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Posted at 09:22 AM ET, 05/19/2011

Wael Ghonim tweets Middle East history reminder hours before Obama’s speech


Google Inc. executive Wael Ghonim addresses a crowd inside Tahrir Square in Cairo on Feb. 8. (By Dylan Martinez/Reuters)

In just a few minutes, President Obama is set to give a major speech defining the U.S. interests in the Middle East, explaining how the anti-government demonstrations affect American interests and values. (Watch the speech live at 11:40 a.m. EST here.)

Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian former Google employee credited as one of the major driving forces behind the demonstrations that swept Hosni Mubarak out of power, took to Twitter to offer a historical perspective on the Middle East.

He sent a photograph of a New York Times article from 1952 titled, “West faces challenge of the Moslem world: Accord between them will call for wise leadership on both sides and also some mutual concessions.”


One of the final sentences in the article, written by C.L. Sulzberger, says, “The United States above all cannot afford to ignore the wave of nationalistic sentiments so vigorously encouraged by its own Woodrow Wilson.”

Though the demonstrations this time seek independence from autocratic governments, rather than from foreign governments, the similarities between the struggles, even six decades later, are striking. Here’s the first few paragraphs of the article:

“The sad and violent occurrences in Egypt and Tunisia are in fact merely the latest manifestations in an Islamic revolt that has been taking place by fits and starts ever since World War I.

“During less than four decades many hundreds of millions of Moslems have managed to establish themselves in independent states across a huge geographical arc.

“This movement, the phases of which are always sentimentally related but frequently disconnected politically, has seen the creation of these free nations by peoples previously under various forms of foreign control: Indonesia, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya.

“A dynamic new Turkey has emerged from the tottering Ottoman imperial hodge-podge. Ancient Iran is seeking, by extraordinarily curious methods, to establish what she considers economic liberty.

“And elsewhere in Islam, notably in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, nationalistic movements have extracted some concessions and are seething for more.”

By  |  09:22 AM ET, 05/19/2011

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