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On Egypt and elsewhere: The Left's fatal flaw

First of all, I’ve changed my mind about the point in my Saturday post that shocked people and got the most attention – that if I’d known last February that Islamists were going to democratically take over Egypt, I would have supported Mubarak instead of the protesters. Prodded to reconsider by a couple of commenters, I saw that this would have meant siding with the dictator’s killers and torturers against a crowd of people risking their lives for freedom. No way.  So this is what I wrote in the comments on my post, and in the comments on the pseudonymous R.W. Al-Thahabi’s eloquent response yesterday:

(L)et’s say that instead of believing, as I did, that the Islamists would NOT become the dominant power in Egypt, I’d believed that they would. If that’s what I’d believed, I could not have cheered the protesters’ fight like I did. I would have seen them instead as heroic people who ultimately, inadvertently were helping some real dangerous forces gain power – forces potentially even worse for them than Mubarak, and obviously much worse than Mubarak for me and my country, which is a major concern of mine. This is a really tough question, because the battle came down to whether Mubarak’s goons could drive the protesters out of Tahrir Square, or whether they could hold it. And finally, I could not have sided with those trying to drive them from the square, and I would have sided with the protesters – even if I’d believed it would lead to an Islamist takeover. I would have supported the protesters IN THE HOPE THAT I WOULD BE PROVEN WRONG, while at the same time warning of the power of the Islamists.

So much for that. The rest of what I wrote on Saturday, the day the election results came in, still stands: the combined 70% vote for the Muslim Brotherhood and the even more radical Al-Nour is a terrible development. And now I want to talk about some of the things Lisa Goldman, my colleague and cyberpal, wrote in her reproachful (but collegial) response to my original post. Titled “Egypt’s elections are none of Israel’s business,” it’s an illustration of a very fundamental problem on the democratic Left, and it reminds me why, on the international spectrum, I consider myself a liberal and not a leftist.

I anticipated that my post was going to make waves in +972’s pool (even without a retrospective endorsement of Mubarak). I wrote it because the Left’s silence (and mine) on the rise of the Islamists in Egypt had, after these election results, finally become too loud not to hear. I didn’t want to write about what was happening in post-Mubarak Egypt before because I didn’t want admit that on such a momentous, historic issue, I’d been wrong, outspokenly wrong, in anticipating that while the Islamists would likely have a role in the new Egypt, they wouldn’t dominate it. And not only had I been wrong, the right-wingers and cynics had been right. (Again, this was still no reason to side with the tyrant’s guns and whips against the protesters for democracy, which the right-wingers and cynics, at least in this country, did.)

But for the democratic Left, there was another reason for silence: a belief that they, as mainly privileged people from countries with a history of exploiting the “have-nots” of the world, don’t have the right to criticize them. In the Left’s view, the Egyptian election wasn’t  only none of Israel’s business, it was none of America’s business, or Europe’s business, or Australia’s, or Canada’s, either. People who come from rich countries, white countries, exploiter countries, aren’t allowed to open their mouths to the “Third World,” except if it’s to cheer.

This is a core political problem for people of the democratic Left (with whom I could definitely form a coalition, though not a party). The Left’s whole ideology calls for breaking down the oppressor-oppressed relationship, to be one with the oppressed, which is easy enough when the oppressed are secular reformers or nationalists. But when they’re the Muslim Brotherhood and, even worse, Al-Nour? Then it’s a real awkward situation. A leftist can’t cheer them – but he’s not allowed to boo. If he does, his partnership with the oppressed, his ideology, comes apart. So the usual response, such as with post-Mubarak Egypt, is a self-imposed, ideological silence.

