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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 2/11/11

Jews and Spiritual Progressives Welcome Mubarak Resignation; But Not a Military or "Security" Force Coup to Replace Him

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Tikkun magazine's editor Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives issued the following statement on Friday, February 11th:

Jews and Spiritual Progressives of every religious community are rejoicing at the triumph of the democratic uprising in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and at the resignation of President Mubarak. But we have no illusions that the struggle for democracy has been won.

We are fearful that the US and others who seek "stability" rather than "democracy" may accept a new autocratic regime under the leadership of Vice President Omar Suleiman (the US ally who played a significant role in the torture operations in Egypt) or under the leadership of a "soft" military coup in which the Army becomes the primary force in Egypt.

Nor would we welcome a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, though they have a legitimate role to play in any new government. It remains to be seen if a genuine democratic process takes place, or merely a military and security forces-controlled process leading to elections that reflect the desires of the military, which might continue to control the media and the security forces. Here is what we would look for to see if this is really a democratic transformation:

1. The immediate end of the Emergency Laws that have been in effect since 1972 and that have given the state powers that deny fundamental human rights for the Egyptian people.

2. The freeing of all political prisoners

3. A focus on economic justice for the poor (which is the majority of the population. A specific step would be to call for the West to immediately embrace a Global Marshall Plan whose first setting would be the Middle East countries.

4. The creation of a democratic transition group representing all the different opposition factions as well as the Army and Mubarak's party, but the Army and the old regime having only a few representatives rather than dominating the process.

5. Immediate opening of the Egyptian television and other media to a wide variety of perspectives representing all the diferent factions in the Uprising including, but not dominated by, the Islamic forces or the Army.

We are well aware that the Iranian revolution, at first a popular uprising, was taken over by extremist mullahs and turned into an oppressive dictatorship of the mullahs even as the forms of democracy and election of a president gave the pretense of democracy. We do not want that to happen in Egypt, which is one reason we have called upon the US, Israel and the Western countries to embrace the democratic forces rather than hope for "stability" through military control.

Only an unequivocal and massive set of political moves by the US and Israel, including an end to the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza, would convey to the Egyptian people that the US and Israel had really gotten the message that supporting Mubarak's repressive regime was a mistake and that they truly respect the masses of the Arab world and wish to be partners with them rather than seek to dominate them.

All this is a major religious and spiritual celebration. Though the right-wing government of Israel and the Jewish establishment in the U.S. have called on the US to support "stability" rather than democracy, the vast majority of Jews in the US and around the world have celebrated the Egyptian uprising and, while feeling concerned that it not be taken over by anti-Israel elements who might seek a war with Israel, we recognize the Biblical legacy of the need to overthrow the Pharoahs of Egypt and "let the people go."

Western religions including Islam retain the story of the Israelite freedom struggle retold in the Bible. Jews celebrate that liberation every Sabbath and on Passover. That ancient story has predisposed many in these Wester spiriutal tradition to favor every liberation struggle in the contemporary world!!!! We will not be fooled by a new Pharoah to replace the old Pharoah, whether the new Pharoah is Suleiman or the army or an Islamic dictatorship. But none of these concerns will overshadow our current rejoicing at the overthrow of Mubarak.

This joyous moment reminds us once again of Tikkun's main lesson: -- DO NOT BE REALISTIC. Never allow the people with power in the economy, politics or the media to tell you that fundamental change is "unrealistic" and that you must settle for minor reforms while keeping the fundamental problems untouched. Remember that this kind of advice was in place in Egypt four weeks ago, and that ordinary people, not big shots, just little guys like us, changed history!

And remind those who tell you that the goal of a Global Marshall Plan or of an ESRA -- Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, this is the moment to reaffirm our commitment to "A New Bottom Line" in both our personal and economic/political and social lives of love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe and wonder at the grandeur and mystery of the universe (or universes) -- as embodied in the Spiritual Covenant with America.

Remind the pessimists, cynics, skeptics and "realists" in your life of the following basic truth that they could have learned from the Bible, from the 60s, from the huge advances made by the civil rights, women's and glbtq (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer) movements, and now from Tunisia and Egypt: -- YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT IS POSSIBLE UNTIL YOU ENGAGE IN SUSTAINED STRUGGLE FOR WHAT IS ETHICALLY DESIRABLE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY NECESSARY.

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Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun and national chair of the Tikkun Community/ Network of Spiritual Progressives. People are invited to subscribe to Tikkun magazine or join the interfaith organization the Network of Spiritual Progressives-- "both of which can be done by (more...)
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