Friday, January 14, 2011


There is deep unrest in nearly all countries of the Arab World. Some of it is connected to the dire economic situation brought about by a combination of repression, ultra-liberalization and corruption, which has made a small group of people absurdly rich and powerful. In order to quell this wave, countries such as Jordan which has witnessed several riots in the past years, have started to subsidized and control the price of food. But there are deeper reasons to the instability, and these will need more than band aid solution and a few trucks of food.

Take Tunisia for example. The hike in the price of basic commodities, especially food, in addition to rampant unemployment may have served as catalysts to the popular uprising, but what is going on goes much deeper than food prices or job crises. It is a loud and resonant “enough” chanted by millions of pulsating throats, in the name of all the Arabs. The dictator’s throne is shaking and with it all the other thrones. His speech yesterday showed how worried and scared he is. And he has reasons to be: today a million people march has been organized in order to topple the regime. The Tunisian people have been spontaneously acting out of despair, and in spite of the tens of dead young people, assassinated in cold blood by Ben Ali's goons. The people in Tunisia are fed up. They have been able to hold their ground in spite of the support offered to Ben Ali by France, the US and Arab regimes; and in spite of the shameful silence of most of the world. Courage. 

The modus operandi of the protestors is unclear (to me) and appears to be diffuse and fluid, without a centralized command center. The use of information technology and social media seems to have been critical as a tool of coordination between the different groups. Cells made up of a small number of individuals are dispersed among the demonstrators. They take concerted action and initiating protests. We may be seeing a glimpse of the way the new popular struggles will be fought. But I cannot help asking myself: what will come after Ben Ali is toppled or forced to resign (if this happens)? While this fluid, structure less approach can prevail in the street, at least for a while, can it produce a political leadership that can take manage a country? This is an important issue, because it begs the ultimate question of “why do we struggle?” Do we struggle to change the regime and replace it with a state that provides social justice? Or do we struggle to topple a dictator, without asking ourselves what comes next? These questions are important for Tunisia, but also for Algeria which is rumbling, for Mauritania, for Egypt where increasing food prices are causing concern and where the people are clearly rejecting Mubarak’s bid to bequest his throne to his family, friends or to Coca Cola.

In Lebanon the opposition (March 8) has sunk the national entente government. The US (and France) are clearly siding with the March 14 who are, one must admit, generally better dressed than the March 8 people. The goal is to destroy the Resistance, led by Hizbullah, so that the Arab dictators can continue to rule and oppress their people. The Resistance, both in 2000 and in 2006, showed the Arab people that one is as strong as one’s will. This does not please Arab dictators, it does not please the US and Israel who want tame and sheepish ay-rabs. Destroying the Resistance is also a precondition to “normalization” with Israel, meaning that Israel will openly help Arab regimes control and oppress their people (Israel is very good at that) in exchange for Palestine and for oil and oil money.

But the Lebanese opposition is formed of sectarian parties, which reduces its effectiveness in bringing about social justice, or rather it cancels it. So where is this all going? Towards another compromise “a la Libanaise”, surely. I just hope the lives of people is spared in the process. Time to reorganize, and to offer a social justice alternative to sectarian politics…

The Hariri International Tribunal, a March 14-Israeli-US tool constructed in order to damage Syria, Hizbullah and any one the US and Israel don’t like, will probably publish its indictment of Hizbullah in the very near future. But it will be neither here nor there. In any case, Hizbullah is already under embargo, on the terrorist list in many countries, and more importantly, the tribunal has been widely discredited, first from Hizbullah’s campaign, but later from the wikileaks releases which showed the level of US interference in its work. In Lebanon, those opposed to Hizbullah as well as its supporters know now that the tribunal is a political tool. Some do not mind using it, but with the full knowledge that it is a political tool.

In Sudan, the Arab World will soon be 700,000 km2 smaller. This is to my mind the most important current Arab debacle. And while the US and of course Israel as well as many countries of the West have been conniving to provoke this secession, it is the lousy Sudanese regimes and the lousier Arab League that will have to bear the historical responsibility. The way successive Sudanese regime have treated the South of the country could only have led to this. And what a deal Omar Bashir must have cut with the US! Soon, they will let him off the hook from the Darfur massacre accusations and they will cross his name from the list of international war criminals, and they will allow him to continue his oppression of the Sudanese people and the build up of his personal wealth. The biggest losers, after Sudan which forfeits a great part of its oil and control over water is Egypt. The Nile water will now be controlled by a new state with open ties with the Israelis who will rush to adopt it. So go figure why Egypt is a supporter of the division of Sudan

Many other important events are going on, and Iraq is still bloodied and occupied by the US of Obama who got a Nobel peace prize for that. I know you know, but it’s always good to remember. 

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