A vision of a new Middle East
One day,a revolution will come to the Middle East monarchies doing their utmost to delay it
A mighty edifice has been built on the belief that things in the Middle East should be allowed to change as little as possible. The British defence industry, for one, is predicated on being the number one arms supplier to the Gulf. Thousands of jobs in Britain are dependent on it. Saudi Arabian policy has passed unchanged through the hands of three prime ministers - Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron - although the kingdom itself has changed, for the worse. Last month, a tweeter got 10 years in prison for urging anti-regime protests.
It's more than defence contracts. There are governments, think tanks and journalists hell bent on maintaining a peace process, which responds neither to the dictates of peace nor even to the taxonomy of a process. The alternatives are too radical or threatening to contemplate - disbanding the Palestinian Authority; reforming the Palestinian leadership; ending the siege in Gaza; talks which are not based on one side dictating the terms, with the mediator serving as echo chamber; an acknowledgement of history and a right of Palestinian return; sharing Jerusalem. The list grows with each new fact placed on the ground.
The idea that the Israeli government should “punish” current Palestinian interlocutors for going to the UN by retroactively legalising an outpost in Gush Etzion, effecting the largest appropriation of territory in the West Bank in many years, speaks all too clearly about what is really going on. If Benjamin Netanyahu truly believed in a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli one, he should be sending the construction teams in to build one. He should be clearing the space for a Palestinian state not squeezing it by the neck to the point of asphyxiation.The White House is not there to confront Israel with the logic of deepening and extending the occupation. And Israel pays no cost in sanctions from the international community for doing so. It is well past time that it did.
Across the border, the status quo dictates that Egypt should be run by a field marshal. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has done everyone a favour by running for the presidency. Running is hardly the word. He has already made sure he has passed the finishing line. By transforming himself from career officer to president, no one can be in any doubt that a military coup took place in July last year, and that its purpose was to seize power. No-one, not even Cathy Ashton, can now delude themselves that the roadmap to democracy exists. Engaged on a McCarthyite witch hunt for anyone who protests, Sisi has already been responsible for the worst massacres and human rights abuses in modern Egyptian history. Barring a few honourable exemptions, those who protested the deaths under Mubarak or Morsi , are strangely mute now. Egypt will only descend further into the abyss until this military regime ends and its criminal generals brought to justice.
Many have tried to bury the Arab Awakening, and chisel on its headstone the coup in Egypt, the civil war in Syria, the statelessness of Libya, the drone war in Yemen. They want a revolution for freedom and justice replaced by stability. But autocracy, served up by republicans or monarchs alike, can no longer guarantee that, because something has changed in the minds of millions of people. That thought has not been forgotten. The revolution is not lost. Spring has not turned to winter. It co-exists with it. It may take longer than anyone thought three years ago, but it is still there. The spirit of revolt and challenge still lingers in the 30 second YouTube videos by the Saudis, who hold up their ID cards pleading: ”Please listen to us. We want housing, we want a decent life. Do not force people to take to the streets.”
One day, possibly sooner than many think, the revolution will come to the monarchies who are doing their utmost to delay it in Egypt. When this process is finished, the status quo and the tribes of politicians, analysts and journalists who support, cherish and adorn it, will have been consigned to history - where they indeed all belong.