Lisa’s post was the second time I’d come across this attitude in three days. Last Friday some of us from +972 were in East Jerusalem getting a tour from Ir Amim, a great NGO that fights against what Israel’s doing to Palestinians in the capital. After a while, I went up to the Israeli woman leading us and said, “Why don’t the Palestinians in East Jerusalem vote in municipal elections? With their numbers, they’d have a lot of power to go up against all this.” (With very few exceptions, East Jerusalem Palestinians boycott municipal elections by edict from the powers-that-be in Ramallah, who say that voting in Jerusalem elections would amount to recognizing Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian capital. I disagree; it would help the Palestinian national cause if they voted in municipal elections and fought against the Judaizing of Jerusalem’s eastside, and at least some Palestinians agree.)

The woman from Ir Amim said to me: “It’s not my place to tell the Palestinians what to do.” Just offering a dissenting opinion, even the most well-intentioned one,  is “telling them what to do.”

I’ve seen this since I was a “child of the 60s” in California. We on the Left started out supporting Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, the easiest thing on earth, but a few years later we felt ideologically bound to silence when the Black Panthers were glorifying the murder of cops.

It grows out of guilt, and there’s nothing wrong at all about Western leftists and Western liberals like me feeling guilty. Whites in America really do have reason to feel guilty over their country’s historic treatment of blacks, Israeli Jews absolutely have reason to feel guilty over our country’s ongoing treatment of Palestinians. As for Egypt, Israel did at least tacitly collude in Mubarak’s tyranny; it figured the only alternative to him was the Islamists, so it supported whatever he had to do to keep them at bay.

All of us “haves” have plenty good reason to feel guilty. But you can’t build your whole political relationship with the “have-nots” around that guilt, especially when your commitment to them is the very heart of your politics, and when you also believe in free thought and expression – but this is what the democratic Left has done. And it didn’t start with Egypt, and it isn’t limited to leftists in Israel.

I knew all along that whoever came after Mubarak would have a large bone to pick with Israel, and I figured that the Muslim Brotherhood would get a share of power, yet I supported the protesters whole-heartedly. I didn’t, however, expect that the Muslim Brotherhood would be the relative moderate in a gigantic Islamist force that would sweep the new Egypt’s first election. And while I agree with Lisa that a Muslim Brotherhood-led government will be deterrred by Israel’s power from starting a war with us, how can any democrat, liberal or leftist, not be feeling high anxiety over Egypt’s future and what it could mean for the Middle East? R.W. Al-Thahabi, a liberal Egyptian who was in Tahrir Square, writes that he “remain(s) quite worried.”

What’s more, how can an Israeli, even a liberal who supported the protesters and still supports the liberal movement, feel anything but foreboding? The new powers in Egypt hate my country unconditionally, occupation or no occupation. Many if not most if not all of them hate my religion, too.

I haven’t soured on Egypt; there are too many good, brave people there. But I am demoralized by the results of this election, and I believe that democratic leftists, given their political ideals and the depth of their support for the revolution, are at least distressed by it, too.

But they won’t admit it to themselves. If you don’t have the right to say something, best not to think it at all.

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    COMMENTS

    1. mobius1ski

      this isn’t a problem for the left, this is a probably for the morally and ethically consistent.

      don’t forget ramsey clark’s international action center along with the international a.n.s.w.e.r. protest movement were all too happy to defend the ba’athist thugs in power across the middle east because they were repressing the islamists whom they feared would roll back their socialist programs. it’s really not a left-right issue.

      at the end of the day, you’re either for self-determination or you’re not. you’re either for cultural imperialism or you’re not. you can’t say, “i’m pro-democracy except when you make democratic choices with which i disagree,” as the u.s. and israel did after hamas’ electoral victory.

      what i take this column to mean, larry, is that you’re not really for democracy and against imperialism. you’re a liberal democratic imperialist. you want the liberal democracy to reign supreme. ultimately, that’s just another manifestation of the same old bullshit: the white man showing up in the brown man’s world, telling him he’s a savage, and imposing his values and social customs on him.

      and isn’t that how we got into this mess in the middle east to begin with?

