Embarassing MB statement about Jews, part 235

Fathi Shihab-Eddim: Holocaust 'is an industry that America invented' - UPI.com

Someone should have really briefed the US media on the long history of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial of the Muslim Brotherhood a while back — it's not exactly a surprise:

CAIRO, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- The Holocaust was a U.S. intelligence hoax and the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis actually moved to the United States, an Egyptian state news official said.

"The myth of the Holocaust is an industry that America invented," said Fathi Shihab-Eddim, a senior figure close to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi responsible for appointing the editors of all state-run newspapers.

"U.S. intelligence agencies in cooperation with their counterparts in allied nations during World War II created [the Holocaust] to destroy the image of their opponents in Germany, and to justify war and massive destruction against military and civilian facilities of the Axis powers, and especially to hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atomic bomb," Shihab-Eddim said.

He said the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis during World War II moved to the United States -- contradicting the accepted version of events.

I'm not sure what's more depressing about this — that these people believe this, that there is a wider cultivation of such views in Egypt, or that people with such skewed perceptions of reality have important positions,  in this case chairman of parliament's Culture, Tourism & Information Committee. 

Congress is going to love this!

The original IkhwanOnline article by Shihab Eddin is here (cached for posterity).

Mourning Gamal al-Banna

Gamal al-Banna died yesterday, at 92. The progressive Islamic thinker was the younger brother of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna. He took a markedly different direction form his more famous sibling, writing books such as "My Coptic Siblings;" "The Muslim Woman, Liberated by the Quran and Enchained by the Fuqaha';" and "A Refutation of the Call to Punish Apostasy." 

On the several occasions when I visited him in his office in Cairo -- the repository of a dense library with many rare old books, which he dearly loved -- he was funny, gracious and daring, the rare Islamic scholar with the guts to roundly dismiss Salafis as examples of "the outmost ignorance" and to tease: "The only way they can go back to the early days of Islam is if they can produce another Prophet Muhammad, another Abu Bakr." 

In our last interview, on the pledges of contemporary Islamist groups to "apply Sharia," he argued that the Sunnah (the enormous collection of reported sayings and doings of the Prophet, on which much Islamic jurisprudence is based) are largely unreliable; that correctly interpreted the Koran would almost never lead to the application of the hudud (the infamous corporal punishments such as the cutting of hands);  and that "another, better word of Sharia is justice [...] If a society implements freedom and justice, it can implement Sharia." 

I was looking forward to more conversations with him. After the jump, an excellent obituary and overview of his work from the Arab-West Report.

Read More

Egypt mulls new anti-protest law

Nour Youssef writes in about a new law being drafted by the Egyptian Ministry of Justice in response to the recent protests, as highlighted in this article [Ar]:

The ministry of justice drafts a law to regulate the right to protest and die as a direct result of it.

    Translated the dumbest points in it:

  1.  Police officers have the right to use more force and “not just shot cartouche in the air,” citing attacks on police stations as applicable examples. What’s odd is that they're just paraphrasing the same old “They are thugs attacking institutions, we are allowed to fire at them in defense” argument that's not only worn out, but already based on a law, making this one redundant. Of course, this could just be a pretense for officers to shoot whomever they want, claim they were committing a crime, and escape legal prosecution, but officers don't require assistance in that domain.  
  2.  Protesters must give a five-days’ notice to the MOI before demonstrating, as if protests just spontaneously pop into existence in Egypt. Not only does everyone with ears know about every protest, about a week or so in advance, they also know where it is going to take place, its name, its agenda, how many people are expected to show, and most importantly, that the MOI knows about it and is prepared for it. Human brains are supposedly hardwired to detect patterns, surely by now MOI should have noticed a correlation between angry people, Fridays and Tahrir Square.
  3.  A minimum distance of 500 meters must be maintained at all times between every protest and vital places, like presidential palaces, legislative bodies, police departments, etc. While it may not be a bad idea, it's probably unrealistic and will only serve as a reason to take advantage of point 1, which is a bad idea. Also, it introduces the question of whether or not the officers can even aim at eyes from such a long distance? 
  4. No protesting after 11 pm, those who protest anyway will be fined a minimum of 20,000 pounds. But rest assured it explicitly states that it will never exceed 50,000 pounds to express one's views at such an inconvenient hour, not in this free country.
  5. In the unlikely event that the interior minister doesn’t welcome a protest, he can ask a judge to review the case  and– if MOI has "good grounds," which means everything from quicksand to hot air – the judge will accordingly decide to cancel, postpone or relocate the protest in question. Obviously, there is no conceivable way to abuse this law. None whatsoever. 

