Activism and the Arab uprisings

If same organizations don’t support the Arab revolts with same vigor they condemn Israel, they will be proven hypocritical and morally bankrupt.

Tahrir is packed (R) 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Tahrir is packed (R) 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
As the world watches the Arab world, one gets the sense that we are again witnessing events which will change history. Everyone knows this is a very dangerous scenario for Israel. Here we are, the only democracy in the Middle East, hated by most of the Arab countries and watching from the sidelines, in fear of what might be.
One thing everyone seems to agree on is that there’s still a long way to go until the region stabilizes.
There’s still plenty of anger in Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Jordan. Despite the dozens of articles penned by “experts,” no one knows when or how these uprisings will end. Even in the nations where there have been initial “victories” – Tunisia and Egypt – no real change has come, at least for the citizens. There are now renewed demands by protesters in both countries, and the armies in control are reluctant to give in.
Right now, all eyes are on Libya. Anyone with a grasp of history knows that, for decades, Muammar Gaddafi was playing the role Iran is playing now – by calling for Israel to disappear, supporting terrorism, engineering attacks, manipulating his neighbors and wishing for weapons of mass destruction.
He became a favorite of the West after he caved and renounced those aspirations. He was rewarded with a mass influx of foreign investment. Watching Gaddafi’s bloody reaction to his uprising, one can only conclude that the Cold War strategy of leaving dictators alone as long as they don’t bother the West must end.
Make no mistake; this wave of protest is enabled by communication technology – Internet, clandestine websites, message boards, Facebook and cellphones. Gone are the days when the message is completely controlled by the governing party.
When information is bounced off a satellite, it’s impossible to regulate.
WHAT MAKES matters even more complex is the fact that the same technology used to organize the revolts and get pictures out to the world is what keeps many businesses running. As so much of global trade is done in cyberspace, shutting down the Internet means freezing commerce, and that’s something few nations, even dictatorships, can afford.
The channels are open and many in the Arab world are watching for messages, but the questions are complicated – what kind of messages should be delivered, and who will be delivering them? For this, we should not be expecting governments to provide answers. Conventional diplomatic efforts are not what’s needed in these web revolutions.
They’re fine for the official policies, but the process is too long and drawn out, not to mention the fact that the dissidents might have a hard time believing what other leaders say on the record.
Now is the time for all the nonprofit organizations to rise to the challenge and support democratic change in the Middle East, especially in the harshest totalitarian regimes like Iran and Libya.
If you are an activist for democracy, you should be throwing your support behind the aspirations of the people who want freedom of speech, freedom of religion, women’s rights, gay rights, children’s rights and human rights. We know that the record in the Arab world on all these is abominable. That suppression is now leading news broadcasts around the world, and topping the public agenda for the first time in history.
You want change? Now’s the time to show it, and the Internet is the way to reach people. Show the protesters that there is hope they can “live like a human being,” as one Libyan dissident put it after facing fire from Gaddafi’s assassins.
THERE’S ANOTHER aspect as well. It’s no news to anyone that one of the problems facing Israel is the fact that more and more groups from across the spectrum are successfully convincing people in the West that it is politically correct to condemn the Jewish state. They use lies to paint our country as an evil apartheid regime which constantly violates human rights. Many even call us an illegal state, with no right to exist. There have already been thousands of articles written exposing these fabrications, but now more than ever is the time to show the comparisons between Israel and the Arab world.
When raising the issue of countries which are despotic and illegal, you just have to look at some of the nations where uprisings are taking place. Libya and Syria are two excellent examples of countries which were arbitrarily carved up by the British and French after World War I. They are run by brutal dictators who haven’t thought twice about quashing any semblance of human rights.
If the same organizations don’t come out and support the Arab revolts with the same vigor they condemn Israel, they will have been proven to be hypocritical and morally bankrupt.
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 York.