      Reply to Comment
    2. mobius1ski

      this isn’t a problem for the left, this is a problem* for the morally and ethically consistent.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Sinjim

      So now, you’re trying to backpedal your seriously offensive and ignorant commentary by shifting focus to the Left’s supposed flaws, as if that’s an excuse for you saying you would’ve supported Mubarak. I’m so sick of you white people prescribing to brown people what to do, as if you know what’s good for them better than they do. You think your support matters, Larry? You think what you or any of the other Monday morning quarterbacks say has any relevance? It doesn’t, ya nour 3uyouni.
      .
      You neo-orientalists who wrap your white privilege in the language of liberal democracy automatically assume that because the Islamists won, that means the uprising was for naught. At no point do you bother to analyze the situation at a deeper level. The fact that for the first time in history, these Islamist parties are now going to be judged based on what they do with the power they’ve been given, doesn’t matter one bit to people like you. All you know is that the Arabs keep electing the Islamists and thus they are a lost cause — as if they are incapable of making reasoned and rational political decisions.
      .
      At the end of the day, however, the liberals and Leftists of the Egyptian, Tunisian, Palestinian and other Arab societies are going full steam ahead. Who the hell are you to cast a shadow on their fight or to say that it is lost?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Without speaking to the rest of this fascinating discussion, one comment: the term “Islamist” can mean very different things, and ever since an Egyptian expat friend of mine pointed this out to me I’ve become very wary about Israeli and Western talk of “Islamism”. The little concrete information I’ve read and heard about the Brotherhood’s official party platform sounds much milder than what would warrant the panic echoing out of Israel. In fact, it sounds vaguely similar to Israeli mainstream views on religion, nation, and state, albeit with “Islamic”/”Egyptian” standing in for “Jewish”. Mainstream, mind you, not Israel-Beiteinu style crazy. Sure, there’s a lot for a liberal to dislike in such views, and there’s that familiar contradiction between wanting Islam in government and wanting a democracy with personal freedoms, but all that is hardly the end of the world, especially in a political context that is in the midst of re-defining itself, with at least some noticeable liberalization going on.
      What I’m trying to say is, is there any chance that these groups we call “Islamists” aren’t all quite as terrifying as we usually assume? Is there a chance that the label “Islamist” confuses things?
      I don’t mean to accuse anyone in this discussion of being insufficiently informed – I just really haven’t seen much specific discussion of actual details, so much as fear about “the rise of Islamists”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Danny

      I hope I don’t get censored for saying so, but Larry Derfner is a complete ignoramous. I think I understand now why Jpost got rid of him – it’s not that he’s a leftist (or “liberal”, as he puts it), it’s that he makes no sense whatsoever. Honestly, reading Larry’s posts is a waste of time.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Carl

      Well for that criticism to stand up, the corollary would have to be that the right wing are always consistent, which wouldn’t bear any sort of inspection.
      .
      It’s fair to say the left suffers from myopia, but it’s certainly not inherent in left-wing politics. This type of myopia runs across the board. I’m not sure why you’d want to single the left wing out rather than the right, or liberals as you’d identify yourself with. ‘Freedom loving’ Reagan never had much difficulty supporting dictatorships in the name of stability, and he was far from alone.
      .
      As for the guilt explanation – stick to politics rather than pop psychology. I don’t feel I have to hold back because of the UKs history in the region.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron

      Good article. These points need to repeated over and over. Leftism has become less an ideology and more a stance, a combination of Western guilt and nostalgie de la boue. I used to be a leftist, and my thoughts and sentiments at the time were exactly as you describe here. I never would have dreamed of criticizing a Third Worlder – what gives me a white American like me the right?
      §
      I especially liked your point about guilt. I also believe in responsibility and guilt – collective, not personal – of American whites for slavery and of Jews (not just Israeli Jews) for Zionism’s historical offense against the Palestinians. I draw that moral conclusion from a rightist ideology, not from liberalism. But that collective guilt shouldn’t prevent us from Arabs and African-Americans, any more than it prevents us from criticizing privileged white people.
      §
      “Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty….”

      Reply to Comment
    8. Aaron

      Typo: “…shouldn’t prevent us from CRITICIZING Arabs and…”.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      Lets keep talking about all of the elephants. Thanks Larry.

