The Promise of the New and the Delusion of the Old
Wed 12th Mar 2014
In 1952 the Egyptian Army Officers' Revolution of the 23 July brought in a new era of hope and pride. Eventually Gamal Abdel Nasser started the process of giving Egyptians a better life and holding out to Arabs a new hope in a brighter future. He was our 'saviour'.
By Friday June 9, 1967, he had brought us Arabs to the brink of disaster from which we have never recovered. He handed Israel its greatest victory and set it on the road to the arrogance of invincibility and expansion at the expense of us Palestinians. Now, sixty two years later, Egypt is a mess incompetently run by a self seeking and self engrossed army. It is about to be led by a new Gamal Abdel Nasser without the hope, without the inviting smile - a terrifying and unconscionable man named Sisi.
How did all of this happen? Of course, we Arabs blame Israel and America and Britain and France and... whoever you want! We are rather like the viciously selfish and incompetent modern mother blaming her son's educational failure on his school and the Government and OfSTED and the disappeared father... whoever you want! Heaven forbid that we should blame ourselves; just as the incompetent mother would never face the reality of having destroyed her child's life chances without much help from others.
Nasser and almost all other Arab leaders gained power. In doing so they brought a 'promise' for improvement to come. Of course, to hold on to power, such leaders needed to compromise with anyone around remotely linked to that power: the army, political clans, tribal affiliations, Israel, the United States... whoever you want!
The result has been invariably more power at a price. And the initial promise to the people diminished with each new compromise. Add to this delicious political stew a soupçon of greed, ambition and religious conformity (a must these wonderfully hypocritical days) and we have the usual disaster.
I used to be a self hating Arab because of my experiences of abusive government and oppression. As a Palestinian, the self hatred increased exponentially as my Christian friends told me that losing my homeland was as a result of the "sins of my fathers" and God's "Promise" - how wonderfully impartial of Him to create a "Chosen People" and allow them to displace my people. Apparently, "He moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform"...
Recently though, Ukraine taught me to hate myself a little less. I suddenly realised that the formula of "power - promise - compromise - greed - ambition - religious conformity" applied to democracies too, just as it did to us Arabs.
Thatcher came to power and I went to work early next morning very excited at the prospect of the "brave new world" where women at last would join the fray. The rest is history.
Obama was elected and I went to work early next morning thinking that a black President would bring equity, decency and much else that we craved for. The rest is a sad history of empty speeches and more empty promises never fulfilled.
I remember when Blair walked down Downing Street I thought that a new generation had arrived bringing a new dawn of regeneration and equality. We went through the same formula resulting in two wars, millions killed, two countries destroyed, our economy in tatters and Blair making millions out of wonderful spin. As a bonus, he started to work to help us Palestinians learn to govern! What a joke! We are now more oppressed than ever before. Our lives are held hostage to Israeli rule and Blair pontificates about democracy and human rights as he nurtures his growing bank accounts. He serves every unsavoury dictator who can pay him to whitewash his image - or should I say to "Hutton" his image?
Tunisia, Libya, Palestine, South Sudan, Egypt, Lebanon... The list of the promise versus compromise theory leading to misery continues. Even Assad of Syria came in on a promise to moderate his father's disastrous reign. The younger Assad was educated in the West, he was a technocrat, he was married to a British woman seeped in democracy... Yeah! Sure! Tell that to the hundreds of thousands killed and the millions made destitute since his arrival in Damascus.
Putin originally was part of saving Russia from the chaos that followed the fall of Communism. Ukraine had its Orange Revolution...
Precisely the same recipe is now simmering nicely, beautifully seasoned with astounding Western hypocrisy, empty rhetoric from Obama and his poodle Cameron, lies from Ukraine's ousted President, obfuscation from the opposition now in power, shenanigans from Crimea's Russians...
Here we go again!