Their Heavily – Armed Democracy

Their Heavily – Armed Democracy

We take for granted persistently recurrent phrases in the Western media and keep repeating them blindly in our Arab print, broadcast and visual media. The most serious of these allegations is that the Israeli state of occupation is the only democracy in the Middle East, a fallacy promoted by the West, which created Israel in our Arab region sixty three years ago. What has this false democracy which is bristling with arms done during more than six decades other than capturing land by force, delaying the course of development and plundering the wealth of the Arab world, provoking sectarian strife and debilitating all Arab societies?

The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, was the guest on BBC s programme Hard Talk , and I felt that the host, Stephen Sakur, asked the person who uses weapons today against our Palestinian children our relevant questions.

Asked why Israel wanted a $20bn extra weapons package for its army in spite of its false claim that it sought peace he said The price of peace is very high to us, and this extra armament provides an additional security shield which strengthens our position in peace negotiations management!

That scene made me feel how Israel s real image has been made up. Contrary to what is maintained about it, it was not created for a people without a land on a land without a people. The Palestinian people have for thousands of years been exercising their right of living on their land even when it was part of the Ottoman Empire before being put under British mandate, which created. Israel. In this way, the British gave the land of Palestine which they do not possess to immigrant Jews from around the world who do not deserve! The Balfour Declaration therefore marked the start of the occupation of the Palestinian territories and conflict over it, which cost our Arab nation such wars that blocked its domestic development plans, while Israel has been using war and peace as an excuse to increase its military arsenal and stockpile of nuclear weapons in order to maintain its false democracy.

Events and news every day confirm how false Israel s democracy is, even within the narrow margin Knesset members are allowed. We still remember the majority voting of a Knesset committee against MP Hanin Alzoabi last summer because she dared to share in the Freedom Flotilla designed to break the blockade imposed by Israel against Gaza strip in 2007. Her parliamentary immunity was lifted and her diplomatic passport seized and she stood trial as a terrorist. That led her to say, Israel, the home of democracy, has become the home of racism and incitement. There s no democracy in Israel, and we move within narrow margins of democracy which Israel is trying to undermine.

The last henchmen of colonialism

In that way, Israel has maintained its presence as the last henchman of extremist colonialism. After an age of independence which the Arab peoples are celebrating, the occupation state remains as the West s spearhead in the face of the East s barbarianism , as the ardent Zionist Osechkin said to convince the (British) empire in its twilight years of the feasibility of the Israeli project. The countries which succeeded the empire continued the role of defending the only democracy in the Middle East against such concerns as terrorism, fundamentalism and such other trumped-up charges.

Israel, that extremist national and religious entity which the West claims to be the only democracy in the Middle East, finds itself today in the midst of Arab popular uprisings against dictatorship and oppressive regimes in neighbouring countries. It is nervous and concerned by the fall of some regimes that used to support it, such as the Egyptian and Tunisian regimes, and the instability of other similar ones. It does not support peoples who seek freedom and the right to live in a democratic society enjoying peace, security and development. This is the type of society supposed to match Israel s democratic society promoted by the West for over sixty years! It is the kind of false democracy in the face of the movements of peoples seeking democracy and freedom by increasing military budgets significantly, undermining the credibility of the battle for democracy in the neighbouring countries and offering hidden resistance against it. Israel is doing this to conceal its false democracy and remain alone claiming democracy and freedom, eliciting sympathy and support in the face of Arab dictatorships.

We had high aspirations and great expectations in the 1960s and 1970s, but these are modest today, as things on the ground have changed as the rightful owners of land land themselves seek negotiations and make concessions and have signed agreements with occupation forces secretly and publicly.

We should not forget the negative impact on Arabs of inter-Arabs conflicts caused by dictatorship and oppression. Instead of presenting a united front against their historical enemy, Arabs have been torn apart by strife. Furthermore, the regimes created by the West to support or turn a blind eye to the Israeli occupation pointed their weapons at their peoples to silence them so that Israel would remain the only democracy in the Middle East as maintained by the West which failed to support popular revolts against the corruption of some Arab regimes.

Towards a modern state

In 1956, i.e. fifty five years ago, Arab American economist Charles Philip Issawi said the socio-economic soil in the Middle East was still not deep enough to help political democracy grow and flourish. What is needed is not just constitutional or administrative reform or change of the government machine or individuals but also to adapt an out-of-date political structure to suit the new balance of power, thus reflecting the relationships among all levels of society.

