Human RightsIsrael

An Israeli responds to the changes in Egypt

Freedom is breaking out all over the Middle East. We are living in a time strikingly similar to December of 1991, when the Soviet Union seemed to disintegrate before our eyes, breaking up in to fifteen separate nations.

In 1991, the Western world cheered as millions of people throughout Eastern Europe freed themselves from Soviet oppression. The joy was unalloyed: what was happening was good for the local people, and everyone in the West rejoiced as well because it was seen as a victory for the Western values of freedom and democracy. The Cold War was over, and the US and the West won.

In 2011, reactions in the West are very different. Many of the governments that are falling were nominally “pro-Western,” causing many in Israel, the US, and Europe to fear for the future. Instead of being afraid, I call on my fellow Israelis and residents of all Western countries, to support and welcome the changes happening in the Middle East.

An oppressive dictator may be “pro-Western” but he is still an oppressive dictator. We, the people who fled slavery in Egypt over 3,000 years ago, join in the celebration of the people who have cast off the slavery of their own dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. It appears that Qaddafi in Libya will be the next dictator to learn you cannot oppress people forever.

The Torah commands “Proclaim liberty throughout the land!” It is not enough to simply proclaim liberty: as the degeneration of the Iranian Revolution from a democratic movement to a theocracy shows, what comes after the revolution is just as important – if not more important – than the revolution itself. True democracy – which would undoubtedly favor peace in the region – is fostered by lending our support and best wishes to the planet’s newest democracies. Propping up oppressive dictators because they are “pro-Western” is a misguided strategy that wins short-term stability at the cost of long term human rights violations. The dictator who is pro-Western could be replaced by a new dictator tomorrow who is not pro-Western, as happened in Iran.

Our neighbors are living what King David said in Psalm 118: “In distress I called upon the Lord; the Lord answered me, and set me free.” We pray for enduring freedom for the new democracies in the Middle East. May additional nations become free without the tragedy of bloodshed.

Reb Barry

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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