The pattern has five layers: 1: Palestinians inside Israel; 2: Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza; 3: Israel’s Arab neighbors (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt); 4: the rest of the 22 Arab states; 5: the rest of the 57 Muslim states. Knowing that 350 million Arabs and 1,560 million Muslims cannot be controlled directly, the US-Israel alliance goes for indirect control via the governments, which is very far removed from any serious effort to solve the conflict(s) on the ground. They bombastically even refer to this low level policy as a “peace process” when indeed it is a hopeless project, at most a short lasting unstable equilibrium.
The unraveling has no precise starting point in space or time. Rather, it is a process, “peace by pieces”, resisted by major conflict parties from the beginning. Palestinians inside Israel have been ambiguous, partly bribed into accepting 2nd class citizenship in a theocratic state. Palestinians outside have been divided, PLO/Hamas being an important dividing line, West Bank/Gaza another. After the revelations by Al Jazeera and The Guardian on January 24th of the moral corruption of PLO negotiators, Hamas is stronger than ever, with a base in Syria that never boarded the US-Israel Titanic. Lebanon is increasingly ruled by Hizbollah; in Jordan, where CIA outmaneuvered the peace oriented Crown Prince Hassan in favor of Abdullah, there is revolt. In Egypt much more so, Yemen and Somalia revolted long ago; similar things are happening below he radar in Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Mauritania. And behind and above looms a (neo-ottoman?) Turkey.
Of course, there are at least two other issues at work, not only the machinations of the US-Israel alliance.
There is the political issue of 1: multi-party democracy with free and fair elections vs. dictatorship by one party, or autocracy by one ruler; of 2: human rights vs. crushing the freedoms protected by them. And there is the economic issue of 3: increasing misery, unemployment and inequality vs. sharing. The linkages between these three issues are often pointed out by demonstrators on posters about US-backed dictatorships and exploitation, about autocratic cliques and royal houses enriching themselves, etc. Which of the three is more important? All of them of course, as this is a solid US-Western-Israeli nexus with such crucial historical cornerstones as 1: London establishing a Jewish “homeland”-not defined in international law- in Palestine, cutting Palestine into two with Jordan serving as a buffer state protecting the oil of “mandated Iraq” and 2: that over-glorified Churchill who used gas against Iraqi “barbarians threatening civilization” in their struggle for their homelands: all very familiar themes. All of this preceding Israel statehood. The very Israel, which shows itself to be more afraid of a peace that could set limits to its zionist expansion than of war for expansion.
Till history catches up with them, these weeks, these days.
Which of the three factors mentioned above the demonstrators, the rioters, choose to spin their rhetoric around will vary, probably with the distance to Israel. Another variable is the longevity of the autocracy, like 20, 30 years. Yet another is pure tactics, how to make more allies, by denouncing the USA or by downplaying that theme? Some US commentators are celebrating the absence of the slogan “down with US imperialism” in some revolts and highlighting the focus on democracy and human rights, maybe planning how to manipulate elections and bribing with freshly printed Fort Knox bills. Investment will be promised, known to benefit the rich more than the poor. Soon we will hear from China.
But right now let us celebrate. By and large nonviolent revolts in most of Maghreb and Mashreq reveal the fragility of even global and regional superpowers. They now face moments of truth with WikiLeaks truths that no doubt inspired and ignited the masses up front. US commentators with unfailing talent for choosing wrong levels of analysis point to demonstrators being mostly young, educated and unemployed. Give them fellowship and jobs? Maybe they need some agility to jump up on a water cannon tank, some education to see through the massive propaganda, and be unemployed to have time off for political work in the streets, no fear of losing a job? Being denied expression in free elections, maybe the demos, the people, find ways of reclaiming power?
I remember a meeting in Cairo on the 18th. of December addressing Cairo University professors on world trends, including in and around Israel and the USA, and rising inequality, predicting revolts. They said, “our poor get poorer by the hour, but police and military make revolts impossible.” I said that they might join being themselves repressed, exploited and alienated. And exactly that seems to have happened-and not only in Egypt-after initial brutality. A shock for the powers-that-were, now collecting their gold for oasis life in Saudi Arabia. Also soon to go.
And the USA? And Israel? An Israeli general recently revealed plans to attack Hamas and Hizbollah in Gaza and Lebanon. But many more plans are needed. Attacking a Muslim Brotherhood guided Egypt? Maybe too much even for Israel and the USA, given that both hegemons have very serious polity and economy problems.
Or, could this wave of people reclaiming foreign policy, the polity and economy from the clammy hands of small groups come to-miracle of all miracles-hit the hegemons themselves? And open for a real peace process, involving everybody concerned? Inshallah.
Prof. Johan Galtung is acting rector of the TRANSCEND PEACE UNIVERSITY: An All-Online educational facility for academic Peace Studies. Born in 1930 in Oslo Norway, Prof. Johan Galtung holds a PhD in mathematics from 1956 and a PhD in sociology from 1957. He is widely known as the pioneering founder of the academic discipline of peace studies. He has served as a professor for peace studies and peace research at the universities of Olso, Berlin, Cairo, Belgrad, Paris and Hawaii, just to name a few, and has mediated in about 50 conflicts between states and nations since 1957.