Massad on Egypt and the Palestinians

✚  Egypt's nouveaux riches and the Palestinians

I find Joseph Massad wrong on most of what he writes about, and far too nativist for my taste. In this piece, while he outlines the terrible anti-Palestinian actions of the Mubarak regime, he is delusional when he argues that it was a narrow nouveau riche class that adopted anti-Palestinian postures. It's a lot more complicated than that, and while there are wonderful pro-Palestinian efforts in Egypt from the left and Islamists, there is also a very widespread suspicion of Palestinians (much of it the result of regime propaganda, of course). Some of it is part of a wider xenophobia, some of it due to a reluctance to be drawn into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But I feel, after over a decade in Egypt, that there is more anti-Israeli sentiment than thoughtful pro-Palestinian sentiment, at least outside the activist groups. Just look at the sorry state of the normalization debate in Egypt, as if it were the 1980s, and general ignorance of Palestinian-led movements like BDS.

And the language in this piece is really OTT.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

On the attacks in Sinai

The attack that took place yesterday on a checkpoint on Egypt's border with Gaza and Israel is a serious escalation of armed activity in the Sinai Peninsula, with a wide range of consequences on the young presidency of Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's relationship with both Israel and the Hamas government in Gaza, as well as the question of who controls Egypt's foreign and national security policy: the president, the intelligence services, the military, the ministry of foreign affairs, or all of the above (up till now, on diplomacy at least, Egypt had a dual foreign policy: one run by the presidency, another by SCAF/Intelligence — it was not going to last without some confrontation.) This post serves as my initial notes on the incident.
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Romney's stupid pandering to the lobby

Romney outrages Palestinians by saying Jewish culture helps make Israel more successful  - NY Daily News:

"JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney told Jewish donors Monday that their culture is part of what has allowed them to be more economically successful than the nearby Palestinians, outraging Palestinian leaders who called his comments racist and out of touch.

``As you come here and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality,'' the Republican presidential candidate told about 40 wealthy donors who breakfasted around a U-shaped table at the luxurious King David Hotel.

The reaction of Palestinian leaders to Romney's comments was swift and pointed.

``What is this man doing here?'' said Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian official. ``Yesterday, he destroyed negotiations by saying Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and today he is saying Israeli culture is more advanced than Palestinian culture. Isn't this racism?''"

That's like wondering why blacks are poorer than whites in 1870 America. Or 1990 South Africa.

Why is an American presidential candidate making such obviously stupid comments? Because he's pandering to the Israel lobby, that's why. And that's why his opponent will not call him out on his offensive stupidity, either.

Update: Steve Walt expands on this.

Is the PA afraid of third intifada?

Amira Hass in Haaretz:

But handing out jobs in the security apparatus to thousands of young people without any educational or professional future, the solution the PA came up with in the 1990s and one to which they are clinging to today, does not really wipe out cumulative sociopolitical resentments, especially in the refugee camps. The economic gaps are now more apparent than ever, even when released prisoners are getting entitlements that are higher than ever.

The authority carried out a wave of arrests in May (which included Mu'ayyed and Zakaria ) and turned yesterday's heroes into today's criminal problem. At the same time it was glorifying the Palestinian prisoners who were on a hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Many of them are not only relatives and friends of those recently arrested by the Palestinian Authority, but like them, they too turned the gun, the symbol of machismo, into both capital and cult.

Thus the leadership of the PA is again sending out mixed messages and broadcasting dishonesty. The brutality of the arrests, no matter what the suspicions, shows that the PA is afraid of the social resentments, and as a preventive measure, is suppressing anyone it thinks may be a potential representative or leader. Or, as Alia Amer, the mother of Ziad and Mu'ayyed, says, "All the talk on TV [against the detainees] is meant to justify the positions of senior authority personnel."

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Reports: Ismail Haniyeh seen leading in Hamas Politburo vote

Bye bye Khaled Mashaal?

Is Hamas Politburo leader Khaled Mashaal’s constellation dimming? He’s already announced he’ll be stepping down, and whether or not his next step to be a more active international leader in the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, if he keeps his word he may not be the man eventually presiding over the (stalled) implementation of “unity” agreement with Fatah that has been sitting dead in the water since Hamas put forward terms that Fatah did not (and could not) accept.

