Ice cream and democracy in the Middle East


By Jennifer Lipman
February 15, 2011
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Which would you prefer? You’re at an ice cream shop, and you can either have a scoop of an untested flavour – one that might turn out to be cookie dough fabulous, but might also be rum ‘n’ raisin terrible – or go for the boring chocolate one, like you always do.

Would you take the risk, step into the unknown? Your reward for such intrepid behaviour could be more like a punishment; you could end up with a cone you don’t want. But you could get something wonderful, something better than you’d imagined.

Democracy is the untested flavour. It doesn’t come with a disclaimer, it’s not “rule of the people, except when…”. You either have it, or you don’t – like what you get, or lump it (until the next election).

Now that the Egyptian protesters have succeeded in pushing out President Mubarak, the country could well be on the road to rule of the people.

The fear, in Washington, Jerusalem and good number of other Western capitals, is that the flavour the Egyptian people will go for will be that of the Muslim Brotherhood, a repeat of Hamas’ electoral win in the Palestinian elections five years ago.

It’s a worry, not least because if there is an Islamist government in Egypt one if its first moves could well be to tear up the Camp David Accords.

But, as I said, you don’t get a get-out-of-democracy free cause, and it can only be a good thing that more people in the Middle East take control of their destinies. Being the only functioning democracy in the region is a source of pride for Israel, as well it should be, but it’s still an honour that would be better shared.

But there seems to be rather more of a pick-and-choose mentality elsewhere in the Middle East. Take Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi – this week calling on the Palestinians to take inspiration from Egypt and make now “a time of popular revolutions”, last month condemning the Tunisian uprising as dangerous.

Which is it, Gaddafi? Why are you “pained” to see Tunisia seek rule of the people, but desperate for more Arab states to “create a problem for the world” by demonstrating?

Likewise, it’s good to see Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad waxing lyrical about the "right" of Egyptians to protest against Mubarak and his sympathetic stance on the United States. He said last week: "It's your right to be free. It's your right to exercise your will and sovereignty ... and choose the type of government and the rulers."

It’s a shame Ahmadinejad and his cronies don’t want to extend that “right” to the Iranian people. Iran’s police are out in force crushing any traces of Tahrir Square-style uprisings, while the Green Revolution heroes and opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have been placed under house arrest.

It seems Gaddafi and Ahmadinejad want two scoops of ice cream. Rather greedy, one might say.

COMMENTS

Jon_i_Cohen

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 12:33

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2 points

Good points, but now that "The Muslim Brotherhood" have declared that they will form a Political Party and stand for elections in Egypt, we will have to watch the situation very closely as, not only will they tear up the Peace Treaty with Israel but Egypt possesses almost as much of the latest American Military hardware as Israel does, a worrying thought.
Obviously Democracy is not all it is cracked up to be, where next?, Saudi Arabia? and what if Osama Bin (bag) Laden wants to stand for election? what does the West do then? Let it happen?


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 13:14

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0 points

It's "as you always do", Jennifer.


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 13:47

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0 points

The problem for Egyptians is that if they taste the MB flavour, no other flavour will be available next, as we have seen with the HAMAS flavour in the Gaza Strip.


Lukas

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 15:29

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-2 points

Lebanon is also a democracy. So is Turkey. As was Gaza (until it was turned in a 'the largest prison camp in the world' Quote courtesy of D. Cameron)

It would be a great thing if Iran became a democracy. And the Muslim Brotherhood will be part of the new Egypt. Whipping up hysteria towards them will be counter productive and futile. Let the Egyptians choose who they want.


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 15:42

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0 points

Lebanon is also a democracy.

First laugh of the day ! By no other than... Lukas !

So is Turkey.

Second laugh of the day ! You can nearly say "was"...

As was Gaza

I see what you mean by democracy ! By that standard, nearly every bloody dictature is a democracy.

Thanks for the explanation, Lukas! And for the laughs!


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 16:38

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2 points

As with your ice cream analogy, Jennifer, democracy can be subjective. Dictatorships are good when he's "our sonofabith"; democracies are bad they're not our bitches.

If the MB becomes a major force in Egypt's inchoate revolution, then it looks like this democracy will be coffee-flavoured - palatable to very few indeed.

(By the way, I like rum & raisin...)

By the way - Turkey not a democracy? Is that a reference to the continued, latent power of the army over politics? Well, if that disbars Turkey from the ranks of the democratic nations, let's not start talking about Egyptian "democracy" either.


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:12

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-2 points

Is that a reference to the continued, latent power of the army over politics?

No, in fact when army had power it was not at all a democracy, but it was going in the right direction (more freedoms every year). Now that ther army power is nearly over, it is going in the direction of an "islamic republic", which is a dictatorship in islamic veil.


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:15

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2 points

So the elections aren't free and fair? Democracies aren't always good simply by virtue of being democracies. There are as many flavours of democracy as there are of ice cream.

(By the way - is Turkey *really* going towards an Islamic republic? Really?)


suzanna

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:20

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1 point

I don't think Turkey is anywhere close to being an Islamic Republic. Turkey, like Lebanon, is a democracy.


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:20

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0 points

Democracies aren't always good simply by virtue of being democracies.

Democracy isn't just a matter of elections. When a people democratically vote for their dictator (remember Germany 1933, Gaza 2007), the country doesn't stay a democracy for long.

Turkey is going to be the next islamic republic, with sharia law elements inserted into civil law. But let's wait for the next elections first. They should confirm the islamist party currently in power and remove the last remnants of army power. Then, the show will really begin.


