The Jasmine Revolution

Thanks to the New York Times, I’ve been able to engage deeply with what’s happening on the ground in Tunisia for the past month. Just kidding. The Times only just covered the story (I think the Style section had a piece about Ben Ali’s bespoke suits and impeccably manicured eyebrows) – while Al Jazeera has been doing an extraordinary job covering the biggest story in the Arab world and Africa.

I wonder, what’s behind the lack of coverage?

The Arab world changed today. Now we know how easy it is to depose the malignancies in our midst. My apologies to the American president and secretary of state, but their war of terror will have to stagger on without the dearly departed Ben Ali. No, he’s not dead; he’s just on a plane to Malta.

Protests have taken place in Algeria and Jordan – and it’s my sincere hope that the Panda King (it’s a fact that Abdallah looks like a panda) goes next. I’m in Cairo at the moment and things are calm here. The street housing the Tunisian embassy was bookended by checkpoints earlier in the day and Mubarak’s mukhabarat were stopping cars and checking IDs. Is there fear? Is Mubarak’s mouth dry with it?

I wonder if Barack Obama can physically feel his diminished relevance. I wonder whether Ms. Rice just doubled over with the pain of vicarious birth pangs. And I wonder if all the Arab dictators use the same brand hair dye.

Is it made in America?

About Ahmed Moor

Ahmed Moor is a Palestinian-American who was born in the Gaza Strip. He is a Soros Fellow, co-editor of After Zionism and co-founder and CEO of liwwa.com. Twitter: @ahmedmoor
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 33 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. eee says:

    This would be great news expect Ben-Ali has been replaced by his own appointed prime minster who is on the job since 1999. Let’s see real change.

    By the way, who would replace Abdallah in Jordan and Mubarak in Egypt as well as Asad in Syria?
    1) The Muslim Brotherhood
    2) Civil war
    3) All of the above

    • Taxi says:

      Israel and her super moderate Arab ‘friendoz’ should be very worried about the Tunisian turn of events. It just might start a much longed for domino effect in liberating the Arab ‘streets’ from their bondages within and without.

      One thing’s for certain: the Arab streets are watching and feeling empowered.

      For a change.

      • Citizen says:

        Yeah, it’s like a peasant uprising in the middle ages or during the time of serfdom in the age of the czars; maybe it will spread across the Arab countries–what do you think the Arab streets think of Big Satan and Little Satan? You think, they hold them in higher regard than they do the
        corrupt mafia groups that run the Arab tyrannies? Any reason why they should? I can’t think of one. Imagine the drop in tourism. The reason the US is taking a hands off stance is that this uproar doesn’t involve Islam; it’s a class conflict–and the US MSM is silent, because capitalism’s mouthpice doesn’t dwell there for long, if at all. Look how they’ve been handling the Tea Party movement. Racists with guns! Crazies! Ignoramuses on the loose! Not modern day serfs, debt prisoners on the march at last in the key “democratic” state in the world. Have some more vodka. Hey big screen tvs are pretty cheap these days…

        • Citizen says:

          American youth is not burning themselves up because the government just tore down their unlicensed lemonade stand yet, but 2011 is all set to be the biggest American year ever for home foreclosures–1 in every 45 homes will be foreclosed across the USA. Walmart just dropped its policy of paying an extra dollar an hour for Sunday work. And prices at Walmart are going up due to China’s recalculations regarding its fiscal, monetary and trade policy with Uncle Sam. On daily tv, especially across the less urban areas of the country, the ads by the myriad of services preying on the cash-strapped are incessant.

    • Chaos4700 says:

      Those zany, zany Arabs, huh, eee? Just not civilized enough for Uzis, white phosphorous, armored bulldozers and rigidly enforced ethnocracy like your successful little “democratic” state.

    • Such a shortsighted lame comment 3e … Arabs countries are under the boots of dictators whereas Israelis freely chose terrorists (Shamir, Begin), war criminals (Sharon), murderer (Barak) and even a rapist president to name a few … Watch yourself in a mirror and listen to Archive before posting such crap

    • Walid says:

      eee, what you read in your MFA thread-jacking handbook about Syria is wrong; the regime there is popular and isn’t about to fall.

