Fearing Political Islam


Ask any Arab ruler, and they will tell you of the great sacrifices their countries have made for Palestine and the Palestinians. However, both history and present reality are testaments, not only to Arab failure to live up to the role expected of them and stand in solidarity with their own oppressed brethren, but also to the official Arab betrayal of the Palestinian cause. The current war on Gaza, and the dubious role played by Egypt in the ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are cases in point.

Read this comments by Aaron David Miller, a scholar at the Wilson Center in Washington to appreciate the depth of the unmistakable Arab betrayal. “I have never seen a situation like it, where you have so many Arab states acquiescing in the death and destruction in Gaza and the pummeling of Hamas,” Miller told the New York Times. “The silence is deafening.”

Miller explains Arab silence in relations to their loathing of political Islam which rose to prominence following the so-called Arab Spring. Such rise saw the advent of movements like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda in Tunisia to the centers of power. The ‘Arab Spring’ challenged and, at least temporarily, disabled the hegemony over power by corruption-ridden, pro-western Arab elites, unleashing the energies of civil societies that have been historically marginalized.begging slogans3

Political Islam, especially that which is affiliated with moderate Islamic ideology known as al-Wasatiyyah (roughly translated as ‘moderation’) swept-up the votes in several democratic elections. Like Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian elections in 2006, other such Islamic movements followed suit the moment the ‘Arab Spring’ pushed open a small margin for democracy and freedom of expression.

The danger of political Islamic movements that don’t adhere to an extremist ideology like that of the Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, for example, is that they are not easy to dismiss as ‘extremists,’ ‘terrorists’, and such. At times, in fact, often, they seem much more inclined to play the democratic game than self-proclaimed Arab ‘secularist’, ‘liberal’ and ‘socialist’ movements.

Israel’s most recent war on Gaza, starting on July 7, came at a time that political Islam was being routed out in Egypt and criminalized in other Arab countries. It was the first major Israeli military attack on Gaza since the ousting of democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Although the Israeli war morphed in the course of a few days to that of a genocide (thousands killed, thousands wounded, and nearly fourth of the Gazan population made homeless), most Arab countries remained mostly silent. They mouthed-off some random condemnations that meant so very little. Egypt, however, went even further.

Soon after the Israeli war ‘Operation Protective Edge’ began, Egypt proposed a most suspicious ceasefire, one that even the Times found peculiar. “The government in Cairo .. surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group (Hamas),” wrote David Kirkpatrick on July 30. Hamas, the main Palestinian party in the conflict, which is also declared by Egypt’s government as ‘terrorist,’ was not consulted and only learned about the proposal through the media. But, of course, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the Egyptian proposal; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, a main rival of Hamas, and a strong opponent of armed resistance (and arguably, any form of Palestinian resistance, really) welcomed the ‘brotherly’ Egyptian gesture; other Arab rulers rushed to commend Egypt’s Abdul Fatah al-Sisi for his astute regional leadership.

Of course, the whole exercise was a farce, meant to eventually blame Hamas and the resistance in Gaza for refusing an end to the conflict (which they didn’t start and were its ultimate victim), and to prop up Sisi as the new icon of peace and moderation in the region; the kind of ‘strong man’ with whom the United States government liked to do business.

It all failed, of course, for one single reason, the Gaza resistance held its ground, costing Israel serious military losses, and igniting worldwide sympathy and respect.

But no respect came from traditional Arab governments, of course, including those who praise the legendary ‘sumoud’ – steadfastness – of the Palestinian people at every opportunity, speech and sermon. The renewed success of Hamas, which arguably had been fading away into oblivion after the overthrow of Egypt’s brotherhood, and the severing of ties with Damascus and Tehran, was puzzling, and immensely frustrating to these governments.

If Hamas survives the Gaza battle, the resistance will promote its endurance before the Middle East’s supposedly strongest army as a victory. Netanyahu will suffer dire consequences at home. Ties between Hamas and Iran could be renewed. The ‘resistance camp’ could once more rekindle. The moral victory for the Brotherhood and the moral defeat of Sisi (and his prospected regional role) would be astounding.

An alliance of sorts was founded between several Arab countries and Israel to ensure the demise of the resistance in Gaza – not just the resistance as an idea, and its practical expressions, but also its political manifestations as well, which are felt far and beyond the confines of Gaza’s besieged borders.

Former Israel lobbyist and current vice president of the Brookings Institution in Washington, Martin Indyk has an explanation. “There’s an ‘alignment of interests’ between nations that aren’t allies, yet have ‘common adversaries’,” Indyk told Bloomberg. “As they see that the US is less engaged than it was before, it’s natural that they look to each other – quietly, under the table in most respects – to find a way to help each other.”

