Friday, January 28, 2011

"I am 70 years old, I am going to die, but these people have to fight to live"

Things are clearly heating up in Egypt, now four days into their unrest, itself a response to the unrest in Tunisia that lead to successful regime change (well, the change part is successful; whether it leads to long-term democratic institutions and social justice, that's a different question).

On a certain level, we knew this day would come. The regimes around the Arab world have been playing a dangerous game of populism, demagoguery and dictatorship for 30+ years now, maintaining the status quo, inciting and directing popular anger against Israel (while doing nothing to alleviate the Palestinian situation, with a few notable exceptions), watching their partially state-run economies stagnate, supporting the army (which is often the only strong institution aside from the regime), and convincing the west that it was either their governments or chaos, all the while hoping it wouldn't come to this. And yet it was, to some degree, inevitable. After years of anxiety about the Arab Street, the Maghreb has exploded (or rather, self-immolated).

Someone asked me whether this was good for the Jews, by which I assume she meant Israel. I didn't have a good answer for her. For those of us who love Israel, we want stability, and the fear of the Muslim Brotherhood taking control of Egypt (as Hezbollah has with the Lebanon) is a frightening prospect. After over 30 years of peace, though hardly friendship, it's almost impossible to think of going back that way again.

At the same time, how can our hearts not go out to those who have been in their own captivity for so long? As people (Jews, Israeli, American) who hold the ideals of justice, equality under the law, and liberty, we can't help but marvel at this terrible and violent desire for tzedek being realized. In the same way 22 years ago we stood amazed and anxious as protesters in Tienanmen Square stared down tanks or East Berliners took hammers in their hand to hack away at the wall that imprisoned them for generations, we do the same today.

I don't know if this will be 'good for the Jews' or 'good for Israel' in the short term, long term or anything in between. Egypt and Tunisia could become the Czech Republic, or Lebanon, or Iraq, or Iran (all of which are, I'm sure, terrible analogies for demographic, geopolitical and religious reasons) or the same old Egypt and Tunisia, just led by different strongmen. Or a hundred, a thousand other possibilities. Is it pollyanna to hope that the best possible outcome might happen, with great effort and struggle? Is it too much to hope?

"...they cry to me, I will surely hear their cry..." (Ex. 22:22). Perhaps we should, through our worry and concern and suspicion, listen to their cry as well.

Article from Ha'aretz on the uprising can be found below.

Egypt sends army tanks into cities as curfew goes unheeded - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

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