February 10, 2011

EDITOR: The real alliance in the Middle East

It is clear for all to see the real Middle Eastern Alliance – US, Saudi Arabia, Mubarak and Israel, all actively supported by the PA! If this is what Obama meant by ‘change’ in his Cairo speech afgter his inauguration, it is really solid – support for undemocratic and dictatorial regimes everywhere. From supporting ‘change in 2010, Obama moved to supporting ‘stability’ in 2011. What a swift and impressive change… It seems that not only is the US and its ‘progressive’ president supporting dictatorial and undemocratic regimes, but also supporting theior torture machine… This is of course not new – the US has done so for over a century.

The Egyptian people will defeat this unholy alliance, even if it takes much longer to get rid of the dictator. After his ousting, he can obviously go to sit in Riad on his billions, unless brought to justice, as he should be.

‘Saudi king told Obama he’d fund Mubarak if U.S. halted Egypt aid’: Haaretz

Abdullah warned U.S. president that withdrawing $1.5 billion in annual aid would humiliate Mubarak, according to Britain’s The Times.
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah told U.S. President Barack Obama that his country would prop up Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak if the United States withdrew its aid program, The Times said on Thursday.

U.S. President Barack Obama shaking hands with Saudi King Abdullah at a bilateral meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 3, 2009. Photo by: AP

Abdullah told Obama not to humiliate Mubarak, who is under pressure from protesters to quit immediately, in a telephone call on January 29, the newspaper said, citing a senior source in Riyadh.

Obama’s administration has wavered between support for Egypt in Washington’s conflict with militant Islam and backing for Egyptians who have been protesting for weeks to demand Mubarak and his government quit.

The United States has long nurtured its alliance with key ally Egypt, giving billions of dollars in aid as it seeks to influence affairs in a region whose autocratic rulers are struggling to contain social discontent.

The United States has stopped short of endorsing calls for Mubarak, 82, to leave office immediately. He said last week he would step down in September when an election is due.

On January 28, the White House said the United States would review $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt. Officials later said no such review was planned currently.

Celebrities and artists show support for people’s revolution: Ahram online

The majority of celebrities and artists have shown solidarity with ordinary citizens in the 25 January revolution, while others want to wait until the next elections
Menna Taher and Wael Eskandar, Wednesday 9 Feb 2011
Protester on top of a pole in Tahrir square waving the Egyptian flag
Artists have been actively involved in the people’s revolution which began on 25 January, two weeks ago. The involvement of celebrities has had an impact on the revolution, as the revolution will have an impact on the future work of those celebrities.

A statement was issued by several artists, poets, intellectuals and writers ordering President Mubarak to step down immediately.

The statement affirmed that Mubarak is responsible for the problems that Egypt has faced for the past thirty years and for the stagnation of economic life in Egypt, which has made many suffer, especially those who rely on their daily income. He is also responsible for the massive bloodshed witnessed in the past weeks by the police and NDP thugs.

The statement received over 200 signatures, including the signatures of actors Khaled Abol Naga, Asser Yassin, who have been active in the protests, as well as filmmakers Mohamed Khan, Dawood Abdel Sayed, Ali Badrakhan, Yousry Nasrallah, Mohamed Diab and Kamla Abou Zikry.

Visual artists Mohamed Abla also signed on behalf of the artists of the Cairo atelier. Abla appeared on El Ashera Massan, the talk show hosted by Mona El Shazly and spoke about Ahmed Bassiouny the artist, who died during the violent protests on 28 January (the Friday of Anger).

Bassiouny, a visual artist and a martyr of the uprising, was hit by a police car and died of a rupture in his heart and left lung.

Abla commented on the current cultural scene and how it destroys the dreams of youth and criticised the ministry of culture by saying that money gushes like torrents in the ministry, yet it restrains art. “Ahmed dreamt that Egyptian art would be known on an international level,” he said.

Khaled Abol Naga was interviewed on BBC and called for President Mubarak to step down after having himself experienced police brutality with gunfire during the protests.

Amr Waked is outspoken about the desire for change using peaceful means. He has been present in Tahrir square calling for the president to step down.

Other celebrities present in Tahrir constantly are Ahmed Abdallah, Ahmed Maher, Basma, Yosra El Lozy and Asser Yassin, as well as Mohamed Diab the director of the award winning Egyptian film, 678.

The composer Ammar El Sherei has also taken part in the protests and defended them strongly when he went on El Ashera Masaan with Mona El Shazly, and criticised Safwat El Sherif. After joining in the protest on Friday, he had a stroke and is currently in hospital.

Another initiation was a Facebook post by the independent filmmaker Mohamed Al Assiouty suggesting civil disobedience by refraining from paying bills and taxes.

Some artists were brutally beaten by the police, have died or are still missing. Amr Salama was beaten on Tuesday 25 January and published a post on Facebook two days later relaying a detailed account of what happened to him.

Ziad Bakir, the artist and graphic designer of the Opera House, is missing since 28 January.