Petition for Samer Shehata

Friend of the blog Ebie Dupont has alerted to me to the surprising denial of tenure of Samer Shehata at Georgetown's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. Samer, whom I have known for years, is a leading expert on Egypt and the author of a very well received book on labor politics in Egypt as well as the editor of an volume on contemporary Islamist movements in the region. Samer has my solidarity. Ebie writes:

I wanted to draw your readers' attention to a surprising and upsetting development in the world of Middle East academia. Friend of The Arabist Samer Shehata---the frequently-cited Georgetown scholar---was recently and inexplicably denied tenure by Georgetown University. Samer has been a key faculty member of the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies which is part Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service for over a decade, and his important work on contemporary Egyptian politics and the Muslim Brotherhood is more relevant now than ever. The politics/rationale behind Georgetown's decision are disheartening, to say the least. Samer's students and friends (mostly former graduates of the Center's Arab Studies Program) have opened a petition in the hopes of getting the university to acknowledge and hopefully reconsider this wrongheaded development. I hope that readers of The Arabist who are graduates of the Center/Georgetown and who appreciate Samer's work will sign the petition.

Who are the "snipers" in Port Said?

There have been some disturbing reports of what is described as sniper fire (although it may simply be gunfire, not actual snipers) in Port Said in the last two days. The videos below, some of which whose provenance cannot be verified, paint a rather scary picture

The one below, for instance, shows men dressed in black paramilitary garb - perhaps special forces - using a rooftop position to fire on people on the streets (or perhaps merely survey the streets). There is no way to confirm the place and date of the video, although it is an Egyptian flag that is seen and it is plausibly Port Said. The video is titled to suggest the armed men are Muslim Brothers, but there is nothing to confirm that.


Egypt Muslim Brotherhood Snipers Shoot People... by GWHH19

Another video, shot by Euronews and more credible, shows what appears to be a man in army uniform (light beige) monitoring the street from a window. It's not clear either what exactly is going on, because the street is not empty as you might expect if he was firing on people, but the journalists seem to be believe he is sniping from the windows. Nor, as in the video above, is it clear to me (as a military neophyte - if it's not in Call of Duty I don't know what I'm talking about) whether the weapon he has is anything like a sniper rifle. Help from military geeks appreciated here.

The military has denied using live ammunition in Port Said. But then the question is, who is, since local health authorities say most of those killed were killed by birdshot and live ammunition? Why were the 30 or so people killed during the 26 January attack on Port Said's prison buried without a proper autopsy and forensic report

The precedent of the last two years of investigations into such events does not leave one confident that we'll know anytime soon.

The Black Bloc

"The Black Bloc is the new black," blogger Zeinobia has said. These masked young anarchist (?) militias (?) had everyone intrigued and scratching their heads last weekend. The group, inspired by international protest tactics, said their mission was to protect protesters from Muslim Brotherhood attacks (such as those that took place in December outside the Presidential Palace). But -- as exemplified by the menacing motto on their Facebook page ("Retribution or Chaos"), and their methods (bringing tires to burn to block traffic) -- their posture is more than defensive. 

Quite a few activists were immediately skeptical of the group, noting that: 1) they will be easy to infiltrate 2) they will be cat-nip to the Islamist media 3) they will be disturbing to the general public. All three propositions are already seemingly been proven right. 

The supposedly anti-media Bloc has made several media appearances. In this interview, members describe methods that are very similar to those of hard-core soccer fans, or ultras, and say their one goal is to obtain justice for the martyrs of the last 2 years' violence. 

We've used every peaceful means since January 25 2011, to obtain retribution for the martyrs, but we were surprised by acquittals and postponements [of the court cases againt police officers], so this pushed us to escalate, because for every action there must be an equivalent reaction. 

Two (If I had to guess, 16-year-old) members also went on the private, "revolutionary" Tahrir TV channel and explained that their enemies are the Ministry of Interior and the Muslim Brotherhood, but that acts of violence and arson had been carried out by infiltrators not belonging to the group. The Facebook group itself immediately denied that the two masked teenagers on TV were members, and accused the station of staging the appearance to boost their audience. 

