It Wasn’t Just a European War

Shehryar Fazli, in the LA Review of Books, looks at new books commemorating the anniversary of World War I and highlights the war's Middle Eastern importance:

Certainly, World War I was a European war in its authorship, and it is true that the number of dead in Europe far exceeded casualties anywhere below the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the Ottoman Empire played a crucial role in the way the war began and its outcome. If Europe was to be recast, so too was the Middle East. If the war and its aftermath prepared the ground for Hitlerism and a second world war, so too did it beget the Arab-Israeli and other Middle Eastern conflicts.
In one sense, the story of the First World War begins with the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Not only did this decline produce the vital game piece of an independent Serbia, but Italy’s successful 1911 war with Turkey over Libya, a major Ottoman province, left the bleeding empire vulnerable to further attack, and ultimately inspired the Balkan states of Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece to launch what came to be known as the First Balkan War in October 1912. This in turn led to a Second Balkan War in June 1913. The resulting new order in southern Europe created, in Clark’s words, “a set of escalatory mechanisms that would enable a conflict of Balkan inception to engulf the continent within five weeks in the summer of 1914.” As for the war itself: the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans, launched in June 1916, became anything but “a sideshow of a sideshow.”

Gaul, Caesar, Afghanistan and the US army

Gaul, Caesar, Afghanistan and the US army

From Abu Muqawama who just read Caesar's Commentaries, which is a great book I'm surprised he hasn't read before:

Caesar very rarely sent green units into the offensive. By the fourth and fifth year of the campaign, he is still making those legions which were the last to be raised in Italy responsible for guarding the freaking baggage. He relies over and over again on those legions -- most especially the Tenth -- that have proven themselves in combat in Gaul.

. . .

The cultures, politics, tribes and peoples of Afghanistan are at least as complex as those of ancient Gaul, yet we Americans are so arrogant to think that we can send officers there with no experience and, owing to our superior knowledge of combat operations, watch them succeed. We will then send units which have never deployed to Afghanistan to partner with Afghan forces and wonder why they do not get along.

This is madness. The casual arrogance with which the U.S. military has approached the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has a direct relation to the difficulty with which we have fought each war. That we think we can send a commander to Afghanistan with no prior knowledge of Afghanistan and watch him be successful in the eleventh year of the conflict shows that after eleven years of conflict, we really don't know too much about Afghanistan. And we might not know too much about conflict either.

He also has a rant on Fisk there, which is always fun, and deserved in this case of moral equivalency between the Syrian army — which has underwritten regime repression in Syria for 40 years — and the FSA's own atrocities. Too bad because Fisk did some valuable reporting embedded with the Syrian army in the last week.

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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 to Nubar Street

I went down to the warzone near the Interior Ministry this morning around 9am. There were a lot fewer people, but still a few hundreds out (no doubt their numbers will increase throughout the day.) The fighting stopped last night on Mansour Street, but seems to be moving to a second front on Nubar Street one block over. Once again I got close to the ministry as conscripts were eating their breakfast and cleaning crews were coming in and there are more truck-fulls of Central Security Forces and Army APCs. Everyone was just loitering around, the on the frontline barricades a few CSF were standing guard.

To get around the barricades you have to go around on the sidestreets of the Abdin neighborhood, and you see pretty much the same thing on the hand. Protestors having breakfast (it's amazing that even in the thick of the fighting the ambulant salesman are still there, selling sticky sesame-studded date bread and other goods), cleaning crews (one rather amusingly wearing a Halliburton uniform) and of course TV camera crews. The crowds, as they were, seemed to have moved to Nubar Street but were not engaged in any clashes when I was there, keeping a distance from the CSF barricade. Noubar Street is narrower than Mansour Street and appears to have seen some looting, notably at a small computer mall complex whose windows have been broken. People seemed to think that was the new center of fighting, and despite the calm, said there were sporadic clashes.

I thought that since the world is leaning about Downtown Cairo's street names, some history might be in order. The neighborhhood were the clashes have taken place is an administrative one and contains several ministries other than the interior ministry, as well as parliament, and the nearby (lower on Mansour Street, across from the ministry) beautifully renovated new office of the Freedom and Justice Party's MPs.