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:22

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0 points

I don't think Turkey is anywhere close to being an Islamic Republic. Turkey, like Lebanon, is a democracy.

Second laugh of the day !
Lebanon a democracy? Then why the president must be a Christian, the Prime Minister a sunni Muslim?


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:22

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1 point

"As with your ice cream analogy, Jennifer, democracy can be subjective. Dictatorships are good when he's "our sonofabith" "

Classic non sequitur.
Even IF a dictator is 'good' because he is 'our son of a bitch', that doesn't make it a democracy.


suzanna

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:23

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0 points

Oh really, Turkey an Islamic Republic? What rubbish.

(who is the 'dictator' in Gaza by the by?)


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:23

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2 points

"Then why the president must be a Christian, the Prime Minister a sunni Muslim?"

It's far worse than that: being under the thumb of a Nazi dictatorship like Syria is a bigger issue that makes Lebanon a non-democracy.


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:24

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2 points

I see that Suzanna has turned up with her moronic comments.
Ever heard of Hamas, dimbo?


suzanna

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:28

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1 point

I see Yoni 1 (aka Jonathan Hoffman)has turned up with his charm.

So who is the 'dictator' in in Gaza?


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:35

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0 points

Yoni1, sorry if I didn't make myself clear (read the comment again, more slowly this time!).

What I was saying that dictatorships are "good" if we like them; democracies are "bad" if we don't.

It could also be said that dictatorships are democracies when we like them (Sakhashvili in Georgia, for example).


mattpryor

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:40

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0 points

Dictatorships are never "good", but we tolerate those that are friendly towards the west and hopefully our elected leaders work behind the scenes to push for improvements.

Countries that have governments that are antagonistic towards us or our way of life are never good for us, whether they are democratically elected or not.


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:41

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0 points

Dr Pangloss, I presume!


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 17:56

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0 points

So who is the 'dictator' in in Gaza?

HAMAS ! You were already told. The fact that a majority of idiots voted for the dictator doesn't change a thing.
Remember that Hitler was elected. Was Nazi Germarny a democracy?


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:12

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0 points

But Yoni1 seems on a one-man-mission to give credibility to the old (anti-semitic?) argument that Israelis shut down criticism of Israel by crying "anti-semite".

What gave you the impression that Yoni1 was israeli?


mattpryor

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:24

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-1 points

Blimey. Five minutes here and he's already gone insane!


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:25

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0 points

"It could also be said that dictatorships are democracies when we like them"

It's you who needs to learn to read, because you have just made - again - the statement I responded to and which you claim above, mendaciously, not to have made originally. You just made it again.
Not very bright, are you?


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:25

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0 points

"It could also be said that dictatorships are democracies when we like them"

It's you who needs to learn to read, because you have just made - again - the statement I responded to and which you claim above, mendaciously, not to have made originally. You just made it again.
Not very bright, are you?


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:28

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1 point

"I'm sure you've noticed how he throws accusations of anti-semitism around like confetti, along with calling people "morons", "Nazis" or "excrement" if they have a contrary point of view"

What a liar you are. I only called one person 'Nazi', and that was because he compared me to the Nazi song Horst Wessel - and then bragged about making this comparison.

I don't 'throw any accusations around' that I can't support.

Not very bright, are you?


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:31

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0 points

But that doesn't wash, either. Because I'm a supporter of the state of Israel.

Then why do you want to specially focus on criticising it?
I criticise much more dictatorships than democracies. Therefore, my drop of criticism of Israel might not appear in the ocean of criticism that the nearby dictatorships deserve.


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:37

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0 points

"It's you who needs to learn to read, because you have just made - again - the statement I responded to and which you claim above, mendaciously, not to have made originally. You just made it again.
Not very bright, are you?"

In English please. Try wiping the spit from your screen, and see if you can type it out coherently, there's a good chap.


Yoni1

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 18:40

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1 point

Ah well, just as I suspected: not very bright.
There is no spit, just sadness at your low IQ.
My statenment was perfectly coherent. You denied making the statement that a dictatorship can be a democracy, then you made it again. Just scroll up a bit, if your memory really is so sieve-like.


jamesmcmann

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 21:07

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-2 points

Oh right Yoni1, I've gone back up to read my original comment. I said: "Dictatorships can be said to be democracies when we like them."

Irony isn't your strong point, is it? Let me spell it out for you - you've obviously got a massive chip on your shoulder about intelligence, so I won't rub it in:

I was talking about OUR GOVERNMENTS. You know - like the US GOVERNMENT and the UK GOVERNMENT. They support horrible dictatorships and claim they are democracies when it suits their interests. In case you are still confused, I think this is a BAD THING. Bad Saakhashvili! Bad boy!

I appreciate that flippancy sometimes doesn't come over in print very well, but from the context it should be clear.

Yoni1, your constant name-calling of people as "morons" says much more about you than it does about anyone else. I think you only do it to be hurtful to people who disagree with you; if this is the case, then it reflects badly on you.

I'm perfectly self-confident in my intelligence, so your mud slinging leaves me only bewildered, and a little irritated, as if you'd insulted a member of my family, or claimed that I had no testicles. It would just be a bizarre and unfounded allegation from a ranting, foaming loon.

Now, to borrow a phrase from the Bard: "Thou art not worth another word; else I'd call thee 'c*nt'."


jose (not verified)

Wed, 02/16/2011 - 21:12

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2 points

I'm perfectly self-confident in my intelligence

That is what I call an understatement.

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