The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The new Egyptian censorship
Looks a lot like the old. From CPJ:

Egypt must stop censoring newspapers

New York, September 27, 2011- The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the censorship of two newspapers in the past four days, the first instances of their kind since the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak in February. Production of the Saturday edition of the independent weekly Sawt al-Umma was halted, while the daily Rose al-Youssef was prevented from printing a page in today's paper that was to feature a controversial story.

"The military government has revived Mubarak-era repression," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "These two instances of censorship have been preceded by the closing of a news bureau, the interrogation of journalists, and other instances of press restrictions and intimidation."

Al-Ahram printing house, which publishes the semi-official daily Al-Ahram and other newspapers, told Sawt al-Umma editors that it was halting production of its Saturday edition because of the paper's story on Mubarak's ongoing trial, news reports said. The government has imposed restrictions on coverage of the Mubarak trial, although domestic media outlets have reported extensively on the proceedings. About 100,000 copies of the issue had already been printed by the time the decision was made, Sawt al-Umma's editor-in-chief, Abdel Halim Kandil, told the satellite news channel Al-Arabiya.

Sawt al-Umma was a frequent target of harassment under Mubarak's regime, CPJ research shows. Several of its journalists faced criminal charges, and many of its print runs were censored, news reports said.

Al-Ahram also informed Rose al-Youssef, a pro-regime daily during the Mubarak era, that a page in today's issue that included the second part of an investigative report would be omitted, local news outlets reported . After part one was published on Monday, describing an alleged Israeli spy once stationed in Cairo, an unidentified "sovereign" body told Al-Ahram not to allow publication of any further details of the case, the daily's editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Khalil, told reporters. Al-Ahram told the newspaper that an amended version of the issue-one that didn't include the offending page-would appear on newsstands, news reports said.

Recent actions by Egyptian authorities have signaled a declining environment for press freedom. In September, government agents shut down an Al-Jazeera bureau, while the military announced a "temporary freeze" on issuing licenses to satellite television stations, CPJ reported. In June, military authorities interrogated and intimidatedindependent or critical journalists on grounds of their work.

PostsIssandr El AmraniEgypt, Media
Egypt-US activists' pledge of solidarity

American and Egyptian activists are getting together ahead of planned protests next week to issue a joint statement of solidarity. I am reproducing the statement below for those interested.


EGYPTIAN ACTIVISTS, WASHINGTON DC PROTEST ORGANIZERS PLEDGE STATEMENT OF SOLIDARITY, PLAN SIMULTANEOUS PROTESTS ON OCTOBER 6 AND 7


***For immediate release. Arabic translation below***
September 23, 2011

**For more information, visit http://www.october2011.org**

Noted Egyptian activists such as Asmaa Mahfouz and Ahmed Maher and notable American social justice advocates such as Noam Chomsky and Chris Hedges have joined forces to pledge support for the upcoming October 2011 protest and nonviolent occupation of Washington DC’s Freedom Plaza beginning October 6. On Wednesday, leading advocates for both protest movements affirmed mutual support of each other’s common goals, and announced plans for a solidarity protest in Tahrir Square on Friday, October 7.

“While our nations face many different challenges and remain thousands of miles and cultures apart, we find that we share many of the same concerns within our respective countries,” protest organizers said in a prepared statement. “Both the people of the United States and Egypt require real democracy so that the views of the people are represented.”

The October2011.org protests, described on their website (www.october2011.org) as a movement supporting “human needs, not corporate greed,” intends to consolidate leading progressive activists in the United States into a viable umbrella coalition that can work together towards principles of “peace [as well as] social, economic, and environmental justice” that are supported by “super-majorities of Americans” yet get compromised due to political and economic pressures. 

“Inspired by the courageous, nonviolent uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Greece, Spain, and elsewhere, people in the United States have come together to form the October 2011 Movement,” said the organizers on their website. On the heels of recent ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests - which a number of October2011.org members participated in - the Freedom Plaza protesters hope in particular to draw attention to recent Congressional budget talks, which to them emphasized wasteful military-industrial spending and corporate handouts over social programs or more sensible foreign policy positions. 

In their solidarity statement, both October2011.org leaders and Egyptian activists indicated the aspects of their struggles which require mutual and transnational coordination among protesters in order to achieve reform. “Even USAID funds to Egypt have strings attached,” the organizers write, “as 85% of USAID Egyptian funds since January 25 went to US organizations, with only a small fraction going to civil society organizations in Egypt.” Organizers are calling for concurrent Tahrir Square protests on the same weekend as the onset of the October2011.org occupation, as part of an binational affirmation that the United States needs to “stop leveraging its economic power to bribe other countries, [or] to force them to follow US wishes.” Given the influence that the United States will undoubtedly wield in future Egyptian aid and development efforts in the next few months, and given the potential influence that it might try to wield in electoral politics, organizers said that the need for transnational partnerships against hegemony were especially necessary at this time. 

More information can be found at the October2011.org website, including FAQs, schedules, YouTube manifestos from multipleOctober2011.org participants, and Facebook and Twitter links. Protests are being organized in both DC and Tahrir Square beginning October 6-7.


Preliminary Signatories:

Chris Hedges - former Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times
Noam Chomsky - author; Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kevin Zeese – co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us
Asmaa Mahfouz – Egyptian activist, blogger, and participant in 2011 Egyptian Revolution
Ahmed Maher - member and co-founder, April 6 Youth Movement
Dr. Yahia Mahran - Egyptian Lawyers Union
Ehsan Yahia - Egyptian Nurses Union
Waleed Rashed - member and co-founder, April 6 Youth movement
Alaa Abd el Fattah – Egyptian blogger, software developer, activist
Ruby Amatulla - Executive Director, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Amin Mahmoud – Egyptian Association for Change-USA
Abdallah Helmy - co-founder, Revolution Youth Union
Margaret Flowers, M.D. – Congressional Fellow, Physicians for a National Health Program
Mokhtar Kamel - Alliance of Egyptian Americans
Ashley Anderson - Director, Peaceful Uprising
Medea Benjamin - Cofounder, CODEPINK and Global Exchange
Mike Ferner - Interim Director, Veterans for Peace
Justice Arthur Brennan – retired Superior Court NH; former deputy director, Iraq Reconstruction Management Office; director, Office of Accountability and Transparency.
Carol  E. Gay - President NJ Industrial Union Council
Afra Jalabi – democracy activist, Collective for Syria in Montreal
Iman Mosharafa, Egyptian American activist, City University of New York instructor
Matthew Cappiello – student; political activist, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Tarak Kauff – Veterans for Peace Action Network
Samantha Williams – Feminism without Borders; student, University of Maryland.
Rev. Dr. Bruce Wright – board member, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
MORE FORTHCOMING
*All descriptors for identification purposes only.


A Statement of Solidarity between Egyptian Revolutionaries and October2011.org Participants

While our nations face many different challenges and remain thousands of miles and cultures apart, we find that we share many of the same concerns within our respective countries. As we recognize that our destinies are intertwined, we wish to highlight the similarities and goals we share in common. We suspect that others from around the world would also join us in supporting this statement. 

1. Both the people of the United States and Egypt require real democracy so that the views of the people are represented.

Currently, desires for free and fair elections have not been achieved according to the level of popular demand in both nations.

