A Triumph of Humanity

They did it.

After 18 days of mass protest, the people of Egypt overthrew a 30-year dictatorship and opened the door to a real chance at freedom, dignity, and genuine democracy.

Like millions worldwide, I sat glued to my computer these past two and a half weeks, watching reports of the protests. So I shed tears of joy shortly after waking today, elated at the images of millions in Cairo euphoric over the news that Hosni Mubarak had stepped down.

Egypt does not yet have a democracy. The military has taken over, and the nation’s newfound freedom is tenuous at best.

But the country has taken a giant leap toward liberty and justice. And judging by the resolve, the intelligence, the courage and the basic sense of decency I have seen demonstrated on the streets of Egypt since January 25, I believe Egyptians will succeed on this great quest.

Yet this is about far more than Egypt. Interviewed on the Arab satellite news station Al Jazeera today, a spokesman for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood said this was not only a victory for every Egyptian – Muslim, Christian, and otherwise – it was a victory for the entire Middle East and indeed all of humanity.

He is right. The events of the past two and half weeks – and the brave men and women behind them – have taught us a great deal about what it means to be alive, about what truly matters, and most importantly, about what is possible on a planet in distress.

They have taught us that Muslims and Christians can co-exist and even support one another in one of the most volatile regions on the planet. That moderation and cooperation are, indeed, possible.

They have shown that men and women, young and old, rich and poor can all come together in one of the most stratified places on the globe. And that they can be supported, and rooted on, by people around the world who will most likely never even meet them.

They have demonstrated that ultimately, our security will not be ensured by repression. It must rest instead on justice and democracy.

And they have reminded us of the words Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke more than 40 years ago and US President Barack Obama reiterated today: that, indeed, “There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.”

Given our recent history as a species, it can be easy to feel pessimistic. From Tienanmen Square to the Concentration Camps where many of my family members perished, humanity can exhibit a shocking brutality. There is indeed a dark side to our species.

But there is a noble, courageous, and beautiful side to humanity as well. The people of Egypt – especially the young people – have reminded us what history has demonstrated time and time again, from Selma to Johannesburg, from Prague to Santiago: that despite all odds, where there is hope and courage, justice – and the People Power behind it – can, and often does, prevail.

The people of Egypt were up against overwhelming odds: a well-organized police state; lies and information black-outs; violence and torture. They were up against a Western World that did not stand strongly on their behalf, and powerful Middle Eastern Governments from Tel-Aviv to Riyadh that pushed for their failure.

More than anything, I imagine, they were up against their own doubts. And after 30 years of despotic rule, who could blame them?

In the end, however, hope triumphed over despair, and courage won out over fear. In 18 short yet stunning days, the people of Egypt overthrew one of the most powerful dictatorships on the planet.

That example will do more than nourish a new democracy there. It will feed the spirits of 200 million people in the Middle East, and tens of millions more across North Africa, who yearn to be free. It will feed the will of 77 million Iranians. And it will feed the souls and the resolve of every human who dreams of a better world.

This evening, I have hope for Egypt. And I have hope for humanity.

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From Jubilation to Rage, the Revolution Grows

Like much of the world, I sat riveted to my computer today, watching live news reports as millions of Egyptians poured into the streets, ecstatic at rumors Dictator Hosni Mubarak might resign in a nationally televised address.

He did not. Instead he told the Egyptian people he would stay as planned until September, and with utmost hypocrisy said he lamented the deaths of the past 18 days, deaths his thugs and secret police caused.

The Egyptian people didn’t buy it. When it became clear Mubarak would not step down, the massive crowd that had assembled in Cairo’s Tahrir Square went ballistic with anger. So did crowds across Egypt.

Those scenes brought to mind John F. Kennedy’s words: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Al Jazeera has reported some live fire in the streets. Nobel Laureate and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei says Egypt will explode unless the army takes over. I heard an Egyptian blogger interviewed live on US radio today say (paraphrasing), “Mubarak said he wants to die in Egypt. We will grant him that wish.”

People are enraged. They are spreading out throughout the cities. It seems the popular sentiment is for the military to oust Mubarak and take over.