      So that is the Muslim Brotherhood (hopefully the Islamic version of conservative Christian Democrats, irritating but livable.)

      That is also Syria (where is the left?, 5000+ dissenting civilians dead, very very little comment from the left)

      That is also Iran (proxy militias with tens of thousands of rockets directed at Israeli civilians).

      That is the occupation.

      That is the “gradual” imposition of racist and theocratic law.

      What creates a positive option? The elaboration of the pervasive and predictable benefits of permanent democratic regime characterized by peaceful transitions of power based on respect for the consent of the governed.

      In advocating for a single state, that is not subject to ratification by populous, but just “should”ed into existence, the left ignores consent of the governed.

      We have to remember what constructs democracy, and that it is never perfect. The best that we can realize is optimal.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Carl

      Aaron: “I used to be a leftist, and my thoughts and sentiments at the time were exactly as you describe here. I never would have dreamed of criticizing a Third Worlder”
      .
      That was a weakness in your logic, not in left-wing politics. If any historical criticism was to be levelled specifically at left-wing politics it would be the endless self-criticism and navel-gazing which saw much of it develop into factionalism and obscurity.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Branko

      Without getting into the issue at hand(which is complex and definitely not black and white), Sinjim I have to applaud you. I was expecting racism of this proportion to come out of the right wingers but you have proven me wrong. I have yet to read a more racist comment around here.

      In a way, you are proving Larry correct. Calling someone “brown therefore inferior” is racist. Calling the other side “white therefore condescending/colonialist/occupying” is obviously just. That is the paradox of the left that he is talking about – you have to feel so guilty that you are not capable of calling out wrong when it is done by the side you support. That is that same myopic vision that has brought Hitchens to support Bush because he was against Saddam, therefore whatever he does was good and justified.

      Furthermore, your “doesn’t matter what you think” rhetoric reminds me of Ben Gurion’s “Um shmum” and the foreign policy of scorched ground that the current Israeli Foreign Minister leads. We don’t give a shit about what our neighbors or anyone else thinks. Yes, no one has the right to interfere with your internal issues. You choose whomever you want to choose to lead you, not because my “white colonialist ass” allows you to, but because it is your natural right. But it is my natural right to express an opinion about whom my neighbors are choosing. What is your government going to do about thousands of refugees coming from Sudan, across Sinai and into Israel? What about terrorist incursions from Sinai? Are Israelis not allowed to even ponder on these questions? And to use your point of view, who are you to tell Israelis what they should worry and write about?

      As for your dismay of “white influence in the Orient”, it is mildly hypocritical to present it so black and white (excuse the pun). If all “white colonialist” meddling in the Middle East issues is so wrong, then I guess the NATO shouldn’t have bombed Ghaddafi’s forces. And I am assuming that it will be “brown forces” (how disgusting it sounds, this reference to color of the skin, regardless of whose mouth/keyboard it comes from) that will bring Assad down, namely the Arab League monitors who are falling head over heels to get out of there and wash their hands off it. Yes, in a lot, maybe even majority of cases, Western interference into Middle Eastern affairs was self-serving, tyrant-helping and hypocritical. I have yet to see any power acting out of pure benevolence at its own expense, Western or Oriental. However we should be able to talk about interferences which were beneficial to the local population vs. those that were detrimental, they each stand on their own merit.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Max

