February 5, 2011

EDITOR: The Sheikh Jarrakh demonstrators rename the local square Tahrir Square in honour of the Egyptian people and their revolution! (in Hebrew and Arabic)

EDITOR: the US is listening to Israel and Mubark

The US has today shifted its position again, now back to supporting the tyrant it has supported until last week. Well, a week is a long time in politics, and the US administration may well believe that people’s memory does not extend sucha long time back as last week. After 11 days of Israel making the point that Mubarak should be supported, bearing in mind whata good job he has been doing for them, the US has shifted top its default position again. Should we be surprised?

In Israel, where belief in democracy extends to democracy for Jews only, the democratic movement of Egypt is seen as a threat. The new government of Egypt may be far less pliable,  and may refuse to illegally blockade Gaza, for example, or to sell Israel gas at prices lower than to its own citizens… There may well be trouble ahead.

Following the Israeli lead, Jewish leaders in the US speak out this week. “He may be a barbarian, but he’s our barbarian”. Thus spoke John Rothmann, a former President of the Zionist Organization of America, now a talk show host for KGO radio in San Francisco. It is of course a paraphrase of FDR’s description of Somoza, the dictator of Nicaragua and Israel’s good friend: ‘he may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch.’

It is good to hear such home truths from the horse’s mouth, certainly. Democracy when we do it, but nowhere else, and only on our terms. It is clear that the dominant voice of US Jews, totally supportive of Israel and its schemes of control of the Middle East, is again showing its true, undemocratic and hostile face. If you support Zionism, you cannot support democracy.

The Israelis are right to be worried, of course, about a state based on religious principles – just looking at the Jewish state and the damage it has caused to the whole Middle East, is reason enough to shun any other example of that political genre in Egypt or elsewhere.

U.S.: Mubarak must stay in power to steer reform in Egypt: Haaretz

Egyptian president said earlier he believed Egypt would descend into chaos if he were to give in to demands of the protesters and quit immediately.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being to steer changes needed for political transition, U.S. President Barack Obama’s special envoy for Egypt said on Saturday.

“We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes,” Frank Wisner told the Munich Security Conference.

Mubarak, who has pledged to step down in September when a presidential election is scheduled, said on Thursday he believed Egypt would descend into chaos if he were to give in to almost two weeks of demands by an unprecedented popular revolt that he quit immediately.

The embattled president has fashioned himself as the crucial rampart against Islamist militancy in Egypt and the indispensable player in maintaining a peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979. But protesters are maintaining their position that they will no stop demonstrating until Mubarak leaves the government.

At the same security conference on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Egypt’s political transition should take place “as orderly but as expeditiously as possible” to give enough time for democratic elections to be prepared.

“President Mubarak has announced he will not stand for reelection nor will his son … He has given a clear message to his government to lead and support this process of transition,” Clinton told a Munich security conference.

“That is what the government has said it is trying to do, that is what we are supporting, and hope to see it move as orderly but as expeditiously as possible under the circumstances,” Clinton said.

Martin Rowson, Feb 5th 2011, The Guardian

EDITOR: Benny Morris barks again

The historian who sees the world from his own back pocket – he is the one who thinks that the Nakba did not go far enough, and should have dealt with all Palestinians, rather than only three quarters of them – is voicing the standard Israeli view: all should be arranged so as to satisfy the Israeli right. Normally, they get their way, so now they are bitterly opposed to reality.

The west must be wary of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: The Guardian

The Brotherhood’s aim is to take over the Egyptian state through the democratic process – and then bring an end to democracy
Benny Morris
Opinion polls over the past decade have awarded the Brotherhood the support of between 30% and 60% of the populace, and it is the best organised and most powerful political party in the country. But while many of its supporters are taking part in the street demonstrations sweeping Egypt’s cities, the organisation has kept a deliberately low profile. The Brotherhood has not published its calculations, but one may assume they include a desire to avoid the mass arrest by the security services of its leadership cadres and a clash with the army, whose general staff – like Iran’s in 1978-79 – fear and detest the Islamists.

The Brotherhood also presumably wants to avoid deterring the secular middle class from participating in the popular upsurge, a participation that gives the popular revolt cachet abroad as well as at home (and in the greater Arab world). A display of Islamist leadership at the head of the crowds would alienate much of that middle class. So the Brotherhood has kept virtually out of sight.

But it has endorsed Mohamed ElBaradei as its choice to head a transitional regime. He is not exactly a household name in Egypt – he has lived abroad for the past three decades. As the head of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), a position he left in November 2009, he was frequently critical of the United States and Israel and was seen by some as an appeaser of Iran. No doubt his behaviour appealed to Egypt’s Islamists. But ElBaradei is western-educated and appears to be a secularist, and he is likely to be shunted aside by the religious fanatics once they feel confident enough to emerge from the shadows. ElBaradei will then have filled the role of the Mensheviks, who paved the way for the eventual Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917.

For now, the Brotherhood will be satisfied with toppling the hated Mubarak regime, which, following the Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954-1970) and Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) regimes, has serially imprisoned and tortured the Brotherhood’s cadres for decades. Above all, the organisation no doubt wants the prospective interim regime to organise and oversee free and fair general elections, say in six months’ time.

