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ICSR BLOG SERIES Part 7: Atkin Fellow Perspectives on the Arab Spring

06/07/2011

For me the Atkin Fellowship has had a strong personal influence on the way that is it has enabled me to better understand how things are viewed from outside the region and from new perspectives.

As someone who has taken part of many efforts to try and change the political reality in Israel, I must emphasise that the  fellowship is unique in the way that it promotes dialogue and enables us to better understand each other’s needs rather than each other’s declared “wants”, thus enabling us to find better ways to reach reconciliation. As more potentially influential people grow aware of these possibilities it increases the likelihood that these understandings will spread and grow in the region and even lead to peace that goes beyond a piece of paper.

One must not underestimate the historical changes that we are witnessing in the region as part of the “Arab Spring”. These revolutions harbour the potential for people to finally govern themselves and choose their country’s leadership and shape their own future. However, I tend to be a realist and believe that the century old borders drawn by the Sykes-Picot Agreement are still intact and that every country has its own specific circumstances and interests.

The two main powers in the game are the media and the Western governments. It is not hard to notice that the media catalyst – Al-Jazeera (Arabic) is reporting events according to its own interests (this being the Qatari regime’s interest), and by doing so they define the good and the bad in each country. Western governments do the same, regardless of the reality on the ground. One can only wonder where is the West in the Syrian and Bahraini bloody oppression of protests, or where was it when there were deadlier protests in Iran, when compared to Libya.

From an Israeli perspective, there are risks as well as opportunities. On the one hand democracy (if that would be the case) has the potential of free dialogue rather than boycott, that would show that us Zionists are not war mongering and blood thirsty but just as human and rational as everyone else. On the other hand, in the case that neighbouring countries wouldn’t fall into a theocratic regime (in the form of Muslim brotherhood), the common denominator of all future political parties, after analysing the polls, there could be hostility towards Israel, thus harming the very fragile peace and official and unofficial cooperation Israel has with some of its neighbours.

Personally, I would gladly support Israel’s loosing of the title ‘the only democracy in the middle east’, and I wish that the people involved in the protests and revolutions remember to follow the slogans that they protested with, calling for democracy, human rights, respect and dignity. If these values are implemented in future regimes, I believe peace would be more likely as I still believe that freedom and true democracy brings about better understanding and dialogue, rather than radicalisation and war.