Mohammed Mansour Pasha was a two-time prime minister of Egypt, first as a member of the Liberal Constitutional Party and then for the Wafd. 

Mansour Pasha could refer either to an Ottoman Sultan of Egypt (1642-44) or, more likely, a short-lived Minister of the Interior (1879) according to the ministry's own website. This is more likely because the neighborhood dates from that period and most streets bare the names of contemporary officials.

Nubar PashaNubar Pasha was Egypt's first prime minister (and served two more times) and an Armenian from Izmir, in modern Turkey. He was quite a fascinating character, and is associated with Khedive Ismail's accumulation of debts from the construction of the Suez Canal and lavish spending (such as building palaces to entertain Napoleon III's wife, Eugenie) that eventually brought Egypt under direct British control. Nubar Pasha collaborated with France and Britain, Egypt's biggest lenders, to reduce the power of the Khedive and begin the transformation of the country into a constitutional monarchy.

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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.

The history of Egypt's revolution

Jack Shenker has a fine piece in the Guardian on The struggle to document Egypt's revolution:

On any given evening Cairo's Tahrir Square creaks under the weight of its own recent history: trinket-sellers flog martyrs' pendants, veterans of the uprising hold up spent police bullets recovered from the ground, and an ad hoc street cinema screens YouTube compilations of demonstrators and security forces clashing under clouds of teargas. This is collective memory by the people, for the people – with no state functionaries around to curate what is remembered or forgotten.

"Egyptians are highly sensitive about official attempts to write history and create state-sponsored narratives about historical events," says Khaled Fahmy, one of the country's leading historians. "When Hosni Mubarak was vice-president in the 1970s he was himself on a government committee tasked with writing – or rather rewriting – the history of the 1952 revolution to suit the political purposes of the elite at that time. That's exactly the kind of thing we want to avoid."

Fahmy knows only too well about the inherent tension between acts of mass popular participation and official attempts to catalogue and record them. Less than a week after the fall of Mubarak, the professor received a phone call from the head of Egypt's national archives asking him to oversee a unique new project that would document the country's dramatic political and social upheaval this year and make it available for generations of Egyptians to come.

"I was initially very reluctant," says Fahmy. "I didn't want people to think we were producing one definitive narrative of the revolution. But then I started thinking about the possibilities, and suddenly I got excited."

Khaled Fahmy, who is quoted above, is a noted historian of Ottoman Egypt (at AUC, formerly at NYU) and I've had the occasion to talk to him about the project. In a few months we intend to interview him about it, perhaps for the podcast.

Importantly the story includes links to websites documenting the revolution, which are reproduced after the jump.  

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History for the people

A flyer from the committee to document the January 25 Revolution, found on the website www.tahrirdocuments.org

I have a piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a new committee led by historian Khaled Fahmy in collaboration with Egypt's National Archives to create a digital, accessible archive of the January 25 Revolution. To understand how groundbreaking this could be you have to realize to what an extent all official archives in Arab countries are treated like secrets of state, accessible only to specialists (if and when they pass an endless security clearance process). And that official documents about the most important decisions and events of the 20th century have simply never been made available: 

The country's modern rulers have created a near-total information vacuum about their decision-making.

By law, documents are supposed to be stored in the relevant ministries for 15 years, then held at the National Archives for another 15 years before being made public. In practice, however, only the most mundane administrative papers are ever deposited in the archives. Official documents dealing with wars or policy decisions of any import are simply never made available. "At this point," says Mr. Fahmy, "we don't even know if they exist."

Egyptians are rarely if ever afforded a glimpse into the deliberations of their presidents, ministers, and military commanders. And that is the case across the autocratic regimes of the Arab world. The Arab-Israeli wars, for example, have been documented almost entirely on the basis of Israeli archives.

That's one reason the committee will "try to gather as much as possible for future generations," says Mr. Fahmy, "to make available to them what hasn't been available to us."

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Omar Mukhtar, icon of the Libyan uprising

Omar Mukhtar

This is a first contribution by Arabist reader J Hammond.

On social media associated with the Libyan uprising of 2011, two images have become ubiquitous. One is the pre-Qaddafi flag of the Libyan monarchy. The other is the image of Omar Mukhtar, a guerrilla leader killed by the Italians in 1931. For Libyans, Omar Mukhtar has become what Mohamed Bouazizi symbolized for the Tunisians or Mohammed Khaled Said for Egyptians.  

