SCAF, parliament and the next constitution

I was away from Egypt for the last few days and I missed yesterday's big event: a SCAF representative invited nine foreign correspondents in what clearly was an attempt to send a message (to the US in particular) that the incoming parliament would not get to ride roughshod over the rest of the transition period, including the writing of the next constitution.

One might note several things at this juncture:

  • The oddness of making this important statement — the drawing of a red line — to foreigners rather than Egyptian politicians or even the Egyptian public;
  • That the SCAF has chosen to make this statement indirectly suggests it does not feel confident for a direct confrontation (as over the "supra-constitutional principles") and prefers sending signals at this state;
  • That this is happening as the new government and its "council of advisors" is being composed, with this council being given powers to guide the appointment of the members of the constituent assembly (a further distancing of SCAF from direct implication in this issue after the failure of the "principles")
  • The nonsensical nature of what was said — particularly the idea that the elected parliament does not represent Egyptian society, with the implication that the unelected SCAF does represent that society;
  • The dueling constitutional challenges of the next few months: on the one hand, parliament seems to have the right to appoint the constituent assembly, but SCAF wants to guide the process; and on the other, SCAF seems to have the right to appoint the government, but the incoming parliament (and Tahrir) want to have a voice in that.

I've been thinking of what the larger meaning of these elections and the recent unrest in Tahrir is, and I would venture that together these mean the beginning of an end for the 1952 regime and a transformation of Egyptian politics that will be deep and meaningful:

  • The Tahrir (and elsewhere) protests and Tantawi's speech showed for the umpteenth time that SCAF will capitulate to public pressure and that they lack self-confidence. It also showed that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the SCAF's management of the transition, whether or not most people want Tantawi out or not.
  • The elections showed that the military's political class (what was the tanzim tali3i) has collapsed and the generals no longer have an interface to manage the country, as they did through the NDP and before it the ASU. The failure of the felool, in particular, is telling of this.

To me, whether or not the Muslim Brothers, as many fear, decide to collaborate with the SCAF for a few years is irrelevant: the military regime is over, its legitimacy spent (even if there is still much respect for the institution) and the generals' power will decline as civilian rule returns. It might take time, but I would venture that short of a new coup led by charismatic officers, the era of the generals is over. They simply don't have the competence, leadership or the "will to power" to rejuvenate and relaunch the Free Officers' regime.

Below are excerpts from several pieces reporting on the meeting, or touching on the wider issue of the SCAF-parliament relationship and the military's role in politics.

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Don't panic. Yet.

The official results of the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections come out tonight, but a cursory look at initial results presented by parties and reported by the media paint a fairly clear picture: Islamists will be a majority in the next parliament, led by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Salafists have exceeded expectations to be, perhaps, the second party in Egypt.

This news has profoundly depressed most educated, middle class Cairenes I know who had hoped that the overthow of Hosni Mubarak would be followed by a relatively liberal democracy that would be inclusive of moderate Islamists. It is particularly distressing to non-Muslims, who will now fear the Islamization of public life that has taken place in the last two decades will now be accelerated, with full backing from parliament and government leaders in the next few years.

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Morning Egyptian Elections Roundup: FJP at 40%?

A few selections while we await the results — nothing official has been said yet, but parties are expected to make statements this afternoon that will give an indication, and incoming reports from various governorates thus far tend to confirm the expected: the FJP as first party, Salafists often as second in the countryside. The FJP appears to be making the 40% line which was at the high end of most predictions. And this is with Cairo, Alexandria and Red Sea governorates, which could be predicted to be among the more liberal parts of Egypt.
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The Muslim Brothers are left behind, again

One of the interesting things about the gigantic turnout on Tahrir Square is that it is happening even as the Muslim Brotherhood has officially opposed the protests and most Salafists done the same, in the name of calming the streets before the elections. This decision is very reminiscent of January 25, when they refused to take part in the first protests leading to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. The same goes for the Salafists, who apart from Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, have opposed protests and even tried to intervene to stop them in Alexandria yesterday.

This is not to say there are no Muslim Brothers or Salafists, or other religiously-inclined people in Tahrir today. There are.