Some big budget actors and producers have shown their support for the regime, including Ghada Abdel Razek, Ahmad El Sakka and El Sobky. They were seen at Mostafa Mahmoud square in Mohandessin, chanting pro-Mubarak slogans on Tuesday night after the president’s speech when he declared he will not run for president in the September elections and would look into amendments in articles 76 and 77.

It is worth noting that actors Mona Zaki and Ahmed Helmy supported Mubarak after the speech but later changed their position after the violent events that took place the following day. They have been spotted in Tahrir square giving out food to protesters.

A group was set up on Facebook entitled ‘The Blacklist of 25 January’ which includes numerous celebrities that have opposed the 25 January pro-democratic protests.

The Middle East does not need stability: Haaretz

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies.
By Gideon Levy
When a tank enters a residential neighborhood, sows fear and destruction, and the local kids throw stones at it, what is this called? “Disturbing the peace.” And what do you call the detention of those stone-throwers, allowing the tank to continue on its way without any more trouble? “Restoring order.”

That is how we have shaped our disgustingly laundered language to serve our one and only narrative; how we would describe to ourselves the misleading reality in which we live. Meanwhile, tanks are no longer entering residential areas; order is somehow being maintained in the territories without them. The occupier oppresses, the occupied people overcome their instincts and their struggle, and good order is maintained – for now. Stability.

Egypt also suddenly dared to “disturb the peace.” Its people, who have had enough of the country’s corrupt government and the tyrannical silencing of their voices, have taken to the streets. Riots. The Western world, including Israel, has tensed in the face of this great danger – the stability in the Middle East is about to be undermined.

Indeed, that stability should be undermined. The stability in the region, something which Westerners and Israeli have come to yearn, merely means perpetuating the status quo. That situation might be good for Israel and the West, but it is very bad for the millions of people who have had to pay the price. Maintaining Mideast stability means perpetuating the intolerable situation by which some 2.5 million Palestinians exist without any rights under the heel of Israeli rule; and another few million Palestinian refugees from the war of 1948 are living in camps in Arab countries, where they also lack any rights, hope, livelihood and dignity.

This so-called stability encompasses millions of Arabs living under criminal regimes and evil tyrannies. In stable Saudi Arabia, the women are regarded as the lowest of the low; in stable Syria, any sign of opposition is repressed; in stable Jordan and Morocco, the apple of the eye of the West and Israel, people are frightened to utter a word of criticism against their kings, even in casual coffee-shop conversations.

The yearned-for stability in the Middle East includes millions of poor and ignorant people in Egypt, while the ruling families celebrate with their billions in capital. It includes regimes, the bulk of whose budgets are scandalously channeled to the military, endlessly and unnecessarily arming themselves to preserve the regime – at the expense of education, health care, development and welfare. The stability entails rule that passes from father to son (and not just in the region’s monarchies ) and false elections in which only representatives of the ruling parties are allowed to run.

It involves unnecessary, worthless wars, civil wars and wars between countries in which the people give their blood because of the whims and megalomanic urges of their rulers. It represses free thought, self-determination and the struggle for freedom. It consists of weakness, lack of growth and development, lack of opportunity for achievement and almost nonexistent benefits for the masses, whose situation is frightfully stable. In their poverty and oppression, they are stable.

A region rich in natural and human resources, which could have thrived at least as much as the Far East, has been standing stable for decades. After Africa, it is the most backward place in the world.

That is the stability we apparently want to preserve; the stability that the United States always wants to preserve; the stability that Europe wants to preserve. Any undermining of this stability is considered disturbing the peace – and that is bad according to our definition.

But let us remember that when Israel was established, this signified a huge disturbance to the region – one that greatly undermined its stability and posed the greatest danger; but it was a just disturbance, to us and to the West. Now the time has come to disturb the peace some more, to undermine the worthless stability in which the Middle East is living.

The peoples of Tunisia and Egypt have begun the process. The United States and Europe stuttered at first, but quickly came to their senses. They also finally realized that the region’s stability is not only unjust, it is misleading: It will be undermined in the end. When the tank invades our lives, stones must be thrown at it; the infuriating stability of the Middle East must be wiped out.

Workers to continue Egypt strikes: Al Jazeera online

Thousands of doctors are among those expected to join workers’ strike as anti-Mubarak demonstration enters its 17th day.

Egyptian labour unions held nationwide strikes for a second day, adding momentum to the pro-democracy demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

The move comes as the demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate ouster enters its 17th day.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Cairo, said about 5,000 doctors and medical students were expected to come out on Thursday.

Lawyers, public transport workers and the artists syndicate were also among those who joined the strikes, Al Jazeera correspondents reported.

“It’s certainly increasing the pressure on the government here. I think it’s worth making the distinction that the strikes going on are more of an economic nature, they are not necessarily jumping on the bandwagon of the protesters in Tahrir Square,” Dekker said.

“Many of them are not actually calling for the president to step down, but fighting for better wages, for better working conditions.”

Our correspondents reported that around 20,000 factory workers had stayed away from work across Egypt on Wednesday.

“[Strikers] were saying that they want better salaries, they want an end to the disparity in the pay, and they want the 15 per cent increase in pay that was promised to them by the state,” Shirine Tadros, reported from Cairo.