Such a powerful symbol is Omar Mukhtar that 79 years after his execution both the protestors and the Qadddafi regime have battled for his legacy. Qhaddafi mentioned Omar Mukhtar during his rambling hour and half speech on February 21st. Qhaddafi’s  first speech as chief September 16th, 1969 as the first date to give his presidential address to mark the 38th anniversary of his death. Qhaddafi also financed a major Hollywood film about Omar Mukhtar titled “The Lion of the Desert” and starring Anthony Quinn. The film was released in 1981 and portrays Omar Mukhtar as an honorable fighter and hero. The film was banned the following year in Italy and not shown on Italian television until Omar Ghaddafi’s official state visit in 2009.  A 2009 Vanity Fair article points out that Qaddafi pinned an image of Omar Mukhtar to his uniform when meeting Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi.

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Parallels: The Cairo Fire

This week I have been reminded of the January 1952 Cairo fire, a riot by poor Egyptians targeting foreigners and the wealthy that was manipulated by the police and the British. From the conclusion of Anne-Claire Kerboeuf's article in Cairo Times, Volume 6 Issue 20:

More than just a fire, 26 January 1952 was an unprecedented national mobilization that for the most part was organized at the grassroots of Egyptian society. That mobilization was undermined by political, economic and social rivalries among the Egyptian elite that were exploited by the British. Those rivalries weakened the whole state apparatus inasmuch as high level officials used them for their own political intrigues and to satisfy their personal interests.
Thus, Fouad Serageddin allowed the organization of a riot by paying Ahmad Hussein and did not take elementary precautions to contain the predictable overflow of 26 January. Notably, he deployed very few police officers in Cairo ahead of the demonstrations, unlike the governor of Alexandria. As for King Farouq, he kept 800 police and army chiefs in his palace during the riot for a banquet to celebrate the birth of his son. He also delayed giving the army to go-ahead to intervene.
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Hulagu does Baghdad

I highly recommend you take the time this fascinating New Yorker piece on the Mongols and the sacking of Baghdad. An excerpt:

On January 29, 1258, Hulagu’s forces took up a position on the eastern outskirts of Baghdad and began a bombardment. Soon they had breached the outer wall. The caliph, who had been advised against escaping by his vizier, offered to negotiate. Hulagu, with the city practically in his hands, refused. The upshot was that the caliph and his retinue came out of the city, the remainder of his army followed, they laid down their arms, and the Mongols killed almost everybody. Hulagu told Baghdad’s Christians to stay in a church, which he put off-limits to his soldiers. Then, for a period of seven days, the Mongols sacked the city, killing (depending on the source) two hundred thousand, or eight hundred thousand, or more than a million. The Mongols’ Georgian Christian allies were said to have particularly distinguished themselves in slaughter. Plunderers threw away their swords and filled their scabbards with gold. Silver and jewels and gold piled up in great heaps around Hulagu’s tent. Fire consumed the caliph’s palace, and the smoke from its beams of aloe wood, sandalwood, and ebony filled the air with fragrance for a distance of a hundred li. (A li equalled five hundred bow lengths—a hundred li was maybe thirty miles.) So many books from Baghdad’s libraries were flung into the Tigris that a horse could walk across on them. The river ran black with scholars’ ink and red with the blood of martyrs.

The stories of what Hulagu did to the caliph vary. One says that Hulagu toyed with him a while, dining with him and discussing theology and pretending to be his guest. A famous account describes how Hulagu imprisoned the caliph in a roomful of treasure and brought him gold on a tray instead of food. The caliph protested that he could not eat gold, and Hulagu asked him why he hadn’t used his money to strengthen his army and defend against the Mongols. The caliph said, “That was the will of God.” Hulagu replied, “What will happen to you is the will of God, also,” leaving him among the treasure to starve.

Hulagu takes the Caliph

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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.

The Hyksos

Very early this morning I put up a post about this story on the use of radar technology at Tel al-Dabaa. I mistook that place for Dabaa, which is about 300km further east and the site of Egypt's future nuclear power plant, and so my post made no real sense and I took it down. In case you saw it, forget what you saw. If you didn't, good. And thanks M. for pointing out my error!