Of course, a sheikh has already given an inspiring example of religous scholarship and reportedly issued a fatwa saying it is a "legitimate duty" to kill members of the Bloc. And now Al Ahram is reporting that the prosecutor general -- as always prioritizing the greatest threats to the rule of law -- has ordered members of the group to be detained and questioned, and not-at-all hyperbolically described them as a "terrorist" organization.

The whole Black Bloc phenomenon is pretty silly. It's a symptom of the immaturity, lack of foresight and drift from peaceful (and seemingly fruitless) protesting to glamorized, indiscriminate, anti-authoritarian violence that has characterized a wing of the protest movement. And I fear these kids could end up paying a high price for their bravado. 

In Translation: On Mali's Islamist groups

There is a strange divide about the situation in Mali in the Arab world. Beyond the regular newspaper coverage and almost reflexive suspicion of “neo-colonialist” motives behind the French-led operations, my impression is that the average Egyptian or for that matter average Arab is not greatly concerned with this situation, especially at a time when many countries are embroiled in tense domestic developments. Yet, for Islamists, the Mali issue has been important: not only for the Salafis who protested outside the French embassy in Cairo and elsewhere, but also in the wider Islamist movement, including the Muslim Brothers. Just see Mohammed Morsi’s surprisingly vocal and repeated opposition to the intervention (I’ll have more on that soon) and the Brotherhood’s quite strong stance on the issue. They care about it way more than the average person or that the geostrategic importance of what happens in Mali (and is supported by the UN, Mali’s neighbors and its government) would suggest. It’s an interesting phenomenon now that they are in power, because it’s always clear whether their positions stem from opposition to interventionism or sympathies for some of the Islamist movements of northern Mali.

I came across the analysis below through a link on Twitter. I’m not sure where it originates, but the author is a well-known writer on Islamists (with Islamist sympathies himself) who edits the al-Islamiyoun website, which covers analyses of Islamist movements. I won’t comment on the content, as I am no specialist on the issue.

As always, our In Translation series is made possible by the wonderful Industry Arabic. If you need something -- anything! -- translated, please give them a go. They're really, really good.

Islamist Groups in Mali…An Overview

By Ali Abdel Aal, editor of al-Islamiyoun, Arabic original in Word format here.

In the past nine months, groups of “jihadist” Islamist groups have taken control of Mali’s northern areas, having captured them in the aftermath of an armed rebellion by the Tuareg people, a rebellion led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which seeks to separate the Northern region of Azawad from the rest of the country and to create an independent state.

Read More

Rape in Tahrir

On today's podcast, we talked about the disturbing lawlessness that is the result of Egypt's political polarization and of the erosion of trust in state institutions. We didn't discuss the escalating sexual violence against women that has become a regular phenomenon at protests in Egypt. 

I think I know, for myself, why I haven't brought this topic up much. It's because I find it too awful. Read this article, if you can bear to, by Egypt Independent's (as often, daring to speak of a subject skirted by most of the media) news editor Tom Dale. I've read too many similar accounts in the past. They make me heartsick. And I would rather not write, and not think, of these incidents because I am frightened and confused by them. And ashamed for Egypt, a country I've lived in 10 years now. These acts -- let's just call them what they are, these gang-rapes -- do not fit with my experience of Egypt, where the constant harassment, the plentiful misogyny have always been balanced by a sense of being, fundamentally, in safety, capable of calling on those around me to enforce a shared code of decency, to stop anything truly terrible from happening.

I'm in awe of Egyptian women -- and fellow female journalists -- who continue to expose themselves to pain and danger and humiliation to participate in and witness this country's history. I commend the groups that are trying to fight this. I myself no longer feel safe in Tahrir. I don't cover daily news these days, and I don't go there.

I hesitated before titling this post, because it puts a knot in my stomach to place those words together. Because I worry that this post will be used to smear the opposition, to make hateful generalizations about Muslim countries. But it is the correct term (the assaults in Tahrir, although they don't generally seem to involve full sexual intercourse, definitely meet the WHO definition of rape). And for the women who are victims of these attacks...I can't think of a worse betrayal of their trust in their fellow-citizens and in the promise of the revolution, of their belief that they can safely join a peaceful protest in a major square in their capital city. 