Naturally, the latest round of ceasefire talks in Cairo failed because the party that is hosting the talks deems the leading Palestinian resistance group Hamas, ‘terrorist’ and would hate to see a scenario in which Gaza prevails over Israel. If the resistance demand of ending the siege is met, especially the demand of reactivating the Gaza seaport and airport, Egypt would be denied a major leverage against Hamas, the resistance, and the Palestinian people altogether.

And if the resistance wins – as in holding the Israeli military at bay, and achieving some of its demands – the political discourse of the Middle East is likely to change altogether, where the weak will, once again, dare challenge the strong by demanding reforms, democracy, and threatening resistance as a realistic way to achieve such objectives.

Interestingly, the Hamas victory in the Palestinian Legislative Elections in 2006 had revived the possibility of political Islam in achieving its goals via the ballot box, which was a harbinger of the rise of political Islam throughout the region following the ‘Arab Spring.’ Any victory for Palestinian resistance can also be considered equally as dangerous for those who want to maintain the status quo throughout the region.

Some Arab rulers continue to declare their strong support of Palestine and its cause. ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ however, has exposed beyond a doubt that such solidarity is just a mere show of words; and that, although discretely, some Arabs wish to see Israel crush any semblance of Palestinian resistance, in Gaza and anywhere else.

Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People’s History at the University of Exeter. He is the Managing Editor of Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London). His website is: ramzybaroud.net

Weekend Edition
October 2-4, 2015
Henry Giroux
Murder, USA: Why Politicians Have Blood on Their Hands
Jennifer Loewenstein
Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars
John Pilger
Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth
Mike Whitney
Putin’s Lightning War in Syria
Gary Leupp
A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists
Jeffrey St. Clair
Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death
Joshua Frank
The Need to Oppose All Foreign Intervention in Syria
Lawrence Ware – Paul Buhle
Insurrectional Black Power: CLR James on Race and Class
Oliver Tickell
Jeremy Corbyn’s Heroic Refusal to be a Nuclear Mass Murderer
Helen Yaffe
Che’s Economist: Remembering Jorge Risquet
Mark Hand
‘Rape Rooms’: How West Virginia Women Paid Off Coal Company Debts
Yves Engler
War Crimes in the Dark: Inside Canada’s Special Forces
Arno J. Mayer
Israel: the Wages of Hubris and Violence
W. T. Whitney
Cuban Government Describes Devastating Effects of U. S. Economic Blockade
Brian Cloughley
The US-NATO Alliance Destroyed Libya, Where Next?
Barry Lando
Syria: Obama’s Bay of Pigs?
Karl Grossman
The Politics of Lyme Disease
Andre Vltchek
Southeast Asia “Forgets” About Western Terror
Jose Martinez
American Violence: Umpqua is “Routine”?
Vijay Prashad
Russian Gambit, Syrian Dilemma
Sam Smith
Why the Democrats are in Such a Mess
Uri Avnery
Nasser and Me
Andrew Levine
The Saints March In: The Donald and the Pope
Arun Gupta
The Refugee Crisis in America
Michael Welton
Junior Partner of Empire: Why Canada’s Foreign Policy Isn’t What You Think
Lara Santoro
Terror as Method: a Journalist’s Search for Truth in Rwanda
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Elections and Verbal Vomit
Dan Glazebrook
Refugees Don’t Cause Fascism, Mr. Timmermann – You Do
Victor Grossman
Blood Moon Over Germany
Patrick Bond
Can World’s Worst Case of Inequality be Fixed by Pikettian Posturing?
Pete Dolack
Earning a Profit from Global Warming
B. R. Gowani
Was Gandhi Averse to Climax? A Psycho-Sexual Assessment of the Mahatma
Tom H. Hastings
Another Mass Murder
Anne Petermann
Activists Arrested at ArborGen GE Trees World Headquarters
Ben Debney
Zombies on a Runaway Train
Franklin Lamb
Confronting ‘Looting to Order’ and ‘Cultural Racketeering’ in Syria
Carl Finamore
Coming to San Francisco? Cra$h at My Pad
Ron Jacobs
Standing Naked: Bob Dylan and Jesus
Missy Comley Beattie
What Might Does To Right
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi Jayanti, Gandhi’s Dream
Raouf Halaby
A Week of Juxtapositions
Louis Proyect
Scenes from the Class Struggle in Iran
Christopher Washburn
Skeptik’s Lexicon
Charles R. Larson
Indonesia: Robbed, Raped, Abused
David Yearsley
Death Songs