The revolution of the Egyptian people, which began on January 25 and will not end until the entire system is overhauled from top to bottom, has shaken up not only the Arab world but the world at large. The success of the revolution lies in one simple reality: It was a revolution for freedom, for democracy, and if it wasn’t for that, it wouldn’t have succeeded, wouldn’t have been worthwhile. Its sole logo is the Egyptian flag; the essence of the revolution had nothing to do with imperialism, Zionism or Arab Unity.
In 1953, Zionist-leader David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, sent an Australian reporter to interview late Egyptian president Nasser and ask him about his position towards Israel. Nasser responded by saying that he didn’t care about Israel. What he cared about is eradicating poverty, ignorance and ill health in order to make of Egypt a strong, free nation. Later on, Ben-Gurion wrote in his memoir that this was the worst moment of his entire life. His rationale was quite clear: Only a strong, free Egypt can face imperialism, Zionism and all foreseeable threats; only a strong, free Egypt can unite all Arabs.
In my estimation, that’s what incited Ben-Gurion to attack the camp of the Egyptian army in Gaza in 1955 and slaughter everyone in it in order to provoke Nasser, the military man, the southerner. As a result, Nasser became obsessed with strengthening the army, putting everything in second place. What he didn’t realize is that real military might can only be achieved if the nation is free and strong. A prime example is the American army whose strength is stimulated from proper education, freedom of expression, transparency of elections and the well-being of the majority of the population.
The U.S. put an end to the former U.S.S.R in 1945 when it bombed Japan despite the fact that the Second World War had ended by then. The motive behind this move was simple: to push the U.S.S.R. into an arms race. The U.S.S.R swallowed the bait, and instead of reaping the fruits of victory and dedicate its efforts to enhance the well-being of its citizens, the former Soviet Union concentrated its efforts in the arm race, dragged in a long Cold War in a vain attempt to split the world with the U.S.
History has taught us that only free peoples have the ability to conquer all battles and enemies. Israel is trembling now like it has never trembled before in its entire history because this revolution didn’t shout against Israel.
Over the past three weeks, the world came tumbling down, struggling to comprehend the magnitude and meaning of this great moment in history: An Emirati citizen is arrested for publicly supporting the Egyptian revolution after the Friday prayers, China blocks the word Egypt from online search engines in fear of the contagious effect the revolution might induce, the whole world from Paris to Washington falls into confusion when they realize that ‘Islam is the Solution’ is not the slogan of the revolution.
Every nation desires peace, including Israel, but the new democratic Egypt, born with the January 25 revolution, knows that the road to real peace cannot be constructed unless it’s strong and liberal and not just adeptly armed like Nasser believed it should be. Nasser’s gravest mistake was his misuse of methods, and ultimately, he fell prey to the traps of both the Israelis and the Arab nationalists.
The new democratic Egypt defied the naysayers who claimed it’s not ready yet for democracy. What the cynics did not realize is that all nations long for democracy and that there’s no recipe for democracy. Each people create their own form of democracy, derived from its national culture and nurtured through practice, through the exercising of this democracy.
Between heaven and hell lies purgatory and the Egyptian people are now in this purgatory in wait for the heaven of liberty. Egyptians have sternly fought for their emancipation. A ruler no longer grants it as a gift that can be withheld anytime he desires.
Don’t say we’ve given you this and that; Egyptians have sacrificed their blood to have an unconditional liberty and don’t insult the millions by saying that foreign invaders were responsible for this revolution.
This is not the first time Egypt has had a democracy, fully experiencing between 1923 and 1953, the last golden age the Arab nation has had. In 1924 for instance, Egypt had a Jewish minister at a time when Jews were changing their names in fear of prosecution and in 1924, the opposition part Al-Wafd swept the parliamentary elections while the party of the Prime Minister, who also happened to be the Minister of Inferior, failed to win the majority. Democracy, it must be asserted, has never been alien to Egypt.
Samir Farid is a Cairo-based Egyptian film critic. This commentary was first published in Arabic by Al-Masry Al-Youm and it’s reprinted with the author’s permission.