Two Prototypes of Arab Opposition

Article Summary
Within the context of the Arab Spring, Abdullah Balqaziz distinguishes between two kinds of opposition. The first derives its strength from national pride and a desire to see positive change in its country; the second is willing to invite foreign intervention and sacrifice national identity in the pursuit ofpersonal gain.

No one who believes in democracy would argue against the fact that the current Arab ruling regimes have increased their efforts to fragment the unity of their peoples. [These regimes are] subordinate to foreign powers in both economic and political decisions, are completely indifferent to the [Israeli] occupation of Palestine and have failed to protect their national security from foreign transgressions. These tyrannical and oppressive regimes have stifled political life [in their respective countries]. The revolutions demanding freedom, democracy, and an end to corruption and the toppling of corrupt rulers in many an Arab country today have not come as a surprise.

No one can cast doubt the unalienable right of Arab peoples to change their regimes through peaceful means if they choose to do so. For the people are a source of power, as is the norm in modern democracies. They alone can decide their own fate, while no outside entity has the right to change their political environment on their behalf - no matter the principles they choose to employ in their defense. Acting on behalf of another people is to negate one of the central tenets of their identity: Their uncompromising independence. [For a foreign power] to appropriate a peoples’ sovereignty means [a vital loss of the people’s control over their own destiny]. There is no doubt that our peoples take into account the costs entailed in ridding themselves of their tyrants. Unfortunately, some wretched tongues in the oppositions claim otherwise. A country’s independence are politically sacrosanct and must not be violated or compromised - even if in the name of freedom from oppression.

There is however a difference between a population that rebels for freedom and against the abuses of a tyrannical regime, and a partisan opposition [movement] that rides on the revolution’s coattails. [These movements are apt to] commandeer the revolution and use it to achieve their personal goals as opposed to those of the people. Meanwhile, [partisan opposition movements] pretend to have the same demands as the people and claim that the methods they use to attain these demands are but a manifestation of the people’s will. It is clear that this is in fact the claim of any political opposition in search of something to justify its existence or afford it political legitimacy. These claims are rarely genuine. In reality, they resemble those made by the former ruling oppressive elites who asserted their rule in the name, and according to the will, of the people.

In fairness, we should distinguish between two types of opposition movements which are different in both their nature and content. The first is an opposition that resorts to the people and their power to effectuate change. The second, has no qualms about begging for foreign help or seeking external alliances. [This second group] wagers that [those who intervene] would serve as liberators and  saviors. The first opposition virtue is its patriotism, or at least, the fact that it bases its democratic stance on nationalist principles and content. The second type could not care less about [these principles] - it is unashamed of its deficiencies even if these are pointed out by the people themselves. The nationalist opposition may have to pay a heavy price for change while the [pro-interventionist] opposition which counts on foreigners to supplement its civilian capacities pay a lower price. However, this is a price that any nationalist member of the opposition would gladly pay to safeguard the country’s freedom and sovereignty.

Unfortunately, this type of national opposition has become scarcer in the Arab world, its voice growing fainter over the last ten years. The second type of opposition has grown more potent, its discourse has spread wide, and its unfamiliar political values are gaining dominance! All of this can be explained by the recent success of foreign political infiltration into our societies, parties, and elites. This has led to an unsavory “partisan culture” within the opposition, which has been further advanced by [foreign monetary meddling and corruption]. It can also be attributed to the weakness of the prevailing political culture when it comes to definitions of “the nation.” Had there not been a predisposition to accept foreign influence, this influence would not have noticeably affected our political circles. Parties and political elites would not have rushed to offer their services to the foreign lords. This predisposition may be partly attributable to local factors, such as the ruling regime’s efforts to domesticate the elite political class. Or it could be due to the effects of living abroad where some were lured to work for the benefit of their host countries’ agendas.

In any case, if national oppositions groups riding on the coattails of the people’s struggles, exploit these struggles for their own political aspirations, they deserve the harshest criticism. They should be rejected politically because [to profit off of the revolution] is to steal the people’s political efforts. But for those opposition groups that ally themselves with foreigners and deviate the people’s struggles and aspirations for their own personal goals - undermining the country’s sovereignty - are worthy of condemnation and collective revulsion from all of those blessed with a true patriotic conscience.

Found in: political opposition, political theory, national identity, legitimacy of opposition movements, legitimacy, foreign intervention, democratic transition, arab spring, arab nationalism, arab