat destined to Northern Sudan where he gave me as a gift to his family. For three and a half years I was their slave going through something that no child should ever go through: brutal beatings and humiliations; working around the clock; sleeping on the ground with animals; eating the family’s left-overs. During those three years I was unable to say the word “no.” All I could say was “yes,” “yes,” “yes.”

The United Nations knew about the brutal enslavement of South Sudanese by the Arabs from the early days of the conflict. Human Right Watch issued extensive reports about the issue. These reports gathered dust on UN shelves. It took UNICEF – under pressure from the Jewish –led American Anti-Slavery Group — sixteen years to acknowledge what was happening.

As soon as the Sudanese government and the Arab League pressured UNICEF, the UN agency backtracked, and proceeded to criticize the Non-Governmental Organizations that worked to liberate Sudanese slaves. In 1998, Dr. Gaspar Biro, the courageous UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan who reported on slavery, resigned in protest of the UN’s actions.

And who do we really care about?

Well, it’s been going on for millenia and why break a good tradition? The Jews of course.

So, yes … my claim may be a radical claim: I claim that the victims who suffer most from the UN’s anti-Israel policy are not just the Israelis but all those people who have to be ignored in order for the UN to tell its big lie against Israel: all those victims of non Western abuse, especially all those victims of Arab and Muslim abuse: women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, homosexuals, in the Arab and Muslim world. These are the biggest victims of UN Israel hatred.

Everyone reading this is racist (you don’t care about black people), sexist (you don’t care about Arab women) and totally ignorant (you have no idea what’s really going on in Africa and in large parts of Asia). I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.

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So apparently the Arab media concentrates disproportionately on Israel!

Who’d have thunk it, right?

Gulfnews : Outdoing Israel in brutality

Funnily enough, comparing the number of Arab people killed during the wars between Israel and Arab countries with the number of Arabs killed locally, one will notice that Arab dictatorships have killed more people.

That’s hilarious.

In fact, it’s almost like the Israelis have been saying that for decades. So what exactly have the Arab media been glossing-over?

Other Arab despots are reported to have asked their security forces to aim their guns at protesters’ heads. Have you ever seen an Israeli officer torturing a Palestinian civilian to death in the street for everybody to see? Definitely not. Many of us have seen that in some Arab towns lately.

…It is true that Israel is forcing an embargo on Gaza, but I do not think that the Israelis are preventing the Palestinians from getting their daily bread, whereas the security services in some Arab countries stopped cars carrying food from entering certain areas. Nor are the Israelis cutting off electricity, telephone and other communication services from houses, hospitals and schools.

It has been reported that the security services stopped nurses and doctors from treating the injured during certain Arab demonstrations as a punishment for rising against the ruling regime. The thugs contracted by the police to help quell protests went even further. They shot at ambulances.

Unlike in some Arab countries, Arabs living inside Israel can organise sit-ins very comfortably. And when the Israeli police intervenes, they never beat demonstrators to death. And if we compare how Israel treats Shaikh Raed Salah with the way some Arab dictators treat their opponents, we will be horribly surprised, as the Israelis are very much less brutal.

So the Arab media has spent years exaggerating Israeli crimes, whilst allowing their own people to commit far worse and it took mass-riots sparked by a guy who set himself on fire for them to realise it.

It would almost be funny if there weren’t so many people dying as a result…

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Israeli Apartheid in action!

An Israel Candid Camera-like show decided to test Israeli reactions to anti-Arab discrimination by filming in a store with two planted actors – one macho looking Israeli sales clerk and one Arab woman in a Hijab trying to buy coffee.

The reactions of the people in the store are all amazing to watch – all become outraged, most scream at the employee in typical Israeli fashion and one seems to be taking an “it’s none of my business” approach, but with a twist.

YouTube – What Would You Do – Racism towards Muslims in Israel ? – Jewish Unity Project.

EDIT: the person that sent me this sent another video to qualify. This post is not to say that there is no racism in Israel – I have previously written about how, unfortunately, this is not entirely the case.

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Who is condescending who on Arab democracy

The opinion pieces dealing with the Arab world this morning from The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald come from complete opposite viewpoints, but each accuse the other of being condescending and helping to stereotype the Arab people and so perpetuate their dictators. In the SMH, New York Times commentator Nicholas Christof writes that anyone who doesn’t assume that these protests will create democracy is applying a “crude stereotype”:

Arab World In Turmoil | Civil War In Libya.

Is the Arab world unready for freedom? A crude stereotype lingers that some people – Arabs, Chinese and Africans – are incompatible with democracy. Many around the world fret that ”people power” will likely result in Somalia-style chaos, Iraq-style civil war or Iran-style oppression.

That narrative has been nourished by Westerners and, more sadly, by some Arab, Chinese and African leaders. So with much of the Middle East in an uproar today, let’s tackle a politically incorrect question head-on: are Arabs too politically immature to handle democracy?

I’m not too sure I like the way he backs-up his argument:

The common thread of this year’s democracy movement from Tunisia to Iran, from Yemen to Libya, has been undaunted courage. I’ll never forget a double-amputee I met in Tahrir Square in Cairo when Hosni Mubarak’s thugs were attacking with rocks, clubs and Molotov cocktails. This young man rolled his wheelchair to the front lines. And we doubt his understanding of what democracy means?

In Bahrain, I watched a column of men and women march unarmed towards security forces when, a day earlier, the troops had opened fire with live ammunition. Can anyone dare say that such people are too immature to handle democracy?

I can dare say that. These examples no doubt show tremendous courage, but why is that the same as being able to handle democracy? I don’t understand how a man rolling his wheelchair into the front lines shows that he understands democracy. If Kristof can write for one of the leading newspapers in the democratic world and not understand democracy, why is understanding assured for a brave, somewhat handicapped, Egyptian protester?

Maintaining a functional democracy requires voting rights for all citizens; the rule of law; an independent executive, legislature and judiciary; the ability to criticise those in power; a free press with which do to so and an army/police force that will maintain the rule of law and protect all of the above-mentioned rights. How exactly this relates to marching unarmed into a massacre I’m not entirely sure.

David Burchell in The Australian explains this kind of viewpoint very eloquently:

Libyans failed by Left orientalism | The Australian.

What seems obvious about the young Libyans in the streets of Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli – like young Iranians and Egyptians, and quite possibly many Syrians and Saudis too – is that they no longer want any truck with those miserable self-serving fantasies of Arab victimhood and Zionist sorcery. Instead, they merely want to live – as Said was lucky enough to do – in a “normal” country, where their persons will be treated with dignity and their views with respect. But about how to create such a country, beyond toppling statues and setting fire to police stations, they have been left almost totally in the dark – partly through the agency of their own rulers, and partly by us.

The “miserable self-serving fantasies” he is referring to specifically come from Arab-American intellectual Edward Said, who created the theory of “Orientalism”, which basically explains that the West in the present day continues a patronising, colonial attitude towards the Orient, despite not actually colonising it anymore, meaning that we feel the need to impose our values and mindset on a people who don’t want or need them.

Said presented a political perspective of almost child-like simplicity: the West, in its domineering ignorance, was forever doomed to “other” the Orient, and to treat it as its inferior, even while Said and his disciples blissfully “othered” the Middle East themselves, as a sepulchre of Arab suffering, in a mirror-image of those they deplored. Said’s acolytes are probably less familiar with the articles he wrote over many years for the Egyptian state press – articles devoid of the criticism of any existing Arab government; (least of all Mubarak’s); and which reduce all the problems of the Arab world to the actions of those two familiar pantomime villains, the US and Israel. You will not be surprised to hear that Said had nothing whatever to say about Libya’s absurd Mussolini imitator, Gaddafi – except to heap abuse upon the US when it responded to the colonel’s various terrorist provocations.

Said reserved special contempt for brave Arabs who criticised the region’s political, economic and social backwardness. As he wrote, in his customary lachrymose tones, in Egyptian state weekly Al-Ahram in 2003: ‘I recall the lifeless cadences of their sentences for, with nothing positive to say about their people, they simply regurgitate the tired American formulas: we lack democracy; we haven’t challenged Islam enough, we need to drive away the spectre of Arab nationalism.’

So according to Burchell, Said and his “acolytes” attach a baseless romanticism to Arabs, meaning that they support everything that they do and assume that they can do no wrong and always know what’s best for themselves, without any need of Western intervention or values, because the West only ever does harm. Ironically, Kristof (and Paul McGeough) seem to fit this description exactly. In fact, it explains why, as I wrote yesterday, Western NGO’s refused to investigate the Taliban for war crimes and only wanted to scrutinise Western forces in Afghanistan.

