Saturday, December 22, 2012

Egyptian artists fear for their future in cultural backlash after Arab spring

Censorship could be as bad as under previous regimes, as cultural figures feel the pressure

The Observer,
"Leading Middle Eastern cultural figures and academics have warned that the arts of the Arab spring are under threat because of increasing violence, censorship and lack of political vision.

The popular perception that the region is experiencing unprecedented freedom of expression is "simplistic and misleading", with many artists "wary of the increasingly violent nature of the Arab spring", according to a study for the British Council by the postwar reconstruction and development unit at York University. The report, Out in the Open: Artistic Practices and Social Change in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, found that the system of strict government censorship that has existed for decades is "largely still in place"........

"I think we are at a brink point. The Muslim majority [in Egypt] could just react and suppress artistic expression even more than Hosni Mubarak," Barakat said. The Egyptian playwright Ahmed el-Attar said: "I'm afraid the country is sliding towards fascism. So far culture has been kept on the side. The Muslim Brotherhood don't yet have a cultural agenda. They're talking about focusing on historical Islamic figures. I'm not sure that applies to the Salafis, who question the notion of art itself."......

Writer Ahdaf Soueif, who documented the uprising in her book Cairo: My City, Our Revolution, said she opposed engaging with Mohamed Morsi's government about the future of the arts amid the protests about the president's attempted power grab. "Engaging with them on that level is wrong. They are in no way a government of the revolution."....."

Real News Video: Gaza's Children Haunted by Nightmare of War

UNICEF report indicates vast majority of Gaza's children are struggling to cope with war trauma and PTSD

More at The Real News

The army and the constitution

Egypt's draft constitution fails to achieve a key prerequisite of a democratic future for the country: civilian supervision of the army

Khaled Fahmy , Saturday 22 Dec 2012
Ahram Online

"....I was looking forward to a constitution that clearly states that the minister of defence would be a civilian, embodying the notion of public supervision of the army. Instead, the constitution added a new article directly stating that the minister of defence must be an officer of the Armed Forces (Article 195).
I hoped that the constitution would stipulate the right of an elected parliament to oversee the army’s budget, but instead the constitution assigned this sensitive duty to the National Defence Council which is membered by a majority of military personnel (Article 197).
I aspired for a constitution that clearly bans the trial of civilians in military courts, but instead Article 198 of the new constitution confirms this is possible.
I wanted the new constitution to clearly state that draft into the army is a national duty for the youth to serve the country and they can only be recruited to defend the homeland, in order to end the farcical practice of sending our drafted recruits to companies, restaurants and utilities run by the army for their own profit. But the constitution does not include any clause to this effect.
When we created a modern army at the beginning of the 19th century we were not able as a society to subject this genie to our will, and failed to curb its domination. In the 20th century, the lack of supervision by society of the army resulted in establishing a corrupt political regime that obstructed the transition to democracy and inflicted upon us a military defeat that is unlike any other in modern history.
After our revolution succeeded, we had hoped that we would write a constitution that avoided these mistakes and corrected these historic blunders for which we paid dearly. Instead, Hassaan and his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly gave us a retarded and oppressive constitution that fails to achieve one of our key and fundamental goals.
Therefore, despite Hassaan’s rant about humanity envying us for this document, we will not back down until we rescind this wretched constitution."

Al-Jazeera Video: حديث الثورة- التطورات السياسية والميدانية في سوريا


"تتناول الحلقة التطورات السياسية والميدانية في سوريا، حيث أعلن الثوار عن تحقيق تقدم في ريف حماة بوسط البلاد بعد سيطرتهم على ست بلدات في المحافظة.
تقديم : محمد كريشان
تاريخ البث: 20/12/2012
الضيوف: صفوت الزيات، ماجد كيالي، غسان شبانة


Friday, December 21, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Syria military 'continuing to fire Scud-type missiles'

What are Egypt's secular women afraid of in the new constitution? By Carlos Latuff

Al-Jazeera Video: Clashes erupt in Egypt ahead of crucial vote

As the ANC Votes to Support BDS, A New Film Compares Life in Palestine to Apartheid South Africa

Democracy Now!

