Pro-democracy movements should unite

Pro-democracy movements should unite
Ray Hanania, June 24, 2012
Saudi Gazette, Jeddah Saudi Arabia

There are pro-democracy movements in nearly every Arab country. While the protests have changed the face of some Arab countries, and prompted reforms in others, they have an untapped power that could achieve far more.

The Arab world needs to change. Its failure to keep up with the times has resulted in many problems.
Oil has not been exploited enough. It is one of the only natural resources in the Middle East and once depleted it could cause grave economic hardship for local economies.

Palestine has been in an uncertain state since its forced partition in 1947. Today, Palestinians are no closer to freedom than they were when the United Nations intervened to allow European immigrants to flood the coastal Arab territory.

And Arabs, Muslim and Christian, continue to be deprived of their right to the holy city of Jerusalem and its important religious shrines by Israel, a nation that continues to exploit disorder in the Arab world.

Western nations continue to exploit the region’s uncertainty to pursue their own foreign policy agendas, at the expense of the Arab nations. The Western nations use diplomacy to address challenges in Asian countries like North Korea, but turn to military intervention when it comes to challenges in the Arab world.

The United States, which has good reasons to invade North Korea and free the North Korean people from tyranny would never pursue such a goal. But it would readily exploit a horrendous terrorist attack like Sept. 11, 2001 to pursue hegemonic interests in a country like Iraq. The League of Arab States was founded on March 22, 1945 as World War II was coming to an end. The purpose was to galvanize the interests of the Arab world and give Arabs a voice in the new world order. Instead, the Arab League with its 22 Arab member states, has been one of the most ineffective international organizations on this planet. As the Arab world erupts in violence, oppression and protests, the Arab League is helpless.

An effective Arab League could have ended the Palestine conflict long ago. Instead of oil being a fast disappearing natural resource, an effective Arab League could have helped to develop a long term strategy to provide alternative economic generation as oil resources slowly vanish in the Middle East.

The United States might not have invaded Iraq in a false response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism, and the dictator Saddam Hussein could have been taken down without destroying half the country and pushing the Iraqi people into embargo-driven starvation.

Today, the Middle East teapot has boiled over. The pressure of years of oppression, censorship and the denial of individual rights has come to a boil, exploding into protests throughout the region.

Democratic change is coming and those Arab governments that have refused to see the future are paying the price, such as Libya, Egypt and Syria. The brutality of the dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad, unfortunately, is not unprecedented. It has happened too often in the recent past. The victims are the people, while tyrants like Assad face choices that would allow them to live their lives without paying the price of international war crimes.

What the Arab world needs is a new modern day form of the Arab League, a new movement of Arab nationalism that would seek democratic reforms in each Arab country but pursue a larger agenda of Arab empowerment.

We need to put the power back into the meaning of the word Arab, which has become weak and irrelevant and has come to mean a follower rather than a leader.

What could help bring change are the pro-democracy movements that have risen in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. These movements can help form a new organization with the backing of countries like Saudi Arabia which is embracing democratic reforms.

A pro-democracy Arab League could change the dynamics of the failed Arab world and revive the pride and culture of the Arab people, bringing swift change to Syria, justice to Palestine and access for Arabs to important religious icons of their faith.

They need to come together as one voice that will bring consistency to Middle East change and create a new Arab nationalistic voice that overcomes religious differences, sectarian conflict and international impotence. We Arabs do not have a choice.

Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and radio talk show host. Reach him at

Categories: Middle East Topics

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