Under the regime of Hosni Mubarak, this falsehood was evident to the world and to Egyptians, even though Mubarak and the US government labeled Egypt a democracy. Ballots were consistently rigged, opposition candidates were routinely jailed, and parliamentary candidates were happily bribed. Many regarded Hosni Mubarak as a manifestation of the arrogant Pharaoh himself. While his demise brought great relief and celebration to all Egyptians, many are worried about Egypt’s current transitional process towards parliamentary elections. Reformist political parties have not had adequate time to prepare or fundraise for elections. Requests from nonpartisan international monitors to oversee upcoming elections have been summarily denied. In addition, many are skeptical about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ agenda, as the transition to a civil, non-military government is occurring much more slowly than many Egyptians would desire.

The United States also faces similar challenges to democracy from special interests. While some say that the United States is the greatest democracy on Earth, American elections are actually dominated by the wealth of economic elites and concentrated corporate power, as money manipulates votes through concentrated corporate media. Presented with the choice of corporate- approved candidates, only half of the American public bothers to register to vote, and only approximately half of registered voters bother to vote. In essence, US democracy has become a manipulative system in which voters choose from corporate-approved candidates within a rigged election system.

The people of both movements call for real democracy in which all eligible voters are automatically registered, in which barriers are removed for candidates to run for office, in which debates are open to all ballot-approved candidates, in which elections maintain public funding in order to check the tide of private handouts, in which voting systems are transparent with public observation and participation in all aspects of the counting of the vote, and in which media organizations provide sufficient free airtime for candidates to present their views to the public.  Elections should be held on holidays to make voting easier without conflicting with the demands of work.


2. End US foreign policy positions which undermine the Egyptian democracy movement as well as the character and reputation of the United States.

The people of both movements call for an end to hegemonic foreign policy positions among US policymakers. It is time for the United States to join the global community of nations as a partner rather than a predator, as a collaborative multi-lateralist rather than as an American exceptionalist.

The United States has the largest empire in global history, with more than 1,100 military bases and outposts around the world. America has supported military rule in Egypt, and attempted to put in power Mubarak’s carefully groomed heir Omar Suleiman despite his record of participation in torture and other crimes. It now supports the military government much more extensively than other infrastructural components of the nation, spending approximately $1.2 billion per year. Even USAID funds to Egypt have strings attached, as 85% of USAID Egyptian funds since January 25 went to US organizations, with only a small fraction going to civil society organizations in Egypt.

US diplomatic and developmental policies in nations such as Egypt, as well as military actions in nations such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are ventures of destruction, death and chaos for the people of those countries; and undermine the rule of law and democracy around the world.  These actions have resulted in the deaths of millions of people, the creation of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the internment of thousands of prisoners who are often tortured and held without charges.  Rather than collaboratively assisting in the development of authentic democracy around the world, the United States has too often hindered democratic efforts in many regions of the world for many decades.

The United States needs to work more collaboratively with nations such as Egypt and to stop leveraging its economic power to bribe other countries, to force them to follow US wishes, or to threaten them with unwarranted military action. In order to permit accountability for its actions, the United States should also join the International Criminal Court.

3. Both countries need to end the wealth divide in order to provide for the necessities of the people and to create new sustainable economies for the 21st Century.

Both Egypt and the United States suffer from a broad wealth divides that has lead to widespread poverty and economic stagnation.  In each country, it is not a lack of wealth but the distribution of wealth that creates widespread suffering. The economic power of the wealthiest sectors of both countries engender corruption through bribery, campaign donations, and a wide range of forms of payment for special privileges. When policies begin to eliminate the wealth divide, we will take the first steps towards ending crony-dominated economies held in place by corrupt oligarchic governments in both nations.

One of the most important steps towards reducing economic injustices involves provision of adequate human services. Quality health care should be available to all people in both countries, as is mandated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. High-quality education from pre-school through graduate school should remain free, equitable, and available to all.  Basic needs for income should be met by ensuring robust employment opportunities in both countries, as well as the right to affordable housing, food, health care, transportation, and retirement security.   Horrible statistics such as the existence of three million street children in Egypt and over 44 million poverty stricken people in the United States should remain unacceptable across the board. In addition, wealth needs to promote ecologically sustainable economies that utilize clean energy at a viable level. Both Cairo and Los Angeles residents understand the horrors of pollution! If we want 21st century economies, we need to work from a 21stcentury perspective regarding the barriers to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness around the world.

4. Both countries need to respect human rights, this involves an end to torture, a method for systematic documentation of human rights abuses, and mechanisms to ensure accountability for those responsible for human rights abuses.

Both Egypt and the United States suffer from decades of human rights abuses, which include suppression of free speech, illegal detention, secret rendition, and torture on the part of both nations. Even in the post-Mubarak era, free speech protests in Tahrir Square have been repeatedly shut down, freedom of the press has been repeatedly muzzled, and bloggers and activists have been repeatedly detained, tried, and sentenced to prison for mere infractions such as criticism of the military on blogs. (And that’s just the post-Mubarak era.)

Compare this with the United States, where rates of imprisonment are higher than those in any other nation, especially for minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status. Prison conditions are often inhumane in both nations and increasingly privatized in the United States, with few resources dedicated to rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Human rights should be respected according to the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A full documentation of human rights violations should occur in both countries so that these practices are ended, and so that those responsible are held accountable regardless of the demands or interests of the current individuals in power. As examples of mechanisms to work towards achievement of these goals, the United States should join the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Egyptian military should end trials of civilians before military courts.





بيان للتضامن بين الثوار المصريين و حركة أكتوبر 2011

بينما دولنا تواجه تحديات عديدة ومختلفة ، و بالرغم من بعد آلاف الأميال و تباين الثقافات ، نجد أننا نتقاسم الكثير من نفس المخاوف داخل بلداننا. ونحن ندرك أن مصائرنا متشابكة ، نود أن نسلط الضوء على أوجه التشابه والأهداف المشتركة . راجين أن آخرين من مختلف أنحاء العالم سينضمون لنا أيضا في دعم هذا البيان.

1. كلا من الشعب المصري و الأمريكي  يتطلب الديمقراطية الحقيقية ، وذلك بحيث يتم تمثيل آراء الشعب.

إجراء انتخابات حرة ونزيهة تحقق وفقا لمستوى الطلب الشعبي  لم تتحقق بعد في كلا البلدين.

في ظل نظام الرئيس المخلوع حسني مبارك ، وضحت الديمقراطية المزيفة على العالم والمصريين ، على الرغم من مبارك والحكومة الأميركية المسمى مصر الديمقراطية. زورت البطاقات باستمرار ، ومرشحي المعارضة وسجن بشكل روتيني ، وكانت رشوة بسعادة المرشحين لعضوية البرلمان. اعتبر العديد من حسني مبارك باعتباره مظهرا من مظاهر الغطرسة فرعون نفسه. في حين رحيلة جلب ارتياح كبير واحتفال لجميع المصريين ، يشعر الكثيرون بقلق حول العملية الانتقالية الحالية في مصرو  نحو الانتخابات البرلمانية. الأحزاب السياسية الاصلاحية لم يتح لها الوقت الكافي لإعداد أو جمع التبرعات للانتخابات ، وتطلب من المراقبين الدوليين غير حزبية للاشراف على الانتخابات المقبلة. بالإضافة إلى ذلك ، العديد من يشككون في جدول أعمال المجلس الأعلى للقوات المسلحة ، كما أن التحول إلى حكومة مدنية غير عسكرية ، ويحدث ببطء أكثر بكثير من كثير من رغبة المصريين.