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.

Achcar on the Mufti of Jerusalem

When in New York recently I saw this book around and was tempted to buy it. I now regret not doing so! But Gilbert Achcar has a piece in Le Monde Diplomatique, highlighting the (mis)use of the sorry affair of the Mutfi of Jerusalem's pro-Nazi leanings by Israelis, usually to tarnish all Palestinians with some kind of responsibility of the Holocaust. I had read about the Mufti's generally terrible politics (on Palestinian as well as Jewish issues) in the 1930s and 1940s in Rachid Khalidi's excellent The Iron Cage so this came as no surprise, but I didn't know the extent to which Israel had exploited him:

But the Zionists claimed the mufti was an official representative of the Palestinians and Arabs and in 1945 demanded (without success) that he be handed over to the international military tribunal at Nuremberg, as if he had been a key part of the Nazi genocide machine. Articles, pamphlets and books were produced to present Husseini as a candidate for prosecution. The mufti served a symbolic purpose, allowing the Zionists to claim that the Palestinians shared responsibility for the genocide, and justify the creation of a “Jewish state” on the territory of their homeland.

This motive became a constant in the propaganda of the state of Israel. It explains the extraordinary importance accorded to the mufti in the Holocaust memorial museum, in Jerusalem. Tom Segev observes that the wall dedicated to al-Husseini gives the impression of a convergence between the Nazis’ genocide plans and Arab hostility towards Israel. Peter Novick points out that the entry on the mufti in the Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, published in association with Yad Vashem (the Holocaust remembrance authority), is much longer than those on Himmler, Goebbels or Eichmann, and only a little shorter than that on Hitler.

That last bit is quite incredible!

On a related note I am currently reading Ian Johnson's A Mosque in Munich, which is about American recuperation of Muslim allies of the Nazis (mostly from dissident Soviets from the republics that are majority Muslim — the Stan countries). It's fascinating so far, although Johnson's grasp of Islamism is weak when he discusses the Egyptian Muslim Brothers. More about that later.

P.S. Achcar also did a podcast for the Diplo.

 

Links for Jan.05.10

akhbare-rooz (iranian political Bulletin) | List of organizations considered "subversive" by Iranian ministry of inteligence [in Farsi]. ✪ The Daily Star - The Gaza scorecard, one year later | Rami Khouri. ✪ Israel approves east Jerusalem building project | Yet another new settlement. ✪ Library of Congress on Islam in Early America « Anonymous Arabist وين الناس | Fascinating. ✪ Tweet freedom | On Twitter activism in Egypt, unfortunately confuses arabawy.org for arabist.net. ✪ Cairo's US Embassy is Worse by Far | Mamoun Fandy: "The embassy has become an embodiment of the meaning of disgracefulness in Cairo, in terms of people's behavior, rudeness, and impoliteness." ✪ gary's choices - The Decade's First Revolution? | Gary Sick on Iran. ✪ لا لحجب الإنترنت بالجزائر - Non à la censure de l'Internet en Algérie - No to Internet Censorship in Algeria Petition | Petition. ✪ Egyptian minister slams Al-Jazeera for 'instigating civil war' - Ynetnews | Over Gaza wall. ✪ Video: Gaza war: One year on, Palestinians struggle to rebuild life from the rubble | guardian.co.uk | ✪ CIA Bomber a Jihadi Blogger? — jihadica | Interesting background on Abu Dujana, as the bomber was allegedly known. ✪ Dear Metallica | Letter asking the metal band not to perform in Israel. ✪ Free Barghouti Now - Haaretz | OK. ✪ The Daily Nuisance | News From The Frontier | New online site from Israel/Palestine ✪ Three days in Iran - The Big Picture - Boston.com | Great pics of Iranian protests.
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Links for Dec.13.09 to Dec.16.09