Formally, the talks are on hold because of these internal elections, which occur over several rounds and go on through May[1], after which talks in Cairo will return the main players to the negotiating table. Haaretz has reported that Haniyeh bested Mashaal in the internal vote, and that as a result Mashaal is likely to stay on but turn over military and budgetary oversight to Hanieyh. Xinhua offered more specific details on what has been transpiring in these elections: Haniyeh reportedly secured an “unprecedented” 85 percent of the votes, though his deputies struggled to make gains against Mashaal’s associates and members of the armed wing of Hamas (along with two prisoners released in last year’s prisoner exchange, who seem to have received a massive sympathy vote).

All reports rely on anonymous sourcing, and Hamas has officially denied the Haaretz report, though no word has followed about the Xinhua coverage. It is, however, generally accepted that Hamas is conducting internal elections at this time and that the results will greatly affect the outcome of talks with Abu Mazen over the stalled “unity” agreement.

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The Egypt-Israel treaty and the gas deal, cont.

A couple of days ago I blithely stated that Egypt's decision to cancel the agreement it had to supply natural gas to EMG was not a violation of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. I am now cautiously walking that back; I am not so sure anymore. There was a memorandum of understanding signed between Egypt and Israel in 2005 that guarantees Egyptian supply of natural gas not just to Israel but to EMG specifically, in quite precise terms. I am reproducing the relevant portion below:

Here is the full copy of the MoU in PDF, which is also available on the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs' website. It's signed by then Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmy and then Israeli Minister of National Instructure (and Mubarak's best friend in Israel) Benyamin Ben Eliezer. I am not sure what relation it bears to the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which it recalls in its preamble, as it does not seem to be an addendum to the treaty.

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The impact of the end of the Egypt-Israel gas agreement

I don't have time to comment much on this, although it's a subject that has long fascinated me. Perhaps later. But the bottom line to yesterday's new that Egypt is canceling its deal with Eastern Mediterranean Gas (EMG), which supplied gas to the Israeli National Electricity Company, is minimal aside from coming lawsuits and efforts at international arbitration by EMG's shareholders.

It is certainly not a breach of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, which does not guarantee Egyptian supply of natural gas to Israel, and only requires "normal" economic relations between the two countries. A dispute over a commercial deal is part of normal relations, although the Israelis might argue that there is not much normality about bilateral trade relations. 

Here's a business take from the newsletter of HC Brokerage, an Egyptian investment bank:

In our view, the potential implications of this development can be divided as follows: (1) Politically, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty stipulates that the 2 countries maintain normal economic relations; it does not make any specific requirements regarding Egyptian natural gas exports to Israel. (2) Legally, the natural gas agreement involves 3 parties – EGAS (an arm of the Egyptian government), East Mediterranean Gas Company (EMG, an Egyptian company subject to Egyptian commercial law), and Ampal-American (the Israeli counterpart) – according to the former head of EGAS, who, speaking yesterday on Al Youm TV, highlighted that EGAS has the right to terminate the supply of natural gas to EMG at any time, following which EMG would be entitled to file a lawsuit in the Egyptian courts, and added that any compensation on behalf of EGAS to EMG is limited to USD180m. Ampal-American previously filed a lawsuit against Egypt, demanding compensation of USD8bn due to damages Israel incurred on the back of recent supply disruptions, but, according to the agreement, EGAS is entitled to respond only to EMG’s allegations, not to Ampal-American’s. (3) Economically, Egypt does not import natural gas but does subsidize it domestically as the selling price is below cost. On our estimates, the cancellation should result in a cUSD260m decrease in exports. On the fiscal side, such excess supply could be channeled either to subsidized consumers or to nonsubsidized energy-intensive industries, or it could be reexported at a different price. On the Israeli side, Israel already raised domestic natural gas prices 9% to account for supply disruptions and priced in a complete cutoff of Egyptian natural gas supplies, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Moreover, Israel’s Tamar natural gas reserve, which was discovered recently and is expected to begin operations by April 2013, should meet all of Israel’s domestic demand with the potential for a surplus that could be exported. The cancellation should therefore not affect Israel very much.