These dictators are facing criticism now, but I only remember these commentators blaming Israel and the US for all of the Arab woes in the past. At the time, they followed Said’s point of view that Western ideas like secularism and democracy didn’t need to apply to the Arab people. I tend to agree with Burchell – our desire to be optimistic and tolerant is glossing-over the very real changes that these countries need in order to create functional democracies. Hopefully our leaders at least can see this.

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Why Paul McGeough was keeping Geddafi and Mubarak in power and supporting Bin Laden

As usual, Paul McGeough’s weekend missive left me seething for about 30 minutes on an otherwise beautiful Sydney Saturday. It actually wasn’t so bad for a few paragraphs, until, naturally, he started blaming America for everything that went wrong in the Middle East

The Middle East: A region reborn after the dictators

But Gaddafi had oil – lots of it. From time to time, leaders in the West would pay lip service to gross human rights violations in the region, but as long as Gaddafi and his ilk kept the oil flowing and were willing to act as Western proxies in fighting extremism, they could do as they pleased.

The West would buy their oil and arm them, asking for little more than a darkened room out the back, where ”enhanced interrogation” techniques that are frowned upon in the civilised salons of the West could be carried out on the QT.

He even figured that Council on Foreign Relations director Leslie Gelb “entirely ignored the nature of the revolutions” because he observed that the new Arab leadership will probably need to be more anti-Western in order to cater to various groups in their constituencies. McGeough’s quarrel with Gelb is that Gelb “missed the price that the Arab rank and file has been paying under Washington’s and the West’s deal with the dictators”.

That man’s ability to attribute every evil to the “puppet masters” sitting in the White House never ceases to amaze me; neither do the facts that he is still employed and people keep reading his work. He ends his “analysis” by condescendingly dismissing everyone who has doubts that Egypt and Libya are about to turn into Sweden, quoting analyst Fouad Ajami, saying:

”Grant the Egyptian people their right to swat away these warnings,” he writes. ”From afar, the ‘realists’ tell the Arabs that they are playing with fire, that beyond the prison walls there is danger and chaos. Luckily for them, the Arabs pay no heed to these ‘realists,’ and can recognise the ‘soft bigotry of low expectations’ that animates them.”

So apparently expecting that after thousands of years of dictator after dictator, a series of protests is not going to create a democratic haven overnight, is “soft bigotry”, but then expecting them to hate the rest of the democratic world is just common sense. After all, think of the “past crimes”. Luckily, not everyone shares this opinion. Israeli diplomat Dore Gold has pointed out that these revolutions may actually moderate the Arab world.

Protests Across Middle East Leave Israel Shaken –

“For years, Arab leaders who thought they had legitimacy problems because they were not elected played several chords to the populace — Arab unity, Islamic solidarity, and most important, the struggle against Israel. So if you have regimes legitimized by democratic elections and accountable governance, then they will depend less on the conflict for their own internal standing.”

You see, most Arab dictators tended to use Israel and the West as distractions when their people began questioning why exactly these rulers were stealing all of their money. This policy has been very successful, creating a strong anti-Israel and anti-Western sentiment that is perpetuated hugely in the Western Left, meaning that a certain Sydney Morning Herald journalist and his ilk were ultimately helping to prop-up Arab dictators by re-enforcing the idea that it was really the US and Israel causing all of their problems and not the evil asshole sitting in the palace up the road.

In fact, this was the ideology that initially separated Al-Qaeda from the rest of the Islamist extremists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has always been focussed on overthrowing the “un-Islamic” regimes in Muslim countries and introducing Islamist regimes instead. Bin Laden, on the other hand, had the bright idea that the problems of the Muslim world were really a “Zio-Crusader” conspiracy, so attacking the Jews and the Christians wherever they were was the real way to “liberate” the Muslims. This is the ideology that eventually led to the terrorist threat that we in the West face.

So to sum-up, through his decades of embellishing the myth that the problems of the Arab world are solely caused by the US foreign policy and Israel’s undue influence on it, Paul McGeough has kept Arab dictators in power and supported terrorism. Good going McGeough…

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NSW Labor and Arab Dictatorships


By Sydney Morning Herald cartoonist Cathy Wilcox.

I don’t know what I like more about this; that it kind of compares the Keneally government to Qaddafi, the contrast between the fat Aussies on the couch with the brutalised Arab peoples or the way all of our problems with transport, water and power look next to people living in extreme poverty under a cleptocrat who is not above carpet-bombing his own citizens to stay in power.

That said, if you listen to 2GB in the morning you are likely to want to get out there and protest Keneally’s cleptocracy…

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