Groucho Marx once said: “I find television very educational. Whenever somebody turns it on, I go into the other room and read a book.” When Condoleeza Rice met for the first time Nathan Sharansky at West Wing office in 2004, she had in her hand a copy of his newly published book, The Case for Democracy, and said to him, “I’m already half-way through your book. Do you know why I’m reading it?”
At that moment, Sharansky must have thought to himself, I hope not because somebody has left the TV on at West Wing office, thus waiting for her to say, well, Mr. Sharansky, this a brave book by a brave man, as Professor Brenard Lewis once observed.
Rice replied, “I’m reading it because the president is reading it, and it’s my job to know what the president is thinking,” quoted in National Review.
Whatever one’s reason may be for reading The Case for Democracy, whether wanting to know what goes on the president’s mind or just disliking what goes on on the TV, one thing is clear: this book must be read by all those who want to know what’s going on in the Middle East.
Here, I am not trying to write a commentary on this book, but rather to draw attention to the linkages between democracy and peace and between tyranny and terror that appear in Sharansky’s brilliant analysis.
The linkage between democracy and peace is self-evident, therefore, it is suffice to say that the very mechanics of democracy make democratic systems inherently peaceful. But the linkage between tyranny and terror needs further elaboration.
According to Sharansky, nondemocratic regimes stay in power by controlling their populations which, in turn, requires an increasing degree of repression. Thus, in order to justify repression and to maintain internal stability, nondemocratic regimes must maintain an ever-lasting state of conflict by manufacturing external enemies.
Given the ethno-religious differences between Arabs and Jews and the historical conflicts coupled with present disputes over lands–all these make Israel the best possible choice for becoming enemy number one. The Middle Eastern despots love Israel for that matter.
Sharansky writes, “this relationship also becomes obvious when looking at how the various Arab states treat Israel and Jews.” He invites us to thought experiment, asking us to rank the following countries in terms of their attitude toward Israel and Jews: Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey.
Which one of these countries is the friendliest and which one is the most belligerent? The right answer is as following: Turkey is the friendliest, followed by Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, and the least and lastly, Syria.
Now Sharansky wants us to go and see what the Freedom House report has to say about the ranking of these countries according to their political freedom and civil liberties.
As a reminder, Freedom House is an independent non-governmental organization that provides an annual comparative assessment of the state of political rights and civil liberties in 192 countries and 14 related and disputed territories. Countries are given a score of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most free and 7 the most unfree.
What is astonishing is that the above-mentioned countries also appear in the same exact order in the report, with Turkey (a 3-4 freedom ranking) being the first, followed by Morocco (5), Jordan (5-6), Egypt (6), and, once again, the least free and lastly, Syria (7).
Sharansky’s analysis backed with Freedom House report shows, clearly and cogently, what tyranny got to do with the belligerent nature of the Middle East countries toward Israel, which remains the lone democracy in the region. A brave democracy by a brave nation.
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