"As the African National Congress voted Thursday to support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel known as BDS, declaring it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel," we look at a new film that examines the apartheid analogy commonly used to describe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “Roadmap to Apartheid,” is narrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker and puts archival footage and interviews with South Africans, alongside similar material that shows what life is like for Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel. The documentary has just been released to the public after a year long film festival run, where it won numerous awards. We are joined by its co-directors, South African-born Ana Nogueira and Israeli-born Eron Davidson, both longtime journalists...."

Real News Video: Backed by US, Muslim Brotherhood Tries to Reproduce Mubarak Regime

Amr Adly: Final round of constitutional referendum on Saturday - Muslim Brotherhood constitution may pass but will not stabilize Egypt 

More at The Real News

Real News Video: US Blocks UN Condemnation of Israeli Settlements

Vijay Prashad: Most European countries including UK support statement denouncing new settlements

More at The Real News

Egyptians are being held back by neoliberalism, not religion

President Morsi claims the opposition is an anti-Islamist elite. In fact, he is losing support because of his economic policies

The Guardian,

".....But if Egyptians are, as results indicate, losing faith in the Brotherhood, it isn't because the organisation is Islamist, but because it has so far been rubbish at ruling. Many believe the Brotherhood has kept its promises to power, but not to the people. Crucially, President Morsi's economic policy has deepened the neo-liberalism that brought so much misery during the Mubarak era and was a key component of the uprising against him.
This economic stamp is all over Morsi's policies, both before and as a part of the proposed constitution – which was completed in a one-day marathon, by an Islamist-dominated assembly, after Christian, liberal and female members walked out. In early December he announced an end to fuel subsidies – so household bills for gas cylinders and electricity, for example, are set to spike.
Meanwhile, an IMF loan of $4.8bn currently being negotiated is conditioned on what has been described as the biggest wave of austerity cuts since 1977 – when subsidies on staple foods were removed in one crippling hit, prompting the "bread riots". Today the plan is to reduce public spending, cut subsidies, increase tax on basic goods, and devalue the Egyptian pound. This package was delayed because of the current turmoil. But why should Egyptians swallow such a Shock Doctrine-style deal, when one of the key tenets of the revolution was a call for social justice?
Meanwhile, the proposed constitution reveals more of the Brotherhood's conservative economics. It has a clause that pegs wages to productivity. It stipulates that only "peaceful" strikes (whatever that means) are allowed. It keeps military interests intact and invisible to public scrutiny – in a country where the army is thought to own anything from 10% to 45% of the national economy (nobody knows for sure because it's all so secret). It is all more evidence that Morsi is not, as he claims, trying to "protect the revolution", but wants to protect the interests of an entrenched elite at the expense of everyone else. Indeed, this year a Bloomberg report referred to the wealthy, controlling echelons of this Islamist group as the "Brothers of the 1%".
Small wonder, then, that the factory-dense city of Mahalla declared itself an independent state, in protest at Morsi's anti-union laws. Since he came to power there has been a wave of strikes; not just factory stoppages but also health worker strikes and consumer protests at eroding public services. And Egypt's rapidly growing independent unions have been mobilising nationally against the constitution, using its trampling of social justices as the hook......

But while his economic policy makes Morsi unpopular on the streets, it is precisely what makes him acceptable to the west: power-serving economics coupled with a foreign policy that doesn't rock any regional boats, crucially with Israel. Using standard paternalistic filters, the US is banking on the idea that the Brotherhood's religious credibility will underwrite its reactionary politics, thereby maintaining the status quo. In this sense, the American administration doesn't really care if it's a Mubarak or a Morsi in power, as long as these interests are preserved......"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Israel's colonial strangling of Bethlehem

Bethlehem has been "isolated and fragmented" in a way that would devastate any town or community the world over.

By Ben White

"At the main checkpoint to enter Bethlehem there is a large sign placed on the Separation Wall by Israel's ministry of tourism which says "Peace be with you". An appropriate symbol for Israel's colonial strangling of the "little town", this propaganda for pilgrims is a crude microcosm of Israel's habit of talking "co-existence" while pursuing apartheid. 

