Museum of Tolerance

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.

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May 20, 2010

EDITOR: Warmonger Continues to Stir Trouble

After more than six decades of warmongering – he was the man behind the 1956 tri-partite invasion of Egypt, the Israeli H Bomb, numerous big and small wars – the famous ‘peacenik’ Shimon Peres is trying to start a new war with Syria, whose territory his government occupied, settled, and refuses to return. What is frightening is that it seems he might even succeed this time in starting a new war.

Peres: Syria says it wants peace but keeps aiming missiles at Israel: Haaretz

Speaking at Israel Military Industries factory, president says Israel is interested only in peace, poses not threat to Lebanon or Syria.
President Shimon Peres on Thursday declared that Israel seeks peace and that it poses no threat to Lebanon or Syria, but lamented the fact that Syria keeps arming itself while making claims it is interested in peace with Israel.

Peres, visiting Israel Military Industries factories, was asked about recent remarks made by Syrian President Bashar Assad, who said that Israel wasn’t really interested in peace. In response, Peres replied that “Syria is taking simultaneous opposing actions. They talk peace while simultaneously manufacturing a huge store of 70,000 missiles on [Israel’s] northern border, aimed at Israel.”

The president added that “Israel is not threatening Lebanon, and is not threatening Syria. Our goal is only peace and I regret the fact that since the reign of [former Syrian President Hafez] Assad senior, who declined [Former Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat’s invitation to join him at Camp David, Syria has adopted a hesitant policy and is not taking any real steps toward peace with Israel.”

On Tuesday, Bashar Assad said that Peres had relayed a message announcing that Israel would relinquish the Golan Heights if Syria were to sever its ties to Iran and to known terror organizations.

According to a report in the Lebanese daily Al Safir, Peres relayed the message via Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who was visiting Damascus last week.

Peres’ office denied the report and stressed that the content of the message was taken out of context. The president’s office explained that the intent of the message was to make clear that Israel did not intend to attack Syria or make any moves that could lead to escalation of tension along Israel’s shared border with Syria.

Who’s Who of Banned Israeli Visitors: TheOnlyDemocracy?

May 19th, 2010
At this point, you could have quite the dinner party with the folks Israel leaves out! How do I get on that guest list?
UPDATE: Eitan Bronner has an article on the dustup inside Israel over whether it was such a great idea to ban Noam Chomsky, after doing likewise to Jewish American journalist Jared Maslin,  Falk, and Goldstone as well as my personal favorite, Spain’s most famous clown Ivan Prado. Maybe if Israel didn’t need to hide what it was doing to Palestinians, Elvis Costello wouldn’t need to stay away as well!


The decision Sunday to bar [Chomsky]from entering the West Bank to speak at Birzeit, a Palestinian university, ‘is a foolish act in a frequent series of recent follies,’ remarked Boaz Okun, the legal commentator of the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, in his Monday column. ‘Put together, they may mark the end of Israel as a law-abiding and freedom-loving state, or at least place a large question mark over this notion.’”

Democracy according to Reichman: Haaretz

As Israel closes its gates to anyone who doesn’t fall in line with our official positions, we are becoming more and more like North Korea.
By Gideon Levy
In the end, we will only be left with Prof. Uriel Reichman. After we sent Prof. Noam Chomsky away, and there was no sharp rebuke by Israeli academics (who in their silence support a boycott of Bir Zeit University ), we will be left with a narrow and frightening intellectual world. It will be the kind of intellectual world shaped by the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya – an institution of army officers and the rich, headed by its president, Reichman.

A law professor, certainly enlightened in his own eyes, a former candidate to become education minister, Reichman says he doesn’t support the human rights group B’Tselem. That’s his right, of course; our right is to state that at the head of an important Israeli college stands a man who doesn’t understand a thing about democracy.
After all, what does B’Tselem do? It gathers reliable testimonies on the sins of the Israel Defense Forces, very few of which, if any, have been proved wrong. Reichman doesn’t support this? In the world according to Reichman, we are left only with statements by the IDF Spokesman’s Office. We will believe that no white phosphorus was used in Gaza, that the “neighbor procedure” is something that tenants’ committees do, and that if they call a family and give them five minutes to leave before their home is bombed, that’s an action by the most ethical army in the world.

