The Arab burden

A. M. Rosenthal

April 14, 1993|By A. M. Rosenthal

SINCE WORLD War II, the Arab world has failed to produce single government that shares power with its people, a single government that holds itself accountable to its people, a single government based on genuine parliamentary process, religious freedom and democratic restraints.

Of all political realities, all the causes of sorrow for Arab, Jew and Christian in the Mideast, that is the most important.

Hundreds of thousands of Arabs died in Arab pogroms because of it -- and millions in wars of Arab against Arab. Terrorism became part of international life -- including the inescapable possibility of nuclear terrorism.

The failure of democracy to take root in the Mideast enabled Arab leaders to slaughter and smother their people while convincing the survivors that their real enemy was Israel and the West.

And it is the reason why no matter how much land Israelis surrender for peace, the next day they will wake up still surrounded by regimes that survive by hate and sword.

Why did Arab dictatorships remain immune from the passion for political freedom that killed Soviet communism, changed the history of South Africa, broke Latin American militarists and defies the torture prisons of communist China?

For answers, I have been underlining "Cruelty and Silence," a new Norton book by Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi writer who speaks for freedom. It is as important as his portrait of Saddam Hussein's Iraq: "The Republic of Fear."

As he has been a target for Iraqi police, he will now be the target for Arab and pro-Arab intellectuals. The book will drive them crazy.

The first part is a journey through cruelty -- the massacres of his countrymen. Then the author asks himself: How could this happen?

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