But once the campaigning for these elections gets under way, we will see the country awash with Muslim Brotherhood activists and placards, broadcasts and sermons; perhaps even a measure of intimidation and violence. The Brotherhood’s aim is to take over the state through the democratic process, and is likely, as one of its first acts, to annul Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

It is possible that the movement will follow the model of Turkey’s Islamists and try to follow democratic norms and adopt a stance of neutrality between Iran and the west. But it is more likely, given Egypt’s position and history, and its own history, that the Brotherhood will follow the model of Iran and the Gaza Hamas. Both have employed extreme violence to crush their potential and real rivals to maintain power.

The Brotherhood is anything if not patient. It has looked to take over, and “purify”, Egypt since the movement’s foundation by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Given the power of its enemies and the state’s institutions, the movement’s leadership has traditionally advocated a non-violent route to power (it was usually the movement’s more impatient breakaways, like the Jama’a al Islamiyya, who murdered Sadat in 1981, who went in for blatant violence). But observers in the west should not delude themselves. This is not a movement for which democracy has any appeal, worth or value. Its leaders see democratic processes merely as means to an end, an end that includes an end to democracy.

Israel isn’t the center of the Mideast, or of the world: Haaretz

The problem with Orientalist discourse of our commentators − which sees the world through the prism of the Shin Bet Security Service − is that it helps to seal off the ghetto into which we are gradually locking ourselves, a ghetto within the Middle East and within world history.
By Yitzhak Laor

Since the 18th century, revolution has shaped the world and its consciousness as a universal experience of popular sovereignty, from east to west, from north to south. But in the face of the Egyptian revolution, a kind of mean-spiritedness has been evident here in Israel − for example, in the television commentary. Commentators and moderators never stopped giving grades for behavior. A huge comet flashed past us, and Channel 2 commentator’s muttered, like the survivor of a traffic accident: Had they only suppressed the demonstrations at the start, everything would have been different.

Again and again, they searched for Islamic signs in the pictures of the masses, as though they were immigration officials checking for smallpox. Others were excited to discover signs that reminded them of “us”: Facebook, young people speaking English, and of course women in jeans. There’s nothing like a woman’s thighs as an index of progress.

But the person who deserves the prize for folly is Dr. Oded Eran, formerly our ambassador to Jordan. He suggested organizing elections in Egypt under European supervision, to ensure that monitors would turn a blind eye to fraud by the regime during the vote count.
For years, our Orientalists saw a danger in ‏(secular‏) Arab nationalism. Both the right and the left examined Arab intellectuals with a fine-toothed comb in order to prove that they were “pan-Arabists.” What lay behind this, always, was a colonialist questioning of their right to self-determination on a par with our own standards.

But today, when people no longer demonstrate in Lebanon’s squares on behalf of Lebanese Arabism, and when nobody is singing paeans to the Arab nation in the streets of Cairo, our examiners are rewriting the questionnaire: Instead of “nationalists,” they are looking for “religious people.”

The problem with such discourse − which sees the world through the prism of the Shin Bet Security Service, with no inhibitions and no curiosity about what is unique to Egypt − is that it helps to seal off the ghetto into which we are gradually locking ourselves, a ghetto within the Middle East and within world history. We should recall Israel’s attitude to the nationalization of the Suez Canal, the “rotten business” we perpetrated in Egypt in the early 1950s, the 1956 Sinai Campaign, the affinity between these events and our alliance with the shah of Iran and his murderous security services, and the affinity between all these and the coronation of Bachir Gemayel as Lebanon’s ruler on the broken blades of Israel Defense Forces bayonets.

Forget about the strategic dimension. The issue is that military interests have always trained intellectual integrity and analysis to provide them with justifications and the status of “the truth.” The adoption of the region’s oppressive elites was carried out with the help of Shimon Peres-style language laundering and constant conciliatory gestures toward the West: We’ll be a base for you in the heart of darkness − even now, when the West is turning its back on these politics. After all, that is the only historical significance these events have as far as we are concerned: The United States no longer needs this offer.

Our ideas about the Arab world are blind to the sufferings of the nations around us and their hatred of their rulers. The average annual income in Egypt is $6,200; Israelis’ average annual income is almost $30,000. Will stability in the relations between two such countries be guaranteed by a huge, brutal police force, of all things? That is the discussion that we haven’t yet had.

The Egyptian revolution is costing blood. A great deal of blood. No elite leaves of its own free will, even if its sponsors in Washington have decided to get rid of it. Spontaneous action is fated to decline, and in the absence of a revolutionary party, it is not at all clear what will happen. The Egyptian opposition has been repressed for years, and there, too, the left has drowned in European subsidies to dozens of different human rights NGOs, which are always interested in obedient monitoring rather than change.

Nobody knows where the revolution will end up: in an Iranian-style republic? In something along Turkish lines? Or perhaps something new, the likes of which we’ve never experienced? At the moment, there is no need to reply, but only to think and remember this: It doesn’t all revolve around us. And in the face of the Egyptian people’s heroism, we should bow our heads in humility.

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