Students at the Interdisciplinary Center say they heard their president declare that B’Tselem is “a fifth column” and that it’s “shameful” this group received a place at the school’s Democracy Day. Reichman denies this, and we respect his word. In any case, the spokeswoman for the college said: “B’Tselem’s modus operandi is not acceptable to Reichman.” What, then, is acceptable to Reichman? A society without self-criticism. This then, is Israel’s intellectual elite; these are our intellectuals – without B’Tselem.

A college president and law professor who preaches changing the electoral system and favors an Israeli constitution – one who doesn’t explain to his students the importance of human rights groups – is no more enlightened than the yeshiva heads who don’t teach the core subjects. He is even more dangerous.

But the man of intellect from Herzliya did rally against the yeshiva heads. “All the statistics show we’re on the brink of a catastrophe and on our way to becoming a third-world country if there’s no change in the Haredi community,” Reichman said in backing a petition on teaching core subjects. But the heart of the matter must be the lessons of democracy, well before mathematics and English.

And these things, it turns out, they do not teach at Reichman’s yeshiva, where even Democracy Day is a day of silencing others. If math is not taught at yeshivas, we will lose little. Without genuine civics lessons at the Interdisciplinary Center, which purports to raise the next generation of our leaders, we will receive a generation ignorant of democracy – in the spirit of Reichman. This is the real catastrophe on our doorstep.

Universities around the world serve as a power source for democracy, and lecturers, not only renowned ones like Chomsky, are often prime examples of liberalism for their students. It’s not by chance that at “Reichman’s College,” as it is called, the voice of political involvement has never been heard. Now it’s possible to know why. The school may claim to be interdisciplinary, but one field is missing there. If Reichman takes a look at his history books, he can read about people and movements that fought for human rights. B’Tselem’s founders will certainly be on that list. Maybe someday this will also be taught at the Interdisciplinary Center, after Reichman’s time.

When Otniel Schneller proposes that an intellectual giant like Chomsky “try one of the tunnels connecting Gaza and Egypt,” we can only chuckle. No one expects Schneller to know who or what this is about. But the prime minister, as opposed to Schneller, knows very well who the admired lecturer from MIT is – where he studied. He knows that the crux of Chomsky’s criticism is directed at the United States, not Israel.

When the prime minister doesn’t immediately apologize and invite Chomsky back to the country, we can be sad. When Israel closes its gates to anyone who doesn’t fall in line with our official positions, we are quickly becoming similar to North Korea. When right-wing parties increase their number of anti-democratic bills, and from all sides there are calls to make certain groups illegal, we must worry, of course. But when all this is engulfed in silence, and when even academia is increasingly falling in line with dangerous and dark views like those of Reichman, the situation is apparently far beyond desperate.

What’s So Funny ‘Bout Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: Elvis Costello’s Beautiful Message: The Only Democracy?

May 18th, 2010, by Jesse Bacon
I was a little young to get Elvis Costello, as opposed to the Pixies. He was well on his way to the iconic status, vaguely sterotypical rabbi look, dorky glasses and angst that made him a kind of hipster patriarch and unfortuantely led to a cameo in the hideous would-be 80’s epic 200 Cigarettes. But I was always amazed at how much yearning he worked into pop songs, made them carry an emotional weight more akin to the classical music he also recorded.
Well, now he has perfectly demonstrated how one can use eloquence to illuminate, instead of to obscure. In a refreshingly straightforward piece, he has described why he answered the call not to play in Israel. While other musicians such as Gil Scott-Heron, Roger Waters, and Carlos Santana have also honored the boycott I don’t believe anyone has said why so directly or effectively. Here it is.
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way.
I offer my sincere apologies for any disappointment to the advance ticket holders as well as to the organizers.
My thanks also go to the members of the Israeli media with whom I had most rewarding and illuminating conversations. They may regard these exchanges as a waste of their time but they were of great value and help to me in gaining an appreciation of the cultural scene.
I hope it is possible to understand that I am not taking this decision lightly or so I may stand beneath any banner, nor is it one in which I imagine myself to possess any unique or eternal truth.
It is a matter of instinct and conscience.
It has been necessary to dial out the falsehoods of propaganda, the double game and hysterical language of politics, the vanity and self-righteousness of public communiqués from cranks in order to eventually sift through my own conflicted thoughts.
I have come to the following conclusions.
One must at least consider any rational argument that comes before the appeal of more desperate means.
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.

With the hope for peace and understanding. Elvis Costello

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