â�© Egypt puts archives on Web to boost Arabic content | But what's the address? â�© Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities | Open Society Institute | Tons of interesting questions raised by this ground-breaking poll. â�© Abkhazia Is Recognized by Even Smaller Nauru - NYTimes.com | Sharqeya next? â�© Pro-Israel Lobby Group’s Iran Petition Features Lots of Questionable Names « The Washington Independent | Such as "Porn Sex Video" and Comfylovely". â�© LedgerGermane: Karzai Says Afghan Army Will Need Help Until 2024 | Yikes. â�© Future of US-Egypt Relations: A View from the Next Generation | Notes on another POMED event. â�© POMED Event: U.S. Military Assistance: Obstacle or Opportunity for Reform? | Steven Cook, Emile Hokayem, etc. some discussion of Egypt-US military relations. â�© Mideastwire.com | Zaitout: reports about Algeria-US agreement over temporary military bases | Handle with care. â�© British court issued Gaza arrest warrant for former Israeli minister Tzipi Livni | The Guardian | More of this please. â�© Nights to remember - The National Newspaper | Arabian Nights conference in NYU Abu Dhabi. â�© Obama's Big Sellout : Rolling Stone | Must-read Matt Taibbi story on Obama's bailout of Wall Street. â�© Al-Masry Al-Youm | Police raid home of prominent blogger | Wael Abbas sentenced to six months of prison in absentia for stealing his neighbors' internet??!?! â�© We will not bow to this Moroccan king | Paul Laverty and Ken Loach | Comment is free | The Guardian | Strongly worded op-ed for Aminatou Haidar. â�© David Ignatius - Jordan's ex-spy chief wasn't too good to be true | On former GID chief Saad Kheir - a dubious tribute. â�© Orientalism in Reverse | Brian Whitaker critiques Joseph Massad's "Gsy International" theory.
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Links for Dec.10.09 to Dec.12.09

Daily News Egypt - Editorial: The Illusive Metal Barrier | On Egypt's denial that a wall is being built.

BBC News - Egypt starts building steel wall on Gaza Strip border | Video report has some more details, but the whole thing is rather hazy.

Israel National Survey | Survery of Israeli attitudes on various topics.

Libya still jailing dissenters: Human Rights Watch | New HRW report.

'Egypt is one of the freest states in the entire Arab world' - The Irish Times - Sat, Dec 12, 2009 | Ismail Serageldin engages in apologia.

Palestinian leader speaks from prison - CNN.com | Interview with Marwan Barghouti.

Swiss Man Builds Minaret to Protest Ban - WaryaTV | Good for him.

Israel court: Deported Palestinian student can't return - CNN.com | Everyday misery from Gaza blockade.

ENVIRONMENT: Darkness at Noon Clouds Cairo Skies - IPS ipsnews.net | On the black cloud - which I thought was not as bad this year.

The Language of Food | Ceviche and Fish & Chips | Fascinating on the Persian and Arab origin of escabeche, ceviche, and fish and chips.

The Language of Food | Ceviche and Fish & Chips | Fascinating on the Persian and Arab origin of escabeche, ceviche, and fish and chips.

‘Sultan wants children to be God-fearing’ | The ridiculousness of the al-Sauds.

No real "freeze" on settlement: Israeli minister - Yahoo! News | No kidding: "JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The population of Jewish settlements in the West Bank could grow by 10,000 in the coming year despite a declared "freeze" on Israeli building in the occupied territory, an Israeli Cabinet minister has said."

On Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Lobby: A response to Peter Beinart | Walt on Obama's Afphan policy and the lobby.

Middle East Report 253 contents: Apartheid and Beyond | New issue.

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Links for 11.16.09 to 11.18.09

