The Daily Demarche
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Make Lemonade
This morning, while surfing the web for global news I came across a very interesting website, Bitter Lemons As the editors explain it, this site was founded to break out of the echo-chamber mindset: is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Its audience is the interested public and policymakers. is edited by Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher. Each week, bitterlemons-international editors decide on a topic and invite four writers or interviewees to discuss that subject on our pages. Bitterlemons-international is committed to presenting a range of views on the Middle East from a breadth of national interests and social concerns. No intelligent and articulate views are considered taboo.

I have not spent much time reading the articles on this site yet, but it shows promise. One article that I have perused, in particular, inspired me to share this site with you: Democracy in the Arab world: an assessment. In this piece the author proposits that we may be seeing "the beginning of the Arab world's slow transition out of the legacy of political autocracy and dominant state security rule that has defined it for the past half a century or so." He provides four main points to back up his thesis, the first two of which I have pasted in below:

First, all other mass ideologies or governance systems (including socialism, Arab nationalism, Islamism, Baathism, monarchism, and narrow state-centered chauvinism) attempted in that period have not responded to the full material and political rights of the Arab people or their basic security and development. Second, foreign pressures and inducements for political and economic reforms, especially since 9/11, have started to converge with indigenous Arab democracy activists who had long been marginalized or co-opted by their states.

This coincides with a piece I recently read on the Common Ground News Middle East pages, in which the author (who is clearly not a George Bush supporter) wonders if the President's perpetual push for global freedom and democracy is not having an effect:

The Strategic Interest: Downloading Democracy in the Middle East (With Some Help from America)

...I wonder, too, whether the American campaign for democratic reform in the Arab world also has had a positive effect on the degree of civil courage that people of good will in the Middle East are now able to muster.

When an Al Arabiya producer makes the decision to send a reporter into an Israeli settlement, or puts an Israeli on an electronic panel, is he or she that much more emboldened to take this step because Washington is so insistently preaching "freedom"? When a Lebanese professor accosts me at an informal meeting in Europe and tells me he no longer will turn down my requests that he write, is the American and French demand that Syria cease occupying his country giving him a positive sense that powerful forces are now behind him?

I'm no fan of George W. Bush, and I'm critical of many aspects of his Middle East policy. His adventure in Iraq is a disaster, and his commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians appears thus far to be largely cosmetic. But I can't help noticing that his campaign for democratic reform does have the admirable effect of empowering people in the region.

We have long seen in politics that if you tell a big enough lie enough times, it becomes the (perceived) truth. Are we finally seeing an instance in which speaking to the truth and doing the right thing- leading from the front- actually demonstrates the power of our ideals? It may be too early to tell, but articles and websites such as these give me hope.

Pass the lemonade.

(End of post)

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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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