The question on everyone’s mind is, of course: what will happen now? Will Egypt burn? Or will a peaceful revolution somehow prevail?

Mubarak and Suleiman are military men of course. So military action against them would require a rift in the armed forces. It seems one exists. The question is, will it be enough to force Mubarak’s ouster? If the people persist, as they most certainly will, is that even necessary?

Either way, the next 24 hours in Egyptian history are likely to be pivotal. I pray it will not become a bloodbath. I believe strongly the Egyptian people will prevail. A movement with such numbers and intensity will not quit until it wins freedom, one way or another. May that freedom spread throughout the region and everywhere tyrants rule.

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Al Jazeera English: Live Stream – Watch Now – Al Jazeera English

History is being made on the streets of Egypt.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream – Watch Now – Al Jazeera English.

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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Day 16 of the protests in Egypt. No one expected such a big turn out today, but people came out in droves, many for the first time.

Poor women and women wearing Gucci. Lawyers, workers. Students, teachers. Children, babies.

Many were deeply moved by Egyptian Google Exec Wael Ghonim’s emotional television interview, in which he discussed his 12-day detention (blindfolded) at the hands of the secret police and expressed his heartache at the deaths of hundreds of protesters.

At least a quarter of a million turned out in Tahrir Square yesterday, and tens of thousands spent the night, huddled over fires, playing music, talking, catching a few moments of sleep. I imagine it must feel magical to be there in a way only such historic moments can: to taste freedom, to feel the power of solidarity.

It’s a pivotal time in Egypt of course: how long will people keep this up? And how will the government respond?

I continue to have a deep faith in the Egyptian people and a great hope for their liberation. And I have been surprised and deeply moved by both their courage and their desire for democracy.

It turns out most Americans agree. A Gallup poll of 1015 adults released yesterday reports 2/3 of Americans are following the protests in Egypt – and a whopping 82% are “very” or “somewhat” sympathetic to the protestors.

So where is Obama? Where is the Obama I voted for, the one who went to Cairo just a year and a half ago to tell the Arab world it had to take responsibility for its destiny?

This is not a time to find a middle course between Omar Suleiman and the protestors; between Israel, Saudi Arabia and Mubarak on the one side, and the people of Egypt on the other. You may find a compromise on the US tax code, but not on the desire of a people to be free. That is a shameful approach.

And what a shame it would be to squander this moment, when the US could step up instead and say to the people of Egypt, “We support you in words AND in deeds. And though it may be risky to support you, we do and we will. Because we believe in freedom. Because we know democracy is the best basis of our security and the world’s. We are willing to put the desire of a people to be free above all else because that is what we stand for.”

This is Obama’s Gorbachev moment. Imagine if he took it. Imagine if he encouraged the people of Egypt and the entire Arab world to ‘tear down this wall,’ and actually backed it up. If he doesn’t, it’s up to us to make him.

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“The World Supports You Egypt!”

What a week it’s been. I’ve been enthralled by the events in Egypt – deeply moved by the courage and beauty of the protestors, and the possibility that some very real change may come to Egypt and spread throughout North Africa and the Middle East.

At first I sat glued to my computer, watching Al Jazeera and feeling helpless. Then I came up with the idea of creating a video. I called a dear friend at CodePink, the women’s peace group, and offered to help there. And I started this website.

I’m so wanting them to win, to really win. I see their courage, their resolve, their strength, their numbers, and part of me thinks, “These people will win.” And another part is worried for what may come.

Today thousands of us marched in San Francisco, in solidarity with the Egyptian people and tens of thousands around the world. It was a beautiful day, and as a Jewish Israeli-American it felt good to be with people from the Middle East.

Yet as is so often the case at rallies like these, some speakers were far too angry or trite for my taste. And at least one railed at Israel in a way that made me, a great supporter of Palestinian rights and a two state solution, feel uncomfortable and disheartened.

Yet I believe he was in the minority. And the Egyptians are teaching us all a lesson regardless: no matter what comes our way, keep at it. Don’t over-react, but also don’t roll over or pull back. Keep at it from a place of deep purpose and resolve.

So may this democratic revolution succeed in Egypt and spread to the entire Arab world and beyond. And may we as Americans and citizens of all countries do everything we can to help.

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