If the only legal recourse is suing in Egyptian courts, I doubt EMG will get very far — or only far enough to get at most $180m which is not much compared, say, to the $550m EMG says it invested in the infrastructure. In the meantime, any pressure Egypt faces over the deal is probably going to be a factor of how much this worries other international investors, especially in the hydrocarbons sector, and how much the United States in particular decides to make a big deal out of this on behalf of Israel. I would think the US should stick clear of this controversial issue, but it may be difficult to do so because some key EMG shareholders are US-registered companies. One of them, Sam Zell, a well-known American businessman who owns the Chicago Tribune and LA Times, is an active political donor in the US as well as longstanding supporter of Zionist causes.

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Daniel Levy vs. Benny Morris, part 2

The other day I linked to Daniel Levy taking Benny Morris to task for "attempting to give a veneer of intellectual respectability to the well-rehearsed propagandist whining of apologists for Israeli policies and Israeli settlements." It was a great piece that you should read.

Since then Morris wrote a lengthy rebuttal which ends in this way:

Lastly, Levy objects to my occasional use, in the past, of the word "barbarian". Well, how would he define societies that carry out or condone the murder of thousands of women each year simply because they look the wrong way at a man or glance at the wrong man or dress the wrong way (the Arab world); or who practice mass coerced female genital mutilation (Egypt); or which put men on trial for homosexuality (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc.); or cut off the arms of thieves (Saudi Arabia) or stone women who are charged with adultery (Iran); or kill masses of fellow Arabs or Muslims, often in funeral processions, in suicide bombings (Iraq); or which dance on rooftops or hand out sweets to children to celebrate the blowing up of a bus crammed with civilians (Palestine); or who shoot down and torture many thousands of civilians who say they merely seek freedom (Syria)? If Levy has a better word, let him offer it.

So as long as you're not generalizing, then, Dr Morris.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

The Mufti and Jerusalem

Egypt's Grand Mufti, Ali Gomaa, visited Jerusalem yesterday — sparking a huge controversy and earning the condemnations of the Muslim Brotherhood and countless others for the visit.

Mufti Ali Gomaa said on his Twitter account that he had visited Jerusalem, entering from the West Bank via Jordan and not from the Israeli side. He said he prayed in the al-Aqsa mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites, in the walled old city.

East Jerusalem was captured by Israel from Jordan in the 1967 war. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as a future capital of a Palestinian state. Israel describes Jerusalem as its eternal undivided capital.

Egyptian religious officials, including members of Egypt's Coptic Christian church, have for decades refused to travel to Jerusalem in protest at the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem and the Palestinian areas.

On Twitter, Gomaa said it was an "unofficial visit" to the mosque. The mufti's spokesman told the state-owned Al-Ahram's website that the trip which was his first did not indicate "any recognition of the Zionist entity" - a reference to Israel.

I'm not sure what Gomaa was thinking, as this visit is an unprecedented step with far-reaching consequences. The Mufti is, in a sense, the state-apppointed religious arbiter in Egypt, which is why any engagement with Israel is going to be seen as ill-advised by (but not only Islamists). It also puts the Coptic Orthodox Church, which under the late Pope Shenouda III refused to visit Jerusalem (surely an even more important place to Christians) in solidarity with the country's Muslims and the Palestinian cause.

He might also have known that the Islamist-dominated parliament would not be happy with this, and indeed there is now a move by Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood MPs to question him and possibly sack him (something that in theory is the prerogative of the president, or for now SCAF). What we have, then, is a preview of the convergence of religious issues and the Israel issue in Egypt's new politics.

(For the record, I have long thought that Egypt's dominant anti-normalization stance is, well, pretty stupid and narrow-minded. Gomaa was right to go there and engage with Palestinians and break their isolation — they need all the support they can get. It is neither a recognition nor endorsement of Israel, and indeed while there he could have denounced the occupation. )

Why I won't bother reading Peter Beinart

For several months now there's been a huge hullabaloo about Peter Beinart, who has gone from establishment Jewish-American golden boy to near-pariah figure for his book, The Crisis of Zionism, which essentially appears to be of the anguished "Israel-is-losing-its-soul" variety but is nonetheless important because it's an insider's rebellion and has ruffled feathers. I think I'll pass reading it, however, not just because much this Jewish-American intramural debate is old news and not particularly interesting anymore (Israelis themselves have had a much more vigorous debate for years, after all.)

