"Egypt supports Wisconsin"

In reference to this.

'We Stand With You as You Stood With Us': Statement to Workers of Wisconsin by Kamal Abbas of Egypt's Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services

About Kamal Abbas and the Centre for Trade Unions and Workers Services: Kamal Abbas is General Coordinator of the CTUWS, an umbrella advocacy organization for independent unions in Egypt. The CTUWS, which was awarded the 1999 French Republic's Human Rights Prize, suffered repeated harassment and attack by the Mubarak regime, and played a leading role in its overthrow. Abbas, who witnessed friends killed by the regime during the 1989 Helwan steel strike and was himself arrested and threatened numerous times, has received extensive international recognition for his union and civil society leadership.

Illegitimate... but not illegal?

That phrase precisely describes the Obama administration's claim to leadership in the Middle East. It is also the factually wrong and conceptually confused defense of its decision to veto a Security Council resolution against Israel's settlement expansion that had wide support:

The Obama administration issued its first UN Security Council veto Friday, when U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice voted alone against a resolution declaring Israeli settlement activity to be illegal.

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Libya gets ugly #feb17

It's almost certain that the death toll in Libya has passed 200, with thousands more wounded. Protestors are said to have taken control of some cities, others are under siege and running out of supplies. Airfields across the eastern part of the country have been sabotaged to prevent airplanes with sub-Saharan African mercenaries from landings. Major oil companies are said to be preparing an evacuation and one major oil-load port in Tobruq is said to have been shut down.

Live Blog - Libya | Al Jazeera Blogs

Excellent continuously updated page — follow it for the latest.

Libya protests: 'foreign mercenaries using heavy weapons against at demonstrators' - Telegraph

"Tanks and helicopter gunships full of foreign mercenaries are fighting gangs of demonstrators. At least one dead man had been hit by an anti-aircraft missile, while other bodies are riddled with heavy machine gun fire."

Libyan Muslim leaders tell security: stop massacre | Reuters

(Reuters) - Libyan Muslim leaders told security forces to stop killing civilians, responding to a spiraling death toll from unrest which threatens veteran leader Muammar Gaddafi's authority.

Morocco #fev20: group pulls out(?)

Reuters reports that one group in the Moroccan coalition that is protesting today has backed out:

(Reuters) - A Moroccan youth movement that led calls for nationwide protests on Sunday has pulled out because of a disagreement with Islamists and leftists over the role of the monarchy, one of its leaders said.

I suspect they were intimidated, because one would think they would have thought about their partners in this, who would bring out the numbers, earlier. Surely the better logic would be to have people from the mainstream center participate so that Islamists and leftists don't monopolize the day. This will make it easier for the regime to paint the protests as run by "extremists". 

Update: Some of the people alleged to have pullout have issued a denial.

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Shatz: After Egypt

It is too early to say whether Egypt will make the transition to civilian rule and recover its sovereignty after 30 years as an American client state, much less whether it will ever recapture the regional leadership it enjoyed under Nasser. But it is not too early to speculate on the regional impact of Mubarak’s overthrow. As the Syrian philosopher Sadiq al-Azm has put it, ‘the regimes feel vulnerable now.’ The symptoms of this anxiety are plain to see: Mahmoud Abbas’s hasty cabinet reshuffle; the Algerian government’s mobilisation of 30,000 police officers to confront a few thousand protesters in central Algiers; the violent repression of the recent demonstrations in Iran, Libya and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia, which recommended that Mubarak crush the protests by force – and which offered to continue subsidising the army when the Obama administration briefly hinted that it might reconsider its aid package – is nervously watching developments in Cairo. So is Israel, though it has retreated into radio silence after failing to persuade Obama to continue propping up Mubarak. It’s not just the peace treaty that worries the Israeli government: The last thing it wants to see is a national, Egyptian-style campaign of non-violent resistance against the occupation, or indeed against the Jewish state’s ‘partner in peace’, the increasingly unpopular Palestinian Authority.

Tomorrow, D-Day in Morocco #fev20

Above is the second video ahead of February 20 protests for constitutional reform, the dissolution of parliament and the formalization of the Amazigh (Berber) language(s) in Morocco. These videos have been attacked as too well produced to be the work of young Moroccans, which tells you a lot about the contempt the regime has for the country's youth. Incidentally, I think it was a mistake to add the second two requests — the last parliamentary election was fairly clean (even if money played a big role) and the question of Amazigh is a) divisive and b) something parliament can vote for. The real problem is the emasculation of parliament by a constitutional framework that gives all power to the palace. But that just my jouj centimes and I wholeheartedly support the protest movement.
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Shukri: Mazel Tov, Egypt!