But their leadership has failed them once more. Once again the Muslim Brotherhood has shown that its basic essence has not changed: just as its leader in 2009 said he had no problems with a Gamal Mubarak presidency and had much respect for Hosni Mubarak, just as they rushed ton negotiate with president-apparent Omar Suleiman in late January, just like they preferred to cut a deal with the military in the transition's early days and accepted a slapdash referendum and constitutional declaration, the Brothers are once again swimming against the prevailing tide of the Egyptian people. They prefer to negotiate for their own maximum advantage rather take a principled position.

I often think the Brothers' biggest problem is not that they are fundamentalist, or out of touch with the Egyptian mainstream, or too radical. It's that they are perceived, rightly, as schemers by average people. It's true of their leaders, at least, and it's what has made so many bright young people leave them in recent years and so many others doubt their intentions.

Egypt: The Sharia debate... in 1985

Hosni Mubarak in 1985

Here is a little item from history worth reconsidering in light of the growing Islamist-secularist debate in Egypt over the future constitution and the application of Sharia (referenced in Ursula’s hilarious post yesterday). From a Wikileaks State Dept. cable dated from March 1985, we get a little insight in how the American Embassy in Cairo saw Egyptian politics: a democratizing Mubarak set against retrogade political foes.

¶2. BEGIN SUMMARY. MOMENTUM IS BEGINNING TO BUILD TOWARD A MAY DEBATE IN THE PEOPLES ASSEMBLY ON ISLAMIC SHARIA (KORANIC LAW). IN RECENT DAYS, KEY OPPOSITION FIGURES FUAD SIRAJ AL-DIN (CHAIRMAN OF THE NEW WAFD PARTY) AND OMAR TALMASSANI (GENERAL GUIDE OF THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD) APPEARED BEFORE THE ASSEMBLY’S RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE TO EXPRESS SUPPORT FOR PURGING OF EXISTING LEGISLATION NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH SHARIA. THE SPEAKER OF THE ASSEMBLY, RIFAAT EL MAHGOUB, WHILE SUPPORTING THE OVERALL OBJECTIVE, LEFT DELIBERATELY VAGUE THE TIMING AND EXTENT OF THE PURGE. THE ADVOCATES DOUBTLESS KNOW THE PROCESS OF IMPLEMENTING “FULL SHARIA” WILL BE PROTRACTED; INDEED, MUBARAK IS PERCEIVED AS UNCOMPROMISING IN OPPOSITION TO “THE FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF SHARIA.” IN ADVANCE OF THE MAY DEBATE PUBLIC DISCUSSION OF, AND MANEUVERING ABOUT, SHARIA ISSUES IS ALREADY UNDERWAY. END SUMMARY.

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Why the Muslim Brothers will brook no dissent

The news that the leading Muslim Brother Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is being expelled from the movement should come as no surprise. It's true that in doing so, the MB is losing a widely respected figure that many see as the more moderate, acceptable face of the Brotherhood. Aboul Fotouh frequently appears on television, and has influence as the head of the Arab Medical Union, a professional syndicate. He is also a leadership figure for the vocal minority of young Muslim Brothers and their sympathizers who want to see the group change with the times. But is he becoming a major thorn in the Brotherhood's side for his desire to run for the presidency.

This is not primarily because the MB feels it is too early to field a presidential candidate, even if that's part of the picture. It is first and foremost about electoral strategy and a long-term plan to increase its political influence.

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Al-Erian demands apology from West

I've known Dr. Essam al-Erian, a prominent Muslim Brother and long one of its spokesmen, for ages. I see often for the simple reason that his office is around the corner from where I live (a small area that also includes Alaa al-Aswani's dentistry cabinet, so I have a good range of the political spectrum). He used to be known as one of the "moderate" Brothers until 2009, when it seemed he joined the more conservative faction. Since the revolution, those who know him have noted how much more abrasive he's become, and much less conciliatory in his approach to secularists. Many would say he's become quite arrogant in his public statements. 

Helena Cobban had this interview with him during which he expresses the opinion that the West (whatever that is) should apologize to Egypt. I've heard him say similar things in off-the-record situations, including get into a big row with a Western ambassador a couple of months ago. Anyway here it is:

"I am asking Europe and America for an apology. For the last 150 years they have blocked any development in this area... We believe that we have a lot to contribute to world civilization in terms of spirituality and values, but we want the help of the west in allowing our democracy to flourish. We want an apology that they supported dictatorship here for so many years, and then when the revolutions challenged the dictators, they tried to find a safe exit for some of the dictators...