It's that the book appears to carry some bizarre arguments. From historian Shaul Magid's review in Religion Dispatches:

While Beinart gestures to his leftist critics that he is aware of the argument that one cannot separate the settlements from the state, he never responds to them. Probably because he can’t. His suggestion that we should boycott the settlements and give that money (and more!) to the state belies the reality that the state funds the settlements, which is why no one I am familiar with ever suggested boycotting the Afrikaner farmers while giving more aid to the South African government.

If Beinart tries to establish some kind of separation between the settlements and the state of Israel, which finances them, provides infrastructure, guards them, builds roads to them, etc. — how is anyone supposed to take him seriously?

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.

Next in Gaza, Palestinian elections or Israeli preemption?

Paul Mutter contributed this commentary — and I have a note at the end.

Ebaa Reqez, an activist who helped organized the “March 15” Movement demonstrations in 2011 that laid the groundwork for the Hamas-Fatah unity agreement I’ve been tracking this week commented on the political sectarianism that is undermining a deal that was always a tenuous proposition:

In Gaza many of the organizers support Fatah and want to end the rule of Hamas. In the West Bank, they want to oust Fatah. And they both used March 15 and afterwards to try to get what they want.

This contest of wills and patronage was clearly illustrated three weeks ago when Hamas presented its “conditions” for becoming part of a unity government, conditions that Fatah partisans – even if they were willing to defy Israeli and American pressure – would balk at because of the key ministries Hamas was demanding control over. The talks in Cairo that were supposed to mark the next step in Palestinian reconciliation are now on hold, and spokesmen from both parties are blaming each other for the collapse of talks.

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Israel vs. Iran: the lolcats wars

The cat pictures are the newest permutations of a social media campaign started over the weekend by two Israeli graphics designers that is called “We Love Iranians,” aimed at raising public awareness against the steady march to war the Likud government has been taking Israel on towards Iran.

The meme has “gone viral” in Israel, and while it’s spawned a number of sensible parodies (such as noting that the same tone was on display for Iraqis to hear - if they could hear over the ack-ack - by George W. Bush in 2003) and is inevitably going to lead to a “slacktivism” discussion, at least it’s demonstrating that public opinion against war with Iran in Israel is growing. Israel is ostensibly a democracy, so the best case outcome is that all those national security specialists and “cultural icons” who have been keeping quiet realize there is a base of domestic support for them to tell Bibi to can the Holocaust references.

More comforting, though, has been news that 1) Mossad once again concludes with the U.S’s intelligence services that Iran has neither the capability nor political will to pursue weaponization now, 2) some Iranian leaders are saying they’re willing to make concessions at the new P5+1 roundtable, and 3) Netanyahu has failed to convince his kitchen cabinet that he knows what he is talking about on Iran, and considering some of the people in that cabinet, that is saying something — not least because one of the skeptics is in fact the Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister, a post Netanyahu’s Likud party established in 2009 to have a kind of go-to-guy looking over Shin Bet and Mossad, a la Dick Cheney.

Still, no one is out of the woods yet, Mossad assessment and grinning Israeli couples’ pinterest tags aside. Netanyahu has deliberately set the bar for Iranian concessions so high it’s difficult to believe progress can be made in talks1 - i.e., asking the Iranians to do things no other NPT signatory is expected to do when Israel itself isn’t even an NPT signatory - and the U.S. has made it pretty clear it will take military action if it feels “compelled” to do so in the region by either an Israeli or Iranian “action.”


  1. Worse, he is now trying to play the 2005 Gaza withdrawal card against what passes as the Israeli political left over Iran - clearly, he wants to shut their tepid criticism down by any means at his disposal.  ↩

The Economist on Netanyahu

Israel, Iran and America: Auschwitz complex | The Economist

The American-Israeli relationship now resembles the sort of crazy co-dependency one sometimes finds in doomed marriages, where the more stubborn and unstable partner drags the other into increasingly delusional and dangerous projects whose disastrous results seem only to legitimate their paranoid outlook. If Mr Netanyahu manages to convince America to back an attack on Iran, it is to be hoped that the catastrophic consequences will not be used to justify the attack that led to them.

Mr Netanyahu thinks the Zionist mission was to give the Jewish people control over their destiny. No people has control over its destiny when it is at war with its neighbours. But in any case, that is only one way of thinking of the Zionist mission. Another mission frequently cited by early Zionists was to help Jews grow out of the "Ghetto mentality". Mr Netanyahu's gift to Mr Obama shows he's still in it.