      “at the end of the day, you’re either for self-determination or you’re not.”
      .
      Couldn’t Larry reasonably argue that a Salafist-leaning government in Egypt would mean less self-determination for the average Egyptian? Maybe it’s my cultural imperialism showing, but I’ve always worked off the assumption that political self-determination is inherently “good” because it leads to greater individual self-determination. If that equation doesn’t hold up, why should one continue to support self-determination at the political level?
      .
      I thought this part was interesting:
      “what i take this column to mean, larry, is that you’re not really for democracy and against imperialism. you’re a liberal democratic imperialist. you want the liberal democracy to reign supreme.”
      .
      This seems like an abuse of the term “imperialist,” since Larry hasn’t indicated that he would favor outside intervention to impose liberal democratic values on Egyptians.
      I also think you are too quick to collapse the distinction between democracy and democratic process. One cannot have democracy without a democratic process, but one can certainly lose (or never really have) democracy via a democratic process.
      .
      Part of Larry’s argument seems to hinge on how he believes the incoming Egyptian government will behave. It may be inappropriate to speculate about that so soon (though the vast majority of what I have read supports Larry’s view), but I don’t think that places his thinking outside the bounds of reasonable politics.

      Reply to Comment
    13. rico

      I have simply never heard a leftist say that as westerners we don’t have the right to criticize anyone who is oppressed. That is naive and it has nothing to do with our platform. Of course, “the left” cant be responsible for every idiot who calls himself a leftist, but by and large, this is a total fiction. More accurately, the left is concerned that the input of westerners may either fall on deaf ears or strengthen anti-liberal sentiment among the oppressed in question. But it has nothing to do with guilt. That is a tired strawman that i expect from right-wingers who intentionally misrepresent the principles of the left.

      Reply to Comment
    14. same same with rico. but rick what is “our platform”?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Piotr Berman

      In general, MB is not Salafist and the doctrinal differences are large. Slogan “Islam is a solution” is not that far from, say, views of leading presidential candidates in USA on the proper role of religion in the state.

      One has to examine why the issue of election results in Egypt is an issue at all. On one plane, we may express happiness or unhappiness with the results as observers, like we may root for Labour versus Tory in UK (or vice versa, or for Liberal Democrats). On that plane we may present our views but there is no much point on dwelling on the issue.

      On another plane, the context of election is that there is fairly bloody dictatorship still operating which may choose to terminate or prolong its activity. Given subsidies etc. that this dictatorship received and may be influenced quite a bit by Western pressure or emboldened by its lack. There are precedents of Algeria where election results with Islamist victory were set aside with bloody consequences and tacit approval of the West, and somewhat similar situation in Bahrain, and a “mirror image” situation in Syria. So the question is: do we advocate policies that would facilitate abrogation of elections and perpetuation of the dictatorship?

      Cynically, facilitation of the dictatorship is risky: it can be removed by a revolt anyway, and we will radicalize future rulers of Egypt. But it can also work, as it did in Algeria and Bahrain.

      Morally, I think that one has to have damn good reason for anti-democratic advocacy, and I do not see it. And it actually puzzles me what elections results Larry expected to be “demoralized” now. Salafists are much more popular than we would like it, but apparently, they thrive under conditions of a dictatorship in Egypt. It is reasonable to hope that more freedom of expression and more economic opportunities will influence the population in a different direction.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Lauren

      In the States, the lefties are the ones working for peace versus the chicken hawks in the Right wing calling for worldwide war.
      It is true as a rule that the West doesn’t care about people of color…. otherwise we wouldn’t be using death and destruction as a form of foreign policy.
      As for “white privilage”, I’m white and I do know it has helped me. But I’m hardly privilaged…… I work 40 hour weeks and worry about my bills.
      The only people privilages these days are the bankers and all the other elites….. these folks come in all colors, backgrounds, etc. rich Brown people are just as bad as the rich white people.

      Reply to Comment
    17. AYLA

      If everyone in this world could be fearless about speaking their mind, and more fearless about changing their mind as a result of truly listening to others, we’d have a lot less to feel guilty about.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Klang

      I recommend that Egyptian leftists and Copts seek asylum overseas. The new Egypts idea of diversity is MB vs Nour. Leftists and Copts dont fit. First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people

      Reply to Comment
    19. jjcostandi

      This comment has been deleted

      Reply to Comment
    20. sh

      I can see why a liberal Egyptian would be worried, but can’t see why we should be distracted from what’s going on in our own back yard because of it. We are pot calling kettle black. Let the Egyptians sort it out amongst themselves and let us perennial worriers concentrate all of it on what we are doing right here and right now. How about a bout of foreboding about last night in Anata instead?

