Born in 1945 in Philadelphia PA, Dr. Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.
At Georgetown University he studied modern European intellectual history under the Palestinian ex-patriot Professor Hisham Sharabi. Sharabi and Davidson subsequently became close friends and one can date his interest in Palestinian, as well as Jewish and Zionist, issues from this time.
Dr. Davidson writes regularly on the Middle East affairs, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and U.S. foreign policy.
He has written several books of which "America's Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood" by the University Press of Florida is a prominent example.
Dr. Davidson joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, the collective uprising of the Arab world, Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions of 2011, the humanitarian crisis in Libya, the prospect of anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia and the fate of Israeli regime in the wake of growing international isolation.
What follows is the complete text of my interview with Dr. Lawrence Davidson.
Kourosh Ziabari: Everything started when a simple, unostentatious street vendor committed an act of self-immolation before a municipal office in the suburbs of Tunis in protest to the humiliation and persecution which was inflicted on him. How this apparently trivial incident led to the unprecedented wave of protests which encompassed the whole Arab world in a matter of days? Do you consider the suicide of Mohamed Bouazizi the cause of this turmoil or did the Arab world revolutions have their roots in other factors which we might be unaware of?
LawrenceDavidson: The conditions which made the uprisings in the Middle East possible have been with us for a very long time. Economic deprivation, repression and corruption were constants throughout the reigns of Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak in Egypt. They also exist in Yemen. Different variations on these themes can be found in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and many other countries of the region as well. So revolt was and is always a possibility. The much harder question to answer is, why now? For instance, why did the steps taken by Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia act as a successful trigger?
We know that the default position of most people living under repressive regimes is fear and passivity. At some point an exceptional occurrence (it can be negative or positive) will bring a small and brave element of the population into the streets. If they are not suppressed quickly by the regime, their actions might encourage others to join them and then you have a snowballing effect. At that point the regime either negotiates or brings in the tanks. Negotiating often risks the complete unraveling of an authoritarian regime. That is why you most often get the tanks.
In the case of Tunisia, the military seems to have backed off shooting its own people. In Egypt I think the Obama administration played a role by telling the Egyptian military that they were not to use American weapons to shoot Egyptian protesters. That seemed to have had a real impact. Washington ought to tell the Israelis the same thing.
KZ: It's undeniable that the United States and its European allies are dithering over how to deal with Libya's dictator Muammar Gaddafi, refusing to take a practical, decisive step to tackle the deplorable situation in the war-hit country. It's estimated that the Libyan butcher has so called massacred more than 6,500 people and the UN, UNSC, the US and its allies haven't made any decision to stop him. What's the reason behind the West's indecisiveness over the situation in Libya?
LD: Well, it would appear that the Western powers have overcome their indecisiveness as far as Libya is concerned. I wrote a recent blog piece which points out that the American rationale for this intervention, the protection of civilians, is just sheer hypocrisy. It is simply impossible to believe that Washington has any real concern for civilians in Libya given the U.S. history of slaughter of civilians in Vietnam, Iraq and now Afghanistan, as well as its protection of Israel as that country ethnically cleanses Palestine. No, the issue of civilians is just an excuse for the Americans.
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