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I was struck by the huge difference between the response of some readers to my article, “The people want an end to American support for settlement” in the Asharq Al Awsat newspaper and the response of western readers to the same article published in English in Gulf News.

While some Arab responses were reactive in the extreme and let vent to feelings of hatred, sectarian closure, preconceived positions and made haphazard accusations, western readers praised my exposing of western official hypocrisy and expressed sympathy for the struggle of the Palestinian people, deprived for the past six decades of freedom, dignity and justice, the very things Arab masses are demanding from their rulers in their present uprising.

Some of them apologised for the ignorance of their governments of the facts on the ground and the bias that some of them have in favour of the Zionist lobby which orchestrates western positions towards Arab official despotism in accordance with Zionist interests and their influence in the US.

What is happening in the Arab world today is actually the beginning of a new Arab history written by millions of people with their blood and peaceful struggle, not on American tanks or through conspiracies and coups d’ etat.

With their spontaneous revolutions, Arabs are burying the mummy regimes once and for all. Enough with the age of frustration, apathy and despair! Like other Arab writers and intellectuals past and present, I laid my bets, in everything I wrote, on the fundamental nature of the values of freedom, dignity and justice for Arabs, the vitality of this people and the inevitability of rejecting the humiliation imposed by oppressive security agencies which spend more money on the equipment of oppression and torture imported from the West than on education and universities.

That is why I reject insinuations as if I have not written about regimes which do not represent the will and aspirations of their people and which dispense with their countries’ resources as if they were their private property.

We see now how billions of dollars are wasted in foreign banks by dictators, their children, wives and relatives, while young Arab people are humiliated by poverty and unemployment in their own countries or drown in the sea while trying to immigrate and scrape a living.

Things are certainly highly complicated and equivocal for some people. If we want to contribute to a bright and prosperous Arab future we should embark on a transparent dialogue about the priorities of our people and the real methods of achieving these priorities with the least possible losses and in the most effective manner.

There are common things among the Arabs in their different countries, but they are not identical. That is why these common elements should be celebrated together with their revolutions and the way they are moving from one country to another. All these things prove the unity of the Arab nation and the unity of its causes.

Fighting for a free and dignified life, without foreign domination, is being translated by millions of young people into struggle against corruption, unemployment, poverty and tyranny.

Those who have always defended Arab causes and paid a high price for their positions cannot be equated with those who received rewards and aid from the enemies for positions which have squandered Arab rights and declared that they side with the enemy for fear or greed or lack of vision.

Who can claim that the rising millions have forgotten Arab struggle for the liberation of Palestine in their fight to liberate themselves from the regimes of corruption and despotism. Maybe the tyrants in Israel and their western allies wish for that. Let them live with their illusions.

The old regimes could have reformed themselves gradually from within, as did the democratic countries themselves. But some rulers persisted in their tyranny; they ignored the will of their people and forgot their aspirations.

That is why people in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere went to the streets and demonstrations have become the only way to push the political regime and move it to the 21st century.

But this does not mean bringing down institutions, destroying achievements, bloodshed or regressing to exclusion, isolation and oppression. The patriots who staff the state’s civil and military institutions in Tunisia and Egypt will complete the process of change. They too have the will, the interest and the vision to complete the required change in the best interests of their country and their people.

Today, we see the real beginning of the Arabs’ movement to the modern world. In order to insure that everybody respects the sacrifice of the martyrs and the fighters, we should all acknowledge that exchanging accusations of treason and withdrawing to the enclosures of civil strife, revenge and hatred or adopting the totalitarian and absolutist methods used by George W. Bush: “either with us or against us” are no longer appropriate for dealing with the current changes.

The rising masses are looking for common ground with the administrations of their countries. They are not interested in the politics of exclusion, isolation and prohibition. The harbingers of the prosperous future are clear from the revolutionaries’ adoption of the culture of collectivity where people can disagree; yet reach an understanding and work together in order to achieve the greatest objective of all: spreading freedom and the rule of law. They adopt the principle that ‘difference is in the nature of things’ as a governance style.

The times to come are times of democracy, freedom and dignity for all. But we shall never forget that we have people suffering under a foreign occupation in Palestine, and that the supporters of Israeli occupation, colony expansion and oppression are western ‘democratic’ regimes which will remain suspicious and wary of Arab democracy and will continue to do their utmost to steer it away from the Palestinian struggle for freedom, democracy and independence.

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Prof. Bouthaina Shaaban is political and media advisor to the Syrian presidency, and the former minister of Expatriates. She is also a writer, and has been a professor at Damascus University since 1985. She received her PhD in English Literature from Warwick University, London. She was the spokesperson for Syria. She was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

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