More on Syria

Damascenes were clearly taking the threat of U.S. bombardment seriously this past week. As the UN CW investigators were leaving for Lebanon, Syrian state television replaced its usual diet of fashion and food puff pieces with talk show coverage on whether or not the U.S. would strike, as well as emergency broadcasting information (such as whether or not bakeries would be kept open). 

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Beinin on Egypt's workers

Joel Beinin has a new paper out at Carnegie on the labor movement in Egypt, his field of expertise for something like three decades at least now. He writes:

[W]orkers were quick to mobilize in the early stages of the groundswell that eventually unseated Hosni Mubarak, and they deserve more credit for his ouster than they typically receive. Soon after the uprising began, workers violated ETUF’s legal monopoly on trade union organization and formed the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU)—the first new institution to emerge from the revolt. Labor mobilization continued at an unprecedented level during 2011 and early 2012, and workers established hundreds of new, independent enterprise-level unions. They also secured a substantially higher minimum wage.

Yet, though the labor movement has made headway, problems persist. New unions face funding difficulties and the independent labor movement is internally divided. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF)—the ultimate power in Egypt since Mubarak’s demise—and ETUF have both repeatedly asserted their power to oppose independent unions and have scored some successes. The movement has a very limited presence in the emerging institutions of the post-Mubarak state and is thus left without much leverage to fend off attacks from its political opponents.

Going forward, the independent labor movement should consider looking beyond street protests over immediate grievances, where it has achieved its greatest successes, and begin training enterprise-level leaderships and forging political coalitions with sympathetic sections of the intelligentsia. Independent trade unions remain the strongest nationally organized force confronting the autocratic tendencies of the old order. If they can solidify and expand their gains, they could be an important force leading Egypt toward a more democratic future.

Timely reading considering a recent upsurge in labor actions across Egypt — in CairoMahalla al-KubraBeni SuefMarsa Matruh and elsewhere — and those are just from today. (via the two leading sources of Egypt labor info on Twitter, @3arabawy and @egystrikes.

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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.

Links for 08.22.09 to 08.30.09

Eric Hobsbawm's On Empire: when Hobsbawm writes, Angry Arab reads carefully | I just read this book and completely agree with Angry Arab's praise. ✪ Global BDS Movement | Website of the Boycott - Divestment - Sanctions movement. ✪ How settlements in the West Bank are creating a new reality, brick by brick | World news | The Guardian | Good story on the settlements by Rory McCarthy. ✪ Boycott Israel -- latimes.com | An Israeli's call. ✪ Privatization by other means: How the Public Transport sector was “murdered” at 3arabawy | How five years ago, eager to justify the privatization of public sector transport, the government stopped making spare parts available for Cairo's buses. Outrageous and worthy of more digging. ✪ Important Film | A cartoon for children against sexual harassment. ✪ Israeli watchdog sees no settlement freeze | "The construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank is continuing 'as usual', a group reported, despite the Israeli government's announcement that it has stopped initiating new housing projects." ✪ Ramadan under siege « In Gaza | On the pauperization of Gaza: there is food, because of the tunnels, but only for the few who can afford it. ✪ Mehdi Karoubi, un mollah atypique et réformateur, devenu le porte-parole de la contestation en Iran - Asie-Pacifique - Le Monde.fr | On the other reformist candidate in Iran. ✪ مدونة محمد بن عبد الكريم الخطابي | A new blog dedicated to the Moroccan anti-colonial hero Abdel Krim.
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Links for 08.18.09 to 08.19.09

THE CIA, SIBERIA AND THE $5M BAR BILL - New York Post | Funny story about a weird CIA operation to buy Russian choppers for use in Afghanistan, corruption, etc. ✪ Some of Obama's Actions Linked to Anti-Semitism - Special Report w/ Bret Baier - FOXNews.com | Israeli minister says Obama is anti-Semite. Does the word "anti-Semite" mean anything anymore? ✪ EGYPT: Union Eyes the Silver Bullet - IPS ipsnews.net | A nice detailed story on the property tax collectors by Cam McGrath, interviewing our own Hossam. ✪ Egypt's Next Strongman | Foreign Policy | My piece on Omar Suleiman. ✪ Mubarak on the Potomac | The Cable | Laura Rozen wonders whether the timing of the Mubarak visit, during a dead time in DC, isn't convenient to both sides who don't want a public airing out of democracy and governance issues -- for the Egyptians it lowers the profile, for Obama it avoids scrutiny on rights.
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Links for 08.17.09 to 08.18.09

Back to Business as usual | Hozz in DC, triumphant. ✪ Michele Dunne - Standing Up to Mubarak | Dunne has been one of the strongest voices among DC think-tankers shining a spotlight on the degradation of Egyptian politics and the problem posed by succession for US interests. Here she calls on Obama to voice strong concern about the succession process. I'll write more about this. ✪ Huckabee defies Obama | To think I once thought Huckabee was funny. But apparently he backs settlements and thinks Palestinians should go and get a country "elsewhere." Not amusing at all, Mr Failed Chat-Show Host. ✪ Middle East Diary | Rush transcript of Mubarak on Charlie Rose | Hannah has the goods. The man is obsessed with stability - he says it 14 times. ✪ Egypt labor strikes point to desperate conditions -- latimes.com | I wonder what this company's profit margin is: "They were told to be patient; salaries would rise and conditions improve. The men breathe phosphates, ammonia and other toxins six days a week. One died in a machine accident. Five were informed by doctors that exposure to chemicals has left them sterile."
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Links for 07.02.09 to 07.04.09

ANALYSIS / Loud-mouthed rabbi reflects IDF's religious bent - Haaretz - Israel News | Article on Brigadier General Avichai Ronski, the Israeli Army's chief rabbi. Interesting tidbits on how he brought the influence of settlers and religious right, was recruited by Dan Halutz to "bring the IDF closer to the sectors of the public that opposed the Gaza disengadgement." Egypt: See no strikes, hear no strikes, report no strikes | Menassat | Joe Mayton on how journalists are prevented from covering strikes in Egypt. What's the point of learning to type in Arabic | Bint Battuta of Bahrain on Microsoft's new Maren software, which allows you to type Arabic in Roman characters and have them converted on the fly (like Yamli but as part of OS.) She takes issue with the assumption that Arab users don't want to learn how to type with an Arabic keyboard. Daily News Egypt - On The Inheritance Of Power In Egypt | Osama El-Ghazali Harb, prominent Egyptian political scientist and former Gamal recruit to Policies Committee before he left in a huff, on inheritance of power and Gamal's schemes won't work. Amos Elon (1926–2009) - The New York Review of Books | Tony Judt on the Israeli writer. OPT: Gaza-Egypt crossing to open three days a month | Hamas, PA and Egypt agree to allow 3 days a month and move towards 2005 AMA; article details continuing difficulties for those making the crossing.
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