Social structure of Arab societies, clout of Islamists make true democracy unlikely
by: Dan Calic
With the Arab world boiling in turmoil, Western leaders led by President Obama are throwing their support behind “populist” demonstrations ostensibly calling for “freedom” in the form of democracy, and the overthrow of governments that in all cases are dictatorial.
On the surface, calls for “freedom” and “democracy” get warm reactions from Westerners who live in countries where genuine freedom of expression is allowed and true democratic governments exist. Yet Westerners who are turning their backs on “friendly” dictators and taking up the rallying cries of the protestors do not have a genuine understanding of what the likely outcome will be should the protestors succeed.
The result will not be democracy, and friendly relations with the West will disappear.
The concepts of freedom and democracy, while basic to Western countries, are anything but in the Arab world. In fact, in the entire Middle East not a single true democracy exists among the Arab countries. The region’s only true democracy is Israel.
There are also significant cultural differences between Western countries and the Arab world that present overwhelming obstacles to “freedom” and “democracy.” While obedience to civil law and acceptance of government’s role is fundamental in Western democracies, the social structure in the Arab world is made up of an entirely different order of allegiances, which maker the prospects of implementing true democracy as likely as placing a round peg into a square hole.
In many cases, the most important allegiance in the Arab world is not obedience to civil law and compliance with governmental authority, but rather, to the family unit. Often, a no less important allegiance is to the Imam. Many of these religious leaders ingrain Arab society with adherence to Islam, vilify the enemies of Islam, promote jihad and Sharia law, issue decrees as they see fit and object to Western-style freedom and democracy. Indeed, the very meaning of Islam is “submission.”
A third allegiance is to the tribe or clan. Tribal law and wars between various clans have been ongoing for centuries. A young son is taught to be part of his clan and obey and participate in clan activities, including war against other clans. Disobedience can result in death.
With obedience to one’s father, imam and clan all superseding the law, Western-style freedom and democracy becomes largely impossible.
Moreover, the West should be wary of is who is behind the populist uprisings. Muslims make up 90% of the 22 Arab countries in the region, and while many young people would like to see a change in their government, the fundamentalists exert huge influence in the Arab world. Even if they are not in the majority in raw numbers, they threaten and intimidate non-fundamentalists and hold huge clout.
An excellent example in this respect is the Palestinian theater. In January 2006, elections were held in the PA and fundamentalist terror group Hamas scored a resounding victory over the more secular Fatah. Some 18 months later, after bloody battles with Fatah, Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip and has ruled it ever since.
Similarly, elections in other Muslim countries may result in government controlled by hard line Islamists. Once they take over, they are unlikely to give up power.
Hence, President Obama ought to be careful of what he wishes for. He might just discover that his promotion of changes and revolutions in the Arab world may come back to haunt not only him, but all of us.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -