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Eyes on the prize: A Palestinian analysis of the Egyptian revolution

When the Egyptian people went to the streets to demand their freedom, they stuck to one message: Mubarak must go and the regime must fall. By keeping their eyes on the prize, the protesters succeeded in achieving their goal. What lessons can the Palestinian people learn from the Egyptian revolution?

By Maath Musleh

Cairo graffiti celebrating the fall of the Mubarak regime (Sarah Carr/Flickr)

Like most Palestinians, I was glued to the television screen during the unexpected uprising in Egypt. This did not feel like an Egyptian revolution; it felt like our revolution – the revolution of the Arab people, who have waited so long for their freedom. I watched the Palestinian youth energized with hope again. But then they became too excited, using the same slogans heard in Egypt’s revolution. “The people want to overthrow the regime.” Which regime? We don’t have a state. Don’t fool yourself. Before repeating those beautifully rhymed slogans, we should ask ourselves “What do we want?” The people in Egypt wanted to overthrow the regime, what do Palestinians want? In Egypt, they wanted many things, but they called for one ultimate demand – the removal of Mubarak and his regime. Palestinian youth have many demands, but what is our ultimate demand? This is what we should be thinking about in the next few months. No rush. Egypt’s revolution should triumph first. These movements aren’t simply reform movements. These are movements to finally gain real independence, not only in Egypt, but also in the rest of the Arab world.

After World War II, the new, post-colonial rulers – the Arab presidents – came from the army. This explains the dictatorships. We should understand that it’s not about a good or a bad president; it’s the army. The army is by nature an institution of dictatorship. The army commander has the ultimate power. If anyone goes out of line he’s harshly punished. And that was it. The Arab citizens were treated like soldiers in the Army. The presidents were the commanding generals of that army. But they had no war to fight. This fact made it a lot easier for the ex-imperialistic states to influence the Arab decisions. All they needed to do was to influence one person, the commander in chief. This also explains the relations with the west. You’re either an ally or an enemy. Arab states were never friends with differences. Today, this is gone. Fear of the secret service in the Arab countries is gone forever. Tunisia has broken that line of fear. Now every Arab knows there’s hope. The rules of the game have changed.

In a revolution, there is no middle ground. You’re either with the tyrant’s regime or you’re against it. Those who chose to stand on the safe side of Egypt’s revolution have lost the future. Those who stood on the revolution’s side might win the future. Yes – “might.” We’re still far from victory. Yes, we did celebrate the fall of Mubarak. This is a celebration that comes from the deep grudge we hold deep inside. But he’s just a puppet. He’s an 82 year-old puppet that is waiting for death any day now. The figures behind the curtains are now in the process of making new puppets that will adapt to the new rules of the game. The Egyptian revolution must continue. If it stops now, we’re heading for a big mess. Keep your eyes on the prize. You went too far to get tired now. If the famous Egyptian long-distance swimmer Ishak Hilmi had stopped midway, he would have drowned. Day after day, the military higher council is trying to play games. If the army were serious about working with the pro-democracy activists, they would not have taken more than a couple of days to accede to the revolution’s demands. But no! They throw a bone every day to see how the people will react. Egyptians are too emotional when they speak about the army, pretending that the army is the only institution in their country that is not corrupt. Wake up! That is not true. The army has obeyed the tyrant for 30 years because its commanders are corrupt. After all, don’t forget the scandals of the army since the creation of the republic. Don’t forget Abdel Hakim Amer. Yes the army is corruptible. Don’t get too excited yet. The fight for freedom in Egypt has just begun.

If the revolution in Egypt triumphs, it will change the course of history. It’s true that this is only the second Arab country out of another 22 dictatorships. But if Egypt is free it means that one quarter of the Arabs are free. This creates new rules for the Arab-Zionist conflict. It could result in the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority. Israel helped to establish this body after the Oslo Accords to get rid of some of the occupation’s civil and security burdens. The Arab states have protected it over the years to control the Palestinian decision. But if the Egyptian regime falls, the PA will fall with it. Palestinians should not try to imitate the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. First, internal battles have drained us. We turned our eyes away from the real battle. The PA will fall; it’s just a matter of time. When our enemy flies, build him a golden bridge. Or in this case; when the PA is falling, don’t give it a reason to exist. The Palestinian youth are part of the Arab youth revolution. But they have a different job to do. They should get ready for freedom. Free people are those who don’t hold grudges. Palestinian youth should work independently, not through parties. They should reach out to their Jewish peers that recognize their rights. The two sides should work together on a solution and have it ready when it’s time. The politicians’ interests are just too much in conflict: they are unable to come up with any solution.

The Zionist regime should be clever enough to understand that the honeymoon is over now. The US and the Israeli government should understand that democracy in the Arab world threatens their plans for the region. If the Arab states were democratic, it would mean that the majority’s wishes must be be obeyed. And guess what? The vast majority of the Arabs think that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories should end. The vast majority of the Arabs think that it’s their duty to come to the rescue of the Palestinians – just as NATO rescued Kosovo. Just as the allies thought they were rescuing the Iraqis. And just as the US believes it is saving the world with over 250,000 military personnel deployed in more than 800 installations in more than 130 countries. The region is heading into a big mess. The boat has sailed. Arab youth should not lose the compass.

Regional and international political analysts are putting so much effort into analyzing the current “freedom tsunami.” Nonetheless, these events are beyond analyzing. You can’t predict either the course of events or the results. All you can do is pick your side. Either you stand with freedom or against it. And no, this is not the voice of emotion. It’s still early to celebrate. Hold off with your celebrations. It is time to work.

Maath Musleh is a Palestinian resident of Jerusalem who was employed for two years as a social media specialist for the United States Consulate General in Jerusalem. Currently he is a freelance social media consultant and producer.

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    1. richard Allen

      “The army is by nature an institution of dictatorship. The army commander has the ultimate power. If anyone goes out of line he’s harshly punished. And that was it. The Arab citizens were treated like soldiers in the Army.”

      How eery to here this about Arabs as well. I always thought this was only the problem of the Jewish Israelis. Most Israelis remain extensions of the military, at best.

      “Egyptians are too emotional when they speak about the army, pretending that the army is the only institution in their country that is not corrupt.”

      Are you intentionally trying to draw parallels? Because they are “our children,” we can never believe that they’re “bad boys.”

      This is like a double feature with the article asking whether or not Israelis are Middle-Eastern.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Shaden

      I agree with your point about the early celebration, the Egyptians and us have to wait to see what will happen, for me I have a fear of a hidden agenda the situation now is not secured, but on the other hand I think people there are aware of what they want and they will not accept anything they will resist until their demands come true.
      For Palestinians I agree with what you said: “we should ask ourselves “What do we want?”, but on other hand I don’t agree that the PA will fall and it’s a matter of time because the change will never come from silence!

      Reply to Comment
    3. Shaden

      but anyways it’s really an important article especially in this hard time ! 🙂

      Reply to Comment