Some workers were also calling for Mubarak to step down, she said.

Culture minister quits

Meanwhile, Gaber Asfour, the recently appointed culture minister, resigned from Mubarak’s cabinet on Wednesday for health reasons, a member of his family told Reuters.

But the website of Egypt’s main daily newspaper Al-Ahram said Asfour, a writer, was under pressure from literary colleagues over the post.

Asfour was sworn in following the start of the protests on January 31, and believed it would be a national unity government, al-Ahram said.

Determined protesters continue to rally in Cairo’s Tahrir [Liberation] Square, and other cities across the country. They say they will not end the protests until Mubarak, who has been at the country’s helm since 1981, steps down.

Protesters with blankets gathered outside the parliament building in Cairo on Wednesday, with no plan to move, our correspondent reported. The demonstrators had put up a sign that read: “Closed until the fall of the regime”.

There was also a renewed international element to the demonstrations, with Egyptians from abroad returning to join the pro-democracy camp.

Our correspondent said an internet campaign is currently on to mobilise expatriates to return and support the uprising.

Protesters are “more emboldened by the day and more determined by the day”, Ahmad Salah, an Egyptian activist, told Al Jazeera from Cairo. “This is a growing movement, it’s not shrinking.”

Meanwhile, 34 political prisoners, including members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, were reportedly released over the past two days.

Our correspondent said that there are still an unknown number of people missing, including activists thought to be detained during the recent unrest.

Human Rights Watch said the death toll has reached 302 since January 28. However, Egypt’s health ministry denied the figures, saying official statistics would be released shortly.

Mubarak, by Carlos Latuff

President Obama, come to Tahrir!: Al Jazeera online

The American leader should quickly call for democracy and regime change in Egypt, instead of settling for mere reform.
AJE writer in Cairo Last Modified: 09 Feb 2011

Dear President Obama,

From here at Tahrir Square, it seems clear that you are a very confused person. In your heart, you obviously want Egypt to become a democracy — what rational, ethical person wouldn’t? Yet it seems that you are being fed such a sream of propaganda and dire warmings about a take over of America’s most important Arab ally by Islamists and other anti-American forces that you seem to have decided to sell Egyptians up the river Nile in order to protect US “interests” against this frightening prospect.

I could explain how this is total nonsense, how the Muslim Brothers are not at all the dominant force here, how the movement is divided, especiallygenerationally, and how Tahrir represents an unprecedented co-mingling of old and young, rich and poor, secular and religious, and political persuasions of every type. But surely you’ve been told that in your briefings, or at least read it in the more astute journalistic analyses of events on the ground here.

And yet you still can´t just bring yourself to throw the full weight of your office behind the most important revolution in a generation, your very own Tiananmen Square and Berlin Wall at the same time.

I have a solution for you to break the impasse inside your head; come to Tahrir Square now, before its too late. Spend one afternoon, or better one night, and I can assure you all doubts about which side in this epic struggle to support will be erased. Don’t worry, you will be safe here. Indeed, you will never feel safer.

Mr President, you’ve no doubt heard that this is a “Facebook revolution”. But in fact the real leaders are not Facebookers but five year olds, the majority of them little girls, who from 8am till 1am are carried around the square and lead the people in song, singing newly crafted limericks against Mubarak and his henchmen. In particular Vice President Omar Suleiman, of whom you seem so enamored, are the subjects of anger and scorn. You should know why this is the case, since Suleiman has plied his ugly trade of oppression and torture for the direct benefit of the US
government. Do you really want to be denounced in the same sentence as Suleiman and Mubarak? Shouldn’t that give you pause?

You have clearly been convinced that unless the very people responsible for Egypt’s sad state of affairs are given more power to lead the country, it will fall into anarchy. Come and let yourself be swept through a crowd of
half a million people or more, moving against each other like powerful ocean currents, which at any moment could explode into a violent stampede. And yet not a single person panics or is harmed.

Listen to the voices of hundreds of people, each one, with her or his own megaphone, shouting out their particular philosophy, ideology or agenda, while tens of thousands of people parade by, stop for a few minutes, and move on to hear the next one. What has been created here is the perfect amalgam of a pre-modern and postmodern public sphere — high-tech tweets meeting the most intimate forms of human communication. It is a glimpse of politics at its purest.

Yes, technology is crucial — it seems everyone here is either on their mobile talking to someone or snapping photos or video with their phones and updating their Facebook pages. But that’s actually incidental to the most important dynamic, which is that people are talking to each other in ways that has rarely if ever happened here (and sadly hasn’t happened in the US in far too long).

Americans could learn a lot from the respect and tolerance people here are showing to one another, never mind the incredible artistic creativity being displayed by long suffering Egyptians as they celebrate their freedoms and attempt to tell other Egyptians, and the world (including you), not to turn their backs on them.

Mr President, maybe you’ve forgotten what the struggle for freedom feels like. Maybe it’s been so long since you were a community organizer. Have you have forgotten your loyalties are supposed to lie not with the forces of order and stability that want to maintain a corrupt system, but rather with the people struggling for dignity and democracy.

