Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Defiance” Protects Against Accountability!

By Elias Harfoush
This commentary was published in al-Hayat on 01/02/2011

In the demonstrations taking place on the streets of Egypt, anti-regime political slogans are mixed with legitimate social demands. It is true that the campaign against seeing Jamal Mubarak inherit the presidency, the war on some high-ranking corrupt officials, and the call for measures to protect low-income groups from rising prices, are what is moving the demonstrators. But it is truer that the campaigns of exploiting these demands by “experts” in this field, who work at some Arab satellite stations or oversee other media, are distinguishing the Arab world’s media coverage of the events in Egypt, to the degree that this exploitation has become a burden on the demands of the Egyptian masses and a danger to their movement.

Why is there a danger that these demands may be exploited? There are two principle reasons that deserve some thought.

The first is that a wide-scale process of misleading people is underway, via the claim by people exploiting the demands of the Egyptian street that they are defending the goals of this uprising. Those who use their TV screens to defend these objectives, such as fighting the inheriting of political power or the anti-corruption campaign, only see the phenomenon of inheriting power or government corruption in specific areas, while closing their eyes to it in other places. An honest defender of calls such as these should be brave in defending them in every place, and in every Arab country, not just when it suits one’s interests, or serves the objectives of the state that hosts the satellite station, or funds a given newspaper.

The second reason is that the political exploitation of legitimate socio-economic demands should allow the opportunity for the most organized segment in Egyptian society to come to the forefront, to reap the benefit of the fall of the regime of President Husni Mubarak, if this happens. Everyone knows the identity of the most organized segment in Egypt, one that is capable of playing this role. The Muslim Brotherhood was “too cunning” when it appeared distant from the protests during the first few days, but it revealed its intentions yesterday when Mohammed El-Baradei tried to declare himself the spokesperson of the opposition movements. There was a quick response, as an official declared that the group had not delegated this authority to El-Baradei, in a clear signal of the direction that the Egyptian opposition will take if it succeeds in toppling the regime.

The danger here is not only from the Muslim Brotherhood and its narrow political program, but the Egyptian army’s readiness to pounce on the Brotherhood if it were to play such a role, just as the army watched, in the shadows, under Presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar Sadat. In the recent political arrangements that were announced by President Mubarak, it became evident that the army held the keys to the game, and the solution, in its hands. This means that the army will not let security chaos lead to a central political role for the Muslim Brotherhood in the near future, due to the negative repercussions this will have for Egypt’s regional and international commitments, and the cohesion of its domestic situation. In a confrontation such as this, it is natural to say that the just demands of this uprising will be the first victim, not to mention that such a clash will lead to a bigger role for the army, carrying out its usual mission at the expense of civil institutions.

In any event, the exploitation of the energy of the so-called Arab masses, and the political short-sightedness of a large number of Arab “intellectuals”, are nothing new in our region, which has paid a heavy price for such things. It is also nothing new that the defenders of democracy in Egypt and Tunisia, and those who predict new “targets”, are the ones who clapped loudest when the Iranian uprising against the rigged presidential elections was crushed. They also worked against the results of the Iraqi elections, in the formation of the government of Nuri al-Maliki. These cheerleaders are the same ones who admire the way in which Saad Hariri was excluded from the post of prime minister in Lebanon, in a violation of democratic norms that should be taught in political science institutes one day. The lesson from all of this is that the conditions for respecting democracy, the fight against corruption and political nepotism, and other shiny slogans, do not apply to the countries and parties of the “defiance” camp. This is because “defiance” protects against accountability!

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