Dr Charles Issawi (1916-2000) is the real father of the economic history of the Middle East as a field of research. He has helped at least two generations of scholars and students to better understand the modern Middle East. He was president of the Economic Association of the Middle East (1978-1983). Born in Cairo to Syrian parents, he spent his childhood in Egypt, Sudan and Lebanon before travelling to Oxford where Albert Hourani was a fellow student. After World War II he taught political science and economics at the American University in Beirut (1946) and travelled later to the USA and joined the UN and was engaged in carrying out surveys of the economic conditions of the Middle East region. In 1951, he started teaching economics at Columbia University in New York and for half a century he was an economic theorist for the region where our Arab nation lives.

Issawi s (old) view is still highly relevant even after half a century since he wrote about our need for a major socio-economic transformation to develop society and enable it to bear the weight of the modern state.

It s a necessary development though not a sufficient condition for real democracy in the region. It s also necessary to exert the forces which transform the Middle East properly and step up efforts to improve communication, build schools and achieve cultural and spiritual unity as far as possible. This is likely to bridge the gap between different linguistic and religious groups. Similarly, efforts should also be stepped up to improve the economy of all countries to raise the general standard and create such opportunities that help individuals free themselves from the grip of tribe, family, and village, he said.

A pertinent question here is : Why did Issawi and the later generations fail to induce our Arab top officials to respond to this demand positively? In point of fact, part of the problem lies in domestic mechanisms, but a large part is attributed to foreign factors, on top of which is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has largely contributed to such a failure.

The reasons behind our backwardness

Military budgets are increasingly consuming a large part of Arab national budgets with a high disproportion between education, research and culture on the one hand, and the defence budget, on the other. Except for the unfinished October 1973 war, weapons were only used in futile wars.

In addition, large sections of our population are entangled in a viscious circle: education, the labour market, unemployment and poverty. Such impoverishment inflicted on them by the regimes on the pretext of having to struggle against a foreign enemy (which the regimes made up and cooperated with in security and trade) had a damaging impact on basic development, excluding Arab universities from the list of the world s top universities.

The cost of peace which some Arab regimes sought with the Jewish state earned it more political, military and economic power to the detriment of Arab economy and Arabs welfare. The Egyptian gas issue, which became the focus of attention before the collapse of the Mubarak regime, has become a public opinion issue, confirming this weakness in the face of Israel. This Egyptian gas has for years been exported to Israel for less than a third of the price paid by Egyptian citizens, which cost Egypt s national budget $9m daily and, according to Israeli officials, saved Israel $10bn annually. That amount, no doubt, could have contributed significantly to the development process in the Arab world if such agreements had not been made on the pretext of maintaining dubious stability, thus depriving Arab peoples of their rights in favour of a state falsely claiming to be democratic, but has in fact looted land, history and wealth!

Moreover, these bilateral agreements with the expansionist state have undermined pan-Arab cooperation for various reasons and caused such division that led to further backwardness of our Arab nation and held back the development process based on solidarity, integration and contribution for the prosperity and welfare of all Arabs.

The West makes its relations with us conditional on our tolerance to systematic usurption of our legitimate rights and acceptance of its arbitrary demands. We have also fallen prey to the West and lost our Asian and African position with all its human and natural resources and huge markets which offer a real alternative that can contribute to the prosperity of our Arab region which is not poor in resources or lack the will to act. Division is threatening the political borders drawn by colonialism which itself is attempting to change. There you are! Sudan is giving up its South in a West-backed referendum.

Moreover, Nile basin countries building dams on the Nile with support from Israel are reviewing the agreements made with Egypt and Sudan which give them historical rights in the Nile waters. These two examples show the attempts being made by several parties to infringe upon Arab rights with overt support from the so-called the only democracy in the Middle East.

I wouldn t like here to put forward new recommendations to be added to the hundreds of recommendations shelved by our joint Arab organizations, primarily the Arab League. It is too late to avert bakcwardness; however; there is still hope in enhancing development.

The 63rd anniversary of the fall of Palestine and creation of the Jewish entity on its territory coincides with a movement spanning the length and breadth of the Arab world rejecting such realities that are no longer appropriate. Therefore, all Arab authorities and peoples should reconsider their approaches at all levels, internally and internationally, and carry out programmes for comprehension rebuilding on the basis of freedom, wealth and self-determination for the people alone. Likewise, we should start laying the foundations of progress to stamp out the Israeli democracy in the Middle East fallacy.

The real start of sustainable development is made when we learn the lessons of the salutary experience of division, in order for one word to return to drive us to work: future.

The future requires that we establish real democracies dedicated to the welfare of their peoples. We can t secure a place in the future unless we are seriously engaged in the sustainable development process for all Arab peoples and at all levels of society. What I d like to stress here is that the rise of real democracies is a signal of the fall of false democracy, on top of which is Israeli democracy.


Sulaiman Al-Askary

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