We Should Learn From Others' Experiences|
I believe that all the tragedies afflicting us as individuals or nations are of our own making, and their solutions are within us. Therefore, Libya’s problems are of our creation, and the solution to those problems is within our reach. As Libyans, Arabs, and Muslims, we have tendency to blame Zionism and imperialism for most of our misfortunes, but we rarely accept our own failings. Particularly, since admission of our own failings, would require us to take charge of our own destiny, a responsibility we rarely cherish. When we use the words imperialism and Zionism, we are invariably referring to the United States and Israel. The mere mention of those two nations stirs deep emotions within us, ignoring the possibility that from each we can learn a great deal about ourselves. This, however, requires us to set aside our strong-held emotions, and to think rationally; something easily stated but always hard to do. It is also instructive to separate the Libyan case from all others, bearing in mind that unless we put our home in order, we cannot assist others.
The United States’ is a relatively young nations, yet it has dominated all other nations regardless of their size or historical depth. What can we learn from the American experience, what made America so dominant? It is simply its free and enterprising spirit. When the human mind is set free, it is capable of creating miracles; however, when the mind is forced shut, the individual and society wither and die. Now what can we learn from our second arch enemy, Israel? Let’s consider both the creation and survival of Israel, and see what could be learned.
The idea of creating the state of Israel was conceived by a handful of Zionists with a vision of creating a homeland for the Jews. They were ambitious and dedicated, but they also realized that ambition alone is not going to help attain their goal. It soon occurred to them that they needed the superpower of the day to make their dream come true. The superpower of their time was the British Empire. Many Jewish supporters of the Zionist ideal, particularly wealthy individuals were encouraged to settle in Britain to add to the numbers of those who were already there. Once in the United Kingdom, they worked their way up the political ladder, assuming responsibilities and lobbying British politicians to support the creation of Israel, and they succeeded in their efforts when they extracted the Balfour declaration, which consequently lead to the partition plan and the creation of Israel in 1947-1948.
When the sun began to set on the British Empire and to shine on the new American Empire, Israel was quick to adapt and shifted its personnel and lobbyists to the United States. Those activists ensured an endless flow of cash, weapons to Israel, thus ensuring, not merely its survival, but its prosperity as a miniature superpower in the Middle East. The America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the most influential lobbying organizations in Washington, DC. What we can learn from Israel’s experience is: When you lack enough power, you become close to those who possess it. What is the relevance of all of this to our situation in Libya?
Libyans living in the exile have generally remained on the periphery of their countries of residence, keeping their interaction with those around them to a bare minimum, beyond their jobs and immediate neighbors. Many of them kept to themselves, or confined their association to fellow Libyans, all dreaming of the day of return, and doing nothing to expedite it. Their imposed seclusion prevented them from influencing those around them, let alone reaching the political leaders of their new countries to address their concerns for Libya. One can only imagine the impact of politically aware and active Libyan communities in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and their potential impact on those two nations’ policies toward Libya.
All Arab tyrants ruling the Arab World rely on keeping their populations uneducated, ignorant, and misinformed in order to control them. They apply the same principles when it comes to the international arena; here again, keeping the international community in the dark is the [Arab leaders] policy of choice. The lack of information and the concerted efforts at misinformation help prolong the lives of the dictators of the Middle East. There is no doubt that information and knowledge are sources of power if we are willing to use them properly. World leaders, particularly those professing adherence to democratic principles, would find it awkward and shameful to embrace the likes of Gaddafi, had their populaces been better informed of Gaddafi’s oppressive nature. I do not believe that the British Foreign Secretary would have applauded Gaddafi openly, had the Libyans living in London done a better job of informing the British public.
Most recently, in the United States, a group of Libyan Americans gathered in Washington DC to discuss if they had any role to play in assisting Libya in its most desperate time. After several gatherings and debates, it was decided to form an advocacy group, the American Libyan Freedom Alliance (ALFA), to educate the American public and leaders about the affairs of Libya and how to translate the ongoing dialogue into practical steps to assist Libya. ALFA was officially registered as a non-governmental, charitable American organization, with a clear mission statement (posted on the web site: www.alfa-online.org) and bylaws. There were meetings at the House, the Senate, Department of State, and other non-governmental agencies. All activities were posted on ALFA’s web site for all to see.
Officers of ALFA have held high level talks with high ranking officials in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. Those meetings have resulted in an outpouring of support and sympathy for the plight of the Libyan people and a commitment to democracy and respect for human rights in Libya. More of such political meetings are planned early in 2004. Given the short life of ALFA, the results can only be described as spectacular, resulting in a respectable network of political support. The concept of advocacy and lobbying are totally alien to Libyan culture, leading some to describe members of ALFA as shadowy figures, serving the imperial power of the USA. Such statements reveal a malicious intent and total ignorance of fact. All officers of ALFA are American citizens, entitled to all the privileges of citizenship of the United States, and such privileges include enlisting the help of the highest officials in the American administration, since all political leaders are public servants. Would those bitter critics prefer that we join the ever growing ranks of critics, sitting on the fence bemoaning their misfortunes? We urge all those with better ideas to implement them, and we will be among your supporters, as we support all other activists.
I believe that what members of ALFA have done is an example for other Libyan exiles to follow, and I have advocated adoption of similar policies to fellow Libyans in the United Kingdom; unfortunately, it has not elicited much interest. Some questioned ALFA’s mission and agenda. Our agenda is dictated by our mission, which is to: inform, educate, offer legal assistance to Gaddafi’s victims, and seek to prosecute all those who committed crimes. One would assume that such an agenda is universally acceptable to all Libyans; however, there will always be some who are intent on reading between the lines, and looking for some hidden agenda where there is none. What we have clearly stated is our desire for democracy, respect of human rights, and the rule of law, nothing less nothing more. We, at ALFA, have put Libya at the forefront of the American agenda, and we will keep working until our people are set free; and even then, we will continue to monitor to ensure that our people in Libya will never again suffer the indignities of the Gaddafi era.
Mohamed M. Bugaighis, Ph.D.