Azmi Bishara on Libya


On Al Jazeera, Dr. Azmi Bishara said that the violence unleashed in Libya against the Libyan people is beyond belief — indicative of desperation on the part of the political order — or rather “disorder” — in Libya, attempting to put a quick end to the uprising before escalation, as the situation is a matter of life and death for Gaddafi for he has nowhere to go.  The level of violence stems from Gaddafi’s paranoia as well as the fact that his regime of power has lost its monopoly of “truth.”

Dr. Bishara added that the silence of the Arab states is not surprising, since a great majority of Arab states fear this wave of revolutions.  Many Arab regimes want to have nothing to do with it, since it means chaos for them.

As for the position of the West, Dr. Bishara pointed out its hypocrisy: on one hand, the West doesn’t care for the government in Libya; on the other hand, it is worried, not only about an exodus of undocumented Libyans to the West, but more importantly about interruption in Libyan oil export.

Dr. Bishara said that the strange thing is that it is still assumed in some quarters that the Libyan government is hostile to the West, so the silence of the West adds to the confusion, but it is clear that behind the rhetoric the Libyan government had normal relations with the West.  It goes without saying that the West will shift its position once it figures out that the regime in Libya is falling.

Dr. Bishara noted that the West’s position was opposite in the past: during the Cold War, in consideration of the international balance of power, the West was hostile to Gaddafi due to his support for various resistance movements in Latin America, Ireland, and Palestine.  Gaddafi, however, corrupted many movements with his money.  To top it off, the aggravation of Western hostility led Gaddafi to make a grand bargain with the West, adroitly abandoning his support for resistance movements, and even taking on a completely opposite role in some cases — especially in the Palestinian case.  One of his sons cultivated private connections in this regard, in favor of negotiating with the Israelis.

In the words of Dr. Bishara, chaos is a cover for tyranny, of the worst kind.  Take the refusal to define Gaddafi as president, which means there are no defined limits to power.  So reigned absolute power, exercising minute control on each detail, leaving no active role to the ministers and officials of the state.  The army was practically dismantled in the eighties, and instead battalions of security forces bearing the names of the sons of Gaddafi were established.

Given the state of “disorder in Libya,” in Dr. Bishara’s opinion, it may be more accurate to say that what the Libyan people want is not so much to “overthrow the regime” as to create and establish a regime.  There really is no effective institution in Libya — everything is run at the whim of Gaddafi.  Then, referring to the issue of succession, Dr. Bishara pointed out that a son of Gaddafi was slated to inherit the position to rule the country and that such a hereditary rule is itself a sign of corruption, just as letting cash decide the distribution of offices is.

Dr. Bishara added that the government in Libya cloaked itself in a nationalist slogan, but it proved to be an empty one, a cliché of struggles of the past beyond its expiration date, which, if right in some cases, is still like a broken clock that is right twice a day.

Dr. Bishara observed that Libya is a rich oil country, but oil has failed to raise the standard of living due to corruption, noting that Tunisia, which unlike Libya does not enjoy oil wealth, has a higher standard of living than Libya.

Dr. Bishara concluded by saying that, as the situation in Libya has become a matter of life and death for the regime, so it has for the Libyan people, too.  There is no going back, and the main challenge ahead is to minimize the number of victims as much as possible.

Dr. Bishara emphasized that it is urgent for a united national leadership to emerge and put forward a program, especially given that the state and the social order in Libya are fragile.  Therefore, a new leadership must present an alternative program now, not waiting for victory.  Without a clear program the people cannot but fear what may happen.

Commenting on the Warfala tribe joining the protests, Dr. Bishara reiterated: This tribe is as big as dozens of tribes; nevertheless, what is important is not a tribal issue, but the Arab identity of the Libyan majority, and there must be a unified national leadership representing all.

Azmi Bishara is a Palestinian who has Israeli citizenship.  Former Knesset member, he was compelled to leave Israel due to political persecution.  He is a founder of Balad.  The original article in Arabic, published on 20 February 2011, is available at <>.

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