One of the advantages of my injury is that it did not allow me much time on a computer to follow the AIPAC festival of allegiance (strangely reminiscent of allegiance ceremonies in Arab monarchies) in Washington. But this piece nails Netanyahu's responsibility for so much, it's worth reading in full.

Palestinian reconciliation: Hamas' opening gambit

Hamas and Fatah leaders have been meeting Cairo this week to continue hammering out the details of the third unity agreement they’ve tried to reach in the past five years. The agreement would give Mahmoud Abbas the authority to appoint a transitional cabinet, sidelining Hamas and, in theory, his own Fatah party. Officially, Hamas’s top leaders - Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh - have committed to them. But Al-Ahram, Egypt’s state-owned daily, is reporting that Hamas is determined to secure their own concessions from Abbas in exchange for allowing him to assume the post of interim prime minister. It is not clear which Hamas leaders are pushing these measures, though if there is a concerted effort from within the group, I would not be surprised to see the name of their #2 man in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahhar, pop up.
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A point of clarification on US aid to Egypt and peace with Israel

It has been much-reported that Muslim Brotherhood spokesman / head of parliamentary foreign relations committee Essam al-Erian threatened to review the peace treaty with Israel should aid be cut. See for instance:

In the clearest of multiple Brotherhood statements on the subject, Essam al-Erian, who is chairman of the Parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the aid was ''one of the commitments of the parties that signed the peace agreement, so if there is a breach from one side it gives the right of review to the parties''.

 

''We will be harmed,'' he added, ''so it is our right to review the matter.''

Other Muslim Brotherhood leaders have repeated the argument that a cut in aid could lead them to review the treaty, or that such a cut would be in breach of the treaty.

To my knowledge, this has no basis in law. The MB may want to review the peace treaty, as many others in Egypt want to, in order to renegotiate the degree to which the military can operate in Sinai. There are good reasons to do so in order to gain better control of the Peninsula. But the aid has nothing to do with the treaty. This was confirmed recently by Jimmy Carter when he was in Cairo, and you can check the text of the treaty itself.

Generally speaking, there is a confusion of terms on this issue.

  • The 1978 Camp David negotiations led to the drafting of a broad set of principles known as the Accords, that would look at a global solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis, including its Israeli-Palestinian component. While signed by the US, Egypt and Israel, the accords were never implemented, largely because the Israelis did not want them to be.
  • The 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt delineated borders, paved the way for the return of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, and imposed restrictions on military activity in Egypt. It does not contain any provisions for aid.
  • An aid relationship exists between Israel and the US and Egypt and the US (with the latter since 1975). It was informally framed after Camp David as partly a reward for the peace, and partly to ensure that Israel would get proportionally more aid than Egypt and be helped by the US to retain a military edge. These terms were negotiated, and later renegotiated between the militaries and governments of the three countries, but there is nothing in the treaty itself that obliges the US to disburse aid of any kind to either country.

So when the Brothers make threats about a cut in aid leading to the collapse of the treaty, they either don't know what they're talking about or are making baseless threats. And moreover, by linking aid to the treaty, they are in effect suggesting that Egypt's policy towards Israel is indeed up for sale, and that they will gladly take the money to remain quiet on Egypt-Israeli relations. Is this what they meant to say, after having spent much of the last three decades denouncing the treaty and Egypt's slavish acquiescence to pro-Israel US policies?

Enquiring minds want to know.

The domestic and external politics of Palestinian reconciliation

In theory, the unity agreement announced in Doha by Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and the outgoing Khaled Mashaal of Hamas is still going forward, now that Hamas’ Gazan Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has accepted the provision that will make Abbas the interim prime minister of the unity government. Abbas and Mashaal have further agreed to meet in Cairo later this month to set a date for a presidential election and new legislative elections for the Palestinian National Council. This would be third major attempt by the two parties to pursue a reconciliation agreement since their violent split in 2007. An effort announced in 2008 never materialized, and another round of talks that began after Operation Cast Lead collapsed in November 2010; this current round of talks comes from a May 2011 agreement.

The political calculus that has led to this latest handshake between Mashaal and Abbas is succinctly summarized by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Mustaqbal: Abbas “is now convinced that the negotiations with the Netanyahu cabinet are nothing but a waste of time,” while Mashaal “believes that his political future is now directly connected to the implementation of the reconciliation.” Or, as Tobias Buck simply puts it, Hamas is grasping at a chance for “international legitimacy and leadership of the Palestinian movement.”

