The fear of freedom

As the train of democracy gathers steam in Egypt, there are those nearby who seem eager to throw themselves under its wheels.

No doubt an observer such as the Israeli historian, Benny Morris, is vain enough to imagine that he is not about to get run over but, on the contrary, hopes his grave warnings will encourage others to seize the train’s brakes and prevent an imminent catastrophe.

What is more likely to happen is that we will only need wait a matter of months before Morris and fellow fearmongers will be exposed as hysterical fools or intellectual rogues.

Morris believes that those of us in the West currently intoxicated by the glorious vision of democracy taking birth in Egypt, have only been able to indulge in such emotions because we don’t understand what Egyptians really want.

Alas, I fear, Westerners will see what most Egyptians actually think and want if and when the country holds free and fair general elections (perhaps in September-October). And I fear that they will be surprised—perhaps even shocked—by the results, and by what the Egyptian masses then say about what they actually think and want. I fear that at that point, “Death to Israel,” “Death to America,” and “Allahu Akbar” will drown out every democratizing and liberalizing chant.

But by then the genie will be well out of the bottle; by then, it will be too late.

Trapped inside a misanthropic Zionist mindset, Morris seems incapable of recognizing that at the core of the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the driving force is not ideological. It is a universal and human demand for respect.

Sensing themselves newly visible on a world stage, ordinary Tunisians and Egyptians stood up, individually and collectively, and said: we refuse to be treated as less than human. We are reclaiming the dignity that is everyone’s birthright and will no longer tolerate the abuse of brutal rulers or the indifference of foreign powers. We demand to be heard and respected.

To the extent that the call from the dignity revolutions is being heard far beyond the Arab world, it resonates most with those who to differing degrees and for different reasons, share the same experience. That many of us live in democracies does little to diminish a sense that our governments do not represent our interests. And that so many of our fellow citizens respond to this reality with indifference only makes us envy the courage and imagination of people who do otherwise as they rise up, declare and discover: we have the power to change the world.

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7 thoughts on “The fear of freedom

  1. Colm O' Toole

    Interesting views on display by Morris the hack historian:

    “Alas, I fear, Westerners will see what most Egyptians actually think and want if and when the country holds free and fair general elections.”

    To which, I’ll reply by quoting someone Morris probably admires Winston Churchill.

    “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

    One of the things about Democracy in the world is that it can sometimes led to people other countries don’t like getting elected. Doubt much EU or American officials liked the fact that Israel elected Likud and racists from the settler community like Avigdor Lierbman. Should we therefore support a military coup in Israel (until they vote right).

    Also remember that much of the World wasn’t to happy when America elected a dumb religious fantatic as its 43rd President (twice). Is that a reason for the world to try and topple a US President because he is not to the International Communities liking?

    Of course Morris the hack historian is all for letting Americans and Israelis choose who they want to govern even if it causes radical neo-cons or radical settler colonialists to get power. But those Egyptians shouldn’t have the right to elect people because they might vote for those who shout “Allah Akbar”, “Death to Israel and “Death to America.”

    Also can someone please tell me why Americans can vote for people who talk of “bombing Iraq into the stone age” but Egyptians cannot vote for people who shout “Death to America” ?

  2. James Whitney

    From the point of view of someone who wants to “transfer” the Palestinians out of any part of British mandate Palestine that the Israeli leadership wants to possess (Benny Morris is one of these), I think such a person is right to fear any move toward democracy in Egypt or any other country near Israel.

    It is likely that a democratically run nearby country will support the demands of Palestinians who want to live in peace in their ancient land, and that would entail among other things an end to the “peace treaty” with Israel which means non-interference with any Israeli action which denies Palestinians their basic rights. That would be a great defeat for the current Israeli leadership.

    Of course when Morris evokes chants of “Death to Israel” etc. he is just indulging in pandering to the worst unjustified fears of of a lot of people: in general Egyptians want basic liberties for themselves, not a religious dictatorship or actions against Jews. In this respect it is worth reading the historian Gilbert Achcar’s book whose English title I believe is” The Arabs and the Holocaust”, one of the best accounts of the history of political thought in the Arab world. In this book, as a little bonus, he includes a short essay on Benny Morris’s conversion to advocating the ethic cleansing of Palestians.

  3. dickerson3870

    RE: “Trapped inside a misanthropic Zionist mindset…” – Woodward
    MY COMMENT: Sadly, “there’s the rub” in a nutshell!

  4. rosemerry

    Benny of course is an expert on Arabs. Only one democracy in the ME, only one country has the right to exist. 85 million Egyptians who have had no say in government policy and of whom 40% live in poverty must go on under a dictator because Israel needs to remain rich, secure and “democratic Jewish”. Religious Jews can wield immense influence in Israel (and evangelical Christians in the USA) but religious Muslims are all fanatics and should not participate in democracy.

  5. Norman

    Isn’t this like the pot calling the kettle black, even though the kettle is new, while the pot is old? The Israelis are guilty of practicing ethnic cleansing re: the Palestinians, yet try to project what they do, upon others who are yet to feel the fruits of their power. Every regime should be nervous today, especially in the M.E., but also in other countries as well, both with democracies & without.

  6. Christopher Hoare

    Well Morris, isn’t it somewhat hypocritical to speak against democratic elections for Egyptians when the Israeli government is pleased to promote so-called elections for its illegitimate puppet government of the Palestinian Authority?

    Watch this West Bank charade of electioneering by goon squad — the new American trained “Savak” of the Dayton battalions. The first act of viable resistance has been the resignation of Saeb Erekat as pretense ‘negotiator’ for the staged ‘peace negotiations’ — it’s not yet enough. The Palestinians are as much under the thumb of a dictatorship as were the Egyptians, but with a bit of support they too could throw off these Western created gangsters.

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