Many are closely watching the events in Tunisia, where protesters have brought
down the repressive, half-century old dictatorship that saw one tyrant replaced
The people of Tunisia, like most people in the Arab world,
have never tasted real freedom. In 1987, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali staged a
bloodless coup that unseated one tyrant and placed the future of the country in
his hands. That ended when a young college graduate set himself on fire last
month to protest oppressive government policies, setting off riots and protests
in the streets.
Ben Ali has fled, but his oppressive policies and
government are being absorbed by his political pals, and the call for democracy
and freedom in Tunisia is going unheeded.
Many would like to see the
fires of freedom spread across the Arab world and into Israel, where the Jewish
state enjoys a dual system – full democracy for some and less for
It’s even worse in the Arab world. Although Israel is far from a
perfect democracy, the Arab world is anything but. There are no freedoms in
Egypt, Jordan, Syria or Lebanon, where sectarian violence is again rearing its
ugly head, this time with a Hizbullah vengeance. Lebanon is the Arab country
that has been closest to real democracy, but religious fanatics continue to
threaten that goal.
Egypt is a dictatorship. The so-called president,
Hosni Mubarak, reportedly ready to retire or at least preparing for his own
death, is pushing his son as his successor. Nepotism is a key characteristic of
Arab dictatorships, and Egypt is no exception.
The real threat to the
Mubarak dictatorship is in fact the reason why he remains in control of that
impoverished, oppressed country. The religious fanatics are the only alternative
to Mubarak’s secular tyranny, and they offer an even more frightening future –
devoid of any freedoms.
The fanatics are a gathering storm in the Middle
East, and the only answer so far has been dictatorship to prevent them from
taking control in several Arab countries.
Lebanon is a good example of
how religious extremism from Hizbullah is threatening to destroy the secular
democracy that the country has barely enjoyed. Already, Hizbullah is
slowly taking control.
Elsewhere, Iraq has a puppet government controlled
by the American military – it had elections but it took more than eight months
of American wheeling and dealing to bring them to a semblance of
Jordan is in a precarious position. Ruled by an absolute
monarch, it faces the same religious fanaticism that threatens Egypt. When
confronted with a choice between religious extremists and the existing tyranny
that controls Egypt, Jordan and even Syria, tyranny looks far
That’s the future for the Arab world. Israel could help stand up
to the religious fanatic threats, but its failure to bring peace only feeds the
religious fervor, as Hamas gains in strength each day that peace is not
Tunisia may symbolize a people’s revolt against tyranny and
oppression, but it’s not a pattern that will soon repeat itself in other
countries.The writer is an award-winning columnist and Chicago radio
talk show host. www.YallaPeace.com