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By Barry Rubin

Here’s how revolutions—at least ultimately undemocratic ones—work. During the initial phase, when protests are against the old regime, they are cheered as symbols of freedom. Once the old regime has been overthrown, however, protests against government policies immediately become actions by counterrevolutionary subversives that should be suppressed.
The scene switches to…the great Egyptian democratic revolution.

The official Muslim Brotherhood website, Ikhwan Online, has now accused former Mubarak government saboteurs and “their Zionist allies” of trying to destabilize Egypt by infiltrating ongoing protests in Tahrir Square. That opens the door, of course, to a future Egyptian government banning demonstrations on the grounds that they are being fomented by counterrevolutionary reactionary Zionist American imperialist running dogs.

When the Brotherhood gets into details, the absurdity of their charges is clear. But remember that in a place like Egypt, people believe this kind of thing. And in a place like the contemporary West, the mass media don’t report this kind of thing and don’t explain to their readers the dominance of this kind of “irrational” world view.

According to the Brotherhood, three knife-carrying infiltrators were caught trying to stir trouble. How did one know they were Israeli agents? I’m not making this up: they had Star of David tattoos! Even the Egyptian newspaper reporting this (a sign of progress?) pointed out that “tattoos are forbidden under Jewish law.” A reporter was also supposedly captured carrying bombs and tear gas marked with the Star of David trying to incite attacks on the Ministry of Interior. Presumably all Israeli secret agents carry bombs and tear gas so marked so they don’t get them mixed up with other bombs and tear gas.
But again remember that hundreds of thousands of people in the Arabic-speaking world believe stuff like this.

According to the Muslim Brotherhood’s military expert:

“The Western countries, including the United States and Israel, want to derail the revolution because Arab revolutions limit Western influence in the region, thwart attempts to control the Middle East and deplete its resources.”

But wait! Isn’t the Obama Administration 100 percent in favor of the Egyptian revolution, in fact not having made a single criticism of it?

Yes, and President Jimmy Carter kept praising the Iranian revolution of 1979, too, and yet within months the American embassy was stormed, seized, and everyone there was taken hostage

And up until a few days ago President Barack Obama and his colleagues kept praising Syria yet after a couple of minor criticisms the American embassy was stormed and trashed.

Is it true, as the famous line in the film “Cool Hand Luke” put it, that what we have here is a failure to communicate?

Let’s summarize:

–The Muslim Brotherhood and many Egyptians (especially Islamists, the radical left and radical nationalists) are ideologically fixated on the idea that America and the West (not to mention Israel) are diabolical and fanatical enemies that can never be trusted and will never change.

–These forces also know that hatred of the West, America, and Israel are their most effective tools in mobilizing popular support and delegitimizing enemies. They will never give up such useful tools.

–They also know that no matter how much America and the West support the revolution now, they will not support their efforts to radicalize and Islamize Egypt. Once these policies kick in, there will be a conflict because they want a conflict.

–By the same token, America and the West will always prefer moderate politicians to triumph. In other words, even if they don’t know it yet, the U.S. and European governments are indeed “enemies” of the radicals. Thus, the hostages were seized in Tehran in 1979 largely as a result of a high-ranking U.S. official trying to show support by meeting with the Iranian foreign minister. The Carter Administration saw this action as being friendly; the radicals perceived it as an attempt to split and moderate their regime. The Obama Administration doesn’t understand this lesson.

These are some of the reasons why Islamists generally—and Iran, Syria, Hamas, Hizballah, and the Muslim Brotherhoods specifically—will always be anti-Western and anti-American no matter what the Obama Administration does or says.

That’s a lesson Americans have been given since the American revolutionary Tom Paine went to France to support what he saw as a democratic movement there and almost ended up being guillotined. This time it would be preferable if the United States and the West could keep their heads.

PS: When even Slate notices the growing power of Islamism in Egypt it shows how far things have moved since January. But the article follows the new MSM line: the Salafists are a threat while the Muslim Brotherhood is centrist. That’s like saying in the 1930s that the (Stalinist) Communist Party is now moderate but watch out for those Trotskyists! LOL 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and Middle East editor and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is His articles published originally in places other than PajamasMedia can be found at

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