By: Maher Al Junaidy المقالة بالعربية
If we were to go by Arab traditions that tell us we should not undermine the power of our enemies, then today we must reconsider Shimon Peres’ thoughts on the New Middle East. In other words, his thoughts on the subject should take their proper place in the historical sense, as seen through the region’s events over the past couple of decades.
It is naive to believe that, when he presented his idea, this militarily veteran with strong international presence, be it intellectually, politically or economically, was nothing more than a conspiring, weak-minded man looking for a loophole in the wall of “Arab steadfastedness and rejection in the face of imperialistic and Zionist conspiracies and reactionary treachery”. Most likely he interpreted well the ever growing contradictions boiling within Arab communities and the shifts that neighbouring countries may be exposed to as a result. He may have wanted to act proactively by drawing an escape route for these countries and their authoritarian regimes, while also harnessing his vision to exempt Israel from facing a new enemy potentially looming in the horizon, a cunning and very real enemy this time; the awakening of the Arab peoples.
Undoubtedly the man has been observing the events witnessed by Arab communities since the final quarter of the last century. He must have read about the doubling of the population and the speculations that Arab populations will increase from 173 million in 1980 to 352.2 million in 2009. He must have also reflected upon the United Nations reports that anticipate an increasing youth bulge that will reach 73 million in 2015, even if fertility levels continue to fall. At first glance these figures may represent a quantitative increase only, but in reality they also reflect a qualitative change in the demographics of the enemy facing Shimon Peres. This in addition to the ever-growing unemployment rates among the academically qualified youth, whom he mentions in his book as part of the efficient labour force required for “His New Middle East”.
But Peres’ calculations do not match those of the Arab revolutions. Case in point: Engineer Wael Ghonim, a member of the Arab youth Peres mentions in his book. Ghomin, smiled upon by lady luck and fame, is one of the main organisers of the 25 January 2011 revolution, the owner of “We are all Khaled Said “page on Facebook and author of “Revolution 2.0”. In an interview with Charlie Rose, one of the most widely viewed American broadcast journalists, Ghoneim did not mince his words, “The US have, for many years, taken the side of its own interests, even if it comes at the price of the values.. Egyptians are the best ones to decide on their fate because it will be based on the interests of Egyptians and that’s it..”
The youth of the revolution also had their own unequivocal opinions about diplomatic relations with Israel in toto represented by their stance toward the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the supply of Egyptian gas to Israel, for example.
The bottom line is that Arab communities during the first decade of the 21st century differ radically from those of the last quarter of the 20th century. Not only in terms of the new demographic composition and the modern open communications available to them, but also in terms of their disappointment with traditional resistance practices represented by the PLO and Hamas. And most importantly, in terms of the proverbial fig leaf finally falling off the sectarian drenched resistance forces in Lebanon and the Syrian regime’s use of resistance policies to justify oppression.
A new awakening; perhaps not fully crystallised as yet, but an awakening that has no boundaries.
In fact, achieving a historic shift in the Arab-Israeli conflict and pushing Israel into a corner where it has to make concessions, rein in or even dismantle its aggressiveness, has become a legitimate and attainable target for the new Arab communities and the nascent democratic authorities in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and soon in Syria – if these regimes can formulate genuine national security strategies that take into account the interests of country and people, state and citizen, not those of the regimes and ruling junta. Perhaps the first task will be to prevent Israel from advancing toward a “Jewish state” with all the dangers that this would entail – the most important of which is the justification of the emergence of religious, sectarian states in the region.
Facing Israel’s insolence, intransigence and arrogance, let alone dismantling its aggressiveness and racism, requires a completely new set of resistance and enmity plans. Plans that are based on emerging realities on the ground and emerging forces of conflict, and on adopting policies that do not retreat internally leaving the international cultural, intellectual, economic and scientific arenas to be played by the Israelis alone. Rather it is hoped that these plans would adopt highly innovative methods that Israel would not know how to face, putting the fate of the Jewish state truly to the test, and making the speeches of Ahmadinejad and his ilk seem like vocal grenades that merely entertain Israel.
These new revolutions are not simply coups against outdated exclusionary coercive despotic regimes whose objectives have become clear to all as has their failure to implement their promises. Rather these revolutions are about building new and alternative strategies, policies, practises and expectations that will lead to the creation of countries that truly represent their citizens, and the emerging social structures in all its colours, young men and women, poor and disadvantaged.
We can truly say that this time – and this is not a call – there exists “Our New Middle East”, one that we can bet on against “Their New Middle East”. One that awaits us to take on the responsibility of becoming key players not false witnesses to decayed coercive autocratic dictatorships founded on sectarian resistance.
Published by Al Hayat, London, 24 February 2012.