Israelis, you need to read this: your government has done you one more disservice with its pro-Mubarak position during Egypt's crisis. Ezzedine Shukri, who knows your country well, highlights its mistakes

First, Egypt's revolution has been about Egyptian affairs only, with almost no reference to foreign policy. No one was chanting death to the US or to Israel. The dominant themes were related to freedom, social justice and dignity. Egyptians who took to the streets in millions were expressing their rejection of an ossified regime which ignored their concerns for decades. It is somehow miraculous that no one tried to capitalize on the ‘Palestinian cause' or ‘anti-American' sentiments. People ignored these issues; why Israeli leaders injected themselves into the story and brought undue attention upon themselves is a mystery to me.

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Algeria update #fev12

The above video is great commentary by the French specialist on Algeria Benjamin Stora. It explains the tension between the need for change and the fear of a return to the civil war of the 1990s. He argues Algerians are "exhausted" by the last 20 years of instability.

Le Monde highlights another type dueling trends: an opposition that has collapsed upon itself and has little credibility cannot give much leadership, but on the other hand youth anger gives momentum to the protests.

AFP notes few demonstrators today in Algiers and a big police presence.


The Battle for Bahrain

This is a good report on Bahrain (and Libya) from PBS' Newshour. It features veteran Gulf expert Gary Sick, who on his blog noted this:


I suggested that, in addition to the battles in the streets of Bahrain, there is a battle within the royal family. The king apologized for the one death on the first day, then the security forces launched an incredibly ugly attack shortly thereafter, killing at least 5 more Bahrainis. They then attacked people coming from the funerals today. They have prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded, and they have brutalized doctors trying to tend to the wounded.
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Some notes on Libya #feb17

Things in Libya are getting ugly:

  • Human Rights Watch: "(New York) - Government security forces have killed at least 84 people in three days of protests in several cities in Libya, Human Rights Watch said today, based on telephone interviews with local hospital staff and witnesses."
  • The internet has been cut in large parts of the country, making it difficult to upload the videos to Youtube that have been a major source of information.
  • Journalists are not allowed in for the most part - see What If Libya Staged a Revolution and Nobody Came? - By Najla Abdurrahman | Foreign Policy. I understand that some of the correspondents for the Arab satellite channels were pro-regime anyway — it was the only way they could get into the country in the first place. Because of this the picture of what's really happening is not detailed, we have tidbits here and there. Diaspora Libyans in the US and UK are doing much of the work of getting word out. Enough Qaddafi (whose great website is unfortunately still down after being attacked) noted on Twitter: "catch 22 in libya. You spk 2 media you could suffer, and if you don't get word out by spk 2 media u could suffer#Feb17 the result is that we can generally understand what's happening, but the details that describe magnitude of events are virtually impossible to confirm.its frustrating for pple on ground and those that want to report"
  • Mercenaries have been employed by the regime.
  • There are reports of divisions within the regime on how to handle the uprising. For now one of the main tools used has been the Revolutionary Committees controlled by Qadhafi. I am not sure where the army has been doing though. 
  • Audio recording by a protestor: Audioboo / LPC: Detailed on the ground account of violence in Benghazi moments ago!! #Libya #Feb 17
  • The heart of the revolt appears to be Benghazi, long a town critical of the regime and where politics have been dominated by Islamists. But several other cities have fallen out of government control.


SOAS conf. on settler colonialism

I am posting the following as a public service announcement — there will be a conference at my alma mater, SOAS, on Israel/Palestine. If you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know I think it's important to cast the Zionist project as a settler colonial one to counter the narrative, particularly in US media, of a conflict that existed "since time immemorial." Otherwise, the conference is entirely its organizers' work. 


SOAS Palestine Society Conference Organizing Collective

On 5-6 March 2011, the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London will hold its seventh annual conference, "Past is Present: Settler Colonialism in Palestine." This year's conference aims to understand Zionism as a settler colonial project which has, for more than a century, subjected Palestine and Palestinians to a structural and violent form of destruction, dispossession, land appropriation and erasure in the pursuit of a new Jewish Israeli society. By organizing this conference, we hope to reclaim and revive the settler colonial paradigm and to outline its potential to inform and guide political strategy and mobilization.

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The US, Egypt, Israel and the revolution(s)

One of the big media memes of the toppling of Hosni Mubarak is what it means for Israel and US policy in the region (which for the last 20 years has largely been about Israel). Some see a huge change coming, with the idea being that the poor, vulnerable Jewish state will once again be at the mercy of bloodthirsty Arabs who, deprived of tough leadership, will revert to their irrational hatred of all things Semitic. 