"So please don't intervene in ways that corrupt our new politicians. Westerners corrupted so many of our local NGO's and even human-rights organizations in the past. (But I want to note that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch did a great job! They are my friends!)

Should the West apologize for its treatment of Egypt? Does this blaming the West amount to an exculpation of the local elites (include the likes of the MB) that are responsible for Egyptian backwardness and authoritarianism? The West contributed to the perpetuation of authoritarian regimes, but it did not create them. Following this logic, should Egypt apologize to Sudan for years of dominion? How does this work exactly?

I do agree on one thing: it'd be best for Egypt is Western governments stayed out of its affairs. It doesn't have to accept the aid, either. 

An interview with the MB's Mohamed Morsy

Mohamed MorsyFollowing a symposium in London organized by the Egyptian Community in the United Kingdom, a diaspora association of Egyptian Muslims in Britain, Arabist reader Dalia Malek had the chance to follow up with Muslim Brotherhood Guidance Council member and president of Justice and Freedom Party Mohamed Morsy and ask further questions about his lecture. She sent in this transcript of the interview and her notes on Morsy's lecture. 

As Egypt heads toward  parliamentary elections in September, the Muslim Brotherhood is spreading the word about its new party’s ideology. Justice and Freeom portray itself as working within an Islamic framework that is open to Egypt’s religious diversity, emphasizing its compatibility with religious minorities, women’s rights, and human rights.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s legislative body has delegated Mohamed Morsy to be the President of its Freedom and Justice Party, whose ambiguous distinction from the Muslim Brotherhood has been debated. Morsy is also the media spokesman and member of the Guidance Bureau.

In the lecture, Morsy repeated the Brotherhood’s claim that the party does not seek to promote a presidential candidate for the upcoming election and that it aims to gain no more than 50% of seats in Parliament.

Surprisingly, and in contrast with the recent claim that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists have unified, Morsy stated that the party and the Salafists are distinct, noting the Salafists’ lack of political experience, and that he disagrees with the majority of their views. He referenced a Salafist leaflet that used the word “infidels” four times, depicting use of this language in a negative light.

Dalia Malek (DM): You mentioned in the lecture that an Islamic state that applies Islam properly does not currently exist. But we have seen other countries that purport to have Islamic governments implement un-Islamic ideologies and have poor human rights records. In addition to the diversity of religions in Egypt, even Muslims in Egypt cannot agree. Why do you think that this will work in Egypt?

Mohamed Morsy (MM): I was saying that in general, there is no such religious state based on a theocratic concept. There is no state in the world now that applies the meaning of “theocratic state.” What we have now is the civic state. Whether it does or does not have the flavor of religion is something else.

We cannot in reality call Muslim countries “Islamic states.” As you said, we see violations of the constitutions of those countries. But an Islamic state is by definition a modern state. It’s a civic state. You have three completely independent authorities: the parliament, the judges, and the government. Islam confirms these authorities to be independent. Also, the people are the source of power. This is also by definition Islamic.

When people have accepted the notion of Islam as a framework, violations within it will be minimized. It cannot be imposed on the people and it cannot be done from the top. It has to be initiated, created, and agreed upon by the people.  

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Haenni and Tammam on #jan25 and religion

Two of my favorite commentators on religion and religious movement, Patrick Haenni and Hossam Tammam, collaborate on an excellent summary of various religious movements and institutions desultory participation in the Egyptian protest movement:

The Salafist movement condemned the protests; the Muslim Brothers first retreated, then got sucked in by the dynamism of the dispute, then tried to open up a negotiation process which the demonstrators, bolder in their demands, didn't want. Though that was not necessarily the position of all Egyptians, many of whom would have settled for a compromise, with Mubarak running the transition and the demand for democracy postponed until the next elections: the voice of the street isn't necessarily the will of the people. The Islamist groups were without doubt the most detached. Among these, various parts of the Salafist movement condemned the demonstrators very clearly from the time of the first appeals.

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Regarding the Brotherhood

Ever since the beginning of the uprising in Egypt, I have been urged to address the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. I have not do so to make a point: it just was not that important in the phase that just ended, leading to the resignation of Hosni Mubarak. There were more urgent matters at hand, and the alarmism over the Brotherhood we see in many publications was largely silly.
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Welcoming the Brothers, wary of theocracy

One reason why history doesn't necessarily repeat itself is that people are aware of what happened the last time around. Western commentaries on the Egyptian uprising are full of dire warnings that Egypt 2011 will likely turn out like Russia 1917 or Iran 1979 -- a radical party which considers itself the vanguard of a far-reaching revolution will shove aside its liberal democratic allies and take advantage of the power vacuum to establish an autocracy much worse than the outgoing one. The Muslim Brothers are usually cast in the role of the Leninists or Khomeinists. To all the myriad factors which have been cited in response, for example...

