Monday, April 11, 2011

The smell of flowers

In nature, the blossoming of flowering plant is a necessary stage in evolution. The smell of the flowers attracts pollinator insects, which help in the process of fertilization. Flowers then turn into fruits. Fruits carry seeds, which, if the conditions are adequate, germinate to produce a new generation. This is how the survival of the species is ensured.

Flowers that do not get fertilized just wilt and die. Hence, blossoming and the emission of scent are vital for attracting pollinators and ensuring the continuity of life. Competition for pollinators is tough. That’s why plants smell differently, to attract different types of insects. Some plants even emit putrid smells to attract scavenging insects.

The Arab Spring may be in full bloom, but some places smell better than others.

In Egypt and Tunisia the uprisings are bearing fruits. In spite of the violent events of last Friday, when the army attacked the Tahrir square demonstrators leaving at least one dead and scores of injured, reforms appear to be well on the way. This is not to say that counter-revolutionary forces are not deployed, and that there are no pressures to hijack the revolutions. However, the people (at least a significant part of it) are aware of that and will not allow it to happen. They are pressuring the military and obtaining concessions. Mubarak and his sons have today been asked to appear in front of an investigation for corruption. More will come. The road is long and arduous, but a process is engaged and it won’t stop easily.

Libya is not doing well. The opposition is politically immature, to say the least. It consists of a semblance of a militia that has no formal training, and that is fighting a war on a ground that would need a conventional army. This situation has been imposed by Qaddhafi, and the outcome has been appalling. The neighboring Arab states, Egypt and Tunisia, are not in a state in which they can offer any effective support to the opposition. The US and Europe’s intervention, disguised under a UN resolution and under NATO command is a disaster, and will make the new Libya a pawn in imperial hands. Analysts I have talked to believe that the next step is a NATO land intervention followed with the establishment of military bases in the East of Libya, while Qaddhafi will be allowed to retain the West. The bases, close to Egypt and to the oil sources of Libya, will serve the dual purpose of controlling Egypt and keeping it from deviating too much from the “normalizing with Israel” path. Eastern Libya is sending whiffs of Iraqi Kurdistan, first no fly zones, then “ground support”. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are soon talks of “oil for food”.

In Yemen, the maturity of the opposition is what is keeping a civil war at bay. It has resisted a call for arm in a country where everybody is armed, and where one can buy anti tank missiles off the shelf. In spite of attempts by the well-organized Islamists Islah party to control the uprising, the opposition has been able to remain diversified and to thwart take-over attempts by the military, the Saudis and the US. It is deeply political, and knows what it wants. Did you know that Sana`a was called that city of the eternal spring?

Bahrain and Palestine will stand forever as a monument to Western hypocrisy. The military crackdown on the Bahraini opposition, which is made out of civil movements, has been violent. Saudi forces have entered the country and established a rule of force. Hundreds of activists, citizen journalists and writers have been arrested and repressed. Gulf countries have justified all this with accusation of an Iranian conspiracy, although the US itself saw no signs that “Shiite-led Iran was behind the unrest”. The Bahraini people have been rejecting the Khalifa rule for decades, and at least 70% of the country is opposed to the corrupt monarchy. The recently released wikileaks documents have shown how much the ruling dynasty has opened the country to the Israeli Mossad and exposed the level of collaboration between Bahraini and Israeli intelligence.

Meanwhile, Israel is proceeding with its business as usual approach in the region, assassinating people left and right, and killing and wounding scores of civilians in Gaza. This hasn’t raised a single hair from an eyebrow in the face of those same NATO people who are so concerned by the fate of the Libyan civilians but refuse to apologize for “collateral damage” inflicted by their bombing onto the rebels. Israel is also widely believed to be behind a recent air raid that left two dead in Sudan a few days ago. In Sudan! Did you hear anything about it except a mild “tremor” in the Western press? I didn’t. Israel hasn’t even denied the accusations.

Syria is the big unknown. Things are deteriorating daily, and the regime’s crackdown is violent. Bashar al Asad might have missed a historical chance of reform. I am not surprised: autocrats don’t believe in reforms, and the regime has too much to lose if it did engage in anything but cosmetic changes. But Syria’s special situation has to do with the potential slippage into sectarian conflict, which would leave the country bloodied and destroyed. Some around me cynically argue that this is a necessary step towards emancipation. I am not sure that an Iraq situation in Syria is desirable, even at the humanitarian level. Everyone in Lebanon and the region is watching Syria very closely: it sits between Iraq and Palestine, and its geostrategic significance cannot be understated. Day after day, I become increasingly convinced that the Syrian uprisings will not be stopped and that the people will continue pushing for their rightful demands. The important issue now is to prevent counter revolutionary forces from taking over the uprising and sending the country into a destructive political spiral. What role Iraq and Turkey will play in that remains to be seen.

Whatever the future brings, the Arab Spring has finally come to us, after a long and desolate winter. The changes that have taken place are irreversible. We have changed. Society has changed. We have regained our belief in our abilities, in our self-respect and recovered our dignity. We are confident that we can build our future. We realize it will take time. But we also know that our children are not condemned to live forever under antiquated dictatorships. We feel Palestine is closer than ever. We can smell the orange blossoms in the orchards of Haifa.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lovely perspective and vibes for faraway minds - bringing us nearer to the essence of this growth