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Arab street’s loud message

WHAT’S the difference between democracy and dictatorship? Answer: the difference between South Africa and Egypt, between Nelson Mandela and Hosni Mubarak.
Last week as Egyptians, brutally suppressed in the last three decades under the heels of an unrepentant dictatorship of 82- year old Hosni Mubarak, poured out onto the streets of Cairo and Alexandria, millions of South Africans held their breath praying for the recovery of their 92 year-old icon, Nelson Mandela. The Egyptians were protesting with their feet and fists for an end to the undignified rule of Egypt’s 21st-century pharaoh; the South Africans were beseeching heaves to grant a longer life to their self-effacing saviour and national hero.
That’s the real difference, not only between ruling with bayonets and bullets in one instance and with the power of the ballot box in another, but also between treating a people like trash, in one case and with dignity and decorum in the other.
It doesn’t matter how much longer a frail Mandela lives on the strength of his grateful people’s prayers. He has carved his place in their hearts and will live in their memories, and those of their succeeding generations. That’s how statesmen who place their people before themselves ensure their place in history.
By the same token, it doesn’t matter how many days, weeks or months Hosni Mubarak survives on his tottering throne with guile and deception. But he has lost the battle and is history, already, because he always put his myopic interest above the larger welfare of his people.
Mandela was already an icon when he was set free from the prison of an apartheid regime. He could have stayed on in power for life, as is the fashion with our Arab potentates. But he wasn’t after power for power’s sake. He stepped down after just one term in office, but ascended in his people’s esteem to a pedestal where his place will be secure forever.
Hosni Mubarak, the tyrant who paled the pharaohs of antiquity in hubris, treated his people like serfs. So, now, they are out in hundreds of thousands, to tell him that his game is up and he’s as good, or bad, as a ghost searching to rediscover the pinnacle of power he occupied for thirty long years.
The problem with dictators is that they pathetically become prisoner to their own petty wiles. Their ‘belief’ in their capacity to beguile others becomes so hardened that they take it for granted they could fool all the people all the time. So Mubarak is still trying to take his people for a ride. On his nation’s bleeding wound he still thinks a band-aid would be good to stanch the flow of blood.
That’s how typically cut off from his people’s sentiment he is that he thinks his commitment to not run for another term in office, later in September this year, would be good enough to mollify the enraged millions of Egyptians.
However, the Egyptian people would have none of this nonsense. They have had enough of an autocrat who thought he could ignore his people and survive forever keeping his hat in the ring of his western mentors, principally the US. There may be economic suffering aplenty for more than half of Egypt’s 80 million-plus people under Mubarak’s dictatorial rule.
But the agenda of those enraged Egyptians still camped in Cairo’s popular Tahrir Square isn’t, basically, of bread and butter alone as the western gurus have been straining at their eloquent best to articulate. No, much more than bread it’s for the Egyptians, as it was for the Tunisians before them, a matter of their honour and dignity. That’s the point Hosni Mubarak and his erstwhile western mentors have been missing.
The Egyptians are the proudest of all Arabs. With them it’s not only the inherited legacy of heroic Arabs who conquered the Land of the Pharaohs within years of Islam breaking out of the confines of the Arabian Peninsula. They are also the proud inheritors of that glorious history of Pharaonic Egypt that exuded so much radiance for the world in antiquity.
But Hosni Mubarak — and before him Anwar Sadat — sold the dignity and honour of proud Egyptians cheap to the Americans and the Israelis in return for a billion dollar-plus annually, much of which never seeped down to the Egyptian man-on-the-street but was salted away by the families of corrupt cronies of the tyrant. Mubarak, in particular, made the proud Egyptians a laughing stock in the extended Arab family.
It was wrenching, not just for ordinary people but also for Egyptian intelligentsia — diplomats letting their hair down and articulating their feeling of hurt in unguarded moments of small talk with this scribe in diplomatic outposts — that Mubarak and his henchmen had no regard for the suffering of the Palestinians bleeding under the Israeli yoke. Mubarak dragged the Arab sense of brotherhood and camaraderie into dirt by implementing the Israeli agenda, without demur, and consigned the hapless Palestinians to the daily grind and torture of Gaza’s open air prison.
