By Ted Belman
James Prince, president of the Democracy Council and a leading expert in democracy and civil society in the Arab world, suggests Why Israel should support Arab democracy and acknowledges,
Yes, the long road to democracy in the Arab world, like in the West, will be messy with many chances for landmines, static defenses and roadblocks. It will take years, if not decades, to develop and institutionalize real reforms, during which time newly vocal stakeholders from across the political spectrum, including liberal and conservative political Islamists, will vie for the prevailing position. And, yes, the average Arab in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere believes in a more hard-line position than that of his dictatorial rulers. This will, no doubt, mean that regional governments will take a more strident position in bilateral talks with the United States and in multinational forums such as the Arab League and the United Nations.
But is not deterred.
However, there are many net positives for Israel (and the United States) that outweigh the negatives.
First, by and large, Arabs want what everyone else wants, a chance to better their lives and those of their children. The lack of opportunity and no political channel to relieve the pressure over the past two decades fed into political and religious extremism. Enhanced democracy brings enhanced prosperity, economic opportunity and civil society activity, which in turn degrade the allure of the extremism. The angst, insecurity and hopelessness that come with living in corrupt authoritarian societies can be channeled away from violence and prejudice in a world that offers economic and political opportunity as well as a more active and open civil society in which differing or minority opinion can be debated rather than violently suppressed. The teachings of tikkun olam should, at the very least, allow for an appreciation that Arabs are, at long last, attempting to repair their own world.
While everyone wants more food on the table, man does not live by bread alone. It is much easier for rulers, democratically elected or otherwise to stir up passions against the other then to put food on the table.
He extols the virtues of “enhanced democracy” but makes no argument to convince us that it will result from the present turmoil even over decades. He totally ignores that middle class, educated young men in Arab societies are the most Islamist. He also ignores the teachings of Islam and the power of the Mosque as determinants of the probable outcomes. He ignores that Islam does not value democracy and independence. Just the opposite. Islam means submission. For Muslims to embrace democracy they would have to reject Islam.
He makes some other arguments and concludes,
Finally, more egalitarian and tolerant governments will be forced to de-escalate hate speech aimed at Israel. They will be forced to be responsive to their own constituents rather than attempt to scapegoat their own corrupt self-serving behavior by blaming Israel.
Just the opposite will happen. They will keep their constituents focussed on the hated Israel to deflect their attention from their own shortcomings.