Arab democracy, Good For the Jews


There’s been a good deal of monomanical — understandably monomaniacal — Israeli and Jewish fretting about whether the democracy movements sweeping the Arab world are GFTJ.

Here’s an interesting little sign: From the New York Times, Egyptian bloggers who otherwise think a pro-Israel blogger is nuts are rushing to his defense in the wake of a three year sentence he pulled down for "insulting the military."

The activist, Maikel Nabil, is a 25-year-old blogger who argued in a detailed post last month that Egypt’s army had tortured protesters and worked to undermine the anti-Mubarak revolution. To make his case, Mr. Nabil cited his own observations as a participant in the uprising, reports from the international press and human rights groups, and video showing scars on the bodies of protesters who said that they had been tortured by the military.

Three days before he was arrested, Mr. Nabil also published a post calling on Israelis to stop “supporting Egyptian militarists” like Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of Egypt’s ruling army council. Mr. Nabil, a Coptic Christian who called himself “pro-Israel” in an interview with an Israeli newspaper last year, also argued that Egypt’s military would prefer an Islamist government to a truly democratic one.

They quote, among others, this typical Tweet from Tarek Shalaby:

As much as I think that #MaikelNabil is severely messed up in the head, it is outrageously unjust to throw him behind bars for expression

Two things:

–The apparent Egyptian elite consensus that Nabil is a nutjob for advocating what would be commonsense in the West — that perpetual warfare against Israel is self-defeating — shows how wide the gap is between Israel, its friends, and the Arab polity.

–The fact that same elite is coming to his defense shows, for the first time ever, the promise that the gap may be closed.

Israel has a product to sell — itself. Its problem in the Middle East, until now — the Arab Spring — is that it has been barred from doing so. It has been shut out of the Arab marketplace of ideas.

That Nabil is a lonely voice is evidence that what lies ahead is a long and rocky road. That he has ideological enemies willing to fight for his voice to be heard shows that it is traversable.

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