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Libya Is Not Egypt


By Ahmed Moor


Like virtually every other sentient creature in the galaxy, I’ve been following the Arab revolutions closely. But unlike the “serious people who know better,” it hasn’t occurred to me that “Libya isn’t Egypt.”

At the outset of the revolutionary wave, several writers – most notably Stephen Walt – made the commonsense and sobering argument that revolutions are impossibly difficult to predict. And because cases of contagious revolutions are historically difficult to come by, there was no reason to believe that Tunisia would precipitate unrest in Egypt.

History has since deviated from its script and most of us have learned something new.

But not all of us. Today, Western talking-heads continue to belch the stale and meaningless trope that “Egypt isn’t Tunisia.” They shoot off this hackneyed, fragmented bit of cautionary “wisdom” into the world without taking a moment to seriously consider what it is they’re saying.

The triteness of much of the Western pundit class is annoying, but more importantly, it belies a deep ignorance of the Arab world and a willful denial of what the pundits themselves have witnessed firsthand.


The analytical framework through which many of us viewed the MENA region was transformed in the space of several weeks. Now we know that Tunisia is Egypt. And Tunisia is Libya. And if the citizens of those countries choose to make it so, Yemen will be Tunisia and so will Bahrain.

So why do the pundits in the West insist on pretending that the Saudi monarchy is not at least as vulnerable as Hosni Mubarak? Why do Western pundits refuse to adjust their analytical superstructures (never mind the analysis itself) to reality – and now – history? To be honest, I don’t know.

Maybe the cynical defeatism latent in the tired statement that “Libya isn’t Egypt” commands the most respect in the West. Sober minds know enough about the way the world works to sip gin with crossed legs while watching the rest of us wizen up…

In any case, I’m glad that the people who are fighting and dying in the Arab street – oops, streets – don’t really believe that Yemen isn’t Egypt. That’s been another lesson of the Arab revolutions: that while the Americans and Europeans don’t know a whole lot about the Middle East, it doesn’t matter because people here ignore them anyway.

All of this relates to Palestine as well. Those of us who insist on the one-state solution as the only way forward have grown accustomed to hearing that Palestine is not South Africa. The Israelis will never relinquish their racial privilege in the country because, you know, the Middle East is a tough neighborhood… and so on.

Well, we know that Palestine is not South Africa… but only just until it is.


Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. Mondoweiss is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz. Weiss lives in New York state and Horowitz lives in New York City.

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