The western pundits might think the tipping point for the Egyptians to pull the rug from under Mubarak’s feet was reached as they took lessons from the Tunisian episode. But it was reached soon after the savage assault of the Israelis against the bedraggled Palestinians of the Gaza Strip — in December 2008-January 2009 — when the Americans were preparing for transition from Bush to Obama, and the war-mongers in Israel made hay of the opportunity.
Mubarak simply refused to make life any easier for the cooped-up Palestinians of Gaza and soon after the Israeli blitz agreed to build an ‘iron wall’ running deep into the earth to make sure the Gazans wouldn’t be able to tunnel through it. The Egyptians woke up to the cold-heartedness of their pharaoh and realised he was an enemy of the Arabs as a whole. That was a far greater betrayal of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s proud Pan-Arabism than Anwar Sadat’s sell-out at Camp David.
It’s pathetic and patently hypocritical of Team Obama to suddenly don the mantle of partisanship of the Egyptian people over their tormentor. So it ought to be infuriating to the ears of any self-respecting Egyptian to hear Senator John Kerry suddenly discovering that Mubarak’s ‘window-dressing’ would no longer do the trick to keep the Egyptians muzzled and in chains. For three decades Kerry or anyone else in his league, never bothered to think that whatever Mubarak was hawking was not democracy.
How ludicrous that Obama and Hillary Clinton are pining for an ‘orderly’ and ‘meaningful’ transition to democracy but still reluctant to serve the marching order on their archaic client. They are as ignorant and out of touch with the rage of the Egyptians as Mubarak holed up in his opulent palace. What nonsense is this orderliness when the Egyptian people have spoken with one voice, nay roared, for the world to listen to them and heed their demands? Their call, loud and clear is unequivocal and vociferous: Mubarak has to go, and go now. End of argument.
The American concern, as much as that of their allies in Israel and Europe is that the maligned Islamists, epitomised in western minds by Muslim Brotherhood, Ikhwan al Muslimeen, shouldn’t be allowed to seize the momentum of change and ride to power. At the back of this chest-beating is the western fear that it might upset the strategic partnership between Egypt and Israel.
The Ikhwan are in no hurry to reveal their hand. They are contented that whenever the Egyptians vote freely they will garner their lion’s share. So for the interim they may even not oppose a moderate like Mohammed Al Baradei, who is quite familiar to the West, although the Americans and the Zionists don’t quite trust him because as head of the IAEA he was quite critical and unsparing of Israel.
There are clear signs that the shock-waves set off by the Tunisian tremor aren’t going to fizzle out in Egypt but would certainly travel to Sudan, Yemen and Jordan. And who can rule out the ripple effects turning westward to a restive Algeria and a not-too-stable-Morocco, either?
The western pundits are already fretting that this great awakening on the Arab street is heading in the direction of bringing down those faux ramparts of security, rooted in an archaic status quo, that propped up authoritarian regimes.
This anti-people agenda of the West was crafted nearly a century ago by the likes of an imperialist Winston Churchill and slithering sleuths like Lawrence of Arabia. For a century it has been the bane of Arab peoples, while it has empowered tin-pot dictators and, worse, implanted an alien outgrowth like the Zionist Israel in the bosom of the Arabs to sap their resources and rob them of their dignity, honour, and self-respect.
The first Arab revolt, of WWI vintage, was against alien rulers of their lands. This uprising is to bury that oppressive order that had robbed them of their dignity and made them serfs to western puppets in their midst.
So it doesn’t matter whether Hosni Mubarak is still in Cairo or looking for refuge in some brotherly Arab capital, by the time these lines were read. Mubarak is history, and so will other stumbling stooges like him soon be. The age of the Titans with feet of clay is over.
Tail-piece: An old Arab diplomatic colleague has just sent me an e-mail: the joke making the rounds in Arab capitals is that the Saudis are worried they may soon run out of guest-palaces to shelter deposed Arab dictators. They may embark on a crash construction spree for more palaces to house antique rulers.

Related Link: Are the Muslim Brotherhood Actually Bad for Egypt?: 

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