  • the failure of the Mubarak regime to collapse and leave a power vacuum
  • the strong consensus in the anti-Mubarak movement behind democratic constitutionalist demands
  • the Brothers' three decades of involvement in constitutional parliamentary politics
  • the Brothers' caution and their prioritization of institutional survival
  • the experience of Egypt's judiciary, press, and opposition in monitoring elections and the rotation of power
  • an economy based not on oil, which enables radical policies, but on tourism, which discourages them

...I'd like to focus on a factor that was pretty strongly in evidence on my last visit to Tahir before departing Egypt: the Egyptian anti-Mubarak movement appears to be just as wary of a Brother-led takeover as the West.

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Tips for the Egyptian opposition

From Brookings' Shadi Hamid:

The Egyptian opposition needed a newcomer like Kifaya to energize it, and give it a renewed sense of purpose. But it also needed a traditional giant like the Brotherhood to amplify this new voice and extend it throughout Egypt and among the mass of Egyptians. In this respect, the old opposition and the new one were not mutually exclusive. They were two sides of the same coin – both necessary but in different, complimentary ways.

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Where do the Brothers go from here?

My latest column at al-Masri al-Youm is out, wondering what Egypt's Muslim Brothers will do now that they have no longer any presence in parliament. An excerpt:

These results are a challenge for the regime, in whose interest it was to maintain the illusion of gradual progress on political reform and plurality in Egyptian political life. This has, after all, been the message promoted by Gamal Mubarak and other NDP leaders since 2002, including the idea (borrowed from ex-President Anwar al-Sadat) that Egypt needs three strong parties: a centrist one (the NDP), a leftist one (presumably the Tagammu) and a rightist one (presumably the Wafd). The role that the Muslim Brotherhood played in this configuration was always ambiguous, since the regime has never wanted to concede to them the right to have a formal political role.

In practice, a different three-party configuration emerged, which included a hegemonic party (the NDP), an Islamist one (the Muslim Brotherhood) that supposedly represented a dangerous alternative but could easily be kept in check by repression, and a loose front of secular parties and individuals that could mostly be intimidated and controlled, in part because it shared the NDP’s fear of Islamists, and represented no credible alternative at all.

Read the rest here.

Brothers against the ropes

Get your Muslim Brotherhood T-shirt while stocks last!

A conciliatory attitude by the new Guide, Mohamed Badie, has not protected the Muslim Brothers from another string of arrests. That they include people from five provinces and a key electoral planner — Essam al-Erian — and an organizational strongman — First Deputy Guide Mahmoud Ezzat — suggests that it's largely to do with forthcoming elections. This arrest is notable because Ezzat had not been arrested in years, as most top leadership rarely are. It may have also to do with the state noting his ascendancy, and wanting to send disruptions into the group: many have suspected in the past that the regime selects who it arrests in partly in function of the MB's internal politics, to allow an opportunity for rival factions to dominate.1 As for Al-Erian, one of the key planners of the MB's 2005 electoral strategy, it's clear he's long been one of the leaders most intent in contesting elections as widely as possible. 

Can the regime push the MB, by this fall, into a strategic withdrawal from the electoral field? Not a total one, but one that reduces the numbers of seats it has in parliament to around the level they won in 2000 (i.e. 17)? A few NDP and government figures have suggested that they expect the MB to return to the levels of that time, but it's a hard thing to guarantee unless you have very rigged elections. This is tricky this time around not so much because of the Obama administration, which has systematically downplayed the importance elections in its concept of democracy-promotion, but perhaps because Mohamed el-Baradei had focused much attention on the electoral system and may gain domestic and foreign traction over the next few months if he finds support for his project. So the alternative would be to push the MB into a deal whereby they present fewer candidates and restrict themselves.2

At this point the regime appears to be less looking for a deal with the Brothers than a kow-tow from them. The MB has already for all intents and purpose frozen its reform process, put aside its political party program, and reduced the influence of those most attached to the idea of a political party (aside from al-Erian). The next questions will be, will it drop its new policy of contesting all elections and not run for the Shura Council (most likely) and reduce its footprint in the next parliament (inevitable, but the question is how?)   