الولايات المتحدة تواجه تحديات مماثلة أيضا إلى الديمقراطية من المصالح الخاصة. في حين يقول البعض ان الولايات المتحدة هي أكبر ديمقراطية على وجه الأرض ، ويهيمن على الانتخابات الأمريكية في الواقع ثروة من قبل النخب الاقتصادية والشركات تتركز السلطة ، والمال بالتلاعب الأصوات عبر وسائل الإعلام تركز الشركات. لجنة المناظرات الرئاسية ، وهي شركة خاصة التي يسيطر عليها الحزبان الكبيران ومصالح الشركات ، ويمنع المرشحين لجهة خارجية ومستقلة عن مناقشة القضايا المطروحة على الرأي العام الأميركي. قدمت مع اختيار مرشحين اثنين فقط من الشركات المعتمدة ، سوى نصف الشعب الأمريكي يزعج لتسجيل أسمائهم للتصويت ، وفقط ما يقرب من نصف عدد الناخبين المسجلين عناء التصويت. في الجوهر ، أصبحت الولايات المتحدة الديمقراطية نظام الاستغلالية التي يختار الناخبون المرشحين من الشركات وافق اثنان في إطار نظام الانتخابات المزورة.

الشعبين على حد سواء الحركات المطالبة بالديمقراطية الحقيقية التي تسجل تلقائيا جميع الناخبين المؤهلين ، حيث تتم إزالة الحواجز للمرشحين لشغل المناصب العامة ، والتي هي مناقشات مفتوحة لجميع المرشحين الاقتراع التي وافق عليها ، في الانتخابات التي حفاظ على الأموال العامة من أجل للتحقق من المد والجزر من النشرات الخاصة ، الذي نظم التصويت وشفافة مع الملاحظة العامة والمشاركة في جميع جوانب عملية فرز الأصوات ، والمؤسسات الإعلامية التي توفر البث حرة كافية للمرشحين لعرض وجهات نظرهم إلى الرأي العام. ينبغي أن تعقد الانتخابات في أيام العطل لجعل التصويت أسهل ، دون أن يتعارض مع متطلبات العمل.

2. وضع نهاية للسياسة الخارجية الأميركية التي تقلل من شأن الحركات الديمقراطية المصرية وكذلك شخصية وسمعة الولايات المتحدة.
يجب على الناس من مختلف الحركات الدعوة لوضع حد لهيمنة مواقف السياسة الخارجية بين صناع القرار في الولايات المتحدة. حان الوقت للولايات المتحدة للانضمام الى المجتمع العالمي للدول باعتبارها شريكا بدلا من المهيمن المفترس، باعتبارها شريك بالتعددية التعاونية بدلا من أن تكونالإستثناءات الأميركية.

الولايات المتحدة لديها أكبر امبراطورية في التاريخ العالمي ، مع أكثر من 1100 القواعد العسكرية والبؤر الاستيطانية في جميع أنحاء العالم. وقد دعمت أمريكا الحكم العسكري في مصر ، وحاول أن يضع في السلطة مبارك اعدادهم بعناية ريث عمر سليمان على الرغم من سجله من المشاركة في التعذيب وجرائم اخرى. الآن انها تدعم الحكومة العسكرية على نطاق واسع أكثر بكثير من عناصر البنية التحتية الأخرى للأمة ، لتصل قيمتها إلى حوالي 1.2 مليار دولار سنويا. أموال المعونة الأمريكية لمصر حتى يكون قيود حيث أن 85 ٪ من أموال المعونة الأمريكية المصرية منذ 25 يناير ذهب إلى المنظمات الأمريكية ، مع مجرد جزء صغير ذاهب الى منظمات المجتمع المدني في مصر.

سياسات الولايات المتحدة الدبلوماسية والتنموية في دول مثل مصر ، فضلا عن العمليات العسكرية في دول مثل العراق وأفغانستان وباكستان هي مشاريع الموت والدمار والفوضى لشعوب تلك البلدان ؛
ويقوض سيادة القانون والديمقراطية في جميع أنحاء العالم. هذه الإجراءات أدت إلى وفاة الملايين من الناس ، وخلق الملايين من اللاجئين والمشردين داخليا ، واعتقال الآلاف من السجناء الذين غالبا ما يتعرضون للتعذيب واحتجز دون توجيه اتهامات لهم. بدلا من مساعدة تعاوني في تطوير الديمقراطية الأصيلة في جميع أنحاء العالم ، والولايات المتحدة كثيرا ما عرقلت الجهود الديمقراطية في مناطق كثيرة من العالم على مدى عقود عديدة.

الولايات المتحدة بحاجة إلى المزيد من العمل بصورة تعاونية مع دول مثل مصر والتوقف عن الاستفادة من قوتها الاقتصادية لرشوة البلدان الأخرى ، لإجبارهم على اتباع رغبات الولايات المتحدة ، أو لتهديدهم بعمل عسكري لا مبرر له. من أجل السماح للمساءلة عن أفعالها ، يجب على الولايات المتحدة أيضا الانضمام إلى المحكمة الجنائية الدولية.

3. كلا البلدين بحاجة الى وضع حد لتقسيم الثروة من أجل توفير الضروريات للشعب ، وتهيئة اقتصادات مستدامة جديدة للقرن 21.

كل من مصر والولايات المتحدة يعانون من ثروة واسعة الانقسامات التي تؤدي الى انتشار الفقر والضائقة الاقتصادية. في كل بلد ، فإنه ليس من نقص في الثروة ولكن توزيع الثروة التي تخلق معاناة واسعة النطاق. القوة الاقتصادية من أغنى قطاعات كل من البلدان تولد الفساد عن طريق الرشوة ، والهبات الحملة ، ومجموعة واسعة من أشكال الدفع للحصول على امتيازات خاصة. عندما تبدأ السياسات لتخفيف الفجوة في الثروة ، وسوف نتخذ الخطوات الأولى نحو إنهاء المحسوبية التي يهيمن عليها الاقتصادات التي عقدت في المكان من قبل حكومات القلة الفاسدة في كلا البلدين.

واحدة من أهم الخطوات نحو الحد من الظلم الاقتصادي ينطوي على تقديم الخدمات الإنسانية المناسبة. وينبغي أن جودة الرعاية الصحية ستكون متاحة لجميع الناس في كلا البلدين ، كما هو بتكليف من الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان. وينبغي تعليم عالي الجودة من مرحلة ما قبل المدرسة من خلال كلية الدراسات العليا تظل حرة ومنصفة ، ومتاحة للجميع. وينبغي تلبية الاحتياجات الأساسية للدخل عن طريق ضمان فرص عمل قوية في كلا البلدين ، فضلا عن الحق في السكن بأسعار معقولة ، والغذاء ، والرعاية الصحية والنقل والتقاعد والضمان. وينبغي أن الإحصاءات مروعة مثل وجود أطفال الشوارع ثلاثة ملايين في مصر والناس من الفقر أكثر من 44000000 المنكوبة في الولايات المتحدة ما زالت غير مقبولة في جميع المجالات. بالإضافة إلى ذلك ، يجب أن تولد الثروة اقتصادات مستدامة بيئيا التي تستخدم الطاقة النظيفة على مستوى قابلة للحياة. كل من القاهرة وسكان لوس انجليس فهم أهوال التلوث! اذا كنا نريد اقتصادا القرن 21 ، ونحن بحاجة للعمل من منظور القرن 21 بشأن الحواجز في الحياة والحرية والسعي لتحقيق السعادة في جميع أنحاء العالم.

