In his recent speech at the “World Economic Forum” held in Jordan, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, referred to the so-called “Arab Spring” as the “Arab Awakening” no less than seven times. I presume that Kerry is aware of the fact that in the field of twentieth-century Arab history the term “Arab Awakening” refers to the rise of Arab nationalism as an alleged response to European colonialism and imperialism. It was the “Arab Awakening” that gave us figures like Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak. It was the “Arab Awakening” that would eventually usher people like Saddam Hussein and Yassir Arafat onto the world stage.
Thus it is rather unusual that Kerry would use that term to describe the hysterical series of murders and riots and rapes that characterized the rise of political Islam during the recent “Arab Spring.” Kerry, much like his boss, Barack Obama, seems entirely immune to history. When the “Arab Spring” first arose I was willing to wait and watch even as others, including the president of the United States, hailed the development as the great upwelling of Arab democracy. People like Kerry and Obama interpreted the brutal chaos and blood that we saw in Tunisia and Libya and Egypt as a positive thing. They saw it, initially, as a youth movement hell-bent on freedom and autonomy for the Arab peoples living under the yoke of dictatorship.
In this way they projected their own ideological pasts onto the Arab present. For Kerry this is palpable given that his ideological moment in the sun came as a significant progressive-left political leader among disaffected American soldiers and American youth during the Vietnam War.
As we all remember, it was the lack of that kind of basic respect that ignited the Arab Awakening. It started with a single protest – a street vendor who deserved the right to be able to sell his goods without police interruption and corruption. And then it spread to Cairo, where young Egyptians used their cell phones and tweeted and texted and Googled and called and summoned people to the cause.
As Arabs were killing one another in the streets throughout the Muslim Middle East over the rise of political Islam, ideological western baby boomers, like Kerry, interpreted what they were seeing through the lens of 1960s America. They projected their own failed hopes and dreams onto another people going through upheaval in a different time and place. The truth, of course, is that the youthful idealism of Kerry’s glory years have nothing whatsoever to do with the rise of political Islam, which is essentially a fascist movement.
That’s the deep irony.
What’s most disturbing, however (at least to me) is the absolute failure to learn from the past.
Kerry said this:
And what is fundamentally driving the demand for change in this region is, in fact, generational. It’s about whether the massive populations of young people, still growing, has hope that there is something better on the horizon. It’s about opportunity and it’s about respect and it’s about dignity.
This is, of course, absolute nonsense and I am amused that after all this time the Obama administration is still interpreting the “Arab Spring” as a positive development. Obama even stood before the United Nations and bragged about assisting it. This is no longer a case of wishful thinking, but of full-on denial. They still honestly interpret the rise of political Islam (or “radical Islam” or “Islamism”) in a way that evokes the western youth movement of the 1960s. They still see it as the herald of a glorious new day in which the masses will arise and throw off the hard and crusty and violently corrupt leadership characteristic of the Arab world.
John Kerry stood at the Dead Sea and hallucinated his brains out. And if that was not sad enough, he articulated this hallucination, as the American Secretary of State, before dignitaries from around the world.
It should be obvious that during a time of exceeding chaos and turmoil throughout the Middle East that the last thing that anyone can afford is a western political leadership that refuses to learn from the past or to even see what is before their very eyes. The rise of political Islam under the misnomer “Arab Spring” is not about economics and it is not about well-meaning radical youth deposing dictatorships.
It is about the replacement of one kind of dictatorship with another kind of dictatorship.
From an historical perspective what Kerry dubbed the “Arab Awakening” (which I suppose we could call Arab Awakening Mark II) is about the transition from the original Arab Awakening of secular nationalism to the current Arab Awakening of political Islam. What we are seeing in the Middle East is a sea change. It is a transitional moment, but the transition is nothing like what Barack Obama and John Kerry tell us it is. It is not a transition from dictatorship to freedom, but a transition from secular dictatorship to Islamic theocratic dictatorship.
How it is possible that Barack Obama and John Kerry are unaware of this seems unfathomable. I suppose it is possible that they are fully aware of it, but are simply lying through their teeth. In either case, the refusal to publicly recognize and oppose the rise of political Islam is the foremost failure of Obama administration foreign policy. It was, in fact, this failure of recognition that eventually lead to the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his staff on September 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. If the Obama administration had even the slightest clue about the nature of political Islam they never could have left the security of their diplomatic team in Benghazi to local militias, which is precisely what they did do.
Sadly, however, John Kerry’s hallucinatory ramblings at the Dead Sea did not stop at the macro-level of misinterpreting the Arab Spring but continued on to the micro-level of the Arab residents of Israel. Kerry is suggesting that the west should fork over four billion dollars to the Palestinian Authority in order to wean them off charity as the basis of their economy.
Kerry said this:
Ultimately, as the investment climate in the West Bank and Gaza improves, so will the potential for a financial self-sufficient Palestinian Authority that will not have to rely as much on foreign aid. So just think, my friends – we are talking about a place with just over 4 million people in a small geographic area. When you’re talking about $4 billion or more and this kind of economic effort, you are talking about something that is absolutely achievable.
Let me ask you if this makes a wit of sense.
John Kerry is proposing that in order to make the Arab residents of Israel “self-sufficient” they need to be given 4 billion dollars? In other words, Kerry is suggesting that in order to wean the Arab residents of Israel off the economy of charity we should give them four billion dollars.
Yes, that makes a great deal of sense.
Mike Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.