The international community has imposed an “emotional blockade” on Israel that has prevented the world from sympathizing with Israeli citizens, according to France’s Ambassador for Human Rights Francois Zimeray.
“World compassion has not gone to Israel,” said Zimeray, noting that both Israelis and Palestinian have suffered as a result of the conflict. “The world does not realize how intense this [Israeli] suffering can be.”
No doubt powered by a serious cocktail of amphetamines, Hosni Mubarak undertook his first trip abroad this week since he was hospitalized in Germany — a sign that he is gradually returning to business as usual, or at least that he wants to be seen as doing so. His regimen these days seems to be a meeting a day, and one major speech in two or three months. During his trip abroad — a summit with Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, with whom he is said to be plotting to corner the hair dye futures market (a hot commodity from the Mediterranean region to the Gulf to South Asia) —Boss Hozz came out with the following pearl:
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Wednesday that only God could know who would succeed him following his 29-year-old rule, the official MENA news agency reported.Dogging a question on his possible successor by an Italian reporter, Mubarak spontaneously said that “only God could know that.”
It reminds me of something a friend of mine who's often sought for commentary on succession used to frequently say about Egypt's post-Mubarak future and the deliberately cultivated ambiguity about it: "not even God himself knows what Mubarak is thinking about succession." This might be an apt time to reflect a to why Mubarak has never designated a successor or appointed a vice-president who would be seen as such. As I see it, there are three main reasons:
- In the early Mubarak period, there was a clear alternative from within the regime in Field Marshall Abu Ghazala, who was ousted from his position as minister of defense in 1989 and remained under house arrest (more or less) for the rest of his life. By not appointing a vice-president, Mubarak refrained from formalizing that alternative. After he consolidated power, Mubarak never saw a need to anoint anyone else with the vice-presidency, since even personalities not thought to be presidentiable (such as himself and Anwar al-Sadat) obtained legitimacy from the position. Cultivating a strategic ambiguity about succession has kept attention where Mubarak likes it best: on himself as kingmaker and ultimate decider.
- A second related reason has to do with threats from outside Egypt rather than inside it. Had there been a vice-president, it would become tempting for a certain major power (you know who you are!) looking to influence Egypt's domestic and foreign policy to meddle in regime politicking. Just look at Pakistan's history. It would have also been tempting for peer powers in the region — Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Israel — to also have another point of contact within the Egyptian regime that could present a credible alternative.
- A final and more speculative question that has to be asked, considering Gamal Mubarak's rise in influence over the past decade, is whether Mubarak pere has been plotting to install his son for years. It's probably more organic than that — Gamal's rise stems from his father's reluctance to share room at the top of the pyramid; a son is a natural trusted proxy (although not always, as deposed sultans of Oman and Qatar know). But one of the more interesting questions in today's Egypt is how Hosni Mubarak feels about tawreeth: is he fully on board, reluctantly so, or even very ambivalent about in a "King Lear" elderly paranoid way?
While you think about that, listen to this track (dedicated to Mystic Mubarak):
And then go on to read Adam Shatz masterful portrait of late Mubarak Egypt at the London Review of Books, Mubarak's Last Breath:
Under Mubarak, Egypt, the ‘mother of the earth’ (umm idduniya), has seen its influence plummet. Nowhere is the decline of the Sunni Arab world so acutely felt as in Cairo ‘the Victorious’, a mega-city much of which has turned into an enormous slum. The air is so thick with fumes you can hardly breathe, the atmosphere as constricted as the country’s political life.
Frustration, shame, humiliation: it does not take much for Egyptians to call up these feelings. It’s still often said that ‘what happens in Egypt affects the entire Arab world,’ but nothing much has happened there in years. Egypt has fallen behind Saudi Arabia – not to mention non-Arab countries like Turkey and Iran – in regional leadership. Even tiny Qatar has a more independent foreign policy. Egypt is by far the largest Arab country, with 80 million inhabitants, yet it’s seen by most Arabs – and by the Egyptians themselves – as a client state of the United States and Israel, who depend on Mubarak to ensure regional ‘stability’ in the struggle with the ‘resistance front’ led by Iran.
Read the whole thing.
