We might be in the midst of a revolution in the Arab world. The status quo might
be shifting. Heads might roll in Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan and the
West Bank. Maybe.
And that’s a big maybe. The uncertainty hasn’t stopped
the flood of opinion pieces from pundits who are coming out with their
politically- charged take on recent events. But if you’re looking for real
analysis, readers should try to stick to the facts.
Some of the biggest
headlines came out of Lebanon. Many saw the appointment of Najib Mikati as prime
minister-designate as a huge blow. Hizbullah and its allies Syria and Iran have
managed to take power by installing him. Of course we should be concerned, but
it’s not as if his ousted predecessor, Saad Hariri, was a friend of Israel. He
condemned us at every turn, allied himself with Hizbullah, and has given the
group a free hand across the country. Hizbullah was most likely involved, along
with the Syrians, in killing his father, the former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Saad is such an “important” leader to the West; he wants to bury the UN report
about his father’s assassination. So in Lebanon, the more things change the more
they stay the same – certainly as far as Israel is concerned.
some knowledge of history know the secret of Hizbullah’s success and how it got
a good chunk of its power. By providing social services to many of the
impoverished Shi’ite civilians, the group can then get their political support
for its hateful anti- Israel/anti-West manifesto.
That lesson was lost on
many of the Arab dictatorships, which continued to make it harder and harder for
their citizens to make a living.
Let’s face it, when a person is making
an average of $2 a day, like in Egypt, something’s got to give when the
government raises the price of basic foodstuffs as much as 50
Hasn’t that been the pattern of revolutions throughout history?
Common folk are abused under dictatorships until the situation reaches a boiling
point, when people spill out onto the streets demanding the despots step down
and reforms be enacted. Sometimes it works, but often the changes are cosmetic,
or the demonstrators end up with an even worse situation.
So far, there
have been no real repercussions in Yemen or Jordan. As for Egypt, the country
seems to be collapsing into anarchy and Hosni Mubarak might be on his way out,
but this is not the first time the country has seen these kinds of
demonstrations. The infamous “bread riots” in 1977 saw more than 800 people
killed, but the status quo remained.
What has actually happened in
Tunisia? True, its former dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali is gone, but now the
army is in control. The interim prime minister is trying to schedule elections,
but what happens next is anyone’s guess.
YET THERE are many pundits who
would tell you that this wave of revolt is really an extremist conspiracy led by
Iran/al-Qaida/Muslim Brotherhood/Al Jazeera (fill in the blank) even though
there has been no evidence to back such a claim. There’s no question Israel must
be very concerned over what is happening in the Arab countries – but journalists
and columnists alike are jumping the gun when it comes to
Indeed, the X factor in these scenarios is Al Jazeera,
which has become the most important media outlet in the Middle East, if not the
world. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. It’s just the fact on the ground. The
Palestine Papers story has been a real conundrum for Israeli “experts,” who just
don’t know how to digest it.
Some folks on the Left like it because it
shows that the Palestinian Authority can be a real partner for peace and is
willing to help us against a common enemy like Hamas.
On the other hand
some say it strengthens Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s position because, at
the moment of truth, PA President Mahmoud Abbas didn’t agree to the
On the Right, it’s the same story – some like the PaliLeaks
because they make Tzipi Livni and Kadima look like they can’t get the job done,
while others hate them because they show Israel in a bad light and weakens
Netanyahu’s claim that he, with his bloated coalition, can achieve
One prominent right-of-center columnist even made the argument
that the whole story was false, and that Al Jazeera changed the leaked
documents, is really an agent of the extremists and is trying to bring down the
PA. I wonder if that same columnist was making the same claims when the station
was widely covering last year’s riots in Iran? When the Israeli media report on
corruption and incompetence in the PA, do they also want Hamas to come to power?
It’s a moot point, now that former prime minister Ehud Olmert has made public
his version of the negotiations with Abbas. It looks like there might be merit
to the Palestinian Papers. The fact that Netanyahu was unwilling to pick up
negotiations where Olmert left off is another story. Truth is, Al Jazeera
reminds me a bit of “Voice of the Arabs” – the notorious Egyptian radio station
which broadcast propaganda and cultural programs under Gamal Abdel
The station was very popular, and became the main vehicle for the
expression of Arab identity.
Unfortunately, Al Jazeera is almost as
skewed against Israel.
So what’s really going to happen in the Arab
world? I doubt there’s really anyone out there who’s willing to bet on any
answer. One thing I will make an educated guess about is that nothing will
change as far as these countries’ attitudes toward Israel are concerned. Their
hate of us is too engrained by decades if brainwashing.
The best we can
hope for is a cold peace.
What should we be saying? As little as
This time, there’s nothing to gain by speaking out. The Arab
world might be burning, and it’s our job is to keep as far away from the flames
as possible. When events get so big and out of hand, no one knows what the
future may bring. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
The writer is an
independent media consultant, an adjunct lecturer at IDC Herzliya’s School of
Communications and a former producer at the Fox News Channel in New