1. Some Brothers believe this was the idea behind the prison sentence handed to Khayrat al-Shater in 2007.   

2. With the caveat that it can't be about the Muslim Brothers' electoral strategy alone. It is also about the NDP's ability to impose discipline on its members to avoid the pattern of the last few elections where NDP independents ran against the party's official candidates, thus splitting the pro-government vote and giving candidates from the MB a fighting chance. I would venture that, for now, we have no indication that the NDP will be any more disciplined, since government policy has basically moved the intense competition for seats from the public competition into one inside the NDP.

Links for 12.04.09 to 12.07.09

ElBaradei on Zakaria's GPS - CNN | Check in at around 30:50 for his take on Egypt's current situation. ✪ Egypt to re-evaluate subsidies for the poor - The National Newspaper | The debate over subsidies reform in Egypt. ✪ Start the Week: 30/11/2009 | Andrew Marr interviews Eugene Rogan, author of "The Arabs". Also interviews on terrorism, etc. ✪ Cyber Jihadis' LOTR obsession | Super funny post on the use of Lord of the Rings in jihadi propaganda ✪ The Associated Press: Veil's spread fans Egypt's fear of hard-line Islam | I don't like this idea of the government backing a "moderate Islam" vs. some hardcore Islam. The government is as Islamist as anyone else. ✪ AFP: Egypt detains 10 senior Muslim Brotherhood members | 227 Brothers behind bars so far. ✪ Egypt to demand the Rosetta Stone from British Museum - Times Online | Fight to get antiquities back continues. ✪ Why U.S. Mideast Policy is (Still) Screwed Up | Stephen M. Walt | "Every appointee to the American government must endure a thorough background check by the American Jewish community." ✪ Arms smuggling heightens fears Iran may be building arsenal | US-backed UAE crackdown on arms smuggling to Iran. Interesting story, who leaked it and why? ✪ Congress.org - News : Rising military suicides | "More U.S. military personnel have taken their own lives so far in 2009 than have been killed in either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars this year." ✪ The Generals' Revolt : Rolling Stone | Are the generals pushing Obama on AfPak because of Petraeus' presidential ambitions? ✪ Egypt’s opposition misled by fixation with Mubarak’s son - The National Newspaper | Amr Hamzawy, ✪ FT.com / UK - Muslim Brotherhood rifts widen | Habib lays out the divide for the FT. ✪ Reset - Dialogues on Civilizations | Life | Interview with Joseph Massad on his ridiculous thesis of the "invention" of homosexuality ion the Arab world by the West and the "Gay International." ✪ Iran whistleblower died from drug-laced salad - Yahoo! News | Nasty.
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Links for 11.07.09 to 11.09.09

Israeli Asks Abbas Not to Step Down - NYTimes.com | What a weird headline: the Israeli in question is the president of Israel, Shimon Peres (aka Skeletor, Evil Lord of Destruction). Not that knowing this makes the whole thing any less weird, although it is telling to see how much the Israelis like Abbas.

Fatah al-Islam Connected to Israeli Elements- Lebanese Security Source Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | Really: Fatah al-Islam, connected to the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Americans, the Saudis and now the Israelis. I am beginning to wonder whether it even exists.

The Dark Side of the Bright Side -- In These Times | I love Barbara Ehrenreich's books.

The Associated Press: Islamic critics blast Beyonce on eve of Egypt show | Muslim Brothers attack "nudity concert".

23 CIA Officers Convicted in Italy, in Abstentia | For extraordinary rendition of Egyptian man.

Middle East Bloggers: The Street Leads Online - Reports - Committee to Protect Journalists | CPJ report on bloggers in MENA, especially the rising use of emprisonment against them: "Individual bloggers face enormous threats; the medium as a whole faces significant challenges. Increasingly, governments are creating new laws to regulate the Internet and amending old ones to encompass online expression. Already authorities are exploiting the isolated nature of bloggers and the lack of institutional protections for online journalists. As the Iranian regime exhibited this year, governments are willing to take severe measures when they perceive a threat to their power."

Holiday sales could launch e-book readers as mass-market must-haves | If you're interested in ebooks, this is a pretty good piece on the state of the industry. Has anyone tried Kindle downloading in Egypt? Is it restricted?

