chapter  2
17 Pages

The Troubled Triangle: Populism, Islam and Civil Society in the Arab World

BySaad Eddin Ibrahim

The six months between the end of October 1995 and the end of April 1996 encapsulated in the most dramatic way the promises and perils deeply stored in the Arab/Middle East region. The six month drama opened up with the glorious Amman Economic Summit (30 October 1995) attended by 63 countries and over 3,000 leading businessmen, intellectuals, statesmen, and several heads of states, including King Hussain of Jordan and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel. In the days and weeks ahead, it was followed up by the tragic assassination of Yitzhak Rabin (3 November 1995), the clean and hopeful presidential elections in Algeria (16 November 1995), the disappointingly sad legislative elections in Egypt (29 November), the indecisive elections in Turkey (24 December), and the euphoric maiden presidential and legislative elections in Palestine (20 January 1996). Throughout these events, deadly salvoes between Israel's MOSAD and Palestinine's Islamic Jihad and Hamas were being issued Backstage in the region, the Iraqi "Republic of Fear" continued to horrify the world with brutalities, which were becoming intra-familial among Saddam Hussain's own clan. In Qatar, a son staged a palace coup d'etat against his own royal father, only to see the father, exiled in a neighboring country, attempt his own counter coup d'etat to restore his throne from the incorrigible son. Palestinian Islamic Hamas performed three successive suicide bombings in the heart of Israel (in Jerusalem and Ashkelon on 25 February, and in Tel Aviv on 3 March), killing and wounding some 100 Israelis while much of the world sympathized and responded to Egyptian President Mubarak's hurried invitation for a World "Summit for Peacemakers," attended by some 30 heads of state including US President Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin (Sharm

El-sheikh, 13 March}. With pending elections in Israel itself, and amidst charges by the opposition that Israel's Prime Minister was too weak to deal with the Arabs or to lead Israel in peace and war, Shimon Peres put on a show of brutal force against Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories, and an even more brutal one in neighboring Lebanon to the north (11-27 April 1996).