4. كلا البلدين بحاجة إلى احترام حقوق الإنسان ، وهذا يتضمن وضع حد للتعذيب ، وهو أسلوب منهجي لتوثيق انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان ، وآليات لضمان مساءلة المسؤولين عن انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان.

كل من مصر والولايات المتحدة تعاني من عقود من انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان ، والتي تشمل قمع حرية التعبير ، والاحتجاز غير القانوني والترحيل السري ، والتعذيب من جانب كلا البلدين. حتى في عصر ما بعد مبارك ، تم احتجاجات حرية التعبير في ميدان التحرير أغلقت مرارا وتكرارا إلى أسفل ، وقد حرية الصحافة مكممة مرارا وتكرارا ، ولقد تم اعتقال المدونين والنشطاء مرارا وتكرارا ، حاولت ، وحكم عليه بالسجن لارتكاب مخالفات مثل مجرد الانتقاد من العسكريين على بلوق. (وهذا فقط في عصر ما بعد مبارك.) قارن هذا مع الولايات المتحدة ، حيث معدلات السجن هي أعلى من تلك الموجودة في أي دولة أخرى ، وخاصة بالنسبة للأقليات ، وتلك حالة من انخفاض الاجتماعية والاقتصادية. وغالبا ما تكون ظروف السجن غير الإنسانية في كلا البلدين وخصخصتها على نحو متزايد في الولايات المتحدة ، مع القليل من الموارد المخصصة لإعادة التأهيل وإعادة دمجهم في المجتمع.

وينبغي احترام حقوق الإنسان وفقا لمواد الإعلان العالمي لحقوق الإنسان. وينبغي أن يكون التوثيق الكامل لانتهاكات حقوق الإنسان تحدث في كلا البلدين بحيث يتم إنهاء هذه الممارسات ، وبحيث يتم محاسبة المسؤولين عنها بغض النظر عن مطالب أو مصالح الأفراد الحالية في السلطة.
كأمثلة على آليات للعمل من أجل تحقيق هذه الأهداف ، ينبغي على الولايات المتحدة الانضمام إلى المحكمة الأمريكية لحقوق الإنسان ، والجيش المصري يجب أن ينههي محاكمة المدنيين أمام محاكم عسكرية.


Preliminary Signatories:

Chris Hedges - former Middle East Bureau Chief for The New York Times
Noam Chomsky - author; Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Kevin Zeese – co-director of ItsOurEconomy.us
Asmaa Mahfouz – Egyptian activist, blogger, and participant in 2011 Egyptian Revolution
Ahmed Maher - member and co-founder, April 6 Youth Movement
Dr. Yahia Mahran - Egyptian Lawyers Union
Ehsan Yahia - Egyptian Nurses Union
Waleed Rashed - member and co-founder, April 6 Youth movement
Alaa Abd el Fattah – Egyptian blogger, software developer, activist
Ruby Amatulla - Executive Director, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Amin Mahmoud – Egyptian Association for Change-USA
Abdallah Helmy - co-founder, Revolution Youth Union
Margaret Flowers, M.D. – Congressional Fellow, Physicians for a National Health Program
Mokhtar Kamel - Alliance of Egyptian Americans
Ashley Anderson - Director, Peaceful Uprising
Medea Benjamin - Cofounder, CODEPINK and Global Exchange
Mike Ferner - Interim Director, Veterans for Peace
Justice Arthur Brennan – retired Superior Court NH; former deputy director, Iraq Reconstruction Management Office; director, Office of Accountability and Transparency.
Carol  E. Gay - President NJ Industrial Union Council
Afra Jalabi – democracy activist, Collective for Syria in Montreal
Iman Mosharafa, Egyptian American activist, City University of New York instructor
Matthew Cappiello – student; political activist, Muslims for Peace, Justice, and Progress
Tarak Kauff – Veterans for Peace Action Network
Samantha Williams – Feminism without Borders; student, University of Maryland.
Rev. Dr. Bruce Wright – board member, Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign
MORE FORTHCOMING
*All descriptors for identification purposes only.

Egyptian women and the revolution

Photo by Rena Effendi

I have a piece in Newsweek magazine about Egyptian women and the revolution. I started working on this in March. Perhaps because I was focusing on the topic, I've been particularly aware of women's absence from the post-Mubarak decision-making process.

The morning of January 28 I was sitting in a room of activists, and quite a few of them were women. There were women in the street that day, and there were a lot of women in Tahrir.  But women have been largely missing, not just from the two most influential organizations of the post-Mubarak era -- the army and the Muslim Brotherhood -- but from opinion columns and the podiums of press conferences, from the courtrooms and of course from all the positions that have yet to open to them, such as being governors or university deans or heads of state institutions. We have one female minister, Fayza Abul Naga, and she is a Mubarak hold-over. (The one area where women are quite influential is the media, with female TV talk show presenters becoming quite well-known public personalities). 

Discussing women's rights in the Arab world is always complicated -- there are so many condescending clichés to avoid. Right now, women are just one group of people in Egypt -- alongside the young, religious minorities, the working poor -- who have yet to see any change. There is a question as to whether it makes sense to focus on women's rights rather than on political/socio-economic rights for all. Then again, women's demands always get shunted to the side with this argument ("It's not the right time"); and I suspect that a change in gender attitudes is part of a larger, necessary change in power dynamics that is key to democratization. What's remarkable (and a remarkable difficulty for Egyptian feminists) is that the very fact that women face discrimination and need to fight for greater rights is so virulently denied or so widely dismissed -- including by many women themselves.

In Translation: Wael Kandil on the Emergency Law

I’m happy to announce a new regular feature on this site. Every week, we will select an article from the Arabic press, translate it and bring it to you with a short analytical introduction. The idea is to give readers an idea of the debate in the Arabic papers over issues of the day, and provide some wider context. We’ve done some of this in the past, but generally do the translation of more than a few lines ourselves — we’re simply too busy. What we’ll be doing here is bringing you full-length, unabridged articles — so we needed outside help.

Translation for this feature will be provided courtesy of Industry Arabic, a  full-service translation company founded by two longtime Arabist readers, which specializes in English-Arabic-French technical, legal, and engineering translation management services.

For the first item in the series, we’re looking at the debate over the Emergency Law in Egypt. Since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) began to make increased use of the Emergency Law after September 9 protests (at the Israeli embassy and several ministry of interior facilities). This was controversial in itself, but a legal debate soon emerged: it was generally understood that the Emergency Law would lapse at the end of September, according to the Constitutional Declaration approved in March that states it will last six months. Several scholars have confirmed this interpretation, but the SCAF now counters that since Mubarak and the previous parliament had extended the Emergency Law till May 2012, it would be effective until then.

What this debate illustrates is that, as a result of the poor planning and slap-dash legal structure set up since the March referendum, the very constitutional legitimacy of the current setup is starting to be under attack. And with it, the transition — and the SCAF’s legitimacy. I selected the piece below, by prominent left-leaning commentator Wael Kandil (who is also the managing editor of al-Shorouk, a private broadsheet daily newspaper), because it illustrates the situation with sarcasm and looks at the broader implications.

Constitutional Declaration… Rest In Peace!

