From Ground Zero to Tahrir Square

Avishai Margalit

William Hague, the British foreign secretary, recently made three interesting claims: The Arab Spring is more of a defining event of our time than 9/11; the Arab Spring was “the answer to some of the anger of 9/11, the violence of 9/11”; and “the real nature of the Arab world is expressed in Tahrir Square, not at Ground Zero.”

I don’t subscribe to the talk about the “real nature” of the Arab world. There is no real nature to the Arab world or for that matter to any other human world. Yet Hague is making an important point: Tahrir Square and Ground Zero are (partly) manifestations of the same kind of anger. The havoc wreaked on Ground Zero was grossly and cruelly misplaced anger, while the protests in the square represented an anger properly directed at a tyrant.

Hague is gambling on the truth of the claim that the Arab Spring is historically more important than 9/11. The tendency is of course to play it safe and echo Zhou Enlai’s famous line in answering the question whether the French Revolution was a success: It is too early to tell.

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