Middle East

Arab reaction to bin Laden’s death: satisfaction and indifference

It is a welcome sign of how things have changed in the Arab world in recent years– and especially in recent months– that there was no widespread explosion of rage at the killing of Osama bin Laden, as there might well have been had it happened soon after 9/11.

As Liz Sly writes at The Washington Post:

[W]ith the region convulsed by mostly peaceful popular revolutions, the response to his death has been muted, another signal that the old Arab order is being swept away.

For this new generation, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire and ignited a revolution is a bigger hero than bin Laden, whose vision of martyrdom and jihad has been replaced by more prosaic aspirations such as free elections, good governance and an end to corruption.

“You will see protests for freedom and democracy, yes. But for Osama bin Laden? Definitely not,” said Mustafa Alani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai.

In the Arab world, he said, al-Qaeda was “already dying.”
[F]or many, bin Laden was as much a part of the old Arab order as the presidents of Egypt and Tunisia who were swept away by the populist clamor for change earlier this year, along with the other leaders in Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere who are battling for their political lives against a groundswell of unrest.
In Syria, the latest Arab country to be caught up in the turmoil, a student protester in the northern coastal town of Baniyas said people there were celebrating bin Laden’s death. “We are very happy that he was killed because he is a terrorist and we don’t like violence,” said the student, whose name is being withheld for his safety.

It makes Hamas’s praise for bin Laden as “an Arab and Muslim warrior” seem glaringly out of step. For all the trouble it is still capable of causing and for all its support among Western “pro-Palestinian” activists, Hamas has revealed itself as part of the old order. This is reflected in a recent poll of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, indicating widespread support for the anti-regime demonstrations in other Arab countries, a desire for similar demonstrations in the Palestinian territories and more support for Fatah than for Hamas.

And I hope nobody is surprised that “[s]erious disagreements over control of security forces and other key issues” have emerged between Fatah and Hamas before they are scheduled to sign their “historic” reconciliation agreement.

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