Over decades of Israeli military rule, more and more land around the city has been annexed, expropriated and colonised, with 19 illegal settlements now in the governorate. Eighty percent of an estimated 22 square kilometre of land confiscated from the north of the Bethlehem region was annexed to the Jerusalem municipality in order to expand settlements (see this briefing).

Beit Sahour, home of the Shepherds' Fields where it is said the angels announced the birth of Jesus, has been hit hard by Israel's colonial regime, losing 17 percent of its land to the expansion of Jerusalem's municipal boundaries. The Wall loops around 10 percent of the Bethlehem region's land, and the UN estimates that only 13 percent of the governorate is available for Palestinian use. In and around the city, there are over 30 physical barriers to Palestinian freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli military. Bethlehem has been isolated and fragmented in a way that would devastate any town or community the world over......"

Al-Jazeera Video: تدفق اللاجئين الفلسطينيين من سوريا للبنان

French-Algerians are still second-class citizens

Hollande's rapprochement in north Africa doesn't change things much for French-Algerians at home

The Guardian,

".....Hollande has done very little to address the problems experienced by Algerians living in France, including growing Islamophobia. He refuses to reverse measures like the burqa ban and has highlighted his opposition to halal meat and praying in the street because of a lack of mosques. Anti-discrimination laws are way down his agenda, despite the fact that stigmatisation is likely to increase as the negative social effects of economic austerity polices become more apparent.

Populist rightwing politicians like Marine Le Pen and Nicolas Sarkozy, meanwhile, routinely portray alienated migrant communities as France's "enemy within", imposing their foreign lifestyles on an otherwise prosperous, forward-thinking modern democracy. Le Pen, who achieved a fifth of the popular vote in the first round of May's presidential elections, equates immigration from Algeria with an increased risk of terrorism.

Hollande's well-crafted business-speak and worthy pronouncements in Algeria will do nothing to change any of this. By concentrating on commerce he ignores the underlying disdain that many Algerians still hold for a French establishment that offers them little beyond suspicion and prejudice."

Israel/Gaza: Unlawful Israeli Attacks on Palestinian Media

Missiles Kill Two Media Workers, Toddler; 10 Wounded
December 20, 2012

"(Gaza City) – Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations.

The attacks killed two Palestinian cameramen, wounded at least 10 media workers, and badly damaged four media offices, as well as the offices of four private companies. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building.

The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims. After examining the attack sites and interviewing witnesses, Human Rights Watch found no indications that these targets were valid military objectives.

Just because Israel says a journalist was a fighter or a TV station was a command center does not make it so,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Journalists who praise Hamas and TV stations that applaud attacks on Israel may be propagandists, but that does not make them legitimate targets under the laws of war.”....."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: Palestinian refugees leaving Syria for Lebanon

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر - قصف مخيم اليرموك للاجئين بسوريا

A Third Intifada on the Horizon?

By Mel Frykberg

"A new Palestinian group called the National Union Battalions (NUB), comprising Palestinians from across the political spectrum, has called for a third Palestinian uprising or Intifada. Simultaneously, Israeli intelligence is warning that conditions on the ground in the West Bank are ripe for another Palestinian revolt....."

I beg to differ with Egyptian liberals

Given that Gaza is Egypt's first line of defence against Israeli aggression, it should be a priority for President Morsi

Khaled Fahmy , Wednesday 19 Dec 2012
Ahram Online

"During a recent episode of Al-Ittijah Al-Muaakes (The Opposite Direction) on Al Jazeera, an Egyptian liberal lambasted President Mohamed Morsi "for paying ample attention to his comrades in Gaza at the expense of the Egyptian people."

The guest, who seemed quite exasperated and convulsive, argued that Morsi should have devoted more of his time to tackling the numerous problems facing the Egyptian people.....

Israel is Egypt's existential enemy

Whether we like it or not, Israel has been, is and will always be Egypt's existential enemy. There is a preponderance of evidence corroborating this fact. True, the principled Israeli enmity toward Egypt is strongly connected with Egypt's historical opposition to Zionism and the creation of Israel in Palestine. Egypt fought several wars with Israel and a gulf of blood and fire still separates the Egyptian people from the Zionist entity.

