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If Mubarak falls in Egypt, Jordan and Syria will be next
By Ray Hanania — The pro-Democracy protests in Egypt have brought the Middle East to its first precipice since the 1973 war with Israel and worry to both the United States and Israel.
The United States is the champion of free speech and the leader of the free world. It’s the origin of Democracy and champions democracy at every opportunity. But Democracy has its costs.
The fact is the United States as enjoyed relationships with several dictatorships, mainly in the Middle East region. They included the dictatorship of the Shah or Iran, the brief love and hate relationship with the late Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and now with dictators in Egypt and in Jordan.
The Middle East is full of American friends who are also dictators or varying color and tenor. Husni Mubarak, the president-for-life in Egypt, has never been an aggressive murderous dictator, although his policies have been harsh and brutal against dissidents. No one has been able to challenge his so-called “elected” presidency and the people live under severe restrictions on free speech, although not as severe as they are in Syria.
In Jordan, King Abdullah is a benevolent dictator, an absolute ruler who controls the civilian government. He hand picks the legislature, cabinet and all aspects of the government. He, too, is not a tyrant nor is he brutal. And he runs the country with a velvet hammer of oppression.
Yet Abdullah is much like Mubarak. They are both Western allies who have made phony peace accords with Israel, compromising Arab interests and turning their backs on the rights of the Palestinians and the Holy City of Jerusalem as a legitimate Arab capitol. They both rely on American foreign aid and support and they both pretend to embrace Western Democracy but in fact remain rigid in controlling what is and isn’t said.
You can criticize Israel, a so-called peace partner in Egypt and Jordan. But you can never criticize Mubarak’s government nor Abdullah’s monarchy. Doing so often leads to arrest or worse. The mukhabarat (secret police) in Egypt and Jordan are extremely brutal and people often disappear off the streets with no word to their families.
Syria is the most brutal of the dictatorships, but caught in a balance between the Western occupation of Iraq and the hysterical fanaticism of Iran’s tyrant “President” Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. Ironically, Iran’s presidential elections are ore democratic than anything in Egypt or Jordan.
The problem of course is American foreign policy. Americans love Democracy, but not for other people in other countries. In other countries, the Americans prefer dictators who rely on American foreign aid. Egypt receives $1.6 billion a year in American foreign aid. All but $300 million of that annual pay-off goes to support Egypt’s military, even though Egypt’s population is one of the poorest in the Middle East region.
The American priority is not free speech and freedom for the people of the Middle East but rather maintaining American interests, such as Israel. If Mubarak’s government collapses, that will spell bad news for Israel which relies on Egypt staying out of the Arab-Israeli conflict for the past 30 years. Without Egypt, the Arab World has been little more than a faint echo of bluster and empty rhetoric.
What the Middle East needs is a major shakeup, but that would be costly across the board for America and Israel for sure.
All of the dictators in the Middle East should be thrown out of office. Although the Jordanian monarchy should stay, it should become like the monarchy in England where legislators and the prime minister are elected by the people, not handpicked by the king.
Mubarak must be replaced by a popularly elected president in fair elections.
If Democracy does not come soon, the protests will eventually create chaos and chaos will create a scenario in which the religious fanatics — radical Islam, will take control. The extremists are loud and do not hesitate to use tyranny to impose their own will as was done in Iran. When the Sha of Iran, one of the most brutal Middle East region dictators was forced from office, the void created quickly moved from Democracy to a new form of religious-driven oppression.
Although Egypt is NOT Iran, over time, it could be unless Democracy is imposed and it is legitimate. Jordan needs to do more than change faces int he handpicked government. King Hussein should establish a popular democratic system in which everyone has the right to run for public office regardless of their political views. And, laws such as those sanctioning Honor Killings should be revoked. Citizens in Jordan should be told they have the right to criticize the King, the true symbol of genuine Democracy.
But sadly, these changes will not happen voluntarily. No president-for-life or even a benevolent dictator will surrender their autocratic powers willingly. Dictatorships have to be taken down forcibly and replaced with genuine Democracy.
Maybe there is hope for the Middle East. The people of Egypt deserve the credit for standing up for Democracy and not yet turning in to a religious zealotry.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist and writer. he can be reached at www.NAAJA-US.com.)
This post has already been read 30 times!
Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com
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