This is not a reflection on the revolution that took place two years ago -- it is evidence of how far, and into what a dark thicket, we have traveled since then. Who are the men doing this? It almost doesn't matter, because where and how these attacks are taking place -- amidst thousands of bystanders, in the heart of Cairo, in the open -- indicts everyone. 

Podcast #41: The Terrible Twos

More chaos and mayhem in Egypt over the weekend on the second anniversary of the January, 25 2011 uprising. Is Egypt becoming ungovernorable? What do the protestors want, can the opposition come up with a credible position, is the Muslim Brotherhood even interested in negotiating? Has the polarization created in late 2012 over the new constitution and Morsi's decree created an irreversible dynamic towards more repression, chaos, and instability? So many questions, so few clear answers — but we give it our best shot.

Show notes:

Podcast #41:

Two years of a shrunken state

January 25 marked the two-year anniversary of the start of Egypt’s democratic uprising. Tomorrow we mark another date that is nearly as significant -- the drastic reduction of state authority in Egypt. It is not year clear how it will be rebuilt.

Several things happened on January 28, 2011: Mubarak’s feared police force was defeated on Qasr al-Aini bridge and saw its stations stormed across the city, breaking the state’s aura of power and the police's own confidence. Both police and citizens now know that a neighborhood or city, if sufficiently outraged, can overrun stations again, as we have seen this weekend in Port Said.

Secondly, many of the estimated 800 to 1000 violent deaths during the uprising happened that day, often in chaotic circumstances that would make it hard to ever prove to courtroom standards who was responsible for their deaths -- even if prosecutors and police had done a proper job investigating. Over the next two years, judges’ inability to convict any top security officials helped break the state's credibility.  Egyptians have lost faith in their legal system -- a problem exemplified by the upheaval triggered by Port Said case, where pretty much any set of verdicts would be rejected, violently, by one side or the other.

Thirdly, the Muslim Brothers joined the uprising, giving the Islamist group enough revolutionary credentials to contest and win elections. This set the stage for the polarization that now dominates Egyptian politics and discourages political factions from cooperating, even in a limited way, to reconstruct the state.

After two years of seeing unrest grow familiar, it’s worth reflecting on just how remarkable today's status quo is: the central traffic circle in the national capital has for most of the past two years been a state-free protest zone and a theater for street fighting -- and a constant annoying reminder to Egypt's successive post-uprising governments that they are not fully in control of the country. Usually this kind of situation ends in some way after a few days, weeks, or in rare cases months: the protesters give up, or they achieve their goals, or there's a crackdown, or civil war, or people agree to resolve their differences in a formal institution with rules like a parliament, or something.

Nothing like this has happened in Egypt.

Read More

America and Egypt's presidential election

INTERVIEW: Brotherhood sec-general says Egypt's 'undemocratic' opposition losing street - Politics - Egypt - Ahram Online

Interesting acknowledgement by the Secretary-General of the Muslim Brotherhood of an American intercession on the presidential elections in this article. This has been denounced as the opposition's conspiracy theory, but such a call was made:

The US ambassador called SCAF hours before Morsi was declared president, something that triggered controversy.

The US wants to protect its interests. The US was of the view that if the deposed regime came to power once again through forgery a second revolution would break out. Its intercession was not out of bias to Mohamed Morsi but for the election results to be declared without forgery. SCAF and the Elections Committee had knowledge that Morsi was ahead. In this case America stood by legitimacy to avoid a revolution that may turn the country against it.

Rashidi: The Rule of the Brotherhood

Egypt: The Rule of the Brotherhood by Yasmine El Rashidi | The New York Review of Books

Yasmine's latest, on the November-December crisis:

When Morsi took office last summer, the big question on people’s minds was whether he would be able to separate himself from the Brotherhood, the group that had authorized, guided, and financed his presidential campaign. Aside from his symbolic act of resignation from his post in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, could a longtime member of a secret fraternity distance himself from the control of the Guidance Bureau without being kicked out or defamed in the way that Morsi’s Islamic rival Aboul Fotouh had been the summer before?

By this winter, the public seemed to accept the fact that there was no alternative to Morsi’s Brotherhood running the show. As a source close to the Brotherhood’s leaders told me, “Morsi is simply overseeing the presidential portfolio on behalf of the Supreme Guide’s Office, and so in negotiating with him you are simply speaking to a messenger.” For many, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, for all its defects, seemed to be the lesser of two evils. In the lead-up to the referendum, as political tensions were high and protests continued, talk of a civil war seemed to be everywhere. I kept hearing, repeatedly, people “pray” for an intervention by the army.