By Wael Qandil, al-Shorouk, 22 September 2011

A couple of days ago, I wrote here an article entitled “The Military Violates the Constitutional Declaration” by extending the state of emergency without first seeking the approval of the Egyptian people through a referendum. Article 59 of the Constitutional Declaration stresses that, in all cases, the state of emergency may not be extended for more than six months unless if approved by a referendum.

On the evening of that same day, Tariq Al-Bishri, the constitutional scholar and advisor, confirmed such a fact during an interview, live on al-Jazeera TV. Newspapers and editorials took up the opinion of Mr al-Bishri, who was the chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments, assigned by the Military Council to amend some articles of the 1971 Constitution, and which ultimately produced a new Constitutional Declaration comprising more than 60 articles.

So… the Military Council violated the Constitutional Declaration, something confirmed by the chairman of the committee in charge of drafting it. Since this was not the first case of infringement and violation, one should understand that this Declaration no longer enjoys the status of holiness which they publicly promote in order to counter whoever comes forward to present an opinion or a point of view on the state of disorientation and confusion through which Egypt is passing since the announcement of that frequently violated and abused referendum.

After such uneasy months, which saw the Constitutional Declaration turn into an old rotten piece of cloth, it is no crime or shame to stand up and hold the government accountable for its actions during this period, on the basis of the articles and applications of the Declaration. This will reveal with clarity how insolently it was treated by the very persons tasked with its protection and application.

Once this is done, there would be no qualms at all in trying to remedy what went wrong, and address the existing gaps and flaws as these were proven by time and successive events. On this occasion, I recall having recently read a certain number of statements and assurances confirming the drafting of general governmental principles, which would acquire public consensus and become the basis for the country’s new permanent constitution, seen as providing a guarantee of the civil status and democratic nature of the State, as well as ensuring the conservation and respect for the principle of citizenship.

A raucous societal debate followed on this issue and concluded that the government, represented by its Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Ali al-Selmi, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, represented by a number of its members, have confirmed that these principles or regulations will be drafted and adopted, either in the form of a new Constitutional Declaration, or by way of an agreement among political parties and powers. Let us not forget that the majority of the parties have declared their support for these principles, although they differed over the meaning of terms such as “civil society” or “democracy”.

How remarkable that, after long days of intense debate on this subject, it seems that no one is any longer referring to or talking about such principles. I wonder what had happened to them and why were they at the center of such a heated discussion. More importantly, why are they now silenced and discarded?

The truth is that we are practically living in an era of “pasteurized politics”. Issues and debates are brought to the surface and heated up to boiling point before they are suddenly sunk down and buried in a thick layer of cold silence. Other issues are then raised and made the point of furious discord between various groups before they are surprisingly withdrawn and hushed. A vicious, never-ending circle of fictitious battles!

All of this is going on while they insist that the Constitutional Declaration is the ultimate path and road map to pursue, while reality says that the Declaration is now confined to history, leaving us the only choice of praying for it and wishing it would… rest in peace.

Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.1

Translation provided by IndustryArabic


Quran, Sura Al-Baqara, Verse 156. A traditional saying when hearing of someone’s death. ↩

Links 18-25 September 2011
Long overdue link-dump — many items, no time to edit.
LinksIssandr El Amrani
Where's my country?

The Salafyo Costa (young, "moderate" Salafists, which seems a bit of a contradiction in terms, since Salafists are religious fundamentalists, aspiring to live as much as possible as the Prophet's companions) have put together a funny and popular online video.

"Where's my store?" tells the story of a "shop" that for many years was expropriated from its rightful owners by "a bad man and his sons." It's in Arabic, but even non-Arabic speakers should be able to appreciate the pretty hilarious opening scenes, in which various individuals representing different Egyptian groups -- Christians, Salafists, liberals, upper-class -- converging on the newly "liberated" store, all with ownership deed in hand. Of course, I couldn't help noticing that no women are shown claiming their stake. 

The Salafyo Costa take their name from a coffee chain (!) and make a point of how comfortable they are with modern consumerism and technology. I find them difficult to categorize, probably sui-generis among the larger Salafist scene, and interesting. Further on (at about minute 8) the movie mocks hysteria over Salafists themselves, with a host on a would-be Salafist cooking show saying he'll teach the audience how to make "potato-liberals" salad.  

On vacation in Torah

Field Marshall Tantawi (the senior army man in charge of the country) testified in Mubarak's trial this morning. We don't know what he said, because the court session are closed and there is a gag order on the press (how can what happened during the revolution be a state secret?).

I was in a cab listening to a state TV reporter excitedly (not) report on the proceedings, when my driver burst out: "They'll never be held to account!" He said his mother lives near Torah prison and from her balcony they can see the Mubarak sons and cronies being held there hang out in the courtyard. He says they have laptops, cell phones, play soccer, have visitors, get food deliveries.. I can't confirm his account of course, but there have been similar stories in the press.

"Pasha on the outside, pasha on the inside," he said. "It's Sharm El Sheikh in Torah." If only the were treated like regular prisoners, he said -- beaten, humiliated, made to go hungry and sleep on the floor -- then they'd confess and tell us where the money they stole is. 

Egypt: worrying about the wrong foreign funding

In July, a mini-crisis of sorts erupted between Egypt and the United States over foreign funding. The spark was probably the congressional testimony of the new US ambassador to Cairo, Anne Patterson, in June, in which she said that the US was earmarking $40m for USAID democracy and governance spending.

By late July, the $40m figure was being cited in the Egyptian media, and sometimes was inflated to $60m, the figure that the US State Dept. had considered spending earlier in the year. Public records showed that most of the money went to the National Democratic Institute (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the International Federation for Electoral Systems (IFES) — some of which they no doubt redistributed to local partners. The media began to raise up a storm, while the government demanded clarifications from the US.

Part of this is an old fight that would reoccur frequently in the Mubarak era, over Egyptian anger at money being given Egyptian NGOs without its authorization. In 2009, the former US Ambassador, Margaret Scobey, has gotten the US to change policies and allow Egyptian approval. It was part of the patch-up in bilateral relations after the chill Bush administration, and it sent a negative message much more important than the actual cash.

I remember that during the occupation of Tahrir Square in July, the question of foreign funding was on the protestors’ minds too. They demanded to know what the US was using this money for, and who was receiving it.

Fast forward to this month, and the question of foreign funding is changing tack. A few days ago, the Egyptian press revealed (from government sources) that several of the largest transactions to civil society organizations have come from the Gulf, not the West.

The numbers are quite telling. According to these reports, over LE181m ($30m) was given to the Ansar al-Sunna association, a very conservative religious group, by Qatar’s al-Thani Foundation. Kuwaiti and Emirati religious associations also donated significant sums, ones that dward what secular human rights groups might be receiving at the moment.

Think that US democracy aid to Egypt this year is about $40m. A single transaction from Qatar was $30m. The generals must be looking at the US funding and thinking, “this is peanuts.”

Were the Eilat gunmen Egyptian?

I’m not sure how much play this has gotten in the Egyptian media, but the 21 September of the large-circulation Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth ran a story saying that the Israeli government’s investigation into the Eilat attack revealed the perpetrators were Egyptians — including a serving police officer. The Egyptians are said to have rejected these findings.

Obviously it’s not conclusive — right now it’s just a leak to a local paper — but this might indicate the arguments the Israelis will be making to the Egyptians (and Americans) in the month ahead. It plays into the poor security situation in Sinai and the fear that it might turn into a jihadist training ground.

