January 23, 2002 Special Dispatch No. 334

'Al-Hayat' Columnist: The Pressure of 'The Arab and Islamic Street' is a Myth

January 23, 2002
Special Dispatch No. 334

In an article that appeared in the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat titled "Condoleezza, the Arab street, andthe Allies," columnist Salamah Na'mat wrote:

"Before the two wars, against Afghanistan and Palestine, Arab and Islamic rulers repeatedly filled the ears of the West with the lie that [they] feared an explosion in the 'Arab and Islamic street,' and that if Arabs and Muslims were to be attacked, regional security and stability would be endangered."

"Even their own people began to believe them! Furthermore, Washington itself began to act as if it believed this lie. On the eve of the military actions in Afghanistan, it summoned its top officials to have them address that 'street' through Arab television and press, to try to persuade them that the war was against terrorism, not against Arabs and Muslims."

"The moment the Taliban regime collapsed under American bombing – which killed at least 2,000 civilians – without the 'street' moving a muscle or showing any sorrow, Washington began to realize the magnitude of the lie it had almost believed."

"Washington's decision-makers [realized] the magnitude of this lie… when Sharon, who had intensified his barbarism in Palestine following the [war in] Afghanistan, did not have to deal with any reaction by any 'Arab or Islamic street,' and was not forced to take this 'street' into account. It will go down in history that the largest protest demonstration against the Israeli massacres was organized by the Israeli 'Peace Now' movement!"

"These days, the American administration has no interest in addressing Arab or Islamic public opinion. From Pakistan to Arabstan [meaning the Arab world], the regimes have demonstrated great capability in repressing all peaceful and non-peaceful demonstrations. It has become clear to Washington that if the regimes can repress popular demonstrations against their own corruption and backwardness, they can use the same means to repress protest against American policy in the region."

"Naturally, the American administration stopped pushing its officials to address Arabs and Muslims through their own media. Perhaps some Washington officials thought that the administration had already done all it could in this respect, and that public opinion in the Arab and Islamic world had been convinced by America's explanations and the justness of its cause – and thus held its tongue about the massacres of Palestinian and Afghan civilians in the name of the fight against terrorism! However, it is more reasonable to assume that Washington had become convinced that there was no need to speak to [Arab] public opinion [since] it is under the complete control [of its rulers]."

"Maybe from now on, every time [a potential] Arab or Islamic protest is discovered, Washington will settle for addressing the leader of the Islamic or Arab country involved. [Washington] will promise aid, or threaten sanctions, and that will be the end of it."

"Since those regimes are capable of quashing any attempt to protest against their policies – which denies the most fundamental rights of their citizens, who are bowed beneath the burden of their rule – no doubt they are just as capable of quashing any protest against foreign issues, such as Afghanistan or Palestine – and perhaps, in the future, even Iraq!…"[1]

[1] Al-Hayat (London), January 19, 2002

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