Trying to understand events in other parts of the world
is becoming increasingly difficult, paradoxically even as
communications technology brings them physically into
view almost instantly and so graphically.
Thus, the second “Arab revolt” in Egypt can be seen on the
streets of Cairo in dramatic detail, and with numerous
reports from local journalists and eye-witnesses on the spot
in a continuous display.
But what we see, although vitally important to the historical
event taking place, may not reveal what is happening behind the
scenes where the most important decisions are being made.
When the first series of Arab national uprisings first
began in 2011, they seemed to be spontaneous “grass roots”
phenomena against totalitarian regimes, and were dubbed
“The Arab Spring” in the West (U.S. and Europe) in an
expectation that they would lead to new attitudes among
Arab populations, an introduction of representative
democracy into the region, and a reversal of the economic
and political conditions which had dominated that part of
the world for so long.
While it was true that many of the leaders of these
uprisings were young and idealistic, the complexity of the
Middle East also brought into contention for power many
nationalist and religious groups that would only replace one
totalitarian regime with another. Any hopes that new
governments might be more pro-American, less anti-Israel,
and more tolerant of other religions (primarily Christianity)
were soon dashed.
In a free election, leaders of the Moslem Brotherhood won
control of Egypt, but soon proved unable to govern this
largest of Arab nations successfully. Once again, large
numbers of Egyptians took to the streets in protest against
the new government. In fact, the numbers of protesters
were so great that the true power in Egypt, its military, was
forced to act to maintain order and stability. The elected
leader was deposed, and many leaders of the Moslem
Brotherhood have been arrested and otherwise detained.
At the same time, the tone of most of the protesters was
decidedly anti-American and anti-Israel.
On the surface, therefore, it might seem that only one
Islamic regime will be replaced by another. That might be
the case, but a little noticed event took place at the same
time when the Israeli government agreed to Egyptian army
movements in Gaza, something which is part of the
Egyptian-Israeli agreements which have been in place
many years. Also, quite noticeably, the Israeli government
has been decidedly quiet about events in Egypt, although
it is obvious they are following those events very, very
closely. Does this mean a positive turn in the Egyptian-Israeli
We don’t know the answer to that question, nor to the
question of what kind of government will now follow in
Egypt, because, as I have been suggesting, we receive very
little news beyond the television coverage in the public
squares. Part of this is due to the very limited ability of
American or European journalists to cover these events on
the spot. Assaults on journalists have been frequent. Part of
it is also due to the very limited access Western journalists
have to Arab leaders and decision makers. And part of it is
due to the bias of many journalists about U.S. and European
foreign policies, especially those who want to portray those
policies in a positive way, no matter what.
In 2011, there was a wave of optimism in the West following
the so-called “Arab Spring.” This, it turned out, was premature
at best, and perhaps even an overall misreading of what was
In 2013, words of caution are much more in order.
Copyright (c) 2013 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.