Voices from the Arab press: the Tunisian revolution will not die!

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

Tunisian protesters demonstrate against the government in Tunis, January 9, 2018. (REUTERS)
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, January 11
Unrest has once again returned to Tunisia, with thousands of citizens taking to the streets in over 20 cities to protest the implementation of new austerity measures by the government, including a new value-added tax.
Tunisia has long been lauded for its ability not only to recover from the upheaval of the Arab Spring but also for introducing democratic reforms into its political system. Yet it seems as though not everyone in Tunisia interpreted the meaning of the 2011 revolution in the same way.
Some interest groups viewed the calls by the Tunisian people for greater liberty as a pretext to replace the old and corrupt regime with a new crooked one. They took advantage of the political vacuum in the country by quickly rising through the ranks. They eliminated their opponents and sought to hijack the revolution for their own political gains.
But the Tunisian revolution is not some passing fad that has been forgotten. A young generation of Tunisian men and women fought to free their country from the hands of an oppressive regime led by ousted president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, and they will not sit idly by as new despots try to take over. Tunisia’s youth, especially its student groups, are extremely sensitive about the political climate. Gone are the days of cronyism and deception.
Just as the people took to the streets seven years ago to protest injustice, Tunisians are once again sending a clear message to their leaders. It would be foolish to test their resilience or to undermine their calls for change. History has already proven that when leaders ignore the will of their people, especially in Tunisia, they are quickly shown the door. The current demonstrations are a stark reminder of the fact that the Tunisian revolution will never die!
– Samir Hamdy
Al-Ayyam, Ramallah, January 10
Several weeks ago the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 organizations whose members will be barred from entering Israel over their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This might appease the Israeli public, but it will not change the simple fact that Israel remains the most hated country in the world.
I have been to numerous international conferences and meetings hosted by multilateral organizations – from Asia to North America – and at all of them the Israeli representatives were extremely unpopular.
Even when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives bombastic speeches in front of the United Nations General Assembly, he is often surrounded only by his closest aides and a few rabbis who are brought in.
There is no reason to pity the Israelis, as Netanyahu brought the situation upon himself. Over the past few years – and especially since US President Donald Trump entered office – the Israeli government has made it clear to the world that it has no interest in implementing the two-state solution. Netanyahu and his racist ministers seek to establish a Jewish state on all of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is easier today than ever before, given that the White House has lost interest in the Palestinians, with new Middle East envoy Jared Kushner being more pro-Israel than Israeli leaders themselves.
What we desperately need is for the Arab world to wake up from its slumber and put Israel in its place. Sadly, given the positions of Saudi Arabia and Egypt on the Jerusalem declaration, it is highly unlikely that anything will change. But in the meantime, Israel will continue to be ostracized, neglected and pushed aside. Normalization will not come until the Palestinian people are finally allowed to live in freedom.
– Jihad al-Hazen
Al Jazeera, Qatar, January 9
A tape published by The New York Times last month revealed Egypt’s tacit acceptance of US President Donald Trump’s Jerusalem declaration. In the recording, Capt. Ashraf al-Kholi, a senior Egyptian intelligence officer, is heard promoting Trump’s decision and suggesting that the Palestinians make do with Ramallah as their capital.
Have no doubt: this tape was not leaked accidentally. In fact, I would bet that it was released to the public by none other than Egypt’s president. Why? Because Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has become uninterested in the opinions of Egyptians, about whom he no longer cares.
Sisi’s strategy is very simple and straightforward – namely, to strengthen his regime by gaining as much international support as possible, especially from Trump. To do so, he has already handed over two Egyptian islands to the Saudis; made major concessions on territorial disputes with Sudan; and now, by fully embracing the American stance on Jerusalem.
By leaking these reports, Sisi is attempting to prove to his patron, Trump, that he is a loyal follower of America. Indeed, he is so committed to aligning Cairo with Washington that he isn’t even afraid of making his positions known to the public.
If these were normal times, perhaps Sisi’s strategy would have worked. But his actions come when the American president is under heavier fire than ever before. Trump is facing a federal investigation into his team’s alleged collusion with Russian officials during the presidential race. Furthermore, a book describing Trump’s misdeeds during his first year in office has just been published, shedding light on the embarrassing manner in which he runs the White House. Finally, the United States is becoming increasingly embroiled in the North Korean mess. Overall, this leaves very little room in Trump’s agenda for Egypt’s interests and concerns.
Sisi is playing with fire, and he will be burned when he least expects it.
– Wael Kandil
Asharq al-Awsat, London, January 12
US President Donald Trump decided once again to extend the nuclear deal with Iran for a period of a few months, while warning that this will be the last waiver he signs before reimposing sanctions on the country.
But this was not cause for celebration in Tehran. In recent weeks, the mullahs have come under heavy fire. Despite the regime’s brute use of force against protesters, antigovernment demonstrations are entering their fourth week. The Iranian economy has also taken a huge hit with the plunging value of the rial. Concurrently, one of Iran’s largest oil tankers, docked off the Chinese coast, caught fire last week, generating flames that could, according to experts, last for a full month.
I have said this before and I will say it again: the protests in Iran are a dramatic development that could impact the stability of the regime. Granted, the people alone will not bring down their government. Iran has shut down social media platforms, disrupted Internet connectivity and cracked down on activists through its elaborate intelligence agencies. But coupled with mounting international pressure and Iran’s dire financial situation, the current upheaval could bring about change.
This process can be slow or very rapid – it is hard to predict. But it remains clear, beyond any doubt, that the Iranian regime, which has ruled the country for over four decades, will not be able to continue ignoring calls by the younger generation for reform. Iran’s continuous adventures in the region, its involvement in extraterritorial conflicts and growing pressures both at home and abroad will eventually take their toll on the mullahs.
The current developments are much more dramatic than they are being made to seem. We must closely monitor the events unfolding in Tehran and elsewhere in the country.
– Abdulrahman al-Rashed