Middle East

There is a Russian proverb: only a fool learns from his own mistakes. As Georgia's foreign minister visits his Egyptian counterpart, there are lessons for Egypt in similar revolutions in eastern Europe and the ex-Soviet Union, notes Eric Walberg

Central to Egypt’s revolution was a tiny group of Serbian activists Otpor (resistance), who adapted nonviolent tactics of in the late 1990s and successfully forced Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to resign in 2000. Egyptian youth in the 6 April Youth Movement even adopted their clenched fist symbol, bringing Otpor once again into world headlines and TV screens.

While Egypt’s revolution was very much about domestic matters -- bread and butter, corruption, repression -- its most immediate effects have been international. Not for a long time has Egypt loomed so large in the region, to both friend and foe. At least 13 of the 22 Arab League countries are now affected: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

But just as powerful has been the resonance in Israel. It has no precedent for an assertive, democratic neighbour. Except for Turkey.

Two song/videos have captured the hearts of Egyptians and are a way for us to join in the bitter-sweet euphoria of their magical moment in history. Here are the video links and translations.

The most widely watched video/ song is "The sound of freedom" by Eid Amir/ Many Adel.

(My translation) I came and vowed not to go back And wrote with my blood in all the streets We made listen those who weren’t listening And defied all the strictures/ forbiddens Our weapons were our dreams Tomorrow is clear before us For a long time waiting Looking for and not finding our place In all the streets of our land The sound of freedom calling.

The poetry read out in the middle is by Abdel-Rahman El-Abnudi: (My translation) Oh dark Egyptian hands, extending discriminating amid the roar, breaking the poster frames under the sun at this appropriate time. The brightness in the sound of the crowd… see Egypt the family of the nation of old men, entrenched old men, vicious, they eat our country, and are alike insatiable, greedy, looking the same. Creative youth arose and turned its autumn into spring and realized a miracle, awakened the killed from the killing. Kill me. My death will not return your country again. I am writing with my blood a new life to our homelands. My blood, it and the spring, the two in the colour green and I am smiling from my happiness and not unhappy.

Amir and Adel certainly were opportunists in the best sense of the word, quickly writing a song, preparing the staging it as part of the demos. It's rather fluffy music, a remix of the famous "We Are the World" video of 1985, but i realize they didn't have much time. They're not well known. It captures the euphoria that people still feel.

The best song that came out during the revolution which  i quote in US-Egypt: 'Why?' is at


How (Why)? by Mohamed Munir

How to make you happy with me, dear? Your name is beloved but you continue to upset me. How can you not feel my basic goodness?

I don't feel in your love any reason (impulse) Nor does my truth in loving you console me How is it I raise your head and you put me down?

I am your oldest street I am your hopes better than those that abuse you I am a child dependent on you Lost in the middle of the road/ life.

If love of you was my choice My heart would long ago have changed you for another But I vow I will continue to change your life for the better Till you are content with me.

How can (why do) you leave me in weakness? Why are you not standing at my side? I live my life in this condition so I don't have to see fear in your eyes. On your land and sea, how can I protect your back While sleeping with my own back exposed, humiliated and embarrassed?




Western media always welcomes the overthrow of a dictator -- great headline news -- but this instance was greeted with less than euphoria by Western -- especially American -- leaders, who tried to soft-peddle it much as did official Egyptian media till the leader fled the palace. Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak was a generously paid ally for the US in its Middle East policy of protecting Israel, and the hesitancy of the Western -- especially US -- governments in supporting fully what should have been a poster-child of much-touted US ideals was both frustrating and highly instructive.

The US has baked itself into a corner. It should learn to enjoy the fruits of its labour, says Eric Walberg

Quiet tourist backwater Tunisia under its only rulers since independence -- Habib Bourghiba (1956-1987) and then Zein Al-Abidine bin Ali (1987-2011) -- was a much appreciated ally of the United States. However, as bin Ali fled to Saudi Arabia last month, US leaders suddenly were hailing those who defied his US-trained police with their US-made tear gas and guns, including the 100 they killed.

Two weeks later, after almost identical developments in Egypt, the US found itself poised to repeat itself, praising the now millions of protesters, including at least 300 who so far have died, though stopping short of pushing Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011) to follow his colleague’s steps into exile, fearing the collapse of its Middle East order.

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Canadian Eric Walberg is known worldwide as a journalist specializing in the Middle East, Central Asia and Russia. A graduate of University of Toronto and Cambridge in economics, he has been writing on East-West relations since the 1980s.

He has lived in both the Soviet Union and Russia, and then Uzbekistan, as a UN adviser, writer, translator and lecturer. Presently a writer for the foremost Cairo newspaper, Al Ahram, he is also a regular contributor to Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research, Al-Jazeerah and Turkish Weekly, and is a commentator on Voice of the Cape radio.

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Eric's latest book The Canada Israel Nexus is available here http://www.claritypress.com/WalbergIV.html