Please come and tell the eight-year-old boys chanting until their little voices are horse that they have to be sacrificed for the cause of security and order. Tell the mother of Khaled Said, the young man whose tortured death at the hands of police last year helped spark the revolt, and who pulled me close to kiss my head when I told her the American people, if not their government, stand with her son’s memory. I doubt they will understand and I doubt that you will be able to tell them.

Please come and explain to the thousands of people living in tents in the middle of Egypt’s busiest intersection that their interests are served by a slow and orderly transition to something – what precisely you seem unwilling to say – that is not quite democracy but rather reforms that everyone here knows means a continuation of the status quo, albeit with  a window dressing of free and fair elections. Would those be like the free and fair elections in the US, where corproations are equal to people and can openly buy Congressmen? Is that the best example we can offer Egyptians?

You have routinely lauded the bravery of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what of the soldiers of Tahrir, who just yesterday, as I watched in amazement, sent a brigade outside the relatively safe confines of Tahrir to conquer and garrison the Parliament building so that the country’s falsely elected Assembly could not rubber stamp Mubarak’s faux reforms. Don’t they deserve praise and support? How are they any different than the average people who fought against British tyranny and oppression in the American Revolution? How can you betray them without betraying our own history?

Mr President, why is it you and your chief aides can’t just look squarely into the camera and say that Egypt needs democracy now? Not tomorrow, not in 7 months. Now. Sir, you cannot toss the word around like a carrot to be dangled every so often in front of Egyptians only to be pulled away before they can grab it, replaced by the far less nutritious, and indeed toxic meal of reform. People aren’t stupid, you know. They understand that reform means changing things just enough, giving just enough freedom here and there, so that the game can be called and business returned to normal, with the system that Mubarak, aided by tens of billions of American taxpayers’s dollars, has spent 30 years erecting.

Let me ask you, Mr. Obama, if the President of the United States had used the same discourse towards black Americans fighting for their rights half a century ago, what would you have said to him?

Would you accept it if he had supported a dyed-in-the-wool Dixiecrat to take over the country after him?

What would Dr King have said? Would he, or you, sanction the President’s refusal to annul racist laws that enabled the government to arrest, silence , and oppress the people, as Suleiman has so far done with the dreaded emergency decrees, because it might lead the wrong black people (those “radicals” or perhaps just “uppity” ones who don’t know their place) to take power?

Mr President, do you understand what your waffling means on the ground here? Do you really care so little about freedom? Whatever respect you gained in cairo in 2009 is buried beneath a grave of stones here in Tahrir. The protesters by and large still are happy to see Americans, but with every day of your waffling, the mood grows more suspicious of foreigners inside the square. You say that this revolution must be decided by Egyptians, but let’s be honest, that’s a meaningless statement. You know the US is knee – no, kneck deep – in the muck of Egyptian authoritarianism and status quo.

Yes, this is an Egyptian revolution whose fate must and will ultimately be decided by Egyptians. But whether you want to admit it or not, your actions are helping to preserve this system regardless of what ideals or people have to be sacrificed.

Some will say that doing so is a sign of your maturity and acceptance of Kissingerian realpolitik. That’s an insult, sir, not least of which because Kissinger was largely responsible for a war in which his government – the same one you now head – killed upwards of three million Southeast Asians just because some of them didn’t want to live under the right political and economic system. Is that really the political legacy you want to inherit?

I dont know what anyone can say to get you to change your mind, to really stand with the people of Tahrir, Alexandria, Mansoura and all across Egypt who are risking so much for such quintessentially American ideals and dreams. If only you could come here for an hour, you might change your mind, but I guess the sounds and spirit of freedom have no hope of penetrating your Washington bubble. But i can promise you this: If the Egyptian government manages to win the day here and suppress this revolution, the ghosts of Tahrir will haunt you for the rest of your presidency.

Consider that before your next call to Pharaoh.

Egypt’s army ‘involved in detentions and torture’: The Guardian

Military accused by human rights campaigners of targeting hundreds of anti-government protesters
Chris McGreal in Cairo
Army officers escort a prisoner away from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt. The military – accused of involvement in torture – has always claimed to be a neutral force in the conflict. Photograph: Sean Smith for the Guardian
The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.

The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture – abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.

The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.

Egyptian human rights groups say families are desperately searching for missing relatives who have disappeared into army custody. Some of the detainees have been held inside the renowned Museum of Egyptian Antiquities on the edge of Tahrir Square. Those released have given graphic accounts of physical abuse by soldiers who accused them of acting for foreign powers, including Hamas and Israel.

Among those detained have been human rights activists, lawyers and journalists, but most have been released. However, Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights in Cairo, said hundreds, and possibly thousands, of ordinary people had “disappeared” into military custody across the country for no more than carrying a political flyer, attending the demonstrations or even the way they look. Many were still missing.

“Their range is very wide, from people who were at the protests or detained for breaking curfew to those who talked back at an army officer or were handed over to the army for looking suspicious or for looking like foreigners even if they were not,” he said. “It’s unusual and to the best of our knowledge it’s also unprecedented for the army to be doing this.”

