Thursday, March 10, 2005
The two Lebanese demonstrations - Meron Benvenisti
By Meron Benvenisti - Haaretz
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 ofthe 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.
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