  2. Jim Haygood says:

    Ahmed, Ahmed — you’re so cynical about our dear old grey meretrix! It wasn’t the Style section, but the Travel section you were thinking about, cluing in the Times’ upscale readers to the colorful camel racing in Tunisia:

    ————

    32. Tozeur, Tunisia
    Camel racing, souks and eco-lodging in a Saharan oasis.

    With its luxury hotels and glittery events — film festival, art fair, Formula One race — many feel that Marrakesh, Morocco’s “jewel of the south,” has lost its authentic North African luster. Fortunately, there is an alternative: Tozeur, Tunisia’s desert gem. Compared with its Moroccan cousin, Tozeur is smaller, quieter, more remote and (for now) less touristed — though a few luxury hotels have begun to sprout there. Set in an oasis of date palms, this former Roman outpost and caravan hub is awash in Saharan culture, from traditional souks to a zoo of desert animals. No glammed-out red-carpet events animate the streets, only the annual Oasis festival of traditional dance and music. The closest that the region has come to a star turn were cameos in “Star Wars” movies, thanks to its otherworldly dunes and dried-up salt lake.

    Visitors can have a futuristic desert experience of their own, courtesy of the new Dar Hi hotel in Nefta. Designed by Matali Crasset — a protégé of Philippe Starck — the small eco-hotel has rooms that suggest sci-fi stone turrets and caves, and a hammam fed by underground springs.
    — SETH SHERWOOD

    link to nytimes.com

    ————

    Just for good measure, the article rather presumptuously entitled “The 41 Places To Go in 2011″ also recommended destinations in Algeria and Morocco, two other North African countries which have experienced food riots.

    Experienced travelers will seek vacation tips elsewhere.

  3. Seham says:

    Malta, Kuwait, Saudia Arabia??? No one knows yet Ahmed, but Sakrazy told him he can’t go to France. Bwa ha haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  4. Seham says:

    Ahmed, I have been waiting for someone to make the birth pangs comment, I think you might be the first!

  5. James North says:

    This is truly a tremendous change. Muhammad Bouazizi, that young man who burned himself to death to protest, will live on in world history.

  6. MRW says:

    I loved your report, Ahmed.

  7. mig says:

    I dont get it what is that fuzz behind of muslim brotherhood. Because its origin is in Egypt ? And because its major rival to Mubarak ?

    If that is really ( or what has been claimed ), terrorist organization, why in the earth the have in western world offices and web sites ? They have offices in London and US.

  8. seafoid says:

    This could be the first political change brought about by Quantitative Easing. US investors are flooding the third world with hot money in search of yield. It’s driving up commodity prices everywhere and speculators have made fortunes betting on food prices. Israel will be brought down by the financial markets eventually but this could be a step closer to that .

  9. The path from the status quo in the Middle East to democracy is certainly unclear and will most probably pass through decades of alternate forms of brutality and oppression.

    Supporters of Israel have their/our own concerns vis a vis the probability of Islamist rulers or chaos replacing the current dictatorships.

    When people throw out murderous rulers it naturally gladdens the heart of people who yearn for freedom. Nonetheless there are other emotions and concerns that complicate the picture for those who see the dangers and the “rapids up ahead”. This does not mean we must harden our hearts to all efforts at freedom.

    • Citizen says:

      Yeah, suddenly released caged chickens peck all over the place when they are released out onto the free range. Israel may have to bomb them while they are still in their cages before long. In such an event again, this will only help once more Iran gain its natural strategic position in the region without the aid of Uncle Sam and Uncle Hymie.

  10. VAA says:

    “By the way, who would replace Abdallah in Jordan and Mubarak in Egypt as well as Asad in Syria?
    1) The Muslim Brotherhood
    2) Civil war
    3) All of the above”
    Whoever it is , i’m not sure you fully comprehend the consequences to “Dear little Israel”

  11. Saleema says:

    Saudi just accepted Ben Ali. They accept everyone’s shit cuz they are so full of it as well.

    • Sumud says:

      Yah. Birds of a feather. When the Al Saud’s finally fall, they will fall the hardest of all the arab dictators (being the biggest bastards).

      • Citizen says:

        Couldn’t happen to a better group of 3 thousand relatives.