ضغوط أمريكية لزيادة الغاز المصري لإسرائيل وخفض أسعاره - بوابة الشروق | al-Shurouk reports that US is asking Egypt to increase gas deliveries to Israel, and at cheaper price. ✪ US rebukes Israel on settlement plans - Yahoo! News | ... but will do nothing about it. ✪ Nubian fury at 'monkey' lyric of Arab pop star Haifa Wehbe | World news | The Guardian | The Haifa Wehbe / Nubian scandal. ✪ The Obama admin is selling the peace process, but the press is not buying it. | Phil Weiss has surreal transcript from State Dept. over new settlements. ✪ Readability - An Arc90 Lab Experiment | Very nice bookmarklet for reading long articles. ✪ Palestinians say they will ask UN to recognise state - Yahoo! News | Doesn't the UN already accept previous resolutions with the 1967 line? Regarding my previous comment on US senators' call for a veto, the Palestinians do appear to want to take it to UNSC, not UNGA. ✪ Le Figaro - Conjoncture : Le grand Monopoly mondial des terres agricoles | Nice chart accompanying this article on the sale of arable land to food importing nations. ✪ U.S. "would veto" Palestinian state move: Senators - Yahoo! News | I suspect recognition by the UN would take place by the General Assembly, not the Security Council, so that turncoat Lieberman can take his veto and shove it... ✪ The pro-Israel lobby in Britain: full text | openDemocracy | Report on UK Israel lobby by documentary filmmaker Peter Oborne. ✪ FT.com - Inflation rears its head again in Egypt | Mostly affecting food prices ahead of Eid. ✪ Egyptian Blogger Beaten | "During the mayhem of a major soccer match, Egyptian blogger Kareem el-Shae’r was kidnapped and beaten. El-Shae’r moderates the Free Egypt blog and is a member of Ayman Nour’s el-Ghad party and the April 6 Youth movement. For his activism, el-Shae’r has been arrested several times and beaten before. The Egyptian interior ministry refused to comment on the incident." ✪ Gaddafi hires 200 young Italian women – to convert them to Islam | And tries to convert them to Islam. ✪ Israel must end Gaza blockade, evictions, alleged abuse of Palestinian children - Ban | "Israel should end the blockade of Gaza, cease evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes, and ensure that the rights of children are respected and that all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are promptly investigated and perpetrators prosecuted, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in an annual report released today." ✪ Yemen Finds Dreamland of Architecture - NYTimes.com | On Yemen's traditional architecture. ✪ The Arabs by Eugene Rogan | Book review | The Guardian | Robert Irwin reviews this book, which I am currently reading.
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Links for 11.09.09 to 11.12.09

Report: Angelina Jolie planning to adopt child from Syria - Haaretz - Israel News | Jolie and Pitt thinking of adopting an Iraqi refugee baby in Syria. They also met with Bashar and his wife, apparently. United Colors of Adoption... this will cause a stir. ✪ Israel & Palestine: Can They Start Over? - The New York Review of Books | Malley & Agha's latest, in which they criticize the two-state solution, criticize alternatives to it (notably one-state), and sketch out the alternative: a hudna, a long-term interim truce while work on fundamental questions is carried out. Not entirely convincing, too vague at times, but there's something interesting there nonetheless. I wish they could be more straightforward. ✪ UN: Gaza needs construction material before winter - Yahoo! News | Even greater humanitarian crisis looming. ✪ Palestinian borders could solve settlements row: Fatah - Yahoo! News | Muhammad Dahlan picks up Daniel Levy's line about deciding on borders. Worrying. ✪ Israeli flights over Lebanon break resolution: UN - Yahoo! News | "UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – All Israeli military flights over Lebanon break a resolution aimed at ending the 2006 hostilities between the two neighbors, a UN envoy said Tuesday." So let's have the UN set up air defenses, then! ✪ Abbas slams Israel on settlements at mass Arafat rally - Yahoo! News | Funny pic of Abbas alongside this story. Well he's shown he can have some balls, at least, and highlight the dismal failure of the Israelis and Americans on the settlement question. ✪ Israel mulls draft refugee law - Yahoo! News | "JERUSALEM (AFP) – A draft law stipulating that any Middle East peace treaty must mention compensation for Jews forced to leave Arab states has passed a preliminary reading in the Israeli parliament, a spokesman said on Wednesday." ✪ Gaza, Gilad Shalit, Hamas, and Israel : The New Yorker | Somewhat flawed piece by Lawrence Wright, but nice descriptions of the misery of Gaza. Too much Gilad Shalit for my taste. ✪ Arab Reform Bulletin - Brotherhood Faces Leadership Challenge | Ibrahim al-Hudaiby about the MB's internal dispute and its need to institutionalize decision-making. ✪ Memo From Riyadh - Influence of Egypt and Saudi Arabia Fades - NYTimes.com | An interesting story on Egypt and Saudi Arabia's dwindling relative power to influence regional affairs. Except I would not put Cairo and Riyadh in the same basket: Egypt is in absolute decline, Saudi in relative decline. Also interesting stuff on differences between the two on how to handle Syria. ✪ 6 Guantanamo detainees resettle in Palau Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English) | The absurdities of the war on terror: "KOROR, Palau (AP) - Six Chinese Muslims released from Guantanamo Bay but still wanted at home as separatists arrived Sunday on their new tropical island home of Palau after the tiny Pacific nation agreed to a U.S. request to resettle the men." ✪ Géopolitique des médias arabes (1/2) : Rotana, mondialisation et normalisation | Culture et politique arabes | First post in a series of the geopolitics of Arab media. This one largely focuses on Kingdom Holdings and Saudi Prince al-Waleed bin Talal. ✪ الرئيس جمال عبد الناصر، الصفحة الرئيسية | Gamal Abdel Nasser archives at the Alexandria Library. ✪ In Turkey, fertile ground for creationism - washingtonpost.com | On Islamist creationists in Turkey. ✪ Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Obituary Amin Howeidi (1921-2009) Vexed, not villainous | Gamal Nkrumah's obituary of former Egyptian spy chief Amin Howeidy.
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Links for 10.21.09