      Reply to Comment
    21. klang

      Larry I dont think you understand the groundrules at 972
      If its bad for Israel, its good for 972
      For instance, an Egypt that tears up its treaty with Israel-972 likes it
      Iran with nuclear arms- 972 likes it
      Turkey declares war on Israel-972 likes it
      Israeli wins Nobel Prize-972 doesnt like it
      Israeli economy does well-972 doesnt like it
      So, if you criticize the salafists, you will be dismissed from 972
      capiche?

      Reply to Comment
    22. Carl

      Klang, I hope there was some sarcasm in your post which got lost as it winged it’s way through the Interweb. Hope, I say.
      .
      Just on a factual basis, An Nour and the secular parties have been holding talks in an effort to counter the Muslim Brotherhoods’ parliamentary power. It is not a case of only An Nour verses the Muslim Brotherhood.
      .
      The idea that ‘Leftists and Copts’ don’t fit so should leave? Yeah, lets go for states based on religious identities; it has a fantastic pedigree throughout the last 1000 years or so, and to this day you never see them fracturing along sectarian lines.
      .
      Lastly as a general point, democracy is a just a system: you can still support it whilst detesting its outcome. In the UK this has happened to me in every single general election I’ve voted in, but that doesn’t mean I don’t support the democratic system, just that wish my fellow citizens had different political tastes. Oh, and a difference in a single policy between the three parties would be nice, but hey, I can dream.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Haithem

      “The new powers in Egypt hate my country unconditionally, occupation or no occupation.” THATS AN OXYMORON! You wouldn’t have any country without occupation. Hence, the resentment (or “hatred,” as you Westerners like to sensationalize and Orientalize it) is in fact conditional. No reason to hate if you stayed in Europe..

      Reply to Comment
    24. Aaron,
      I would be interested in reading your position on Jewish collective guilt for offesne against Palestinians. There may some parallel with the way your Speaker of the Knesset speaks, sometimes, but I would like to know your logic.
      .
      Larry,
      It is not true that Islam necessarily decries Judaism. There are several verses in the Qur’an that imply the opposite, one of which says that each People of a Book should judge by their own Book. I am not saying this is a common position among Egyptian Muslims, but it is there, possibly to be argued within Egypt. I think there will be contest among Muslims in Egypt to define its role in politics and the State. While it is true that the Iranian Constitution was approved by well over 90% of the electorate, there is no reason to presume a similar hard path in Egypt. I am heartened by two arenas of this intra-Islam contest, Tunisa and Egypt, maybe later even Libya, which may help shape a new active form of Islam. While it is true that the Weimer Republic did have its last days (I hope I am not yet violating a law by making the reference), it may well be far from true that Egypt has entered anything like those last days.
      .
      To think, see anew we must fear. And that means our hopes may fail. But, oh, if Israel would admit such fear in its own workings…

