Al-Jazeera’s director general Wadah Khanfar on the Arab revolution that most in the West simply didn’t expect. Why? Because we fear Islamists, because we hate the idea that Arabs may vote for parties we don’t like and because we fear that poor little undemocratic Israel may be challenged. Times are changing:
Indeed, it should surprise no one that so many Western analysts, researchers, journalists and government experts failed to recognize the obvious signs of Arab youth movements that would soon erupt into revolutions capable of bringing down some of the most pro-Western regimes in the Middle East. That failure has exposed a profound lack of understanding in the West of Arab reality.
U.S. and European allies, supporters and business partners of the Arab regimes persistently preferred to deal with leaders who were entirely unrepresentative of the new generation. They were detached from the emerging reality and had no way to engage with the social forces that now matter. It is the growing periphery of the Arab world – the masses at its margins, not its feeble and decaying center – that is shaping the future of the region.