Friday, February 18, 2011

Arab Voices Matter

By JAMES ZOGBY, Counterpunch, Feb 17, 2011

If one lesson is to be learned from the remarkable events unfolding in Egypt, it is that Arab public opinion matters. For too long Arab voices have not been listened to, nor have Arab sensibilities or aspirations been respected. The Egyptian people have not only risen up, demanding to be heard, they have also challenged other Arabs and the West to pay attention to what they are saying.

Last Thursday night, I watched a remarkable scene unfolding on television. As my dinner partner, Patrick Seale, and I sat transfixed watching the BBC, there, on one half of a split screen, was president Hosni Mubarak making a last ditch effort to save his rule. On the other half screen were throngs in Tahrir Square.

The disconnect was real. Mubarak was talking, but he simply wasn’t listening. He played every card at his disposal: the caring father, the patriot, the xenophobe, the reformer and more. Maybe, I thought, he was reaching out beyond the square to those he thought might also be listening. But if his imagined and hoped-for audience was there, they were not responding. The crowd in the square was listening, and his lack of responsiveness to their concerns only served to inflame them and deepen their resolve.

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