REVOLT OF THE STARVING
“The steadily deteriorating economic and security situation in Egypt threatens to plunge that country into a 'revolt of the starving,' which, if it ever erupts, would destroy Egypt,” writes Palestinian commentator Hani Masri in the leading Palestinian daily al-Ayyam.
Veteran Egyptian commentator Mohamed Hassanain Heikal says that the upheavals now taking place are only symptoms of the country moving forwards into the future, while Henry Kissinger believes that Egypt is experiencing a historic rather than a democratic revolution that will inevitably lead to a confrontation between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood and the utter destruction of the country.
Can political Islam come to an understanding with Egypt's secular forces? This after all is the only way Egypt can be saved. National consensus holds the key to Egypt's salvation, but salvation cannot be achieved unless two conditions are met:
-First, that the Muslim Brotherhood abandons its policy of monopolizing power and seeking to Islamize the country at breakneck speed (as if trying to compensate for the 80 years it spent in opposition). The Muslim Brotherhood must recognize that Egypt is a country for all its citizens, Islamists, leftists, nationalists, liberals, Copts, etc., and that no party is entitled to impose its own ideology and program on the entire nation – even if that party won a majority in elections, and…
--Second, that the opposition abandons its attempts to unseat the Muslim Brotherhood and recognizes their existence and their right to rule, since they won a majority in the last election. Egypt needs partnership; it needs each party to recognize the others. All Egyptian political parties and forces – not just the Muslim Brotherhood – need to genuinely believe in democracy, pluralism, diversity, partnership, and respect for the points of view of others. A culture of dialogue must prevail, and the parties must have the political will to accept others.
A national consensus can be achieved by drafting a new consensual constitution that does not uphold the values of the majority and denigrate those of the minority. There are issues of higher national interest on which all must agree, issues that are inalterable whatever results elections throw up. The Egyptians must agree on a new constitution that guarantees basic human rights and freedoms, ensures equality, and establishes a democratic system that guarantees the separation of powers, the rule of law, the principle of transition of power, and separation of religion from the state – a constitution that precludes the establishment of a religious regime while acknowledging the role of religion (Islam in particular) in creating Egypt's Arab identity and the country's leading position and status in the Arab world.
After a consensual constitution is passed, the next task would be to pass a new election law that guarantees fairness and does not grant preferential status to any party or movement. Holding regular elections at every level is a prerequisite for a democratic system of government, but democracy cannot be reduced to elections alone. Elections could lead to a corrupt tyranny with a false democratic veneer. Oppressive parties could well use elections to seize power, never to relinquish it again. Democracy requires liberty and national independence first of all. Democracy is after all a form of freedom; if the nation and its citizens are not free, they cannot enjoy genuine democracy.
This being the case, the democratic systems that were established in several Arab countries between the end of the First World War and the eruption of the first nationalist revolution (in Egypt in 1952) were mostly false simply because they were designed to serve the interests of colonial powers at the expense of the interests of the countries themselves. To reiterate, democracy is impossible without liberty, independence, national dignity, and sovereignty. Does this mean that the great  Egyptian revolution of Jamal Abdul Nasser was all good? Or did it commit grievous errors that allowed counterrevolutionary forces to abort the entire Arab project, which was intended to elevate the Arab peoples and place them in their rightful place among nations?
Man cannot live by bread alone, nor by democracy or social justice to the exclusion of all else. For a political system to be able to survive and progress, it needs to combine prosperity with freedom, democracy, social justice, and national independence.
The basic grievance against the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Mursi is that it has been acting as if its priority is the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood are now in power – and not how to best exercise power. The Muslim Brotherhood government has not made the slightest effort to change the Mubarak regime's foreign and domestic policies. The policies of the previous regime were left in place, despite the fact that Muslim Brotherhood has been ruling the country for the best part of two years.
Egypt rose up on January 25th  not only to overthrow Mubarak – important as that was – but also in order to change his policies that impoverished Egypt and lost it its position in the Arab world and the international community.
Egypt cannot hope to progress and move forwards simply by ingratiating itself with the United States and Israel. This road could only lead to subjugation and to the minimization of Egypt's role, keeping the country subservient to U.S. and Israeli objectives and interests. That was why the White House quickly washed its hands of the Mubarak regime and rapidly embraced the Muslim Brotherhood; the Americans saw in the Muslim Brotherhood a useful alternative to Husni Mubarak, and quickly struck a deal with the Islamist movement by which it offered to recognize Islamist rule in Egypt and other Arab countries in exchange for the latter upholding the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, Israel's security, and U.S. interests in the Middle East.
And in order for the Americans and Israelis to ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood does not go back on its promises once its rule is established, they have been instigating internal strife between moderate and extreme Islam, political Islam and secularists, and between Muslims and Copts. They have also been encouraging confrontation between Sunnis and Shiites and between Arabs and Persians as alternatives to the main struggle, that between the Arabs world and Israel.
This does not mean that there are no reasons for internal conflict within the Islamist camp, between it and other political forces, or between Arabs and Iran – or that Iran has no expansionist designs. But these conflicts are internal, within the Egyptian people or between different forces within the Arab nation. What brings the nation together is much stronger than what drives it apart. Egypt and the Arab world cannot hope to progress unless there is agreement on certain major common objectives. Relations with neighboring nations, such as Iran, must be based on equality and mutual respect.
The court ruling to cancel next month's parliamentary election was a godsend for Egypt. Those parties and movements with the country's interests and wellbeing at heart must use this opportunity to launch a national dialogue with a view to agree on a consensual constitution and form a government of national salvation to prepare for new, free, and fair elections, which would open the way for the establishment of an all-inclusive democratic system in which all sectors of Egyptian society can participate.
Egypt faces serious domestic and external challenges; confronting them needs the efforts of all the country's political forces. The external plot, which has domestic appendages, is bigger and more serious that many realize. May God protect Egypt, for a strong Egypt means a strong Arab World.
“It means that Palestine is also strong, and that the Palestinian people would be capable of achieving their goals of freedom, independence, and return,” concludes Masri.