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Finally, PA kicks back against Israel's Hasbara

A Jerusalem-based correspondent forwarded me the email below — it's a new initiative by the PLO Delegation to the United States to track anti-Palestinian incitement in Israeli media and society and publicize it to American journalists, officials and politicians. Let's hope this works and gets some attention on the issue — or will the politicians decide to ignore this?
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Love under Apartheid

Apartheidheartsmall

Ethan (who drew the above cartoon) writes:

I am writing to spread a very cool project this Valentine's Day to which I am proud to have contributed a very small amount: a new website, Love Under Apartheid, a space for Palestinians to tell their stories of how Israeli policies of separation and apartheid have kept them from having a happy Valentine's Day.

You can check out the introductory video to the project at, of all places, FunnyOrDie.

And view the video testimonies at www.loveunderpartheid.com and find them on Facebook.

You can also follow the twitter hashtag #LoveUnderApartheid.

Dunne & Nawaz: US should not repeat Pakistan mistakes in Egypt

From a NYT op-ed by Michele Dunne and Shuja Nawaz:

A dismayed Congress has attached conditions to future military assistance to Egypt (now $1.3 billion a year), requiring the Obama administration to certify that the military government is maintaining peace with Israel, allowing a transition to civilian rule and protecting basic freedoms — or to waive the conditions on national security grounds — if it wants to keep aid flowing.

The Egyptian military is clearly not meeting at least two of those three conditions right now. Consequently, the Obama administration should not certify compliance, nor should it invoke the national security waiver by arguing that Egyptian-Israeli peace is paramount and that Egypt’s military is the only bulwark against Islamist domination of the country — because both of these arguments are deeply flawed.

First, hardly anyone in Egypt favors war with Israel, and a freeze or suspension of American aid would not change that. Second, continuing support to an Egyptian military that is bent on hobbling a liberal civil society would only strengthen Islamist domination. Islamist groups won some 70 percent of seats in the recent parliamentary elections, but they will now face tremendous pressure to solve the deep economic and political problems that caused the revolution.

In Egypt, as in Pakistan, the ultimate solution is a peaceful transfer of power to elected, accountable civilians and the removal of the military’s overt and covert influence from the political scene. At a minimum, Egypt should establish the clear supremacy of the civilian government over the military and allow an unfettered civil society to flourish.

Washington should suspend military assistance to Egypt until those conditions are met. Taking that difficult step now could help Egypt avoid decades of the violence, terrorism and cloak-and-dagger politics that continue to plague Pakistan.

An excellent argument I wholeheartedly agree with. Glad to see Dunne – one of the better Egypt experts and policy advocates in Washington – take this line. We chatted last February or so and I was saying the same thing but she thought it would be unwise to punish the generals when they had just refused to protect Mubarak. I'm glad she has come around. It's also important to see here, at least implied, an echo of the argument I have been making for a year for the decoupling of Camp David from the US-Egypt relationship. The idea that the US has been bribing Egypt to stop it from going to war with Israel has always been absurd – under Mubarak and today.

The BBC censors the word "Palestine"

This press release from the Palestine Campaign beggars belief...

PRESS RELEASE
for immediate release: 31st January 2012 *
*BBC Trust rules in favour of censoring ‘Palestine’

The BBC has admitted it was ‘overcautious’ in editing the word ‘Palestine’ from an artist’s performance on Radio 1Xtra and has said it is ‘looking to learn’ from the way it handled the situation.

However, in a ruling released today (31/01/12), the BBC Trust said the final content that was broadcast on the Charlie Sloth Hip Hop M1X – a music programme – was not biased and therefore did not breach its editorial guidelines.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has spent eight months trying to find out why the decision was made to censor the lyrics of a freestyle performance by the rapper, Mic Righteous. Appearing on the Charlie Sloth show in February 2011, he sang: ‘I can scream Free Palestine for my beliefs’.

BBC producers replaced the word ‘Palestine’ with the sound of breaking glass, and the censored performance was repeated in April on the same show.

Amena Saleem, of PSC, said: ‘In its correspondence with us, the BBC said the word Palestine isn’t offensive, but ‘implying that it is not free is the contentious issue’, and this is why the edit was made.

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