A different perspective: Rethinking the 'Arab Spring'

One of the most perplexing aspects of the “Arab Spring” is that it does not relate in any way to Israel.

Tahrir Square, Cairo, daytime_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Tahrir Square, Cairo, daytime_311
(photo credit: Reuters)
The primary purpose of journalism is to gather facts hitherto unknown to the general public and report them accurately and succinctly.
There is no place in this sometimes dangerous if not psychologically painful profession for wishful thinking.
Unfortunately, however, correspondents and columnists sometimes violate its unwritten, but theoretically binding rules. That is how the misnomer, “Arab Spring,” was coined. Its authors or proponents, many of whom covered last year’s dramatic developments in North Africa and the Fertile Crescent that began with a fruit and vegetable vendor’s suicide in Tunisia and culminated in the Syrian rebellion attributed these events and the intervening ones in Libya and Egypt to a pent-up yen for democracy and individual freedom.
Their myopia apparently stemmed from an apparently irrepressible fascination with the Arab world. It spawned the baseless and irrational notion that the component countries were entering a new era in which their political systems would mirror those that exist in the free world.
The bloodshed that accompanied the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Salah as well as the brutal repression under way in Syria have exposed the “Arab spring” as an inaccurate media gimmick and a Middle Eastern mirage.
Unlike its misconstrued model, the “Spring of Nations” that dawned briefly in 1848, when that abortive and premature effort to bring democracy to Western Europe occurred, as well as the “Prague Spring” during which Czechoslovakia’s idealistic Alexander Dubcek tried to liberalize his country’s regime despite its status as a Soviet satellite, the “Arab Spring” lacked an explicit political program and had no identifiable leadership.
Incredibly, not a single charismatic or heroic figure has emerged since the Tunisian protest movement caused the ouster of president Zine el- Abidine Ben Ali a year ago.
The subsequent national election brought a moderate Islamic regime to power in Tunis rather than a secular democratic one. In neighboring Libya, the long-overdue revolt against Gaddafi’s weird dictatorship ended in political uncertainty while adjacent Egypt elected a new Parliament nearly 75 percent of whose members belong to the now-dominant Muslim Brotherhood or the even-more extremist and Islamic-oriented Salafist a-Nour party. Syria’s political fate is yet to be determined.
One of the most perplexing aspects of the “Arab Spring” is that it does not relate in any way to Israel. There has been no discussion among its activists of accepting Israel’s existence as an established and militarily-irrevocable fact or of welcoming the benefits that would accrue to both sides from a full-fledged peace.
It has not prompted the two Arab states that signed peace treaties in 1979 and 1994 respectively – Egypt and Jordan – to contemplate closer and more diversified relations, especially in commerce and mutual security.
Conversely, the relatively few references to Israel quoted in interviews with Egyptians demonstrating in Cairo’s Tahrir Square either had disparaging things to say about the Jewish state or called for the scrapping of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty of 1979.
The main issues with regard to Israel continue to be the Arab refugees’ claim that they have the “right of return” to the homes that they or their antecedents abandoned during the 1948-49 war and that Israel must relinquish the areas taken in the Six-Day War of 1967. In addition, hardliners, like the prime minister of the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, insist that all of pre-1948 Palestine is an Arab and not a Jewish legacy. Haniyeh proposed that a “Jerusalem Army” be mobilized to liberate the holy city along with the rest of geographical Palestine in the name of Islam.
(Concurrently, the Arabs who live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip prefer to be called Palestinians and ignore the fact that the Jews of Palestine also were known as Palestinians until Israel’s establishment in 1948).
The foreign correspondents, commentators and analysts who adopted the term “Arab Spring” consistently overlook the fact that there is no historical precedent for these demands.
No country ever permitted a wholesale repatriation of people who fled territory taken in war and no country ever ceded land seized during a war in toto and in advance of a treaty negotiated by the parties concerned.
If indeed there ever was or still is an “Arab Spring,” how could the incumbent mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Hussein, have coincidentally cited the Koranic verse in which the Prophet Mohammed calls on Muslims to kill Jews wherever they may find them?
The writer is a veteran foreign correspondent.