        • Walid says:

          Citizen, they’re up to 25,000 now that share in the wealth but some among them are good people and are helping the poor and we can’t knock their overall generosity.

        • Citizen says:

          Thanks for the update, Walid. Can you point to some information on them?

        • Walid says:

          I remember reading somewhere that ALL members of the royal family receive an annual salary as their share of the oil revenues of the country. Found something from about 7 years ago from the Hudson Institute that describes their approximate numbers and something from Frontline about some information and short bios on the main players:

          “… The Saudi royal family is larger, richer and domestically more dominant than any other royal family in the world, now and at any other time in history. Estimates of the numbers of the family vary but there are said to be over 5,000 princes. Total “royals” including princesses and those who have married into non-royal families, could be over 25,000. It might even be double this. There are no figures. But of this uncertain total there are probably only 100 or so key players domestically. Internationally, the number is much less. The main players are just a handful:

          http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/Henderson%20–%20Saudi%20Royal%20Family.pdf

          Citizen, the great numbers are due in good part to the first 2 kings, Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud and Saud that had many wives and many many many children. From PBS’ Frontline with family tree in the link:

          ” The House of Al Saud traces its origins to the 18th century emir, Muhammad ibn Saud, whose family ruled large parts of the Arabian Peninsula for over three hundred years. The modern House of Saud was established in 1932, when Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud, a direct descendent of the 18th-century ruler, established the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with himself as absolute monarch. Today, only his descendents are considered part of the “royal” family line and eligible to ascend the throne.

          According to the Quran, a Muslim is permitted up to four wives at one time and is allowed to divorce and remarry numerous times. King Abd al-Aziz cemented alliances by marrying a daughter of every tribal chief in his realm, producing 45 legitimate sons and having at least 22 wives.

          Every Saudi king since has been a son of Abd al- Aziz. The number of his daughters is not known – they were not counted – but are estimated to be more than 50. Though many of his contemporaries regarded his practice of polygamy as excessive, it was continued and surpassed by his son, King Saud, who had 53 sons and at least 54 daughters. The descendents of King Abd al-Aziz now number in the thousands, many of whom hold important government positions.

          Before he died, King Abd al-Aziz established a line of succession: Future kings were to be chosen from among his own sons, beginning with the oldest surviving son, Saud, and followed by the second oldest, Faisal. To date, five sons have ruled: Saud (1953-1964), Faisal (1964-1975), Khalid (1975-1982), Fahd (1982-2005), and Abdullah (2005-present). Several of his other sons currently serve in the highest levels of government: Salman, Nayef and Sultan – three of the famous “Sudayri Seven,” a close-knit group of seven sons born to a mother from the Sudayri tribe. But most of King Abd al-Aziz’s sons are now in their eighties – King Abdullah is eighty-three – and the day will soon come when a Saudi king is chosen from the third generation of the Al Saud.

          link to pbs.org

      • Walid says:

        Ben Ali should have gone directly to the US. If what’s happening in Tunisia is a blow to US foreign policy, what happened this week with the fall of the pro-US government in Lebanon is another. Ahmed mentioned Rice’s birth pangs in reference to the 2006 US attempt to take down Hizbullah using its Israeli gorilla. Of course the neocons’ new Middle East never happened as Hizbullah kicked Israel’s ass out of Lebanon but the US never stopped trying. What it couldn’t do militarily in 2006, it’s now trying with its UN tribunal that next week will be indicting members of Hizbullah and its hoped-for ensuing civil war that would eliminate Hizbullah. That too will not happen and it should be another big disappointment for the US. The US is obsessed with destroying Hizbullah because it’s standing in the way of Lebanon’s naturalization of the 400,000 Palestinian refugees and serving as an inspiration to the oppressed of Gaza, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Today, the pro-US Lebanese Cardinal that has always been openly anti-Hizbullah resigned. Other ME countries will eventually be following Tunisia’s example.

  12. Citizen says:

    ‘First Wikileaks Revolution’: Tunisia riots blamed on cables which revealed country’s corruption
    By DAILY MAIL REPORTER
    Last updated at 10:18 PM on 14th January 2011

    President Ben Ali goes into exile after 23 years in power
    Published US Embassy cables likened President’s family to a Mafia elite
    Department of State issues travel alert to avoid the north African country
    Riots have claimed 23 lives so far this week

    Read more: link to dailymail.co.uk

    Eventually the young arab world will arise as one against all the old corrupt Arab mafia geezers the US supports or treats with benign neglect, as compared say with Iran, where the US does all it can to fan the youthful flames of revolution. Hillary said a few days ago the US would stay out of the tension in Tunisia. One day this will happen even in the USA; the Tea Party is an early warning sign.

