I am thrilled that Egypt has now held its first free election for President. Let me further say that I disagree completely with those who oppose the Arab spring and say that better the devil dictator you know then the Islamist radical you don’t know. Go tell a father whose son has been brutalized in prison by Mubarak or whose daughter has been killed by Kaddafi that they should hush because it could still get worse.
I have been a passionate and vocal supporter of the Arab spring and began speaking out against the suppression of all Arab rights years before it happened. I have a friend in Los Angeles, the writer and marketing guru David Suissa, who showed me an idea about twelve years ago called ‘Free the Four Hundred Million.’ Its goal was to have the Jewish community emerge as the leading voice against the brutalization of our Arab brothers and sisters under Arab dictatorships. I began writing columns then because of how much this initiative spoke to me and how fully I wanted to participate in having the Jewish community especially join in the chorus to protect and safeguard Arab life. After all, it is the Hebrew Bible that declares so emphatically, in its very first chapter, that every human being is created equally in the image of God. So when the Arab spring finally arrived, I fought bitterly against those who were more worried about what might emerge through Arab democratization than they were concerned for the suffering of Arab citizens under a whole collection of despots.
Having said all that, the emerging Arab democracies must obviously take responsibility for the people they elect and the consequences of their actions. The people of Gaza tragically elected the terrorists of Hamas to represent them and are suffering immeasurably under its tyrannical rule.
The same must now apply to Egypt. I extend to the new President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood every good wish in presiding over his people as a just and righteous head of state. I hope that he will back away from extremist rhetoric and deeds of some of his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues. I believe that he should be given the opportunity to demonstrate that he is a moderate, dedicated to the rule of law, leading Egypt toward the community of free and civilized governments. I believe he should also be afforded the opportunity to demonstrate his commitment to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
But should the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt continue, as has already begun, to call for a closer bond with America’s arch-enemy Iran, and a ‘rethinking’ of the peace treaty with Israel and the Camp David accords, then I believe the United States must cease to fund the $2 billion a year military aid commitment to Egypt. I join Congressmen Allen West and Joe Walsh in rightly pointing out that this huge sum, paid annually since the presidency of Jimmy Carter, was designed to support and sustain Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. Any Egyptian retreat from that commitment must be met with an immediate American cessation of military aid to Egypt. We are not here to fund the Muslim Brotherhood. We are here to assist nations that are committed to peaceful coexistence and democracy.
Let me clarify something about the Arab’s democractic elections. As I said, I support them fully and oppose all those who would prefer Kissingerian realpolitik in which the United States is prepared to prop up dictators in order to maintain order and regimes that are (somewhat) friendly to the United States. This nation either believes in democracy or it does not. We cannot betray our values. America must serve as the world’s foremost voice supporting the Arab spring and a commitment to the protection of Arab rights and life.
But neither can we forget that even Hitler was elected democratically. Democracy without a legitimate constitution and a Bill of rights, especially protecting the rights of minorities, can become a very scary thing. What you get is a tyranny of the majority. So the United States, as the world’s foremost democracy and sole superpower, must insist that elected regimes be restrained by a constitution that safeguards against a gravitation toward tyranny.
I was always of the opinion that the United States should have insisted that Iraq sign a peace treaty with Israel before we withdrew. We had every right to do so. It was our blood and treasure that created Iraq’s democracy and the last thing the Middle East needs is another Arab country that scapegoats Israel for its woes. This is bad not only for Middle East peace but especially for the Arabs. How does any Arab citizen who has no job, cannot read the truth in a newspaper, and is oppressed by his government benefit from hearing that all his problems are caused by the Jews?
In the district where I am running for Congress we have one of the largest Arab-American populations in the country. They see my opponent Bill Pascrell as their champion and came out in huge number to help him defeat his Democractic challenger, Congressman Steve Rothman.
But why is Pascrell their champion? I can, as yet, find no record of meaningful support of the Arab spring, no condemnations of Arab dictators who slaughter their people. I know of no denunciations from Pascrell against honor killings of young Arab women or Pascrell standing up for the rights of gays in Arab lands.
No, it appears that what makes Pascrell an Arab champion arguably lies in his signing of a notorious letter that condemned Israel for its blockade of Gaza and Hamas, and his support for Imam Muhammad Katanani of Paterson whom the INS has been trying to deport after lying on a visa application about being arrested by Israel for being a member of, and recruiting for, Hamas (For the record I have said that if Katanani publicly condemns Hamas for their terrorism and sworn determination to eradicate Israel I would join Congressman Pascrell in fighting for Katanani to remain in the US. We have also called Imam Katanani several times to meet with him and visit his mosque but have not heard back).
But surely it would help Arabs more to have a political representative be one of the foremost supporters of the Arab spring rather than finding fault with Israel for implementing a necessary blockade.
It is my belief that voters will look past the simple expectations in this race. I am the candidate of Arab freedom and aspiration.
About the Author: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 29 books, including The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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