Thursday, December 27, 2012

Maikel in Israel

Maikel, I am thrilled that you are now visiting Israel and have given a lecture at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  It was an honor to help you during captivity and hunger strike and to see you now not only free and healthy but also addressing the Jews directly on our turf.  I hope the Israeli Jews can understand from meeting you in person that they were wrong to abandon you in your time in need.  I also hope that your visit can break down the unnecessary barriers of fear that separate Arabs and Jews and build bonds of friendship and mutual trust bewteen Israeli Jews and Arabs. 

“Our fates are linked together,” said Nabil. “And as long as dictatorship and authoritarian governments take our freedoms and our rights for the sake of security, we will be losing our rights, we will be moving backwards. And we need to solve the peace issue in order for my people and Arab-speaking countries to become democracies, and for Israel to be able to co-exist in peace in the Middle East.”

I strongly agree with you about this point Maikel.  I have naturally understood the link between peace and democracy, and between war, dictatorship, hatred, and totalitarianism.  Producing peace between Arabs and Jews will rob the Arab dictators of the cycle of hatred and war they need to stay in power and repress their own people.  I admit I am skeptical that the Arab world will ever let the Jews live in peace.  But I know instinctively that your struggle for freedom in Egypt is my problem, and that Israel's issues are your issues.  

I share your anger at Israel for supporting the Mubarak regime and the post-Mubarak authoritarian regimes.  I think Israel is making a huge strategic mistake in standing with the forces of oppression and injustice and against our friends in Egypt.
You further say that you represent the Egyptian peace movement and that many Arab countries have their own peace movements.  In my research about the Middle East, I have noticed that many Iranians support peace with Israel and the Jews and feel a great affection for the Jews.  A Jewish friend Gabe Joseph told me about a Libyan peace movement, and the Iraqi peace movement of Mithal Al Alusi has a small following.  I have been greatly surprised and moved by the affection of your Egyptian Arab followers for the Jews in general and me in particular.  I do sense, however, that these Arab peace movements have only a small following and are far outside the mainstream of Arab political thought, particularly in Iraq.   

I also respectfully disagree with your support of a Palestinian Arab state because I feel such a state would endanger the survival and security of Israel and the Jews.   You have helped me to understand that supporting a Palestinian Arab state does not mean opposing Israel and the Jews, but I remain uncomfortable with the idea of a Palestinian Arab state. I don't share your pacifism and your opposition to the IDF, but I know that you oppose the IDF because you are against all forms of militarism. 

I don't share your optimistic assessment that the Morsi regime will fall shortly.  I see that the Muslim Brotherhood has rammed its Islamist Constitution through with the support of many Egyptian voters.  I think the Islamists have a following, particularly among poor and rural voters.  The regime is now targeting two Presidential candidates, Mohammed al Baradei and Amr Moussa.  The battle between Islamists and secular democratic forces is just beginning, and I stand with you and other secular democrats in your struggle for freedom and justice and against tyranny and oppression in all its forms. 

"I never felt safe in Egypt and I will never be safe as long as this conflict exists,”  you said.  I admire you for having the courage to risk your life for your beliefs, and my heart is chilled but not surprised to know that you fear for your life if you return to Egypt.  I hope that political conditions change in Egypt and that democracy and peace are firmly established in your homeland so you can return safely home. 

On a personal note, you have been a wonderful friend to me.  You and your followers have been incredibly kind to me in both personal and political terms.  You have given me the kind of love and emotional support that I never really expected to receive from Egyptian Arabs.    You and your followers have allowed me to experience a feeling of emotional safety in the field of international relations for the first time in my life.  You have created an intellectual space where I feel safe and free to express my thoughts and feelings without fear.  I see that your support of peace with Israel and the Jews is driven by profound love and respect for the sanctity of human life.

Finally, you have given me a model of non-violent masculinity that I think is desperately needed in the USA in the aftermath of the horrifying school massacre in Newtown, CT.  Your example has led me to question some of my deepest personal and political assumptions.  I am gradually understanding that violence in the USA and globally is driven by a tragic link between miltiarism and masculinity.  I am recognizing that violence in all its forms is ultimately wrong, and that the long-term solution to violence in the USA lies in challenging the link between war and masculinity.  I am intending to explore these issues on a deeper and more complex level in my future posts.   


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