'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Nozette: Pollard, 2.0? | On the latest Israeli spy scandal in the US. ✪ "friday-lunch-club": Netanyahu refuses Kouchner's request to see Gaza's destruction ... | Gaza? What Gaza? ✪ To Earn HIs Nobel Prize, Obama Will Need a "Plan B" | Stephen M. Walt | "If I were President Obama (now there's a scary thought!), I'd ask some smart people on my foreign policy team to start thinking hard about "Plan B." What's Plan B? It's the strategy that he's going to need when it becomes clear that his initial foreign policy initiatives didn't work." ✪ ذاكرة مصر المعاصرة - الصحافة | Alexandria Library's online collection of historical Egyptian newspapers, including the first issue of al-Ahram (which was founded, it must be reluctantly noted, by Lebanese.) ✪ News Analysis - Painful Mideast Truth - Force Trumps Diplomacy - NYTimes.com | Painful Media Truth: For NYT, bias always trumps journalism. Look at the language used in this piece: Palestinian violence is "very bloody" and Israel carries out "military action." Israel's plans to attack Iran are considered as legitimate. And there is a mixing of terrorism and the attacks on Israel's "legitimacy" -- i.e. the legitimacy of its landgrabs, occupations and militarism. Pure hasbara. ✪ Israel, US start major joint air defence drill - Yahoo! News |
The exercise will test the Arrow (Hetz) system, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence), the ship-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defence System, as well as Patriot and Hawk anti-aircraft systems, media said. It will simulate the firing of long-range missiles from Israel's foes Iran, Syria and Lebanon, and towards the end it will include a "live" missile interception, reports said.
Matthew Yglesias » Bernstein on Human Rights Watch | A good retort to the latest silly attack on HRW (by one of its former chairman) "or having the temerity to hold Israel to the same standards of international humanitarian law to which it holds every other country." But this just points to the problem of bias in the higher echelons of HRW - among former and current staffers. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | No Fly Zone | Nice story looking at the recent airport detentions of various kinds of activists. ✪ Almasry Alyoum | Pope Shenouda: "I Support Gamal Mubarak" | What a nasty little man, and what disservice he does to his flock. I hope Copts flee the Orthodox Church en masse over this. ✪ Arab states consider joint counter-terror police unit | "Arabpol." Oh Lord Have Mercy. ✪ Egyptcarpoolers | A carpooling connecting website for Cairo. ✪ Saddam Interview | Transcripts of interviews with Saddam Hussein during his captivity in 2004.
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That was then: 23 July 1952

Yesterday was the 57th anniversary of the July Coup that brought the Free Officers' to power. Egypt is no longer a Free Officers' regime (i.e. led by a ideologically-guided vanguard of mid-level officers) and the "revolution" of July 1952 has petered out into institutional military rule combined with some semi-democratic, but dysfunctional, civilian institutions, as well as elements of a classic police state. The occasion is hardly celebrated by most Egyptians, and while the state press makes an effort at pageantry, many in the opposition lament this traumatic event that would have all kind of nefarious long-term consequences (although arguably it started, but failed to follow through, with a genuine social revolution in upward mobility). It also marks, importantly, a rare occurrence in the reassertion of Egyptian rule in a country long-ruled by foreigners or from abroad. The Guardian has republished the article it published the day after the coup:

