A thrilling epic of freedom
By Meron Benvenisti
What symbolizes the "spirit of democracy" that is blowing
strongly all over the Middle East? Is it the demonstration by the
opposition, which led to the downfall of the Lebanese government, or is it
rather the "demonstration of the million" two days ago, which demanded the
continuation of the Syrian presence in Lebanon? Judging by the attitude
toward it, the first demonstration - which has been called the "Cedar
Revolution" - is seen as an event that compares to the "Orange Revolution"
in Ukraine and the "Rose Revolution" in Georgia, and as proof of the victory
of the doctrine of democratization of U.S. President George W. Bush and his
spiritual mentor, MK Natan Sharansky.
On the other hand, the second demonstration is described as a
forced call-up that was organized by the Hezbollah terror organization and
members of Syrian intelligence. And some also see the demonstration
supporting Syrian subjugation as proof of democracy.
This is not the first time that the masses have chosen cruel
tyrants to rule them, in a perfectly democratic process. Nothing will stand
in the way of the American spin, which connects events of differing
backgrounds and unique circumstances into a thrilling epic of a "freedom
intifada" that is spreading all over the Arab world, and which will confront
terror and be victorious over it.
The desperate American need to justify the Iraqi war after the
fact is causing them and their supporters to inflate every event and to lend
it a significance that goes beyond the local, limited context, which usually
stems not from lofty principles, but from the interests of local tyrants who
want to strengthen their position.
Enthusiasm over the "harbingers of freedom" is particularly
strong among right-wing circles in Israel and the United States, who see the
spread of democracy as the justification for their old demand that a
precondition for any normalization and peace process is a "democratization
of the Arabs." In the eyes of the satisfied people of the Western world,
political freedom and the institutions of parliamentary democracy are more
important than freedom from want and equality of opportunity in the areas of
economics, education and health.
In its arrogance, the superpower dares to impose its world view
by force of arms, without considering the disaster that it is inflicting on
the country that it presumably has come to rescue "for democracy," and its
ideological allies are applauding. But the great crusade to impose liberty
is being conducted cautiously, and in a hope that it won't be taken too
seriously; it's only good as a slogan. After all, the political allies of
the United States happen to be tyrants who have no intention of giving up
their power, and the countries that have established any sort of democratic
institutions, and in which a civil society is developing, are not
necessarily the chief supporters of the United States.
The Israelis, who are excited about the "winds of freedom," are
well aware that the demand to link peace with democratization is an act of
hypocrisy that was invented only in order to undermine any real step toward
peace. As long as the occupation and the oppression of the Palestinian
people continue, democratization in Arab countries will lead to a distancing
of peace, as can be seen from public reactions in Egypt and Jordan. But the
Israeli fans of the Bush doctrine, who are welcoming the harbingers of Arab
freedom, don't consider the continued denial of freedom for the Palestinians
an act that contradicts their commitment to democracy. They see the policy
of the United States in its aggressive context: Pax Americana enables them
to maintain the status quo according to the parameters of the Bush-Sharon
understandings, which determined the borders of the Palestinians state of
cantons and the areas where it will govern.
An outbreak of demonstrations, elections under Israeli or
American occupation, or a negligible constitutional change can be called a
"wave of democratization." Media spin will make it possible to inflate this
democracy to the dimensions of an historic process. Then it will be possible
to conceal the continuation of the occupation, the poverty, the neglect and
the want - and everyone will feel terribly positive. They are on the side of
the "good guys" - George W. Bush and Natan Sharansky.