There are several things worth bearing in mind in this:

  • Israel originally said they were Palestinians and used this as a pretext to bombard Gaza. They still claim the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees of Gaza were the people behind this, subcontracting the job to Sinai-based Egyptians. How that works I’m not sure.
  • This boosts the Egyptian argument for greater military presence in Eastern Sinai — or would if they accepted the premise of the report.
  • As the Yediot report notes, this now gives the Israelis ammo to push the Egyptians, who are pushing back with the killing of Egyptian border guards that followed the Eilat attack.
  • More generally, it raises questions about the radical Islamist groups known to be operating in Central Sinai, how they might be countered, and what the Egyptian military is doing about it through its “Operation Eagle” launched in August. Or indeed, even the possibility that the group was not Islamist all — an outlier possibility.

The full text of the report, translated from the original Hebrew by Israel News Today, is below.

Investigation Finds All Perpetrators of Eilat Road Attack Were Egyptians

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. 13) by Alex Fishman – The IDF’s investigation into the terrorist assault that was committed on Route 12 to the north of Eilat on August 18 found unequivocally that the attack was perpetrated by Egyptian citizens, one of whom was a police officer on active duty. The Egyptians had been recruited by Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza.

   Eight Israelis were killed in the series of terror attacks that was perpetrated on August 18, and five Egyptian policemen were killed. The IDF’s investigation of the incident was recently completed and its findings indicate that the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza sponsored the terror attack, but the terrorists who executed the attack were Egyptians.

   The investigation found that the Popular Resistance Committees recruited the group of Egyptian terrorists in Sinai. It then trained and equipped them and also provided them with logistical support. The 20 members of the cell, which was comprised of the Egyptian gunmen as well as their Palestinian handlers and assistants, had planned a suicide assault inside Israel and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier or civilian. The Egyptian terrorists were responsible for the sniper fire from within Egyptian territory, and the three squads of suicide bombers who went onto Route 12 to attack the Israeli vehicles were also comprised of Egyptian citizens.

   The investigation also found that nearly all of the Egyptian policemen who were shot by IDF gunfire were killed only at a late stage in the terror attack. Most of them were killed in the IDF fire that came in response to the Egyptian sniper fire that killed Pascal Avrahami of the Israel Police’s SWAT team.

   Despite the fact that the IDF’s conclusions are based on the absolute identification of the terrorists’ bodies, the Egyptian authorities have rejected those findings. Israeli military officials who visited Cairo a number of days ago presented the findings of the investigation to the Egyptian leadership. It was their impression that the Egyptian leadership was prepared to discuss only Israel’s role in the killing of the five policemen, and has demanded that Israel assume responsibility and apologize publicly for their deaths. As such, the military report has only served to intensify the tense relations that exist in any case between Israel and Egypt.   

The Moroccan initiative

This is one hell of a story from the AP, uncovering CIA collaboration with the NYPD to do obsessive spying on Muslim communities in New York — and in particular shops owned by Moroccan immigrants. A few excerpts:

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Police Department put American citizens under surveillance and scrutinized where they ate, prayed and worked, not because of charges of wrongdoing but because of their ethnicity, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.

The documents describe in extraordinary detail a secret program intended to catalog life inside Muslim neighborhoods as people immigrated, got jobs, became citizens and started businesses. The documents undercut the NYPD's claim that its officers only follow leads when investigating terrorism.

It started with one group, Moroccans, but the documents show police intended to build intelligence files on other ethnicities.

Undercover officers snapped photographs of restaurants frequented by Moroccans, including one that was noted for serving "religious Muslims." Police documented where Moroccans bought groceries, which hotels they visited and where they prayed. While visiting an apartment used by new Moroccan immigrants, an officer noted in his reports that he saw two Qurans and a calendar from a nearby mosque.

It was called the Moroccan Initiative.

The information was recorded in NYPD computers, officials said, so that if police ever received a specific tip about a Moroccan terrorist, officers looking for him would have details about the entire community at their fingertips.

The documents show how New York's rich heritage as a place where immigrants traditionally have blended in and built their lives now clashes with today's New York, where police see blending in as one of the first priorities for would-be terrorists.

To prevent attacks, police monitored the path that generations of immigrants followed: getting an apartment, learning English, finding work, assimilating into the culture. Activities such as haircuts and gym workouts were transformed from mundane daily routines into police data points.

A U.S. citizen in Queens, for example, starts work each day at what police labeled "a known Moroccan barbershop."

The AP previously revealed the secret operations of the NYPD intelligence division as it mapped the Muslim community in and around New York, monitored life in ethnic neighborhoods and scrutinized mosques. The Moroccan Initiative was one of the division's projects.

I have a confession to make: this website is a "known Moroccan-run publication." It is run a "known Moroccan" who lives part of the time in a "known Moroccan city" and has been known to occasionally cook a mean "known Moroccan chicken and olive tagine." 

This part just made me sad:

Business owners in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, where many of the pictures were taken, at first expressed amusement at seeing themselves alongside their friends and neighbors in documents compiled by officers hunting for terrorists.

"Police come here for what? We cut hair all day," said Amine Darhbach, a U.S. citizen barber who charges $12 for a haircut and sends a portion of his earnings to his family in Morocco each month.

As they flipped through the documents, they said they grudgingly accepted the police attention. It is hardly news to them that, since the 2001 terrorist attacks, Muslims are under greater scrutiny by the public and law enforcement.

"We've been harassed for so long, it doesn't make any sense to complain," said Leo Santini, a cafe owner and U.S. citizen who changed his name from Mohamed Hussein because he thought he would be treated better without such an Arab name. His three American kids, he said, "don't look Arab, so they won't have any problems."

And the end reminds us of the security collaboration with the "known Moroccan regime" and its methods:

At the barber shop in Queens, Darhbach said he agrees police should keep the city safe but said that as an American citizen, his business shouldn't be listed in police files just for serving Moroccan customers. But like many of his neighbors, who grew up under the oppressive police forces of the Middle East and North Africa, Darhbach said things could be worse.

"In Morocco," he said, "police just come and take you away." 

Elections in the Gulf 2/2: UAE

Two elections are taking place in the Gulf — in Bahrain and in the United Arab Emirates — on Saturday. The political environments could not be more different, but the results of both elections are not expected to change much. Yesterday, we looked at Bahrain. Today, we focus on the UAE.

In the UAE there is no opposition and the candidates — 468 of them — are running for a body that has no legislative power. So what are people focused on? Turnout.

In the run up to the Federal National Council election the state run news agency WAM carried statements stressing the importance of voters exercising their right at the ballots. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan called for broad and active participation in the elections. Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum echoed the call a day later.

Even more clearly, Anwar Mohammed Gargash, state minister for FNC, said:

There is no historic cumulative for the electoral process in the UAE to assess a number of voters who will turn up, but the measure of success will be the percentage of participation.

Not all Emirati citizens can vote: only roughly 130,000 who were handpicked by the rulers of the seven Emirates are electors. These voters, half of which are women, are also only voting for 20 FNC members, with the other 20 appointed by the state. The majority of those campaigning — only the electoral college was eligible to contest a seat — for the FNC have been “hasty and unprofessional,” according to an editorial by Abdul Hamid Ahmad, editor-in-chief of Gulf News. “Many have been confused and only a handful have been focused on their mission.” But the candidates should not be blamed because campaigning, which was limited to about three weeks, is a new exercise and they have not had much assistance, the paper adds. Gulf News too notes turnout is key.