On December 11, I went to a local sporting club where retired ministers and officials are often found around the pool. A former Interior Ministry chief warned a circle of keen listeners—of whom my father was one—that the Interior Ministry could no longer contain the situation and that the army would be forced to intervene. I was told later that the interior minister had met with the defense minister and told him as much. That afternoon, the army made its appearance, putting out a call and invitation on Facebook to hold a meeting for a “national dialogue” the following day. The president’s office reacted, saying the invitation was a rumor. The army responded that the president would be attending. The president’s office said he wouldn’t. The army responded by changing the wording—they were inviting Morsi to a “humanitarian dialogue” and “luncheon.” Eventually the president’s office said Morsi would be attending “given that the invitation had come upon counsel from him.” Politics would not be discussed, and lunch would be served.

The next afternoon, the meeting was canceled. The Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood had intervened. For him, it was not tolerable that the armed forces should be seen as capable of gathering together all factions, including the president, in a national dialogue, while the president himself had utterly failed to do the same. At the state TV and radio building that day, a reporter told me that the media’s hands were increasingly tied:

It’s no different from when Mubarak was in power. The red lines of what we can say and can’t say are being redrawn. Instead of Mubarak, now it’s Morsi. We know that it was the Supreme Guide who gave orders for the lunch to be canceled. We know there is a tension between the army and Brotherhood, but we can’t say that.

Read the whole thing.

Morsi won't meet with the intellectuals

Morsi won't meet writers at Cairo book fair opening - Books - Ahram Online

According to culture minister Saber Arab, Morsi will not meet with intellectual figures at this year's inauguration, but will hold a meeting with publishers, and Arab told Ahram Online that this year's fair will be open to the public from 3pm.

Egyptian writers and intellectuals expressed their dismay at the cancellation of the "old tradition" of a presidential meeting, saying that the decision would deepen the rupture between culture and politics.

"It's plain that he chose to meet the industry men, not the ones who give life to this industry. He chose to meet the businessmen instead of the writers and intellectuals," said writer and former presidential consultant Ayman El-Sayyad.

Writer Mohammed Salmawy sees the move as proof of the hostility towards culture by the Muslim Brotherhood. Salmawy believes that most Egyptian writers and intellectuals would not attend the meeting if they were invited, but he asserts that political authorities have a duty to do in caring for Egypt's culture.

"Ignoring intellectuals and writers is a prejudice against them. The state is giving up on its responsibilities."

Writer Ibrahim Abdel Meguid told Ahram Online that Morsi was seeking to spare himself embarrassing questions, which the writers would have sought to ask him, especially as he has not considered any of the things he agreed to with the intellectuals at their meeting at the presidential palace last September.

"The only question I would have for him if I attended such a meeting would be: Why you are being an elusive president?" Ibrahim said.

This year's fair is guaranteed with an insurance policy worth LE100 million (approx. $16 million) and the fair's theme is "Dialogue not Clash."

Pretty clearly he does not want to face a hostile crowd. Several years ago the much-lauded Egyptian leftist intellectual and political scientist Mohammed Sayyed Said embarrassed Mubarak at one of these "meetings with the intellectuals" — that was a very courageous move back then. In the current atmosphere, Morsi has everything to lose and little to gain. 

That being said, I've never liked this "meeting with the intellectuals" — it always reeked of presidential pageantry and comes from the paternalistic tradition of the president / father-of-the-nation style of politics. I doubt any of Egypt's presidents ever had anything substantial to share intellectually (certainly that was the case with Mubarak), and while Morsi is certainly more academically accomplished than his predecessor, I'm not sure he has much to say either.

Unpacking Algeria's hostage crisis

Also read this post in Jihadica by Andrew Lebovich on the deliberate echo of the Algerian civil war in the naming of the group that carried out the hostake-taking:

When longtime Algerian jihadist and recently-removed AQIM commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar announced in December the creation of a new combat unit, al-Mouwakoune Bi-Dima (“Those Who Sign with Blood”), much of the media coverage focused on what Belmokhtar said about the new group’s role. As part of Belmokhtar’s Katibat al-Moulathimin, the new group would, in his words, attack “those planning the war in northern Mali.” Belmokhtar also said that an eventual intervention in Mali would be “a proxy war on behalf of the Occident.” He also explicitly threatened not only France, but also Algeria, calling the country’s political, military, and economic elites “sons of France” and saying “we will respond with force, we will have our say, we will fight you in your homes and we will attack your interests.”

