Imagine if the young people who risked their lives protesting during the long-gone Arab Spring would hear their Arab leaders say things like: “It’s time we stop blaming others for our problems and start taking responsibility for our own people and our own future.”
This kind of talk can only happen in cultures that encourage people to speak up and think for themselves. It can’t happen in a culture of fear, as we see now in Egypt, where political activist Sanaa Seif was sentenced last week to three years in prison simply for protesting what Amnesty International has called “Draconian” anti-protest laws.
As much as I admire the freedom to protest in Israel, it saddens me that of the 21 countries and territories in the Middle East and North Africa monitored by Freedom House, Israel is the only country classified as “free.” We seem to take for granted that Arab countries can’t catch up to Israel on the freedom front, but isn’t that the bigotry of low expectations?
Yes, Israel is paying a price for this imbalance. After all, if only one country in the region routinely points out its shortcomings — and much of the world picks on that country as well — how can one not conclude that Israel is deserving of the worst condemnations?
In the long run, though, it’s worth paying that price.
David Suissa, “Exporting Self-Criticism”, Jewish Journal (31 October – 6 November 2014), 8.