Motse Shabbat 29th January 2011
I was asked an excellent question today. “What is more dangerous, an Arab dictatorship or an Arab democracy”? I believe the latter.
Jonathan Mann of CNN suggested that the situation in Egypt bears no resemblance to that of Iran during the reign of the Shah. “Egypt has an educated middle class and has known many years of freedom, even under Mubarak” and what does he think Iran was like during the time of the Shah? Iran was a dictatorship, and not necessarily a benign dictatorship, but it was not a religiously oppressive country either. Business and education thrived and relationships with the West ensured modernisation.
The greatest mistake the West makes is to assume that democracy ensures freedom; democracy cannot ensure freedom unless those elected into power honour the rights of all their subjects. Carter did it in Iran by removing the Shah (unquestionably a tyrant) and after student and popular rebellion he installed the Ayatollahs giving them the power and finances to wreak havoc in the West and control the Arab world. That mistake brought us Hezb-Allah , the demise of Christian Lebanon and Hamas, Islamic Jihad and, indeed Al Qaeeda.
We are faced with a popular revolution, with good cause, against the dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak. However if the West, led by the United States, does not enter the fray NOW we may see Egypt go the way of Iran. Diplomatic and economic support for Mubarak under the proviso that he hold elections within 6-8 months may just save the day. Promises of reform and extra financial aid to the poor to appease the middle class instigators could just defuse the situation. Mubarak is not a good man, but he is a leader who has kept his country from war, built a strong economy and held the fundamentalist threat at bay. Mubarak is a pragmatic leader; the tough broker for peace in the region, who growled “Chtom ya kalb” (sign you dog) when Arafat threatened to walk out of talks with Israel after days of negotiations; it is Mubarak who is acting as the go-between for the West to the Arab world.
If US influence is important and since the USA gives no less than $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt the situation presents a rare opportunity to demand protection for the Egyptian Christian community which has been decimated to the silence of the media and apathy of our leaders.
Changes have been made in government and Egypt’s former air force chief and minister for civil aviation, Ahmed Shafiq, has been designated the new prime minister by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and asked to form the next Cabinet, and Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman was appointed vice president, a position that has been vacant for the past 30 years
With 500,000 soldiers the army is very much part of Egyptian society, maybe one of the few elements which binds them; most families have someone in the Egyptian military. The police are patently absent from the crowd control situation, hated by the populace for their sheer everyday brutality.
Wisely Prime Minister Netanyahu has distanced himself and Israel from the Egyptian arena. The last thing we, or Mubarak, need is to make this about the Arab Israeli conflict.
May G-d protect them and us from extremists and death-wishers
For those who like percentages and statistics
The Moslem Brotherhood is the strongest opposition bloc which presents greater problem since there is no charismatic leader to take over from Mubarak leaving these fundamental extremists waiting in the wings.
Recent polls of the Egyptian population suggest that-
30 % are pro Hezb-Allah
49 % are pro Hamas
20 % are pro al-Qaeeda.
82 % want stoning for those who commit adultery;
77 % want to see whipping and hands cut off for robbery or theft;
84 % favour the death penalty for any Moslem who changes his religion.
27 % support modernisation while 59 % want traditional or fundamental Islam:
That means that a popular revolution is unlikely to bring democracy –