One of those detained by the army was a 23-year-old man who would only give his first name, Ashraf, for fear of again being arrested. He was detained last Friday on the edge of Tahrir Square carrying a box of medical supplies intended for one of the makeshift clinics treating protesters attacked by pro-Mubarak forces.

“I was on a sidestreet and a soldier stopped me and asked me where I was going. I told him and he accused me of working for foreign enemies and other soldiers rushed over and they all started hitting me with their guns,” he said.

Ashraf was hauled off to a makeshift army post where his hands were bound behind his back and he was beaten some more before being moved to an area under military control at the back of the museum.

“They put me in a room. An officer came and asked me who was paying me to be against the government. When I said I wanted a better government he hit me across the head and I fell to the floor. Then soldiers started kicking me. One of them kept kicking me between my legs,” he said.

“They got a bayonet and threatened to rape me with it. Then they waved it between my legs. They said I could die there or I could disappear into prison and no one would ever know. The torture was painful but the idea of disappearing in a military prison was really frightening.”

Ashraf said the beatings continued on and off for several hours until he was put in a room with about a dozen other men, all of whom had been severely tortured. He was let go after about 18 hours with a warning not to return to Tahrir Square.

Others have not been so lucky. Heba Morayef, a Human Rights Watch researcher in Cairo, said: “A lot of families are calling us and saying: ‘I can’t find my son, he’s disappeared.’ I think what’s happening is that they’re being arrested by the military.”

Among those missing is Kareem Amer, a prominent government critic and blogger only recently released after serving a four-year prison sentence for criticising the regime. He was picked up on Monday evening at a military checkpoint late at night as he was leaving Tahrir Square.

Bahgat said the pattern of accounts from those released showed the military had been conducting a campaign to break the protests. “Some people, especially the activists, say they were interrogated about any possible links to political organisations or any outside forces. For the ordinary protesters, they get slapped around and asked: ‘Why are you in Tahrir?’ It seems to serve as an interrogation operation and an intimidation and deterrence.”

The military has claimed to be neutral in the political standoff and both Mubarak and his prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, have said there will be no “security pursuit” of anti-government activists. But Morayef says this is clearly not the case.

“I think it’s become pretty obvious by now that the military is not a neutral party. The military doesn’t want and doesn’t believe in the protests and this is even at the lower level, based on the interrogations,” she said.

Human Rights Watch says it has documented 119 arrests of civilians by the military but believes there are many more. Bahgat said it was impossible to know how many people had been detained because the army is not acknowledging the arrests. But he believes that the pattern of disappearances seen in Cairo is replicated across the country.

“Detentions either go completely unreported or they are unable to inform their family members or any lawyer of their detention so they are much more difficult to assist or look for,” he said. “Those held by the military police are not receiving any due process either because they are unaccounted for and they are unable to inform anyone of their detention.”

Human Rights Watch has also documented detentions including an unnamed democracy activist who described being stopped by a soldier who insisted on searching his bag, where he found a pro-democracy flyer.

“They started beating me up in the street their rubber batons and an electric Taser gun, shocking me,” the activist said.

“Then they took me to Abdin police station. By the time I arrived, the soldiers and officers there had been informed that a ‘spy’ was coming, and so when I arrived they gave me a ‘welcome beating’ that lasted some 30 minutes.”

While pro-government protesters have also been detained by the army during clashes in Tahrir Square, it is believed that they have been handed on to police and then released, rather than being held and tortured.

The detainee was held in a cell until an interrogator arrived, ordered him to undress and attached cables from an “electric shock machine”.

“He shocked me all over my body, leaving no place untouched. It wasn’t a real interrogation; he didn’t ask that many questions. He tortured me twice like this on Friday, and one more time on Saturday,” he said.

The U.S. isn’t interested in Mideast peace: Haaretz

Washington wants the region engulfed in flames; it just wants to control their height.
By Salman Masalha
It should be said explicitly: The United States is not interested in attaining peace in the Middle East. Peace in the region is not its top priority, and it has never corresponded with its interests. These things might sound strange to anyone who is not sensitive to the mood in the region. Whoever believes the Arabic television station Al Jazeera is a mouthpiece of radical Islam, which endangers American interests, is invited to refresh his memory and update his imagination, because this radical Islam has actually been fostered by various American administrations.

Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, right, welcoming Shimon Peres (then vice prime minister) to Doha in 2007. Photo by: Reuters

A simple question should be answered: How did the populist channel find a home in the small emirate of Qatar, of all places? It is well known that the largest U.S. air base in the Middle East is located in Qatar. The WikiLeaks documents revealed that Qatar was a base from which American bombers took off for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that it is now offering itself to the United States as a base for an attack on Iran – and even expressed its wish to take part in a war against Iran and bear most of the costs of maintaining the base.

What’s more, the ruler of Qatar, in a meeting with U.S. Senator John Kerry in early 2010, even expressed understanding for the Israeli position and the feelings of the Israelis – saying the people of Israel cannot be blamed for not trusting the Arabs, as their country has lived under threat for a long time. This is the same Qatar that gave a royal welcome to President Shimon Peres, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials.