    • alyas says:

      Gaah. So tired of the whole Wikileak/Twitter revolution thrown about in the MSM with respect to the Tunisian revolt. Wikileaks had very little to do with it and Twitter only helped mass-communicate it as it was happening. It was a purely popular movement triggered by one man’s despair at the injustice being dealt him. It’s disrespectful to the martyrs who gave their lives for this to be so carelessly associated with irrelevant factors.

  13. The Telegraph quoted Hillary’s reaction in the Gulf:
    “Hillary Clinton ended a tour of the Gulf with a warning that leaders who failed to carry out political and economic reform risked being cast aside.
    “In too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand,” she said.
    “Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever.
    “If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum.”

    Umm was Hillary talking about the USA or the Middle East, seems like word for word something some cliche using politician would use on a campaign trail, campaign for what is the question?

    Juan Cole commenting on the absence of coverage in the USA media:
    “Note that since the Tunisian crisis has to do with labor unions, unemployment, class anxieties, and a student youth movement rather than with Islam; and since the Tunisian government is counted as a firm US ally, the American mass media is largely ignoring this story. Ordinarily if it bleeds, it leads; but not when it is about class instead of about race or religion, since the latter categories are the only ones useful to monopoly capital in keeping ordinary people divided and distracted.”

    And a comment from “Ted” on Juan Cole’s blog which made me think back to the Mavi Marmara and how Israeli commandoes scrambled internet connections and stole all those computers, cellphones, memory cards, etc to prevent real time tweeting, blogging and video uploads for the world to see:
    “A big part of this story is how people are organizing over social networks in order to coordinate. My facebook news feed has been exploding over the past week with videos of the protests and pictures of the dead.”

    Finally, the words of a wise Palestinian organizer:
    “I hope that Ben Ali’s departure is not just window dressing i.e. falsely calms the masses by pretending change in appearance with just a slightly reshuffled and modified government but keeps the west-backed ruling regime and policies in place.”

  14. Citizen says:

    On Twitter, the events are happening by the minute; it’s hard to keep up with how this is spreading. Meanwhile, it’s not even mentioned in our MSM or TV news shows.

  15. RE: I wonder if all the Arab dictators use the same brand hair dye. Is it made in America? – Ahmed Moor
    SNARKY SEZ: Yes and yes. Clairol™ Natural Instincts for Men®, I’m told.

  16. joer says:

    “I wonder, what’s behind the lack of coverage?”

    I think there would be more coverage in the American media if this was a religious revolution. Our media establishment is confused because they can’t paint this as Arabs rioting because they want their women to wear burkhas. People rioting because it is impossible to survive under the current global economic system could happen anywhere-gosh, even here.

  17. Theo says:

    As far as the US media goes:

    I have learned a long time ago that if you want to get to the bottom of any event that is not complimentary to the USA or Israel, then just forget your newspaper and CNN, CNBC, etc., and go direct to Al Jaseera, RussiaToday, BBC, Sky News, France24, etc. They all have english channels and by watching to all of them you get the real picture that will not match the US version.
    Here I must recommend Al Jaseera for its impartial and fair handling of stories that effect arab lands.

    I visited Tunisia several times and love that country. My hope is that the arabs wake up and overthrow all despots and dictators and unite in one single country, Great Arabia. They are rich, but others collect the rewards.

    As far as several demeaning remarks on the arabs; a thousand years ago when America was not yet discovered and Europe lived in the dirt and darkness of the Middle Ages, it was the arabs who provided the knowledge in mathematics, astronomy, architecture, medicine, etc.
    You may visit Granada and Cordova in Spain, among other remnants of the high arab culture.
    After the reconquest of arab kingdoms in todays Spain, the Vatican either burned the books found there or they were transferred to Rome and vanished in the vaults of the Vatican. Consequently Europe remained in the dark for another 500 years.