If voter turnout is high it is possible that the electoral college will be expanded, but if the turnout is low the same is also possible. Every adult Emirati could be eligible to vote for members of the FNC within eight years, Gargash, the state minister for the FNC, told The National. But 2019 seems very far off.

The reality is that the government has taken a small step toward democracy but it has not done anything substantial to empower its citizens. The Supreme Council of Rulers — the heads of the seven Emirates — hold all the power, something the elections will not change. There has been talk of empowering the FNC, but there has not been talk of limiting the powers of the Supreme Council — and the two go hand in hand.

Christopher Davidson, a Gulf expert at Durham University, says it is not entirely clear what the purpose of the exercise really is — beyond shoring claims that change is on its way:

What the question is, is what are people turning out for? Not very much. [A good turnout] plays into the regime’s hands because they want to get headlines, they want to be able to give the impression that things are moving forward on this gradual path toward democracy that they keep talking about… This is something which doesn’t come anything near crossing any red line, a red line being giving the FNC any legislative power at all or even robust power of questioning.

It does not appear that the majority (or even a large minority) of society is calling for the rulers’ power to be curbed. A few did though. UAE activist Ahmed Mansoor was among 133 others who asked the Emirati leadership for direct elections and for the FNC to have legislative powers.

He and four others are now in jail for opposing and insulting the country’s leadership. Article 176 of the penal code states:

Any person who insults by any means of publicity the president of the state, its flag or national emblem shall be punishable by confinement for a period not exceeding five years.

Article 8 of the code expanded the list to include the crown princes of each emirate and others.

The trial of the five activists continues next week, the outcome of which may be more telling than the FNC elections. “The whole thing is a farce,” Davidson said. “Five people who actually called for real parliament with proper legislative powers with full elections and God forbid a constitutional monarchy — they’re actually in prison.”

Correction: The last quote by Christopher Davidson initially erroneously read "God forbid a constitutional democracy." It has been corrected to "God forbid a constitutional monarchy". We apologize for the typo.

Elections in the Gulf 1/2: Bahrain

Two elections are taking place in the Gulf — in Bahrain and in the United Arab Emirates — on Saturday. The political environments could not be more different, but the results of both elections are not expected to change much. First, let's look at the dynamics in Bahrain. Tomorrow, a second part of this post will look at the UAE.

In Bahrain the election was called to replace the 18 seats formerly held by the main Shiite opposition group, Al Wefaq, which resigned earlier this year protesting the government’s crackdown. Al Wefaq and five other opposition groups are boycotting the vote. Several candidates have already won unopposed. Al Wefaq said it was powerless against the government and since the group has walked out of parliament, the government has not conceded anything, they say. How could they return under such conditions?

“We were not able to help the people when the crackdown started,” according to Matar Ebrahim Matar, a former Al Wefaq MP, who himself was arrested, held and beaten in detention — an accusation the government denies. “The government doesn’t listen to anybody so even if we are inside (the parliament), the government are ignoring all those who are speaking about violations, people who are fired from their jobs, tortured inside the jail and the patients who cannot reach medical services,” he said. “The denial will not stop the issues.”

So much has happened in the Gulf kingdom since February when the unrest began. More than three dozen people are dead, roughly 5,000 were injured and 3,000 lost their jobs. As a percentage of the population (there are roughly 620,000 Bahrainis and 650,000 expatriates) the losses are enormous.

A “National Dialogue” was launched in the summer to discuss reforms without preconditions. Al Wefaq stopped participating in the talks saying the dialogue did not address the roots of the problem and was not credible.

Since then mass rallies are held every week by Al Wefaq. Other anti-government groups are also holding weekly events. Nightly clashes in the Shiite areas continue, with deaths occurring every few weeks. The population remains dissatisfied and no meaningful doors are open for dialogue. Calls for civil disobedience have begun as organizers asked anti-government demonstrators to use their cars to block roads and bring the capital to a standstill on Wednesday. This week, the government tried to show it was sympathetic and King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa issued a royal decree establishing a compensation fund for the victims of the violence.

There is no going back to the way things were. An opposition observer, who cannot be named for security reasons, told me:

If Al Wefaq enters into parliament the entire load of the pain will come on their shoulders. All the Shiite people… will blame them or say okay now you’re representatives you have to extract our rights, you have to do something for us, which they cannot. The system is tightly governed that you cannot even question the most junior minister — that is like an impossibility.”

Voter turnout is expected to be low with one analyst estimating 15 percent. In contrast to the 2010 election when Al Wefaq ran and turnout was high - in part because a media campaign against Al Wefaq backfired and the group won additional anti-government support. In 2010, “we were trying at that time to send a positive message that we are willing to take steps to contribute in whatever the government is doing,” Matar, the Al Wefaq MP, said. “But the government didn’t allow even very small changes in the constitution.”

Not everyone sees it that way. This is what Jamal Fakhro, the First Deputy Chairman of the Shura Council, argues:

The opposition they have their own understanding of negotiation of dialogue or discussions. They have been offered everything. They have been given their right to stand for the election. The voters have supported them, have given them their 18 seats out of the 40. And still they believe they are not very well represented… The opposition are saying ‘either you do it in accordance to whatever I want or I will start to work on the general public to bring upset to the community and unrest to Bahrain’… They are not able, unfortunately, to sit across a table and discuss and have a proper dialogue or place their thoughts at the parliament and fight for them.

The result of the election is known before voting begins, as the opposition is out. A more important date to watch will be at the end of October, when an independent commission, set up by the king, will issue its report on the events that unfolded in Bahrain. The king has said “the Commission is free to make any recommendations.”

The burden will then be on the government to implement them.

Events and appearances

A scene from Ahmad Abdalla's "Microphone"

This will be a busy week for me: I'll be appearing on a panel at the Online News Association conference in Boston, specifically their Friday keynote on the Arab Spring with NPR's Andy Carvin, the NYT's Jennifer Preston, Nasser Weddady of IAC and Egyptian journalist Rehab al-Bakri, among others. We'll be talking about journalism and social media and covering the uprisings. Check it out.

On Saturday, I'll be on a panel talk at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London entitled Winds of Change in the Arab Territories with Iranian philosopher Hamid Dabashi, Israeli filmmaker and academic Haim Bresheeth, Iraqi literature professor and feminist activist Nadje Al-Ali, and more. The talk is part of the ICA's festival of cinema from Muslim societies which is open to all comers.

On Sunday, also at the ICA, I'll be introducing Microphone, a great film by the young Egyptian director Ahmad Abdalla that was made last year and was supposed to air on... January 25. I love this film and highly recommend it.

The Rio Grande, the Jordan and the Hudson

Hoo boy. It's going to be a real a Zionist lovefest in NYC today as the GOP, members of the Israel lobby and Likud convene at 10am on Tuesday, September 20th in the W Hotel in Manhattan. Their rally/press conference will be led by GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry and KM Danny Danon. From JPost:

"Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry will hold a press conference with American and Israeli-Jewish leaders in New York on Tuesday in which he is expected to address the upcoming deliberations at the United Nations, MK Danny Danon (Likud), said on Saturday night."

"Danon, who will participate at the press conference, said he would ask Perry ahead of the conference to adopt the initiative the MK is advancing to annex Judea and Samaria in response to the unilateral Palestinian moves at the UN."