Japanese contractors owed billions by Dubai firms - The National Newspaper | Dubai is a bad debtor.

Waq al-Waq: The Big Question for Saudi Arabia | Who runs Saudi Arabia's Yemen policy?

Obama's Failure in the Middle East | Stephen M. Walt | KA-POW: "I never thought I'd write the following words, but is it possible that Obama's handling of the I-P peace process might actually end up being worse than George Bush's?"

Berman’s Response to Goldstone on House Gaza War-Crimes Resolution « The Washington Independent | The assholes who run Congress reply to Goldstone.

Report: Mossad hacked Syrian computer to uncover nuke site - Haaretz - Israel News | Basic snooping software found super-classified info? Either this is not true or the Syrians are mega-stupid. But since the allegation is that Syria had a secret nuclear research facility, I'll lean towards the former - this was all bullshit from the beginning.

ATTACKERMAN » Somewhere, Khaled Meshal Is Laughing | Obama messed up doubly with Goldstone as well as backing down on settlements. What's a Palestinian leader (any of them outside Hamas) to do?

Lebanese opposition agrees to govt line-up: Hezbollah

(AFP) | Cabinet crisis over?

Clinton has 'productive meeting' with Egypt on Mideast peace process - washingtonpost.com | Hosni Mubarak loves nothing more than being made to feel important. Clinton's entire trip to Cairo is about this: "Clinton attributed the apparent softening in Egypt's position as a response to her personal diplomacy, conducted over visits to four capitals in the region over the past five days. "I thought it was a very productive meeting," she told reporters traveling with her after the news conference, adding that it "shows the value of consultation and listening and sharing ideas and hearing the other side and putting forward your views and explaining.""

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Links for 10.29.09 to 10.31.09

Daily News Egypt - In Focus: The Brotherhood Crisis | Khalil al-Anani's take on the Brothers' troubles. ✪ Frontlines: Who will be the next leader of Egypt? | Front Lines - the week that was | Jerusalem Post | Funny how much traction Amr Moussa's comments have made in Israel, where they remember vividly his criticism of Israel. ✪ Is this the man to follow Mubarak as Egypt's next president? | World news | guardian.co.uk | On Amr Moussa. ✪ Powerful Islamic movement sees leadership struggle | On MB's woes. ✪ War and Peace | New blog from Rob of Arabic Media Shack, focusing on war, history and strategy. ✪ Lesson Unlearned | Foreign Policy | Nir Rosen says the 1983 attacks on Us Marines in Beirut was the fault of senior Reagan officials who intervened in Lebanon's civil war on the side of Christian militias. ✪ A Witness In Palestine | Anna Baltzer, Jewish-American pro-peace activist. ✪ A search engine with a mind on settlements | Antony Loewenstein | I'm switching to Bing, and I hate Microsoft: "Jewish Billionaire, Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, donated $1 million to the so-called Hebrew national Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) which heavily encourages Jews around the world to immigrate to Israel and the United States. The organization is one of the biggest supporters of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories." ✪ In Afghan Village, French Outreach Yields an Ambush - WSJ.com | On French Foreign legion in Afghanistan: "Some Legionnaires, like a pensive Italian art history graduate, had enlisted for adventure. Others, like a thin Estonian, signed up to escape potentially lethal problems at home. The Legion wipes out minor criminal records and provides new identities and a French passport in exchange for a five-year contract. "Believe me, I feel safer here in Afghanistan," the Estonian said." ✪ Alaa Al-Aswany: When women are sinners in the eyes of extremists - Commentators, Opinion - The Independent | On Somalia and extremism, among other things. ✪ BBC NEWS | Technology | Egypt seeks ethical mobile users | Code says "don't annoy people by having loud conversations", "choose non-annoying ringtone", etc. Akhiran! Wonder if it says, "Don't sit at qahwa trying different ringtones for an hour" or "Answer phone quickly or put it on silent rather than stare at it for 10 rings". ✪ Squaring the circle and erasing the margins | Good commentary on the recent J Street conference. ✪ YouTube - ‫لقاء اليوم - ريتشارد غولدستون‬‎ | Khaled Daoud interviews Richard Goldstone on al-Jazeera. ✪ Lebanon: Israel arranged Katyusha fire to keep tensions high - Haaretz - Israel News | Suleiman was praised by West before, will he be listened to now: "Lebanese President Michel Suleiman on Thursday suggested that Israel had arranged for collaborators in his country to fire Katyusha rockets at the Galilee earlier this week, in a bid to keep tensions high in the area." ✪ 'Israel's Self-Described Greatest Concern' - Jeffrey Goldberg | More poisonous Jeffrey Goldberg: anti-Zionist Jews are not real jews, they're anti-Zionists with Jewish parents; the Leveretts are apologists for Tehran. No sense of irony here about Golberg's sycophancy towards Bibi Netanyahu here. ✪ West Bank land belongs to Jews, says Israeli army judge | These people are insane: ""But over the past quarter of a century, the Israeli army lawyer and then military judge at the forefront of arguably the most significant battle in the occupied West Bank – the confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction of Jewish settlements – has come to see himself as in service of a higher duty. In an unusually frank interview, which offers insights into the melding of religion, politics and law that underpins land seizures in the occupied territories, Agassi has laid out his belief that Israel has a biblical claim to territory beyond its borders and that he, even as an immigrant, has a right to live on it when those born there do not. `When we [Israelis] say that this is a political conflict, then we lose the battle,` he told the Guardian, adding that it should be remembered that the ancient land of Israel is `given to us by the Bible, not by some United Nations`. ✪ Tens of Thousands of Palestinian Children at Risk of Forced Displacement in OPT | "Whilst most attention has focused on home demolitions and community evictions, new research by the children`s charity Save The Children has revealed intolerable living conditions are driving families to abandon their land and homes, even though most will be worse off once they do so."
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Links for 10.28.09

