Friday, November 07, 2003

Up with democracy, down with the US, Israel?

Some in Egypt are praising Bush's November 6th speech in which he stated "Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe because in the long run stability cannot be purchased at the expense of liberty." (Of course they still criticize the US for its "bias" toward Israel.)

"It is an historical speech, and I agree with what the president had to say, and this is the first time," said Hafez Abu Se'da, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.

"It is a new vision from the United States now because they focus on democracy. For a long time, they focused on economy and commercial interests. It is historical because the United States is talking about democracy and the interest of the people in these countries."

The human rights advocate also praised what Bush had to say about democracy's being compatible with Islam and Arab culture.

"I agree with him. Always we hear from the governments of this region saying our culture is not ready for democracy, that we have our own type of democracy. This is not true. Democracy is democracy, freedom is freedom…. Islam is compatible with democracy and is not against democracy," Abu Se'da said.

But Abu Se'da said that just as the area needs democracy and justice, the United States has an important role to play by solving the Israeli-Palestinian problem in a just way.


Suzy al Guindi, an Egyptian journalist, liked the way Bush spoke about Islam and the fact that he recognized that the Middle East doesn't need the same style of democracy as Western countries. But she said she wanted to see a more even-handed approach toward Israel.

"It was a good speech, it was a very good speech, but we need to see more actions…. We need to see a more moderate way of thinking and acting, especially in the way they are dealing with the Palestinians and Iraq. Israel is doing a lot, but nothing is said by the United States. They criticized the wall [that Israel is building to isolate the Palestinians] but now are keeping silent about it."

Political science professor Mona Makram Obeid said the speech will be welcomed with reservations in the Arab world, because "like so many times, things that smack of truth fall short of the administration's interest."

However, I do find it interesting that many who agree that democracy needs to be brought to the Middle East, those quoted above for example, seethe with fury that Iraq and Afghanistan are on their way towards democratic governments. Or is that seething fury just masking their jealousy?


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