These stories, along with the emir’s ties with Israel, are not reported by Al Jazeera. But at the same time, this populist channel continues to smear other Arab regimes for their ties with Israel. Sound fantastic? Not necessarily.

All the Bin Laden videos somehow find their way to Al Jazeera. This is because this station has another designated role: undermining the Arab regimes and creating a state of chaos. The chaos is what corresponds with American policy, because Washington wants the region engulfed in flames; it just wants to control their height.

The flames in the Middle East serve the American economy. In this context, it is enough to mention the $60 billion arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia last year – the largest in U.S. history. The deal will provide tens of thousands of jobs within American industries.

Given this background, it is easy to understand Washington’s interest in continued tension in the Middle East. The tension pushes countries to sign large arms deals, which produce tens of thousands of jobs in the United States. As such, the American interest lies in its continued policy of inflaming passions – through Al Jazeera as well – to perpetuate concern within the Arab regimes, whose existence depends on American support. Thus the United States can continue claiming that promoting arms deals with the wealthy countries of the Mideast stems from concern for the region.

That is why the White House is not making any effort to press Israel or promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, because this could advance peace throughout the region. Such a peace, from the perspective of the arms dealers, could leave industries idle and cause the layoffs of tens of thousands of American workers. This is how Al Jazeera actually serves as a tool in the service of the American pyromaniacs.

That is the entire U.S. doctrine in a nutshell. The problem with the doctrine is that the American golem may again turn on its maker. There is already evidence of this on the ground.

28 hours in the dark heart of Egypt’s torture machine: The Guardian

A blindfolded Robert Tait could only listen as fellow captives were electrocuted and beaten by Mubarak’s security services
Robert Tait
Rough justice: Egyptian plainclothes police officers arresting a demonstrator in Cairo. Hundreds of opponents of President Hosni Mubarak have been detained, protesters say. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images
The sickening, rapid click-click-clicking of the electrocuting device sounded like an angry rattlesnake as it passed within inches of my face. Then came a scream of agony, followed by a pitiful whimpering from the handcuffed, blindfolded victim as the force of the shock propelled him across the floor.

A hail of vicious punches and kicks rained down on the prone bodies next to me, creating loud thumps. The torturers screamed abuse all around me. Only later were their chilling words translated to me by an Arabic-speaking colleague: “In this hotel, there are only two items on the menu for those who don’t behave – electrocution and rape.”

Cuffed and blindfolded, like my fellow detainees, I lay transfixed. My palms sweated and my heart raced. I felt myself shaking. Would it be my turn next? Or would my outsider status, conferred by holding a British passport, save me? I suspected – hoped – that it would be the latter and, thankfully, it was. But I could never be sure.

I had “disappeared”, along with countless Egyptians, inside the bowels of the Mukhabarat, President Hosni Mubarak’s vast security-intelligence apparatus and an organisation headed, until recently, by his vice-president and former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, the man trusted to negotiate an “orderly transition” to democratic rule.

Judging by what I witnessed, that seems a forlorn hope.

I had often wondered, reading accounts of political prisoners detained and tortured in places such as junta-run Argentina of the 1970s, what it would be like to be totally at the mercy of, and dependent on, your jailer for everything – food, water, the toilet. I never dreamed I would find out. Yet here I was, cooped up in a tiny room with a group of Egyptian detainees who were being mercilessly brutalised.

I had been handed over to the security services after being stopped at a police checkpoint near central Cairo last Friday. I had flown there, along with an Iraqi-born British colleague, Abdelilah Nuaimi, to cover Egypt’s unfolding crisis for RFE/RL, an American radio station based in Prague.

We knew beforehand that foreign journalists had been targeted by security services as they scrambled to contain a revolt against Mubarak’s regime, so our incarceration was not unique.

Yet it was different. My experience, while highly personal, wasn’t really about me or the foreign media. It was about gaining an insight – if that is possible behind a blindfold – into the inner workings of the Mubarak regime. It told me all I needed to know about why it had become hated, feared and loathed by the mass of ordinary Egyptians.

We had been stopped en route to Tahrir Square, scene of the ongoing mass demonstrations, little more than half an hour after leaving Cairo airport.

Uniformed and plainclothes police swarmed around our car and demanded our passports and to see inside my bag. A satellite phone was found and one of the men got in our car and ordered our driver to follow a vehicle in front, which led us to a nearby police station.

There, an officer subjected our fixer, Ahmed, to intense questioning: did he know any Palestinians? Were they members of Hamas? Then we were ordered to move again, and eventually drove to a vast, unmarked complex next to a telecommunications building.

That’s when Ahmed sensed real danger. “I hope I don’t get beaten up,” he said. He had good reason to worry.

We were ordered out and blindfolded before being herded into another vehicle and driven a few hundred yards. Then we were pushed into what seemed like an open-air courtyard and handcuffed. I heard the rapid-fire clicking of the electric rattlesnake – I knew instantly what it was – and then Ahmed screaming in pain. A cold sweat washed over me and I thought I might faint or vomit. “I’m going to be tortured,” I thought.