Army dictates terms in Egypt

Originally published on 24 July 1952 Successful and Bloodless Coup The Egyptian Army yesterday organised a bloodless revolt and last night Aly Maher Pasha, a politician on whom the Army looked with favour, was installed as the "emergency Premier." Last night King Farouk entrusted him with the formation of a new Government. The declared purpose of the coup – which was carried out by troops, tanks, and planes – was to demand a purge in the High Command of the armed forces and in political life. General Naguib, the author of the coup, proclaimed himself Commander-in-Chief and he was confirmed in that post last night by King Farouk. A proclamation by General Naguib late last night said to-day's action has been completely successful and the Army was in control of the situation.
Reasons for Army's Discontent CAIRO, JULY 23 The first military coup in Egypt since the Arabi movement seventy years ago contains many puzzling features, and some people see a connection between the latest developments and the recent sudden exodus of Wafdist leaders for Europe. It is recalled that when a Wafdist youth organisation urged Serag el-Din Pasha to stay he said that he had been advised to leave quickly. It has long been known that the reverse in Palestine has rankled with younger officers, who felt that they had been betrayed by corruption which resulted in supplies of obsolete arms and ammunition. Recent charges of corruption and failure to change the old guard added to their discontent. Certain officers who supported the previous commander-in-chief, General Haider, were arrested during the night and unconfirmed reports say that there were some casualties among those who resisted. The first news of the Army's action was given to the public about breakfast time by the wireless, which broadcast an appeal to officers in the name of General Naguib. This said that "traitors" had been interfering with national affairs and had even dared to meddle with Army matters. The military had, therefore, decided to purify themselves of traitors and weaklings, confident in the support of all members of the armed forces. Tanks and armed guards surrounded the main barracks and government buildings while jet aircraft flew low overhead. There was no opposition and it was soon evident that the movement enjoyed overwhelming support. Later broadcasts amplified Naguib's earlier statement. It was explained that the traitors had conspired against the country and military affairs had been left in the hands of either ignorant, corrupt, or traitorous persons, which had compelled Army intervention.
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The Coca-Cola Bottling Plant

PR documentary, from the late 1940s or the early 1950s at the latest I would guess, on Coca Cola's bottling plant in Egypt. There's some great footage of upper class social club type people at the beginning and at the end, with a very modernist exposé on the state-of-the-art bottling facilities at the plant. If anything watch the last few minutes when the whole social club breaks into song. It's worth remembering that the Coca-Cola Company, which built the Egypt bottling plant in 1945, faced an Arab-wide boycott between 1967 and 1979. Some Arab countries had started a boycott of Coca-Cola as early as 1951, while Coca-Cola for a while did not want to anger Arabs by doing business in Israel, earning the condemnation of the likes of the Anti-Defamation League, which launched a campaign in the US accusing the company of anti-Semitism. The anger of the American Jewish community forced Coca-Cola to open a Tel Aviv franchise in 1966, which resulted in an Arab League boycott in 1967. Aside from Egypt where Coke returned in 1979, most Arab countries were Coke-less until 1991 -- the contexts respectively being Camp David and the launch of the Middle East peace process with the Barcelona conference. Coca-Cola continues to be the subject of frequent rumors because of the brand's strong identification with the US. I remember one when I arrived in Egypt in 2000, alleging that if you read the Coca-Cola label in a mirror it spelt out, in Arabic, "la Mohammed la Mekka" -- i.e. No Mohammed No Mecca". I tried it and must admit it's true there was some resemblance! Naturally, it's a coincidence. This is not a dig at Coke (like most people my age I drink plenty of the stuff, although I've cut down as I started to have to think about things like empty calories - I can't stand Diet Coke) but the spread of bottled soft drinks in countries like Egypt has greatly reduced the number of traditional beverages that were once ubiquitously sold on the street.
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60 Minutes on the Ashraf Marwan Affair

It came to my attention that these were autoplaying some browsers, click below to see videos. Part I:
Watch CBS Videos Online Part II:
Watch CBS Videos Online Part III:
Watch CBS Videos Online As they explain on CBS, this looks mostly at whether Ashraf Marwan, one of Nasser and Sadat's closest advisors, was a double agent selling information to Israel. Not so much information on his "murder" or new evidence pointing to who might be behind it.
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