The People, The President, The Army – and the Zionists?

Defiant to the army’s threats

Sometimes I foolishly think I am getting a balanced view of the Middle East by reading English language websites from the Arab countries in the region.  Some are government sponsored and controlled, others claim to be independent.  However, in general the story line on the revolts had been very consistent, regardless of which publican I have read, the plot stays the same.  The basic theme is discontent; the people, sometimes called the youth, upset by economic struggles and lack of political freedom gather in the streets to protest; opposing the people is the president, his government and the army.  The president is greedy, cruel, oppressing and long-serving.  The government is made up of loyal to-the-death supports, cronies grown old, fat and rich in the service of their lord and master.  The army is the only changing variable – without the army the president cannot keep his power, with the army the president can control the people.  Sometimes the army votes with the president and shoots the people, sometimes the army joins the people and the president is forced to flee.  Occasionally outside players come into the story, NATO, al-Qeada, Iran and the United States are periodically written into the narrative.  The drama plays out differently according to the country and the way the army plays its part; Libya is the only country where the outside forces have much of an impact in advancing the plot.  Although, in the Gulf States, Iran is often assigned a larger, although off stage, role.

Most of that worked for me because it fit easily into my own world-view.  The consistency of the plot and player descriptions around the region confirmed for me the validity of my own research and sources and  it reinforces my world-view of the “good” and the “bad” actors.  However today I found an editorial, actually the text of a speach, in the other Al-Jazeerah; there are two print Al-Jazeera publications (I have no idea what differentiates them, except the spelling, in English one is spelled with a final h, the other is not).  One, Al-Jazeera (without the h) is related to internationally known and watched television network and feels very western and familiar to most westerns – not exactly pro-western, but it doesn’t insult or threaten us either.  The other Al Jazeerah (with the h) takes a very anti-western, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian position.  Now, of course all of the Arab press is pro-Palestinian and at minimum a severe critic if Israel – however, this al-Jazeerah is much firmer in its position.  The piece written for a lecture in February and is quite lengthy, it goes through the countries one at a time, describing the government, its history and the people’s movement.  Anyway, the following quotation will give you a sense of the position:

What does all this mean?
It means that Arabs are in revolt against the dictatorial regimes imposed on them, all of which are backed and supported by the US and its EU allies for no other reasons than keeping the peace with Israel. The objective is to keep the Zionist state as the dominant and hegemonic power in the oil-rich region. Hassan El-Najjar, Al-Jazeerah

It was a reality check for me; it breaks the conventional story line up completely; it re-frames the presidents and gives the people a new identity as well.  But it does more, it shows just how one dimensional our own thinking is, we are still only seeing the events from our own point of view and are failing to take into account some opposing possibilities – well, you many not be, but I certainly have been guilty of it.  I am not saying the author is correct, only that his interpretation is one that resonates with many people in the Arab world and it is an opinion that we have not heard over the course of the last four months of turmoil.


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April 2011
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