What Arabs are not talking about?

Exit the Israel Alibi
By ROGER COHEN, NEw York Times, January 31, 2011

LONDON — One way to measure the immense distance traveled by Arabs over the past month is to note the one big subject they are not talking about: Israel.

For too long, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been the great diversion, exploited by feckless Arab autocrats to distract impoverished populations. None of these Arab leaders ever bothered to visit the West Bank. That did not stop them embracing the justice of the Palestinian cause even as they trampled on justice at home.

Now, Arabs are thinking about their own injustices. With great courage, they are saying “Enough!”

The big shift is in the captive Arab mind. It is an immense journey from a culture of victimhood to one of self-empowerment, from a culture of conspiracy to one of construction. It is a long road from rage to responsibility, from humiliation to action.

The Muslim suicide bomber aims fury at a perceived outside enemy. Self-immolation, the spark to this great pan-Arab uprising, betrays similar desperation, but directed inward. The outer scapegoat is replaced as the target by the inner Arab culprit.

Change won’t come overnight, and won’t be without pain, but Arabs have embarked on it — and the United States must support them without equivocation. Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, is finished: It is only a matter of time. No wonder the Obama administration is calling for an “orderly transition.”

Sure, there is risk. There always is in change. But nothing in the Arab genome says democracy, liberty and plain decency are unattainable.

Remember, Mohamed Atta, the leader of the 9/11 attack, came from Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt. The vast majority of Atta’s henchmen came from another U.S.-backed Arab autocracy, Saudi Arabia. They did not come from Iran. They did not come from Lebanon — or Gaza.

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