But I wasn’t. “Mr Robert, what is wrong,” I was asked, before being told, with incongruous kindness, to sit down. I sensed then that I would avoid the worst. But I didn’t expect to gain such intimate knowledge of what that meant.

After being interrogated and held in one room for hours, I was frogmarched after nightfall to another room, upstairs, along with other prisoners. We believe our captors were members of the internal security service.

That’s when the violence – and the terror – really began.

At first, I attached no meaning to the dull slapping sounds. But comprehension dawned as, amid loud shouting, I heard the electrocuting rods being ratcheted up. My colleague, Abdelilah – kept in a neighbouring room – later told me what the torturers said next.

“Get the electric shocks ready. This lot are to be made to really suffer,” a guard said as a new batch of prisoners were brought in.

“Why did you do this to your country?” a jailer screamed as he tormented his victim. “You are not to speak in here, do you understand?” one prisoner was told. He did not reply. Thump. “Do you understand?” Still no answer. More thumps. “Do you understand?” Prisoner: “Yes, I understand.” Torturer: “I told you not to speak in here,” followed by a cascade of thumps, kicks, and electric shocks.

Exhausted, the prisoners fell asleep and snored loudly, provoking another round of furious assaults. “You’re committing a sin,” a stricken detainee said in a weak, pitiful voice.

Craving to see my fellow inmates, I discreetly adjusted my blindfold. I briefly saw three young men – two of them looked like Islamists, with bushy beards – with their hands cuffed behind their backs (mine were cuffed to the front), before my captors spotted what I had done and tightened my blindfold.

The brutality continued until, suddenly, I was ordered to stand and pushed towards a room, where I was told I was being taken to the airport. I received my possessions and looked at my watch. It was 5pm. I had been in captivity for 28 hours.

The ordeal was almost over – save for another 16 hours waiting at an airport deportation facility. It had been nightmarish but it was nothing to what my Egyptian fellow-captives had endured.

Later, I learned that Ahmed, the fixer, had been released at the same time as Abdelilah and me. He told friends we had been “treated very well” but that he had bruises “from sleeping on the floor”. I had flown to Cairo to find out what was ailing so many Egyptians. I did not expect to learn the answer so graphically.

Robert Tait is a senior correspondent with RFE/RL. He was formerly the Guardian’s correspondent in Tehran and Istanbul

Egypt’s popular revolution will change the world: The Gurdian CiF

In discovering their power to determine their future, north Africa’s protesters have already opened a new age in world history
Peter Hallward

In one of his last published essays, written in 1798, the philosopher Immanuel Kant reflected on the impact of the continuing revolution in France. Kant himself was no Jacobin, and opposed extra-legal change as a matter of principle. He conceded that the future course of the revolution’s pursuit of liberty and equality “may be so filled with misery and atrocities that no right-thinking person would ever decide to make the same experiment again, at such a price”. Regardless of its immediate political consequences, however, Kant could at least see that the universal “sympathy bordering on enthusiasm” solicited by the spectacle of the revolution was itself a telling indication of its eventual significance. Whatever might happen next, the event was already “too intimately interwoven with the interests of humanity and too widespread in its influence upon all parts of the world for nations not to be reminded of it when favourable circumstances present themselves, and to rise up and make renewed attempts of the same kind”.

A similar interweaving has characterised sympathetic observation of today’s north African revolutions from the moment they began. Of course, it is too early to say what the immediate outcome of Egypt’s ongoing mobilisation will be. Anti-government protestors have so far retained the initiative and determined the course and pace of political change. At this point, after a couple of exhausting weeks, Egypt’s rulers (both at home and abroad) clearly hope that belated recourse to a familiar mix of divide-and-rule manoeuvrings – minor concessions, secret negotiations, delayed investigations, selective intimidation – may yet manage to distract some of the participants in a mobilisation thus far remarkable for its discipline, unity and resolve. Some observers, who are perhaps themselves exhausted, have begun to wonder whether the spectacle of Egypt’s protests might now start to fade away.

Judging from the response in and around Tahrir Square, this seems very unlikely. In a sense, though, what happens in the immediate future may prove less important than what has already happened in the immediate past. Hosni Mubarak and Omar Suleiman already belong to a decidedly ancien régime. The fate of Egypt’s revolution is already independent of the next twist in negotiations with the old dictatorship, or the next fumbled response from its American backers.

For whatever happens next, Egypt’s mobilisation will remain a revolution of world-historical significance because its actors have repeatedly demonstrated an extraordinary capacity to defy the bounds of political possibility, and to do this on the basis of their own enthusiasm and commitment. They have arranged mass protests in the absence of any formal organisation, and have sustained them in the face of murderous intimidation. In a single, decisive afternoon they overcame Mubarak’s riot police and have since held their ground against his informers and thugs. They have resisted all attempts to misrepresent or criminalise their mobilisation. They have expanded their ranks to include millions of people from almost every sector of society. They have invented unprecedented forms of mass association and assembly, in which they can debate far-reaching questions about popular sovereignty, class polarisation and social justice.

