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Rabbi Samuel April Headshot

After The Arab Spring -- What Fall?

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For over two and a half months, NATO forces have been bombarding Libya, ostensibly to protect its citizen protestors, undeniably to topple Gaddafi. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been massacring thousands of his countrymen; countless others have sought to escape his clutches by seeking asylum in foreign nations. Yemen is in political and military chaos. Jordan and Saudi Arabia promise reform and more democratic controls in their governments. Meanwhile, what is happening in Egypt and the rest of the Arab countries that have sown their spring planting? What will they harvest this fall?

No one knows. Some predict the advent of a glorious new era of tolerance and enlightenment, rivaling the "Golden Age" of Jewry in Spain, coexisting harmoniously with Islam from 900 C.E. to 1200 C.E. They say that they can see the signs of peaceful détente between Muslims and Coptic Christians, over eight million in Egypt, alone. Others point to violence erupting from Salafi extremists, who have brutalized their non-Islamic neighbors. They refuse to allow any non-Muslim to govern even in Qena, a Coptic stronghold.

In order to understand the present situation, examine the past. In mentioning the Edomite Kings, the Bible uses the expression "... before there reigned any king over the children of Israel." [Genesis 36:31] Bible critics love to point out the apparent anachronism. A king must have already ruled over Israel before the words were written, they claim, which "proves" that the Five Books of Moses were written long after the time of Moses. But this is not the case. Scripture is only informing us that up to this time in history, the Jews, unlike other nations, had no king. However, Moses, in Deuteronomy, discusses that eventuality in the future conquest of Israel.

So, too, do we surmise that the Arab countries may yet evolve into more democratic societies today, renouncing Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist terrorist groups? Democracy rarely replaces autocracy in one fell swoop. There are usually many circumlocutions and obstacles to be overcome before obtaining full rights for every citizen; witness, the American and French revolutions. More recently, look at elections in Iraq, Gaza, Lebanon, Afghanistan. Do you find people voting for freedom and equality?

In Saudi Arabia, one brave woman wanted to test local law prohibiting a woman from driving. She was incarcerated summarily and only released after apologizing to the court. A friend of mine, while serving in the United States Armed Forces, was not permitted to set foot in that country because his passport identified him as a Jew. This is an outrage. America has known this for decades and done nothing about it. Christians are not allowed to worship in Churches. The authorities will fly in medical personnel and specialist building contractors as needed, but will not recognize their right to pray according to their own religious beliefs.

Yes, we harvest in the fall what we planted in the spring. But will it be the "fall" of Gaddafi, Assad and fellow dictators or will it be the fall of masquerade and pretense by those who seek peace processes but deny peace while fomenting violence and terrorism?