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.