Khouri: Tunisia is Gdansk shipyard of ’80 with Jazeera as megaphone to other Arab countries!

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Are you as thrilled by Tunisia as I am!! Yes. A joyous moment that captures the Arab political awakening/maturity in a new form. The arrival of a great thrilling new character on the world stage, smashing prejudicial stereotypes of yesteryear. I think of how I struggled to overcome my own ideas of what Arabs are, and how this education will now begin for so many in the west. Here is the excellent Rami Khouri, a few of his lessons, and his explosive conclusion:

1. This is the first example in the past generation of an Arab leader and his system being overthrown by popular action. It marks the end of acquiescence and docility among masses of ordinary Arab citizens who had remained remarkably complacent for decades in the face of the mounting power of Western-backed Arab security states and police- and army-based ruling regimes. Tunis today may well go down in history as the Arab equivalent of the Solidarity movement in the Gdansk shipyard in Poland in 1980…

3. The coverage of the fast-moving developments and the overthrow of the Ben Ali regime on Jazeera television brings this process into the living rooms of hundreds of millions of Arabs, many of whom have been captivated with the media coverage, making it likely that some of them may want to launch their own protests in other Arab countries. This marks the maturity of Jazeera television as a political force…

4. The most remarkable thing about what has just happened in Tunisia is how thin and narrow was the support structure that held Ben Ali’s security-based regime in power. We learn once again that dictators maintained in place largely by soldiers and intelligence services crumble swiftly once their citizens show that they are not afraid to confront the soldiers…

A major unknown is what the overthrow of Ben Ali will mean for the interests and postures of major Western powers, like France and the United States. This will depend largely on what kind of governance system replaces his security state, whether a democratic and pluralistic system takes root, and how much the Tunisian people will hold Western powers responsible for their decades of suffering in their dehumanized condition as politically castrated semi-citizens. We shall soon find out, because for the first time in half a century we may have an opportunity to learn what the citizens of Tunisia actually feel and want.

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