It all seems quite distant, but there have been times in recent years when there have been expectations the Arab "street" would rise up against its rulers and Americans. During the buildup to the Kuwait war in 1991, for example, expectations of an eruption were so great that I actually published an article six days after hostilities began titled "Why Arabs Aren't Rioting."
Today, however, that street is strikingly quiescent. Yasmine El-Rashidi of Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper did some interviewing in Cairo after the Israeli execution of Abdel Aziz Rantisi and found "the news remained just a murmur," while the city's population "surprisingly calm." Here are of the quotes she culled:
- I demonstrated for Iraq. And I demonstrated again for Sheikh Yassin. But this time, I am here, working. Furious, of course, but realising that even if we speak, what will happen?
- What am I to do? Go out and fight? Demonstrate? Demonstrations are the explosion of the tongue. And then what happens? Nothing.
- If you get hit repeatedly in the same place, you eventually get used to it. And so much has happened in the past few weeks I think people are exhausted.
- This isn't about wanting to go out and fight or vent anger. We are condemning both Israel and the Untied States in our gathering, but more so, we are mourning.
- The leaders, the Arabs, the activists, everyone is talking and objecting, and the US is replying with promises, but nothing is being done.
To anyone looking for a more tranquil, less violent, and less fevered Middle East, such sentiments are like balm. This also fits into my assessment that Palestinians are slowly – too slowly – coming to the realization that their effort to destroy Israel is forlorn and hopeless.(April 22, 2004)