The Caravan

Nothing to Talk About

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Hamas won the parliamentary elections in Gaza, in February 2006, because of its prominent role in the Second Intifadah (September 2000 until February 2005) and the untimely death of Yasir Arafat in November 2004. Hamas, which is the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, has no genuine interest in democratic elections and pluralism, and therefore it was not surprising that it took over the Gaza Strip by force in June 2007. This action was decided in cahoots with the Syria-Iran-Hizballah axis, and its objective was to undermine Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, as well as the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Hamas also provoked a war with Israel in December 2008-January 2009. To talk to Hamas will lead nowhere as Hamas is against peace with Israel, and all attempts to reconcile Hamas with the Palestinian Authority have failed.

In Lebanon, the prime minister, Najib Miqati, was hand- picked in June 2011 by Syria and Hizballah. The latter managed to do so because they have continued to use force and the threat of force to prevent the Cedar Revolution majority from ruling Lebanon . Despite the fact that the 2005 parliamentary elections led to the victory of the Cedar Revolution coalition, Syria and Hizballah have continued to use force. Hizballah provoked a war with Israel in July-August 2006, and Syria sent the jihadist, Fath al-Islam militia to northern Lebanon in May 2007 which was defeated by the Lebanese Army. Many prominent journalists and parliamentarians who were leaders in the Cedar Revolution have been assassinated. The parliamentary elections of June 2009 resulted in a victory for the Cedar Revolution coalition, but the Syrian proxy Hizballah threatened to use force and imposed Najib Miqati as Prime Minister. Talking to the latter, therefore, will produce no results as he is dependent on his Syrian and Hizballah masters.


The Egyptian Revolution that lasted eighteen days (January 25th to February 11th, 2011) and emanated from Tahrir Square in Cairo, inspired the whole world. A young Egyptian revolutionary put it very well when he said that "the best of Egypt was in Tahrir Square." That was then, what about now? The young people who made the Revolution and put an end to the fear that permeated Egyptian society, have been excluded from power because they wanted a free liberal democratic polity. Contrary to the prevalent view that the Muslim Brothers were banned under Mubarak they were actually the "favored opposition" and were allowed to organize and spread their ideology. The only difference between the pre-Revolution era and now is that the Muslim Brothers are officially recognized as the Party of Freedom and Justice.

Talking to the Muslim Brothers will not be of any importance because the real power in Egypt is in the hands of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). The power of the elected Muslim Brothers President Muhamad Mursi is limited, and in the final analysis dependent on SCAF. The Muslim Brothers and the SCAF share things in common: both are undemocratic and both are against the young revolutionaries and the human rights activists who made the 2011 revolution.

In Tunisia, the militant Muslims of al-Nahda Movement won in October 2011, 37 per cent of the popular vote, and a plurality of 89 seats in a parliament of 217 seats. Unlike in Libya, where the secular and liberal parties and organizations formed a coalition, in Tunisia the equivalent parties ran in elections as separate political organizations which made it possible for the Islamists to come to power. The Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, secretary-general of al-Nahda formed a cabinet in December 2011 with half its members from al-Nahda. In November 2011, Hammadi Jebali depicted the victory of the Islamists in Tunisia as a prelude "to the liberation of Jerusalem." He also called the coming to power of the Islamists in Tunisia as tantamount to the declaration of "the sixth Caliphate" which in Sunni Islam means the one coming after the first four caliphs (632-661) and an Ummayad caliph who ruled from 717 to 720.

Talking to the Islamists in Tunisia, Egypt, and Gaza cannot be avoided, but the statements and the actions of their leaders do not augur well for the future of democracy in the region.

Marius Deeb teaches Middle East Studies at SAIS, JHU and is the author of four books and 128 articles. His latest book is Syria’s Terrorist War on Lebanon and the Peace Process.

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