      Reply to Comment
    25. Aaron

      Greg, OK, if you really want to know…here’s why I think Jews are collectively responsible/guilty for Zionism. Apologies to Larry Derfner for posting off-topic. I’ll post this one answer but not follow up to it.
      .
      First of all, I think that Zionism *was* unjust a century ago, for the same reason most settlement projects were unjust. I don’t think many here would argue about that.
      .
      On collective responsibility in general, consider first a legally incorporated collective like Ford Motor Company or whatever. Legally, of course, they’re responsible for past actions that involved none of their current members. I also think that beyond the legal responsibility (this may be the most controversial part of my argument), corporations like Ford are morally responsible, too – that they are in some sense moral agents, like natural persons. If you want to call that a metaphor, fine, but I think there’s a lot of metaphoring going on even when you talk about natural persons. Without some idea of moral responsibility, it seems hard to justify the corporate legal responsibility. Is it really no more than an expedient to make our system run smoothly? People sure don’t act as if it were.
      .
      Next, I think this concept of corporate moral responsibility applies to corporations (collectives) that are not based on voluntary legal contracts, for instance peoples. The voluntary, contractual basis of Ford Motor Company doesn’t seem essential to me. What’s essential is that individual members are considered, by themselves and by others, to be part of that corporation – in other words, that the corporation exists.
      .
      Now, from responsibility to guilt. Why was Ford Motor Company morally responsible to the victims of the Pinto’s gas tanks’ exploding? Not because Ford voluntary agreed to that responsibilty, but because of Ford’s immoral behavior that led to the deaths. When an agent is morally obligated to pay a penalty because of the result of an immoral act he/it has committed, I call that guilt. Corporate, or collective, guilt in this case.
      .
      Finally, why Jews as a people and not just Israeli Jews? Because, after the fact of the state’s founding, the vast majority of Jewish persons recognize the State of Israel as the state of the people Israel. If you believe in public opinion and collective will (on which is based concepts such as consent of the governed and so on), the people Israel identifies with the State of Israel. In doing so, the people retroactively identifies with the Zionist project that brought Israel into existence, regardless of the fact that only a minority of Jews were Zionists at the time.
      .
      OK, well – you asked.

      Reply to Comment
    26. Aaron

      On Western guilt, I didn’t mean that Western leftists consciously, explicitly think they have no right to critize poor, brown, non-Westerners. I’m sure that most leftists, if asked, would explain their lack of criticism with reasons X, Y, and Z. But it usually turns out that reasons X, Y, and Z aren’t applied when the target of criticism is rich, Western people. I’m saying that in the background is often a nonverbal, unarticulated feeling of Western guilt or an anti-Western stance. Obviously not all leftists are like that, but I was, and I think many others are.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Mikesailor

      At present, much of the Jewish community in the US is discussing the Adler column in Atlanta advocating the assassination of Obama by Mossad. Yet, the Jewish community does not condemn the article as reprehensible on its face, they merely condemn it because it reflects badly on Israel and ‘the Jews’. I think that is your blind spot and the very root of what many Jews call ‘antisemitism’. Is an action ‘good for the Jews’. One could argue that any action which is ‘good for humanity as a whole’ would be ‘good for the Jews’. Yet most Jews do not think that way. Instead they are always concerned with what is ‘good’ for ‘their’ community disregarding the well- being of their neighbors. For they don’t consider themselves as parts of a greater whole, instead believing that their narrow ethno-religious focus is more ‘moral’. And then whine when others, understanding the narrow mindset, believe, and act upon the belief, that the ‘Jews’ are only concerned with themselves. I have no idea whether or not the ‘Islamists’ will prove good or bad for Egyptians. They have not even begun to govern yet. Yet, because it is your belief that Mubarak was somehow better for the ‘Jews’, you would support him rather than the Egyptian civilian population. With ‘friends’ like you, Larry, why would the Egyptians need enemies? I have no guilt about the ‘white man’s burden’, except insofar as it has treated the indigenous as either ignorant or somehow ‘less than us’. Instead, most ‘liberals’ or ‘leftists’ or whatever you wish to call us, look at humanity as the greater good. That injustice, whether perpetrated by Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus etc. is something to be deplored no matter who the perpetrator or who the victim. Pity you can’t see farther than your own narrow view.

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    28. Michael W.

      Mikesailor, it sort of goes without saying that what Adler wrote is “reprehensible on its face”. It’s an act of stupidity not because it was made public, but because it is just plain dumb.

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    29. mya guarnieri

      Larry, a question to you: what about the leftists who are, themselves, have-nots? Not all leftists are privileged white folk. 😉

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    30. If they’re more than four months behind in rent, they may qualify. 🙂

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    31. Carl

      Larry, adding on to Mya’s point, I’m not sure you can get away with saying “People who come from rich countries, white countries, exploiter countries, aren’t allowed to open their mouths to the “Third World,” except if it’s to cheer”. I know it’s a while since you lived in the US, but I doubt you’d call it a ‘white country’.