Well, hold on to your horses. First of all, a lot of this meme is based on the idea that Israel is weak and helpless, which might justify insane amounts of money spent on it by US taxpayers but simply isn't true. Israel has probably one of the top five armies in the world, is perfectly capable to defend itself in the unlikely event of an Egyptian attack (because that worked out so well for the Egyptians before) and, rather scarily, has both a massive nuclear arsenal and a gnawing inferiority complex fed by guilt at having rather nasty policies towards its non-Jewish neighbors. Secondly, Egyptians have have other problems right now.

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Libya's protests, #feb17

My gut feeling is that the most important protests now taking place in North Africa are those in Libya. I say this with no disrespect to those in Algeria, where the regime certainly deserves to be brought down, or my own native Morocco, where the palace and Makhzen need a wake-up call that the status quo (and indeed, the regression of the last few years) is not acceptable.

But Libya shares something important with Egypt and Tunisia: an aging leader (41 years in power) faces a looming succession crisis in which the leading candidates are his own sons. I simply don't think that's an acceptable outcome for any republic in the 21st century, and was a key aspect to the revolt against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and to a lesser extent in Tunisia (with the rumored heir apparent being his nephew). Of course there are also differences: the Libyan regime is much more brutal, more tribalized, more totalitarian than Egypt or Tunisia. The country is split along an east-west axis, with the east kept systematically poorer and discriminated against, along with older historical grievances. That's why it's not surprise Benghazi saw the first and biggest protests, particularly since core organizers were relatives of the victims of the Abu Salim prison massacre of 1996.

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Algeria's protests #fev12

Algeria's protests seem to me — admittedly from a distance — too un-spontaneous to be successful. The very idea of holding weekly protests suggests a successful detournement of the enthusiasm for a protest and that it is being controlled into a manageable form, for the benefit of the political forces behind it and, perhaps, as yet another pawn in the long game of chess between rival factions in the regime. The real danger is more likely to come from one of the spontaneous and violent uprisings we've seen in poorer neighborhoods in the last few years. I also think this regime would have no qualms with carrying out a brutal suppression — people know this, and hence the "wall of fear" has not been broken as it was in Egypt and Tunisia.

The invaluable Moor Next Door writes:

At the same time, while many Algerians are fed up with the political and economic situation in their country, there is a significant continent fearful of sudden political transitions and mass movements recalling the country’s bitter civil war which followed snap “democratization” after a youth uprising in 1988. This creates skepticism and hesitation among key elites and in the population at large (though among older people more than youths). The CNCD may benefit from the student protest movement, turning out tens (and more) of students for protests and sit-ins at the Presidential Palace and the Ministry of Higher Education; nurses are strike and demonstrating; farmers (see below) are threatening sit-ins at the Ministry of Agriculture (see below)¹; unemployed residents are reported to be doing the same at town halls in various parts of the country. Many of these protests are narrowly focused and can be addressed on their own terms by changing ministers or issuing or repealing decrees or the like; unless they are brought into a wider opposition narrative that links the demands of dissatisfied engineering students or farmers looking for better irrigation policy to the inadequacies and structural injustices of the regime itself, combining sectorial demands for change into something much greater.

 Check his previous updates too.

On Lara Logan and Egypt

I wrote a piece for the Daily Beast yesterday trying to put the sad attack on CBS correspondent Lara Logan in context. (Logan was reportedly "beaten and sexually assaulted" by a crowd the night Egyptians were celebrating Mubarak's resignation). 

A lot of US coverage has been, as far as I can tell, insensitive, sensationalistic or ridiculous (or some combination thereof). I have read incredibly inhumane comments focused on Logan's good looks; her supposed naivete in going into the crowds (never mind that she was just doing her job); and the ways in which she will supposedly milk this for her career (yeah, I wish it had happened to me, what a great way to advance). 

Then there are those who have taken this incident as an excuse to trot out their (non-existent) knowledge of the status of women in Islamic countries. Ironically, even as some right-wing commentators say Logan should have expected this in a country full of Muslim "savages," they reveal the misogyny of American culture by looking for ways to blame the victim of a sexual attack. 

Anyway, what happened to Logan is terrible--and it highlights the problem of sexual harassment in Egypt, which Egyptian women have been fighting for some time now. They may make more progress now that so many of them participated so fully in, and felt so empowered by, their country's revolution.