The United Nations Development Programme's 2002 Arab Human Development Report stated that "deeply rooted shortcomings" existed in Arab countries. In other other words, Arab societies were sick. According to the report, this sickness was reflected in the lack of "respect for human rights and freedoms," the status of Arab women, and the poor state of "knowledge acquisition and its effective utilization."
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The follow-up report in 2003 stated: "True democracy is absent and desperately needed. The educational system is severely retarded; schools produce ignorant young men and women. Most of the [Arab] intellectuals] realize, even if they deny it, that most of what was said in the most recent Arab Human Development Report is true."
So if you were thinking that the so-called Arab Spring was going to fix all that, well, you'd better think again. It looks like the Arab Spring will be followed by an Arab Winter. On second thought, this is a development that was entirely predictable: The Islamists are going to inherit the mantle of the dictators.
Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Muammar Gadhafi in Libya were corrupt dictators who outlived their days. They all suppressed the Islamic movements in their respective countries, and were all thus on the side of the seculars in their own perverse way. The same holds true for Syria's Bashar Assad, whose father, Hafez, killed some 20,000 people in the city of Hama in 1982, quelling a rebellion by the Moslem Brothers. Now, his son, Bashar, no less ruthless, seems to be about to go the way of Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gadhafi.
The demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt were initially led by secular groups - educated youngsters adept at using the Internet, Facebook and Twitter. In Egypt, they stood shoulder to shoulder with members of the Coptic Christian community, which constitutes 10% of the Egyptian population. Quite naturally, they called for the downfall of Mubarak to be followed by democratic elections. The motley crew in Libya that overthrew Gadhafi was supported by the democracies that make up NATO, and it is unimaginable that the bloodbath that rid the country of the "mad dog of the Middle East," as former U.S. President Ronald Reagan called him, would not be followed by democratic elections - even under the chaotic conditions that followed Gadhafi's downfall.
But who is going to win the elections when they take place - in Egypt, in Libya and eventually in Syria?
We already have a preview: In Tunisia, the country that had been the most secular and westernized of the Arab states, the election was won by Ennahda, the Islamic party, with the advocates of a secular Tunisia left far behind.
The western media, in an attempt to put a good face on what has clearly been a disappointing outcome, insists on calling Ennahda a "mildly Islamic party." But the facts are there for all to see: Tunisia is coming under Islamic rule. And there is no reason to expect a different outcome in Egypt, Libya or Syria, when elections are held there.
A wave of Islamic rule, with all it entails, is sweeping across the Arab world. It will replace secular dictatorships with Islamic ones. We should have expected nothing else.
Demography has been hard at work all through the past years. For those who haven't noticed, during the long years of totalitarian rule in the Arab states, the population that was fervently Muslim increased in numbers much faster than the secular population. Now, the veiled women far outnumber those willing to show their faces in public - to such an extent that there is no need to await the counting of the ballots after election day; the outcome of elections in the Arab countries is certain before the votes have been cast.
Observers may fool themselves into believing that the Islamic parties contesting the elections in the Arab countries are "mildly" Islamic, or "moderate" Islamists, but their leaders are neither mild nor moderate.
Clearly, expecting the basic faults that characterize Arab societies - as described in the UNDP Arab Human Development reports - to be rectified under the rule of Islamic parties is no more than a vain hope. If anything, the opposite is most likely to be true: Sharia law will prevail, with all it entails.
The toppling of the Arab dictators was inevitable; unfortunately, however, just as inevitable is what is going to follow their overthrow. It looks like it is going to be long Arab Winter.
קראו כתבה זו בעברית: חורף ערבי ארוך