      Michael W: I think MSailor is making the point that the criticism Larry levels at ‘the left’ could be levelled at most other groups: in this case, a section of the US Jewish community. I go along with that. The criticism about political myopia is valid, but I don’t get the exceptionalism Larry goes for.

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    32. Richard Witty

      Rather than deflect Larry’s comments, it would be wonderful to consider them seriously.

      Things aren’t confidently as rosy as many dissenters conveyed. And, there is the reality of those that deviate from the politically correct, even a little, get hammered for it.

      Its possible that the Egyptian Arab spring might turn out wonderful for the people of Egypt, for Israel even, for the world as a whole.

      But, the trend is to more conservative, a shift from a dictator/military, to a military, to a conservative Islamic party/coalition.

      Neither of those three are themselves affirmation of a democratic trend.

      If the peaceful transfer of power through regular, fair and open elections becomes the norm, then that will be a good outcome.

      Its happened some of the time in Islamic countries.

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    33. AYLA

      fyi: Klang came over here from the comment thread on Tablet’s article on 972 (in which, after googling me since I use my name, he suggested that if I don’t like the way things are in Israel, I should go back to Michigan); he just came to make trouble.

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    34. John Yorke

      The Arab Spring/Egypt Revolution may have produced a shift in power towards a more Islamic centre. Quite what that means in practise is something we will all have to wait and see.

      And what about the Israeli Spring/Revolution?
      Or will there be no opportunity for that to make an appearance now? Is there then no popular Jewish uprising hiding in the wings, ready and waiting to ‘strut and fret its hour upon the stage,’ to wrestle power away from those in whose hands it presently resides.

      Maybe it’s just as well that there isn’t.

      With so many nations caught in the grip of various religious camps, having another go
      much the same way would amount to compounding the problem several times over.

      But some revolutions need not end their days in a spiritual corral, bounded by the limits of belief systems designed for a world far less complex and crowded than the one we live in today.

      http://yorketowers.blogspot.com

      Today’s problems require today’s answers. And tomorrow’s also if there is any possibility of sourcing them from there.

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    35. sh

      I’ve often wondered about Mya’s question too. Maybe that’s the left’s fatal flaw; it doesn’t exactly distinguish itself from the rest with generalizations like that.

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    36. Zayzafouna

      I agree with Haitham, that no one would hate you if you were in Europe or America. Do what Lisa Goldman did-she removed hate by moving back to Canada

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    37. danchu

      The Muslim Brotherhood are reactionary. as a “leftist” i dont support their election.

      do i have a right to care? who gives a shit.

      and Mubarak was dirt too.

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    38. Steve

      It’s amazing (and shockingly disgusting) watching so many people on the far-left bend over backwards and twist every topic until it fits into their anti-Israel blueprint.

      But, again, most of the people doing this aren’t honest critics. They’re people who want Israel to cease to exist as a Jewish state. So everything they write is designed to promote that goal

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    39. “if I’d known last February that Islamists were going to democratically take over Egypt, I would have supported Mubarak instead of the protesters.”

      @#@$*%&@!

      1) It isn’t up to you or me to decide who gains power via Egpyt’s elections! If you really care about democracy you need only be concerned about ensuring democratic freedoms are in place no matter what government is in power!

      2) I have great trouble believing the honesty of the elections, especially in left-leaning Suez. I told the Egyptians years ago that being anti-Mubarak was important but they were mistaken to trust any organs of the State, especially in this matter – Egypt is, after all, the country where the “Free Officers” posted voting results in local police stations the week BEFORE elections!

      3) My guess is the battle is not yet over. This isn’t 1978 Iran. Remember it was the democrats who are the brave militants here and the Islamists the cowards in the background. Mubarak’s gang always told us they would team with them if Mubarak got kicked out.

      It took what, four tries for the Middlesex mob to seat Wilkes in the late 1700s and they were the minority then – but they owned the streets. It’s up to the Egyptians now and hope still remains.

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