When I try to go back to my childhood memories, it seems to me that although I am Egyptian-Tunisian, I knew about Yasser Arafat much long before than about, say, Habib Bourguiba or Jamal Abdel Nasser. It is not even very surprising when you think of it, there is not one single thing in the world that unites Arabs (people, not elites) like the idea of that free country that once was, called Palestine. The Palestinian cause is kind of transcending our frontiers (in Arab countries and inside the diaspora); most of us felt emotionnaly and intellectually implicated in the Intifadas even before thinking of our own national causes.
One of the very common frustration of the Arab citizen we are is to be forced to see our own countries ruled by dictators all more or less openly collaborating with Israel – the oppressor of the Palestinian people. The corrupted elites of the Middle-East and North Africa allowed Israel to benefit of an auspicious neighbourhood to prosper while they benefited in return of exclusive and lucrative business opportunities or technical support by the Mossad. Each of us pronounced at least once the simple sentence “El Hokam al-Arab ahanoona” (“The Arab rulers humiliated us”), and each of us knew the supreme humiliation was always to watch, helpless, the Israeli giant killing day by day men, women, children, freedom and hope (supported and sponsorised by “Mama Amerika“). The one and only time of my entire life – more than 29 years now – that I cursed myself for being Egyptian was when, during the Gaza attack on civilians of 2009 by the Israeli army, Egypt (well… Egyptian officials driven by an American agenda) blocked the tunnels linking Sinaï to Gaza strip used for food and weapon supplies; the tears of shame were bitter.
When the current wave of popular freedom began to shake the Arab world, and especially when Egypt was freed from the Mubarak oligarchy, one of my very first thoughts went to Palestine: now that we are not forced anymore to watch our elites making of the 85 million of us passive accomplices of the Israeli savage repression on Palestinians and the denial of their humanity, will Israel be weakened and will it change something for the Palestinians? Will Israel consider in making steps towards an acceptable treatment of Palestinian revendications?
A couple of days after the February 11th, I saw an amazing video on youtube of 3 million Egyptians gathered on Tahrir Square chanting “Al Quds (Jerusalem) we are coming!“. The video of a peaceful crowd claiming their solidarity for Palestine don’t even need any comment or explanation to be powerful:
The protests in Egypt in front of Israeli Embassy became frequent, and the growing feeling is that there is no space anymore for the impunity of Israel. That’s from the people’s side, but what from the new Egyptian authorities? Well, we have only a transitory government, but it seems that it took the full measure of the popular demand on the deals of Egypt with Israel. The first relevant fact was when the government announced that the gas supply to Israel with an underestimated price will be revised. Egypt supplies almost for free 40% of the gas Israel uses and the pipeline bringing the gas to Israel and Jordan is often targeted by vandalism. On the night of April 27th, the pipeline was damaged once again, and the gas supply had to be interrupted, causing Israel to begin to consider the need of self-sufficiency, if in the future they have to forget about the Egyptian gas. The news was very favorably welcomed by most of the Egyptians.
Another significant fact we lately came aware of is that the significant entrave the Mubarak regime was opposing to arms supply to the Gaza strip will be now much reduced. On April 5th Israel has to hit with a missile a car in Sudan, killing two men implicated in Hamas military operations, one of them presumed to be successor of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, assasinated by Israel in Dubai last year. Apparently, Sudan gets weapons from Iran that are then carried through Egypt and then through Gaza tunnels, for Iran supports actively Hamas. Without a tightly collaborating Egyptian government there is very few chance Israel can controll the weapons flux incoming to Gaza strip, and ensuring collaboration of the democratically elected Egyptian government would require Israel to stop the abuses on the Palestinian population.
Besides Egypt, the Arab turmoil is causing trouble to Israel alliances with Arab elites in more than one way. The ousted Tunisian dictator Ben Ali and his clan were closely collaborating with Israel: the Mossad was well implanted in Tunisia where they provided a logistic and technical support to repression. The Tunisian crowd found many catridges stamped “Made in Israel” on the material used by Tunisian security forces. For example on this video, a Tunisian man in the city of Ariana finds a lot of bullets where we see hebrew writings:
The implication of Israel in repression in Tunisia was also clearly documented in the documentary “Soqot Dawlat al Fassad” (“The downfall of the corrupted regime”) broadcasted on Tunisian National TV Al Wataniya we can still watch on their website (especially starting from 15:00), including a new eclairage on the Djerba synagogue bomb attack, attributed to Islamists but apparently being the product of a cooperation of Tunisian authorities with Israeli Intelligence. Under Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia was a strong ally to the Palestinian Authority; Yasser Arafat long beneficiated from the support of Tunisia to the Palestinian cause and his wife, Soha Arafat, was holding until 2007 the Tunisian citizenship, before Ben Ali withdrawed it from her and urged her to quit Tunisian territory following an argument with Leïla Ben Ali. The ousting of Ben Ali might well be the end of the tolerance of Tunisia towards Israel. After the Revolution, Israel offered financial incentives for the return to Israel of the Jewish community in Tunisia, causing displeasure to the transitory Tunisian government, that argues that the Tunisian Jews were peacefully living in Tunisia since centuries.
Concerning the other Arabic States, although the outcome is not yet clearly known, some indications allow to conclude that Israel cooperations with tyrants might well be lost. For example, the trade that was ongoing between the Gaddafi family and Israel, providing Libyan oil in exchange of Israeli tanks and other weapons (among which forbidden weapons currently used to mass murder Libyan population) might well to be stopped forever, given the close evolution of the Libyan conflict.
Since the unrest began to shake Bashar Al Assad regime in Syria and a few signs of a possible propagation in Jordan, Israel’s most faithfull ally in the region, it seems that once for all, Israel entered in the phase of isolation in the Middle-East. If the people take power in the immediate and close neighbourhood of Israel, it might well that the Zionist State is no more given the choice: treat correctly the Palestinian, respect their right to have an Independant State, stop their crimes against humanity, or face the massive and strong opposition of Arab States, ruled by elected governments that are under the accountability of the people.The growing unpopularity inside the Arab region of the American foreign policy (to a point that Hillary Clinton visit in Egypt and Tunisia was troubled by massive protests) and the unpopularity of American-sided candidates like Mohammad Al Baradei or Amr Moussa makes it highly improbable that Israel will ever find again within the region allies like Ben Ali, Mubarak or Gaddafi.
There was a myth not so long ago: an imaginary tale consisting of depicting Israel as being the “only democracy in the Middle-East”. Besides the fact that brutality and apartheid automatically suppresses the credibility of a country self-proclamed democratic (voting is not the only right and due of a democraty), we might well have to tell the opposite tale in a couple of years: Israel, the only dictatorship left in the Middle-East, forced to justice or to disparition.