Danon, already in the U.S. to speak at nationwide Zionist fundraisers and rallies prior to the UN vote, has proposed an "Annexation for Declaration Initiative," which would "establish full sovereignty over the Jewish communities of the West Bank . . . our historic homeland of Judea and Samaria:"

"Under [my] three-state solution, Arab-Israelis residing within Israel would be welcome to join the official new State of Israel. The remaining enclaves of Palestinian towns and villages in Judea and Samaria would become part of either Egypt or Jordan, and the Egyptian and Jordanian borders would extend accordingly to these designated towns."

[Snip]

"Both Jordan and Egypt have expressed strong support and concern for Palestinians living in the West Bank. If they truly care so much, then they should readily agree to a three-state solution and incorporate the Palestinian towns located adjacent to their current borders."

The Israeli annexations would include the settlements "as a start," and expand to encompass the "empty land" of Area C, a designation for almost 60% of total West Bank territory (less than 10% of the total Palestinian population resides in Area C). The land, susceptible to drought, is at least partly underpopulated by Palestinians because under the Oslo Accords, Area Chas seen:

Demolition of livelihood structures - including commercial structures, educational facilities, wells, water cisterns, water storage tanks, farmland and animal pens - by Israeli authorities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem increased by about 85 percent in 2010 and so far in 2011 . . .

[Snip]

In Area C, Israel retains military authority and full control over the building and planning sphere, while responsibility for the provision of services falls to the PA.

About 70 percent of Area C is classified as a firing zone, settlement areas, or nature reserves, and is inaccessible to Palestinians.

Danon argues all this is right and proper because the land constitutes what was "Judea and Samaria": there's no Palestine, never was and certainly won't be on the Jews' God-given property. So while it is right for South Sudan to pursue statehood, in Danon's opinion ("just like Israel, its people live with a sense of resolve and confidence that their existence is a God-given right", "the creation of this new nation deserves the attention and admiration of the entire international community"), it is not right, not God-given and certainly not admirable for the Palestinians to attempt to do so now or ever, as it will just lead to the establishment of a terrorist state because that's the only state the Palestinians have demonstrated that they want.

"Not to trivialize the Sudanese situation," some might say, "but isn't it a bit disingenuous of Danon to deny meaningful self-determination to the Palestinians while proclaiming his love for South Sudan? He didn't suggest that South Sudan's population should give up because their lands have never constituted a distinct country. Frankly, his plan evokes the spirit of the partititions and population transfers of Poles, Slavs and Eastern European Jews over the past 300 years."

And to these ner' do wells, I simply say: that's showing the Texas spirit, Danny! 

With the spate of "honorary Texan" citizenships Perry has been granting lately, I hope he has saved one for you, because you've earned it!

After all, the U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas fair and square up to the Rio Grande, so why can't Israel realize it's own Manifest Destiny on the Jordan? The land use policies were drawn up by God, after all! And as Perry has noted in the past, Masada is the Alamo and Gaza is Mexico.

In fact, it was exactly the same situation for Texans in the 1830s and 40s as it is for 21st century Israeli settlers, according to Perry: "historian T.R. Fehrenbach once observed that my home state of Texas and Israel share the experience of civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies," Perry wrote last week. 

Exactly the same - except for the part where Texans actually participated in a referendum over their annexation by the U.S. The non-Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria will presumably not have that luxury, though they will certainly be welcome to vote with their feet on whether they remain in Greater Israel or not.

Yet, as Max Blumenthal has pointed out, Perry's remarks are in fact, too clever by half. According to Blumenthal, what Fehrenbach actually said in his work Lone Star: A History of Texas and the Texans was this:

"The Texan’s attitudes, his inherent chauvinism and the seeds of his belligerence, sprouted from his conscious effort to take and hold his land. It was the reaction of essentially civilized men and women thrown into new and harsh conditions, beset by enemies they despised. The closest 20th-century counterpart is the State of Israel, born in blood in another primordial land."

With that in mind, Danon is even more deserving than Glenn Beck is of an honorary Texan citizenship. Hell, make him an honorary Texas Ranger. Make everyone in Likud (among other parties) an honorary Texas Ranger. They could then do some whistlestop campaigning in the West Bank wearing official badges. 

Yisrael Beitenu's Avigdor Lieberman would probably look good in a bolo tie, and I think spurs would not look out of place on Im Tirtzu jackboots. But I shudder to think what Perry would wear to such a West Bank rally . . . especially as a U.S. president.

The exact location of the event has not been publicly disclosed, though Politico says that from an invite their reporters have seen, the venue is going to be a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood of Manhattan. Perry will also be hosting a fundraisertargeted at Jewish donors in Manhattan this week (which may or may not be part of the venue with Danon on 9/20).

Dissecting the settlers' agitprop
Israel National News is a favorite news outlet of the Israeli right and the settler movement more generally. It now seems to be busy preparing a propaganda war. 

Israel National News: "First Arab 'September Attack': Convoy Approached Negohot; September attacks have begun: Arabs in 40-50 vehicles drove along Jewish community's fence, taunted and jeered."

Presumably, this will be used as evidence to suggest that the Arabs "started it," like how they "started" the Six Day War. But for a minor incident, it is rather illustrative of the settlement project as a whole:
  1. Hilltop (Double) Standards - The protesters did not, at least based on what INN has reported, attempt to enter Negohot, a West Bank settlement founded in 1982. Nor did they exit their vehicles or direct anything more than words and posters at the fenced-in settlement. Nevertheless, such actions constitute an attack (not a protest - an attack), according to the settlers. Whereas attacks against Palestinian property and lives are always acts of self-preservation: Remember the Alamo!
  2. The Spineless Security Forces - The IDF is criticized for not being more proactive, especially since they have declared there are "red lines" Palestinians must not be allowed to cross around the settlements. According to the article, IDF soldiers nearby simply stood by and watched the convoy slowly drive by. The article asserts that settlers must not rely on a supine IDF in the coming weeks, but rather, on themselves, because Palestinians are hopelessly foolish (but, at the same time, ingenious connivers). The IDF is a potential enemy in the eyes of the settlers, as is the PA. 
  3. The Arabs' Useful Idiots - The "anti-Jewish" Israeli Supreme Court is again castigated for a decision made in 2009 that reopened Israeli Route 443 between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to Palestinian drivers such as these. The road, built on "expropriated" Palestinian land located within the West Bank, was closed to Palestinian traffic during the Second Intifada because of attacks on Israeli motorists. With support fromIsraeli human rights groups, suits to reopen by Palestinian villages made it to the Supreme Court, which overturned the military ban on Palestinian traffic because a panel of 3 justices decided the ban was a form of collective punishment. But if the road was still closed to non-Israelis, this provocation would never have happened, it is suggested. The Arab-loving left throws away Jewish lives.
  4. The Opinion War: Essentially, "leftist" opinion is just as dangerous, if not more so, than any number of al Asqa Brigadists. It is an "enabler," even, and must be changed. "Being right isn't enough, selling it is" - and the main talking points must be the Holocaust and the Torah. Changing the way the government appoints Supreme Court justices and licenses Israeli NGOs activities was on the legislative agendas of far-right Israeli parties during this past Knesset session. Neither effort succeeded, but the far-right has vowed to keep trying to wrest humanitarianism in the West Bank away from a far-left minority (in favor of their own far-right minority, of course - parliamentarianism, everybody!).
So as Israel National News noted, Negohot is only the beginning this September.