March 4, 2011 – 1:12 pm | Full Comment | National Post
As the Arab revolution has rolled out from Tunisia to Bahrain and the very real prospect of a failed-state humanitarian catastrophe looms from Tripoli to Sana’a, the rest of us are hectored and harried to just sit there, do what we’re told, and don’t even think about doing anything that some Islamist crackpot might want to call an imperialist military intervention.
“Thousands of Libyans will die if America and NATO enter Libya,” we are admonished. Who said that? It could have been German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. It could have been the so-called Canadian Peace Alliance, or the alliance’s mentors in the Khomeinist tyranny in Tehran, or the usual American “troops out” retreads. That is what they all say, after all, but in this case it isn’t even Charlie Sheen. It is what Muammar Gaddafi says, and for good measure he’s tossing in the familiar spectre of Islamist terrorism as the thing we should worry about the most about the Arab uprisings.
Is it too much to ask that we might actually listen to what the Arab revolutionaries themselves are saying? What do the Libyan rebels want from us? What do they want for themselves?
Libyan protest leader Murad Warfally of the University of Benghazi: “We want a no fly zone or more blood will be spilled on Libyan soil. The Libyan people want freedom of speech – we want to live like people in America or in Europe, to be normal and have a normal life. We want to be able to sleep in our beds without fear of being arrested by Gaddafi’s secret police.” Nouri al-Mismari, former head of the Libyan protocol department: “We’re looking forward to neutralising Gaddafi’s air force.”
In the city of Benghazi, rebel spokesman Abdel Hafiz Khoga pleads: “We call on the international community to carry out pinpointed airstrikes on the mercenaries.” For now, the Libyan resistance fighters want only airstrikes and a “no-fly zone” to protect them from Gaddafi’s forces, says Abdul Hafiz Gogha, of Libya’s governing council, and lucky we are for that. In Misurata, a city besieged by Gaddafi and his militias, the rebels there also want our help: “A no-fly zone would limit his movements, his ability to move mercenaries from south to north and to recruit mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa,” said a Libyan rebel spokesman who goes by the nom-de-guerre Saadoun. “Providing military equipment and arms to our free army in the east will help the free army march to Tripoli. And we want surgical military strikes to target his militia and make this end swiftly and quickly and not to shed any more innocent Libyan blood.”
Is that not clear enough? No massive invasion is necessary, so everyone can just calm down now. It is true that if the agony-pokery and astrological consultations in the NATO capitals carry on much longer, a huge humanitarian intervention may be the only option left. If you expect the Arab League states to properly take charge, you’d be banking on the Arab police states to come to the aid of the rebels who want them overthrown. You’d be an even bigger chump to heed the Arab League’s western apologists and its weapons suppliers.
What to do now, exactly? It is not so difficult to find answers to that question. We only need to make up our own minds, abjure neutrality, and tell the rebels: It’s your revolution, tell us what you need, we’ll help in every way we can. And then prove that we mean what we say. The far more disturbing question is why the Arab revolutionaries’ demands tend to be relegated to the back pages even now, and more importantly, why the “West” has been deaf to their voices all along. This is where Palestine comes into it.
As I write this, the totalitarian Hamas regime is resorting to the same brutal tactics against Palestinians in its Gaza police-statelet that its Khomeinist sponsors have been deploying against Iranian democrats in Tehran. On Monday, Hamas thugs broke up a demonstration in Gaza City, arrested a protest organizer, and confiscated footage from a German TV crew. The embryonic Gazan uprising has had its activists tossed into prisons and its telephones and computers seized. In the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Arrar, one of the main organisers, said he had been arrested by Hamas security forces for 12 hours on Tuesday in an failed attempt to stop the protests: “The revolution in Egypt and Tunisia gave us hope that if the people need to change something, they can.”
Among their jumble of grievances, the youth activists complain of oppression. Abu Helal notes that the youths who had used Facebook to call for protests in solidarity with the Arab revolutions are summoned for questioning; his organization had been treated harshly by the security forces in Gaza, where it is currently banned, as well as in the West Bank.
Our friend Khaled Abu Toameh, the eminently reliable Palestinian journalist, reports that over the past 48 hours, Hamas goons have broken up several demonstrations. One of the key demands of the young Palestinians’ self-described “Facebook Revolution” calls for a reunification of Palestine, which has been severed by the internecine warfare between the Islamist Hamas in Gaza and the authoritarian Fatah bosses in the West Bank. Some among the emerging Palestinian leadership want all the politicians to resign. Some want them to reconcile so Palestine might at least be united again. Others want to protest Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, which is the kind of demonstration the faction bosses will at least allow.
