Friday, March 18, 2011

The Arab revolutions’ message to America

Nadia Hijab is a member of the US Campaign's Advisory Board, and one of its co-founders. She gave the following speech last Sunday, March 13, at the Jewish Voice for Peace meeting in Philadelphia. Hijab is also co-Director of Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network.

I want to talk about the messages from the Arab revolutions, how we can stay mobilized as a movement, and the opening for new relations between Jews and Arabs.

I know we’ve all been transfixed by the Arab revolutions, and I want to highlight a couple of messages beyond what they mean for our Israel-Palestine work.

The Arab revolutions are about the people of each country putting their house in order. They’re not being isolationist - look at how the Tunisians, with their own revolution still underway, rushed to help the Libyans. But if peoples do not put their own house in order, they can’t play a positive role outside their borders. And their governments find it easier to hijack their foreign policy.

Another powerful message the Arab revolutions are sending is that democracy is not just about elections every few years It’s also about making the links between political, economic and social rights - between bread, dignity, and freedom.

These messages from the Arab world - which is where I grew up and where I still feel I belong - tell me how incomplete democracy is in America. And one of the reasons it is incomplete is because the link between economic, political, and social rights keeps getting broken.

When people are struggling to survive the repeated disastrous recessions that sweep away their homes, jobs, services, and labor rights, how can they question the crimes their country is committing abroad? And how can they challenge the government they have at home, and the way it’s bailing out the banks of the rich with the tax money of the poor?

America needs to put its own house in order. We need an America that doesn’t just preach democracy abroad but practices it at home. We need an America that doesn’t project moral superiority and see itself as the world’s policeman in control of other countries’ strategic resources - but an America that deals with other countries as equals.