FT.com / Middle East - Wait goes on for Dubai’s £10bn bond | "Where is Dubai’s $10bn bond? The question has been making the rounds in Dubai business circles, as bankers and executives wonder when the emirate will bite the bullet and ask the United Arab Emirates central bank – which is bankrolled by Abu Dhabi – for the second tranche of a $20bn bail-out agreed earlier this year." ✪ FT.com / China / Economy & Trade - Qatar targets increased gas exports to China | China hydrocarbons imports from ME increase. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Standing Up To Garbage | Interesting story about garbage collection problem, reveals govt. spending very little, military stepping in with recycling. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | NDP Promotes Gamal Mubarak On Facebook | Facebook users paid LE1500 to promote Gamal. ✪ Brown: Asking the wrong questions about Palestinian elections | Marc Lynch | Makes some good points about elections in the Arab world in general and the Palestinian ones in particular. ✪ Dar Al Hayat - The “Brotherhoodization” of the Arab World | Argues MB arrests only reinforce ideological core of the group and increases its popularity, allowing them to spread their intolerant populist message rather than engage in genuine politics. ✪ Arab winds of change | Brian Whitaker | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk | Whitaker provides a short take on his new book, which I will be reviewing shortly: the Arab malaise is not just the regimes, but also the people. ✪ The disabled Palestinian standup helping refugees find their funny side | Stage | The Guardian | Very nice story on Palestinian disabled standupcomics: "I am officially the most oppressed person in the world," Maysoon Zayid recently told an audience in California. "I'm a Palestinian Muslim with cerebral palsy." ✪ Israel rations Palestinians to trickle of water | Amnesty International | Amnesty's report on Israel cutting off water to Gaza. ✪ Envisioning an alternative Egypt, post-Mubarak - Haaretz - Israel News | Zvi Barel on Heikal and succession. ✪ bt - Waiting for a Trickle | "The boom, spurred by private and foreign direct investment, has paid off primarily for the country’s richest, according to the new report by the General Authority for Investment (GAFI)." ✪ The Race for Iran | New blog about the geostrategy of Iran, contributors include Flynt and Hillary Everett. ✪ Gaza water supply at 'crisis point' | "Amnesty International says Israeli policies and practices are denying Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip their fair share of the region's scarce water supplies" ✪ Amr Bargisi and Samuel Tadros: Why Are Egypt's Liberals Anti-Semitic? - WSJ.com | WTF is the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth? This argument is stupid, you take the liberals you have, not those you wish you had. And how do these people get into the WSJ op-ed page? ✪ Brother of Afghan Leader Is Said to Be on C.I.A. Payroll - NYTimes.com | No wonder Matthew Hoh resigned: "KABUL, Afghanistan — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country’s booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials."
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