Arab Self Criticism: The Gold Standard

Solomonia has a post from MEMRI of a Saudi politician engaging in self criticism. For those who don’t always know how to distinguish real moderates from demopaths, this one separates the men from the boys.

Iyad Jamal Al-Din How come this country (Israel) has developed a democratic regime, although it too has been at war and is surrounded by enemies, whereas the Arabs have not developed democratic regimes, using the existence of Israel as a pretext? How come Israel is not using the Arabs as a pretext for delaying its democratic development, its free economy, and its free press? Are they better, smarter, or stronger than us? We have oil, we have water, we have land, we have great minds – we have it all. Nevertheless, we have backward, tyrannical, and dictatorial regimes – and the peoples readily accept this. There is no real demand for democracy in Arab countries…

The touchstone of sincerity here is that not only does Iyad Jamal al-Din criticize his own people, but he has the presence of mind to note that the very excuses his own people use to avoid the taxing but productive path to democracy could have been used by the Israelis… and were not. It takes someone capable of psychologically accepting so unpleasant a contrast to be able to even see, much less articulate so telling — and for most Arab spokesemen humiliating — an observation. This is the gold standard of self-criticism.

2 Responses to Arab Self Criticism: The Gold Standard

  1. Dan says:

    Democracies don’t have major laws that treat races and religions differently, often vastly differently.

  2. RL says:

    as i try and point out in my essay on civil society, the key to modern democratic societies is what the ancient Greeks call isonomia or “equality before the law.” in fact i think one of the best definitions of modernity is “the effort to establish the rule of equality before the law on the level of national sovereignty.” it’s a very difficult task, and no culture has yet come near mastering it. but rather than say a country like Israel or the USA (a fortiori, Europe) isn’t a “true democracy” because they fall short of some imagined (and never yet attained) perfection, we need to think in terms of batting averages. Batting .300 isn’t bad.

    We can get better, and we should try to, but we shouldn’t make false comparisons and moral equivalences between countries that really do try to live by such high standards, and countries that don’t even try. No baseball manager would survive if he ignored the difference between a batter who hit .350 and one who hit below .150.


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