Cairo - Egypt's musician's union on Sunday rejected plans for British singer Elton John to perform at a private concert scheduled for May 18, because of his "controversial remarks attacking religions".
"How do we allow a gay, who wants to ban religions, claimed that the prophet Eissa (Jesus) was gay and calls for Middle Eastern countries to allow gays to have sexual freedom," head of the Egyptian Musician Union, Mounir al-Wasimi told the German Press Agency dpa.
The pop superstar, 63, stirred controversy after his remarks to US celebrity news magazine Parade in February, where he said: "Try being a gay woman in the Middle East - you're as good as dead," after saying he believed Jesus was "gay".
By the way, there is something quite hilarious about how some Egyptians, when speaking in English, refer to homosexual individuals as "a gay," as in, "he is a gay."
1. Notes from Palestine is a blog and video documentary project following a group of Palestinian musicians teaching music in the West Bank. Through that, it explains a lot of the restrictions imposed by the occupation, from the wall to ever-expanding settlements, as well as the difficult choices the musicians must make to follow their calling. Below is the latest video installment in the series, which is being filmed by Finnish researcher Eero Mäntymaa.
2. Lately I have been obsessed with this great early/mid seventies track by the virtuoso Egyptian guitarist Omar Khorshid, who played in Abdel Halim Hafez's and Oum Kulthoum's orchestras as well as his own band.
Here's the track, which is a kind of psychedelic funk meets Arabica:
3. On a different register, I never listened much to Natalie Merchant, but came across her latest collections of songs based on children's nursery rhymes at the TED podcast. I really like this one:
Do watch the TED podcast which had that song and other great performances:
4. Shaaban Abdel Rahim is really getting rather tiresome and unimaginative, but here is his latest track for the return of Hosni Mubarak.
Abdel Halim Hafez, because I have no time to blog properly this morning. Lovely song.
I am a complete sucker for these things — so I'll just lift this video from Zeinobia and post it here.
The singer is Bob Azzam — a Palestinian Greek Orthodox crooner whose family took refuge in Cairo after 1948.
Having come down with a nasty cold, I don't feel like blogging. Here's the substitute.
✩ Les voix de la nation : chanson, arabité et caméléonisme linguistique | Culture et politique arabes | Very interesting post on Arab singers adopting accents and styles of different countries -- has great clip of Abdel Halim Hafez trying out a traditional Kuwaiti song.
✩ Comment l’Algérie a exporté sa « sale guerre » au Mali : Algérie-Maroc | How Algeria exported its dirty war to Mali: AQIM conspiracies.
✩ Fatwa Shopping « London Review Blog | On Nakheel and Islamic finance.
✩ The women who guard other women in conservative Egypt | On female bodyguards.
✩ Yemen’s afternoon high - Le Monde diplomatique | On the drug Qat.
✩ US Congress frets over anti-Americanism on TV in Mideast | The leading inciter of anti-Americanism in the ME is Congress itself, when it keeps voting for wars for Israel.
✩ Baladna English | New newspaper launched in Syria, but nothing on its site yet.
✩ EU Action Plan on combating terrorism | Document on EU CT strategy.
✩ What the US Elite Really Thinks About Israel « P U L S E | Most Council of Foreign Relations members think US favors Israel too much - v. interesting analysis of foreign policy expert poll by Jeffrey Blankfort.
✩ ‘The Battle for Israel’s Soul’ – Channel 4 on Jewish fundamentalism « P U L S E | British documentary on Jewish fundamentalism.
✩ BBC News - Dubai crisis sparks job fears for migrant workers | On South Asians in Dubai.
✩ The Interview Ha’aretz Doesn’t Want You To See « P U L S E | Interview Ali Abunimah not published by Haaretz.
✩ Attention Christmas Shoppers: Top Ten Brands to Boycott | Sabbah Report | Brands to boycott at Christmas.
✩ FT.com / Middle East / Politics & Society - Egypt’s media warn ElBaradei off politics | On the campaign against ElBaradei.
✩ Flourishing Palestinian sex trade exposed in new report - Haaretz | Amira Hass: "Young Palestinian women are being forced to into prostitution in brothels, escort services, and private apartments in Ramallah and Jerusalem..."