Self-criticism beginning to be heard in Arab regimes

The unthinkable seems to be happening in the Middle East: Arab thought leaders are beginning to suggest that they have something to learn from Israel, because the Jewish state has flourished while Arabs states mostly stagnate. While there are limits to the self-criticism – Islam itself must never be identified as an obstacle, and Israel must be denounced as racist and basically evil – nonetheless, the willingness to be self-critical is notable.

Cairo, the largest city in the Arab world / Photo by Luc Legay, via Creative Commons SA 2.0

Thanks to the invaluable work of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, we are becoming aware of a new wind blowing in the Arab World. Benjamin Kerstein writes in The Allgemeiner:

 Over the past several months, a series of Arab commentators have sought to explain why Israel appears so far ahead of the Arab world in politics, economics, and military power.

According to translations published on Thursday by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), the general consensus was that Israeli democracy gives the country this strength. In particular, the emphasis on the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the importance of education.

Although the commentators at times engaged in racist rhetoric and smeared Israel as an “apartheid” state, they nonetheless acknowledged that Arab nations have failed in their basic responsibilities to their citizens, whereas Israel has not.

I will stipulate that the steps forward are modest to date. But combined with the changes underway in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam and the moneybags for so many Arab causes, there is at least some possibility of momentum building for genuine change.