Mubarak Resigns! What Comes Next — Democratic Transformation or Military “Stability”?
Jews and spiritual progressives of every religious community are rejoicing at the triumph of the democratic uprising in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and at the resignation of President Mubarak. But we have no illusions that the struggle for democracy has been won.
We are fearful that the United States and others who seek “stability” rather than democracy may accept a new autocratic regime under the leadership of Vice President Omar Suleiman (the U.S. ally who played a significant role in the torture operations in Egypt) or under the leadership of a “soft” military coup in which the Army becomes the primary force in Egypt. Nor would we welcome a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, though they have a legitimate role to play in any new government. It remains to be seen if a genuine democratic process takes place, or merely a process controlled by the military and security forces resulting in elections that reflect the desires of the military, which might continue to control the media.
Here is what we would look for to see if this is really a democratic transformation:
1. The immediate end of the Emergency Laws that have been in effect since 1972 and that have given the state powers that deny fundamental human rights for the Egyptian people.
2. The freeing of all political prisoners.
3. A focus on economic justice for the poor (who are the majority of the population — a specific step would be to call for the West to immediately embrace a Global Marshall Plan whose first setting would be the countries of the Middle East).
4. The creation of a democratic transition group representing all the different opposition factions as well as the Army and Mubarak’s party, but the Army and the old regime having only a few representatives rather than dominating the process.
5. Immediate opening of the Egyptian television and other media to a wide variety of perspectives representing all the different factions in the uprising including, but not dominated by, the Islamic forces or the Army.
We are well aware that the Iranian revolution, at first a popular uprising, was taken over by extremist mullahs and turned into an oppressive dictatorship of the mullahs even as the forms of democracy and election of a president gave the pretense of democracy. We do not want that to happen in Egypt, which is one reason we have called upon the United States, Israel, and the Western countries to embrace the democratic forces rather than hope for “stability” through military control. Only an unequivocal and massive set of political moves by the United States and Israel, including an end to the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, would convey to the Egyptian people that the U.S. and Israel had really gotten the message that supporting Mubarak’s repressive regime was a mistake and that they truly respect the masses of the Arab world and wish to be partners with them rather than seek to dominate them.
All this is a major religious and spiritual celebration. Though the right-wing government of Israel and the Jewish establishment in the U.S. have called on the United States to support “stability” rather than democracy, the vast majority of Jews in the U.S. and around the world have celebrated the Egyptian uprising, and while feeling concerned that it not be taken over by anti-Israel elements who might seek a war with Israel, we recognize the biblical legacy of the need to overthrow the Pharaohs of Egypt and “let the people go.” Western religions, including Islam, retain the story of the Israelite freedom struggle retold in the Bible. Jews celebrate that liberation every Sabbath and on Passover. That ancient story has predisposed many in these Western spiritual traditions to favor every liberation struggle in the contemporary world! We will not be fooled by a new Pharaoh to replace the old Pharaoh, whether the new Pharaoh is Suleiman or the army or an Islamic dictatorship.
But none of these concerns will overshadow our current rejoicing at the overthrow of Mubarak. This joyous moment reminds us once again of Tikkun‘s main lesson: do not be realistic. Never allow the people with power in the economy, politics, or the media to tell you that fundamental change is “unrealistic” and that you must settle for minor reforms while keeping the fundamental problems untouched. Remember that this kind of advice was in place in Egypt four weeks ago, and that ordinary people, not big shots, just little guys like us, changed history!
And remind those who tell you that the goal of a Global Marshall Plan or of an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ESRA). Indeed, this is the moment to reaffirm our commitment to a new bottom line in our personal, economic/political, and social lives — a bottom line of love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur and mystery of the universe.
Remind the pessimists, cynics, skeptics, and “realists” in your life of the following basic truth that they could have learned from the Bible, from the sixties, from the huge advances made by the civil rights, women’s and GLBTQ movements, and now from Tunisia and Egypt: You never know what is possible until you engage in sustained struggle for what is ethically desirable and environmentally necessary.
Help us spread this kind of message. Join the Network of Spiritual Progressives (with membership you get a free subscription to Tikkun along with special access to subscriber-only content on our new website, which will launch in March), and please do come to Tikkun‘s 25th Anniversary celebration, at which we will give the Tikkun Award to several cultural, political and spiritual leaders who have themselves rejected the phony “realism” that keeps so many in chains.