At the time, few noted Belmokhtar’s important historical reference point in choosing this name for his new faction: the name al-Mouwakoune Bi-Dima was originally used by a group of Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA) fighters who conducted a series of attacks in Algeria and in France against French targets. Most notable was the Mouwakoune group’s December 1994 hijacking of Air France Flight 8969, an incident that ended when elite French gendarmes stormed the plane on the tarmac in Marseille.

Egypt's sinking schools

Solid, interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor about Egypt's sinking school system. I knew things were bad, but we are talking Titanic:

According to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13, Egypt ranked 139th out of 144 countries in the quality of its educational system and 129th in staff training.

Of the 15 countries considered to be in the same development stage as Egypt, only Libya ranked lower for the educational system's quality. Mongolia and Honduras were a few spots ahead at Nos. 136 and 135, respectively.

The Ministry of Education has a budget of £50 billion (Egyptian; US$7.8 billion) to educate some 18 million students, according to Nesr Eldin Shahad, an education professor at Helwan University on the outskirts of Cairo and an adviser to the education committee of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Some 85 percent of that goes to salaries – the education sector is the largest government employer in Egypt – leaving only a fraction of the funds available for other student needs.

According to Mr. Abou Serie, the budget needs to at least double to deal with all the problems facing the system.

Even just focusing on what Mr. Shahad views as the most critical problem – bringing class sizes down from as large as 100 students to under 40 – will require somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 new schools, as well as more teachers to staff them, at a cost of more than £10 billion ($1.6 billion) by Shahad's estimate.

The article also discusses the greater openness of teachers and students after the revolution, but I wish they had also touched on the ongoing problem of rampant corporal punishment, and on instances of teachers abusing their powers. 

Update: Here is the full WEF report.

There is no future

Israeli news broadcasters don't cry - Israel News | Haaretz Daily Newspaper

From an interview with Israeli broadcaster Shlomi Eldar:

A few days after the end of Operation Pillar of Defense, I gave a talk at a Herzliya high school. The children, who said they came from good homes, told me we have to kill all the Arabs, including the Israeli Arabs, because where do they get off thinking they will get control of the country. Their ideal is to go into the army and kill as many Arabs as possible. That’s one side of the picture, Israeli youth, the new generation, living in an atmosphere of demonizing the Palestinians − which is something the Israeli media are responsible for in no small measure. The other side of the picture is the young generation in Gaza, a child of five or nine. Let’s say he is not wounded, but a four-ton bomb landed next to his house. Do you know that in Operation Pillar of Defense, not one pane of glass remained intact in the whole of Gaza? It’s a tactic of creating sonic booms to frighten people without hurting them. A child who has a bomb like that land next to him can’t hear anything for the next three days. What does he think about the Jews afterward? And where will we end up, if this is how Jewish youngsters think about Arabs?

Nowhere good.

We are on a nothing-to-lose track. Which is why I say there is no future. When I told the high school class that we have to look at them as human beings, one boy jumped up and said, “Who do you vote for? You’re extreme left, no?” I replied, “It would surprise you to know who I vote for.” But that’s not the point. The point is that we in Israel have reached a situation in which if someone says we have to talk peace, he’s considered extreme left.

You are very reserved.

I maintain reserve all the time.

As a defense mechanism?

Yes.

What does it defend you against?

I safeguard myself, and I need to safeguard myself against a host of things. I will tell you something I have never told anyone, and I hope I will not regret telling you. During Operation Cast Lead I came into possession of material about very grim events relating to the idea that Israel was deliberately “going crazy.” Testimonies, images and much more. So many people were killed there. I took it all and put it in an envelope. I told Reudar Benziman, who was CEO of Channel 10 News at the time, what I had. He told me, “Work on it.” I told him I couldn’t. Because that’s the truth − I couldn’t. If I had verified what I heard, I would not be able to live with it. I couldn’t have evoked the “rotten apples” metaphor. I still have the material in a closed room. I didn’t give it to anyone. When there was talk about a commission of inquiry, I said I would be ready to give them the material − let them check it out, not me. I’m not touching it. I’m not capable. I can’t. I, too, understand my limits.