Every step of the way, the basic fact of the uprising has become more obvious and more explicit: with each new confrontation, the protestors have realised, and demonstrated, that they are more powerful than their oppressors. When they are prepared to act in sufficient numbers with sufficient determination, the people have proved that there’s no stopping them.

Again and again, elated protestors have marvelled at the sudden discovery of their own power. “We look like people who’ve woken up from a spell, a nightmare,” observed writer Ahdaf Soueif, and “we revel in the inclusiveness” of the struggle. Protestor after protestor has insisted on a transformative liberation from fear. “People have changed,” teacher Ahmad Mahmoud told a Guardian reporter:

“They were scared. They are no longer scared … When we stopped being afraid we knew we would win. We will not again allow ourselves to be scared of a government. This is the revolution in our country, the revolution in our minds. Mubarak can stay for days or weeks but he cannot change that.”
Protestor Karim Medhat Ennarah agreed: “We have already created a liberated republic within the heart of Egypt” with “our own security services” and “our own food supply chains. People are exhausted but exhilarated.”
Such liberation and exhilaration seemed unimaginable just a few weeks ago, in ancien régime Egypt. It is now the people, not the régime, who will decide on the limits separating the possible from the impossible.

This is the main reason why, regardless of what happens in the short term, the long-term consequences of 25 January 2011 may well counter and exceed those of 11 September 2001. Even now, George W Bush and Tony Blair continue to invoke 9/11 as the inauguration of a “new era”, as their occasion for “thinking the unthinkable” on a wide range of fronts. In reality, of course, 9/11 was invoked only to justify the implementation of long-standing imperial plans; it served only to consolidate the old balance of power and to intensify an old set of neoliberal trends.

Egypt’s revolution raises the prospect of a break with these trends. No one can predict the immediate sequence of events, but it is now possible to anticipate an Egypt that chooses to confront, rather than enhance social inequalities, one that prioritises the interests of the many over the privileges of the few. It’s possible to envisage an Egypt that seeks to free itself of foreign influence, and thus an Egypt more willing to recognise the difference between a “peace process” and a “surrender process” in the Middle East. It’s possible to imagine a scenario in which Egypt’s neighbours might follow suit. It’s possible to imagine, in short, how the north African revolutions of 2011 might change the world as a whole.

A future possibility is just that, a possibility. But in Egypt, the present fact remains: for the first time in decades, the decision to determine and then realise such possibilities depends first and foremost on the people themselves.

Israel urges U.S. to reaffirm support in light of Egypt unrest: Haaretz

U.S. officials meeting Barak stress administration’s ‘unshakeable’ commitment; Israeli envoy: Foreign aid to Israel can’t be taken for granted.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday stressed the importance of U.S. support for Israeli security in light of the political unrest in Egypt, while Ambassador Michael Oren urged the Obama administration to reaffirm its commitment to that regard.

Barak met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon at the White House on Wednesday evening,  to discuss the tense situation in Egypt.

The White House press office said the meeting dealt with “the need to move forward on Middle East peace, our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and other regional and bilateral issues.”

The U.S. officials stressed their country’s “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, including through our continued support for Israel’s military, and the unprecedented security cooperation between our two governments,” the White House said in its statement.

Barak’s spokesman characterized the meeting as “excellent”.

Israel envoy Oren later Wednesday conveyed a similar message when he urged the administration to reaffirm its commitment to Israel, in an address to the Congressional Israel Allies Сaucus reception on Capitol Hill.

“The Israeli people would like to see the Egyptian people to enjoy the same liberties as we do, but there is also an anxiety and concern, because we’ve seen the democratic process being hijacked by radicals in Iran and Gaza,” Oren said.

“We turn to the U.S. and send a message that we need your commitment to our security, especially today when the foreign aid for Israel cannot be taken for granted,” Oren added. “We call upon you to maintain the same level of commitment to Israel’s security”.

Earlier on Wednesday, Barak met with the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and emphasized the importance of retaining the same level of assistance to Israel.

Following Wednesday’s meetings, Barak left for New York, where he is schedule to meet Friday with Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) told Haaretz in the aftermath of the meetings that he did not foresee any changes U.S. support for Israel.

“I think [cutting aid to Israel is] unlikely to happen. When there are deficits, it’s very easy to start talking about cutting foreign aid, because most people don’t care about foreign aid, but there is strong bipartisan support for Israel at the Congress”, said Engel.

Asked about the perceived foreign policy flip-flop of the U.S. administration on the situation in Egypt, Representative Engel said, “The message is mixed because it has to be mixed – on the one hand, you want to promote freedom and democracy, but on the other hand you don’t want it to slip into a situation similar to the Iranian revolution.”

“We also have an obligation to the people who worked with us trying to keep stability in the Middle East, and the U.S. has to be a reliable friend,” Engel added. “If the moment someone slips and falls, we kick him out of the door – we won’t have any friends in the future.”

“It’s a very delicate balance. We all know Mubarak has finally got to go, but the administration is trying to work a very delicate balance to maintain stability,” Engel added.

“The situation is volatile and it changes every day, but I don’t think that the U.S. government will accept a new Egyptian government that doesn’t recognize the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel,” Engel said.

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