Sunday, December 18, 2011

Arab Spring Is Good For Israel And The World

The Jerusalem Post ran an editorial today claiming protesters in the Arab Spring have not created a better world nearly one year after it began. Citing Ismail Haniyeh - of all reliable sources - the article contends that since Hamas claims the Arab Spring helped Islamist movements, it is clearly bad for Israel.

This is a ridiculous claim, and a ridiculous editorial.

Ismail Haniyeh was speaking to a crowd of Islamists on the anniversary of the founding of Hamas. Saying the Arab Spring has helped Hamas to an Islamist crowd is as natural as a Republican saying they would annul Roe v. Wade in a presidential debate. But in neither case should we take the statement as indicative of actual policy.

Rather than looking at Hamas' rhetoric, look at its actions. The group has recently been more lenient in enforcing strict religious prohibitions in Gaza. That's because the group is reacting to the most important development of the Arab Spring: the empowerment of the Arab people.

Tunisia's Ennahda party and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are also reassessing their role in their respective societies in the wake of the Arab Spring. Both have taken a more "moderate" stance, knowing that they must appeal to the vast majority of Arabs who are secular. This has brought uncertainty even within the groups themselves now that they must actually govern instead of criticize from the sidelines. Therefore, any statement that a country like Egypt "is on the fast track to becoming a totalitarian Islamic state" is irresponsible nonsense that not even the Muslim Brotherhood itself believes.

But the Islamist issue is also just one part of a larger picture. The real impact of the Arab Spring is the self-empowement of millions of people to achieve representation, freedom, and basic rights which are engrained in Israel's Declaration of Independence and Basic Laws. The people of the Arab world are joining Israel's alignment with liberal values in a way unprecedented in history. If the Arab Spring has had any impact over the past year, it has been to demonstrate the universality of the human desire for freedom and autonomy. This affirmation has indisputably made the world a better place in addition to creating new opportunities for Israel's long-term security.

This affirmation has not been in words alone. The protesters which the editorial disparages have been beaten, arrested, tortured, assaulted, and even killed for their commitment to freedom. The complications which the Arab people have been willing to take on is many times greater than the complications the protests have caused for governments. Their courage has inspired people around the world, across religious and ethnic lines, including Israelis.

It is clear the the empowerment of Islamist parties poses new challenges to the West, and Israel in particular. But policymakers must weigh these potential costs against the real benefit of the empowerment of millions of people. Given the way we in the pro-Israel camp champion Israel's record on human rights and values, there should be nothing scary about millions of Arabs declaring full support for these values.

No comments:

Post a Comment