As for the young dissidents’ bottom line, 22-year-old activist Hasan Farahat describes it this way: “Everybody is sick of the situation. We want work, we want the right to speak freely. We want freedom.” If you don’t hear “regime change” in that demand, then you are deaf. Most noticeably, the “Honour Revolution” wants Hamas the hell and gone from Gaza. “It is the revolution of the mosques, the churches, the factories, the universities, the schools, the unemployed and the internet cafes.” I didn’t hear any “Death to the Jews” wailing in that, did you?
The main reason we have been so deaf to these voices is that we haven’t been able to hear them. It’s not just because pro-democracy Arab and Iranian voices are denied the advantages of a free press. It’s the din and cacophony that has had us all obediently transfixed by the transgressions of Israel, which is one small country with roughly 80 human rights organizations and 7.4 million Jewish, Arab, Baha’i, Christian and atheist citizens. Israelis live a besieged and troubled but democratic life of equal rights and the rule of law in an open society. Its sins are subjected to the weirdest microscopic inspections and magnified all over the world, constantly. All along, 350 million people have been detained inside the prison-farm nightmare that surrounds Israel, but if you dare draw attention to their sufferings you will be sneered at for your suspicious bias in favour of Israel, or more likely, you’ll be dismissed as a Zionist neoconservative warmonger.
For years, the voices of the real Arab revolutionaries – the actually-existing Arabs who are at last rattling the padlocks off the doors of one autocratic prison after another — have been drowned out by the brass section at the dictator-dominated, Israel-bashing UN Human Rights Council. They’ve been silenced by the percussion section in the halls of the Middle East wing of Human Rights Watch. The noise that drowns them out is unrelenting, and it will resound across Canadian university campuses all next week in the same mind-numbing gibberish from the same dreary old cranks for yet another annual Israel Apartheid Week: “Interrogating Apartheid: Campus as a Site of Resistance.”
Here’s what Khaled Abu Toameh told me about all that when we got together last spring in Jerusalem: “Instead of organizing Israel Apartheid Week, they should be helping with human rights under Hamas, women’s rights under Hamas.” But in Canada, “resistance” has come to mean slavishly carrying on with the conventional narrative. Now, from Gaza to Oman, a real resistance valiantly faces machine guns and truncheons in defiance of the conventional narrative. “Yes, I still get threatened,” Toameh told me. “I would be much more afraid to show my face in Ramallah if I was lying, but most of the threats I get these days are from North American campuses. Americans, Canadians, some self-hating Jews, university professors. This is what you get for refusing to go along with the narrative.”
So what has the brave Canadian “resistance” been up to in aid of the Arabs and Lebanese and Iranians who suffer under Hamas, Hezbollah, the secret police of the Arab League states, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards? It has been raising money for a Hamas public-relations gambit in the form of a sea-cruise, scrounging money from student unions and bullying doubters.
What was the so-called Canadian resistance up to last year while the Iranian resistance organizers were risking imprisonment, torture and execution as they prepared for anti-regime demonstrations? It was organizing a Canadian speaking tour for the Khomeinist regime’s greasiest English-speaking propagandist, George Galloway, celebrity presenter for the Tehran regime’s Press TV propaganda arm. What is Galloway’s Press TV now force-feeding the Iranian people in the form of “coverage” of the Libyan uprising? Israel is suppling Gaddafi with guns, money and 50,000 mercenaries so far, at $2,000 a day per mercenary. The lie has gone viral in western “anti-war” circles, as you would expect.
A couple of weeks ago in Tel Aviv, Khaled Abu Toameh was awarded the 2011 Abramowitz Prize for Media Criticism by Israel Media Watch. In his acceptance speech, Toameh called on the international community and western donors to pressure the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to allow a free press and to stop harassing journalists. “A growing number of my Arab colleagues no longer see themselves as foot soldiers serving the revolution or presidents or kings or governments,” he said. “I’m happy to see that the Arabs who have taken to the streets of Cairo, Tunis, and other Arab capitals are not only demanding regime change, many are also demanding a free media, one that does not serve as a mouthpiece for dictators and ruling parties.”
If you’d rather be a chump, hurry along obediently to your nearest Israeli Apartheid Week event. Don’t forget your kaffiyeh, you’ll catch a cold. There’s a good little narcissist. The apologists for Arab tyranny will provide lunch, and there might even be a movie. But if you want to do something for the revolution, this is what Toameh says the Palestinians need:
“Most of all, they need to hear — and see — from America and Europe that they are willing to support and help to put in place institutions of democracy — above all, freedom of speech without which no other freedoms are possible, as well as rule of law, open education, freedom of the press, equal justice under law, transparency in banking, property rights, and other freedoms of the west — and not just set in motion a shallow process that will only set in motion an even more oppressive form of government down the road.”
See? No massive invasion is necessary. They’re not even asking for air strikes.
Journalist, author and blogger Terry Glavin is an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of British Columbia and editor of Transmontanus Books.