Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Warning: Adult language.

SO everyone will be blogging about this, I suppose. But there are some things that simply have to be said from a middle eastern point of view--and I'm lucky enough to have that.

I think the first thing that has to be said here is that Mubarak is either stupid (which I doubt) or there's a piece missing here. Today "pro-Mubarak protesters" came to "challenge" the pro-Democracy forces. They came on camels and horses, with whips, machetes and Molotov cocktails.

Hmmm. That might be the first indicator that the Mubarak side is inherently problematic and dictatorial--its supporters come armed! It reminds me of the so called "Peace-flotilla" that left Turkey armed and has caused a rift in Turkish-Israeli relations.

 Ladies and gents, fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity. Worse, culturally, we do both!

But then...

Then things got really interesting, because the violence began just in time for the Army to come in and "quell the violent protests"--because, of course, one cannot quell peaceful protests.

And this is enough stupidity on the Mubarak regime side to keep everyone laughing (if it weren't so incredibly sad to watch people being violently attacked--and so far one killed, officially-- for trying to achieve some autonomy) for the rest of the new millenium.

But then I got a file from a friend. I can't attach the PDF that was released at a briefing at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy this morning, so I am going to insert jpgs of the PDF, instead. As I was told, this was a rushed translation and is rough--but the idea comes across:

Really? I have to wonder, at this point, who thought writing this plan down in an age of wikileaks was a good idea.

It's simple. when a regime has used force to control its population, and has been tacitly allowed to do so, it cannot cope with peaceful protest except through force. Egypt has been oppressing its people violently for so long that violent repression is all Mubarak knows! And thanks to the US, the world has simply looked away. It's easy to be stupid when one has become complacent.

The 60s civil rights movement photos of people being bitten by dogs and controlled with water canons are perfect examples. The control had been violent (burning crosses, bombed churches, police brutality) and been tacitly acceptable for decades. When it stopped working, when faced with peaceful protest, the controlling class responded with violence.

But the Egyptians know that the world looks down on violent response to peaceful protest. If anyone learned anything from Tiananmen Square, it's that sending a tank against unarmed people is the best way to lose (because it makes an astounding image on the nightly news--for years).

So what does a violently repressive regime do when faced with peace-seeking revolt? It creates a violent situation to justify a violent reaction.

This will end well or poorly. 

Poorly will be the quiet, calm surrender and return to power of the oppressors.

Ending well will require a long fight, will lead to more protests in more Arab countries with oppressive regimes, and will require a great deal of mass mobilization and momentum.

Breaking momentum is what Mubarak's actions were about today. They may, sadly, work. People may decide to stay safe, now that there are thugs, machetes and Molotovs involved.

But maybe there's something we can do to help the momentum. If, instead of trying to maintain stability, as is the modus operandi of the US in the Middle East (BTW, that's also why the "piece" process will NOT work as it is); if the US stops trying to control--as Mubarak is trying to control--there is a chance.

If individual Americans--individual world citizens, for that matter--find a way to encourage and assist quietly and peacefully, if we can help the masses maintain the momentum of peaceful protest, the entirety of the Middle East stands a chance.

It will take upheaval. It will take instability. It will take time. 

And it will fail under any other circumstance.

As an Israeli who's been to Sinai (the best place on earth for snorkeling), I can only hope that the people of Egypt gain the autonomy they are hoping for. I can only hope that the members of the Arab world who stand in solidarity can bring the same autonomy to their own lives. 

That is the only hope--life in a society of freedom, where interactions are controlled by law, are evenly applied to all, and are part of a social contract voluntarily entered into by all.