Yes, the two states reached a peace treaty in 1978. However it is crystal clear that the Camp David treaty, which the Egyptian leadership signed more or less under duress, did very little to put an end to undeclared but definitive Israeli designs against Egypt.

For this reason, most Egyptians consistently refused to "normalise" relations with the Jewish state, causing widespread consternation in Zionist circles, which sought to instigate successive American administrations against Egypt, including the Mubarak regime.

Israel wanted to use the Camp David treaty to strip Egypt of its Arab and Muslim character as well as cause irreparable damage to the collective conscience and consciousness of the Egyptian people. However, thanks to the enduring vigour and strong moral fabric of the Egyptian people, the morbid Israeli designs were a gigantic fiasco.
According to Israel Shahak's book, Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years, much of Egypt is actually part of Biblical Israel according to some sages of the Talmud. This mythology is taught to Jewish students in hundreds of Talmudic schools (yeshivot) and colleges throughout Israel.

I would have thought that these ideas were no more than mythical hallucinations on the part of some deranged so-called 'sages'. But when I found out that many otherwise level-headed rabbis kept regurgitating these myths, I began to view the matter differently.

In the final analysis, those who urge their people to follow the example of Joshua in dealing with the Palestinians (murderous ethnic cleansing) are capable of embarking on the unthinkable.....

Even today, 36 years after the conclusion of the Camp David treaty, Israel continues to threaten Egypt. On several occasions, Israeli officials threatened to bomb the Aswan High Dam and incite non-Arab Nile basin countries to disrupt water inflow to the Nile.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdore Lieberman, who wanted to annihilate the Palestinians and throw handcuffed political prisoners into the Dead Sea, called for ruining Egypt economically, politically and even morally. The Egyptian media reported on several occasions the arrest of Israeli agents with instructions to spread the AIDS virus in Egypt, generate chaos, including sectarian conflicts between Muslims and Copts.....

First line of defence

Palestine, especially the Gaza Strip, is Egypt's first line of defence against Israeli hegemony and aggression. A strong Gaza should therefore be viewed as a strategic asset for Egypt and vice versa.

In real terms, this means that a strong Gaza which can repulse or at least deter Israeli aggression will strengthen Egyptian national security. Israel had sought on several occasions to revive old plans to transfer Palestinian refugees to the Sinai Peninsula. However, it was the Palestinian leadership whether in Gaza or Ramallah that resolutely rejected the insidious designs.

In truth, discordance between Egypt and the Palestinians would be a real calamity for both that would only benefit Israel as well as the common enemies of Egypt and Palestine....."

Real News Video: Israeli Army Killing Palestinian Protesters with Impunity say Activists

Following chronic failure of IDF investigations, activists release the name of soldier involved in killing of Palestinian protester 

More at The Real News

Egypt under MB new constitution – Muhammad Morsi, by Carlos Latuff

Intervention in Syria risks blowback and regional war

The west's bid to ramp up the war in Syria will simply escalate the killing. Only negotiation can stop the conflict spreading

The Guardian,

".....What began in Syria nearly two years ago as a popular uprising, brutally repressed by the Assad regime, has since increasingly taken on the character of a sectarian conflict and regional proxy war, as Saudi Arabia and its western backers have seen the chance to bury Iran and Russia's main long-term Middle Eastern ally....."

Guardian Video: Kidnapped NBC team freed after firefight in Syria


"NBC's chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel and his team arrive in Turkey after being freed from their captors in Syria. With threats of mock executions, he said they are very happy to be out and back in Turkey. Their five-day ordeal came to an end on Monday evening in a dramatic gun battle after being kidnapped by pro-Assad gunmen."

Palestinians flee to Lebanon after jet bombs Syria's largest refugee camp

PLO officials say Assad regime's attack marks 'historic moment' with former ally as 50,000 Palestinians expected from Yarmouk

in Beirut,
Thousands of Palestinians in Syria are fleeing Damascus after an attack on the country's largest refugee camp, according to survivors who have reached Lebanon.
Some of those who have made it to the relative safety of Beirut claim the attack marks a "historical moment" in the Syrian war that has shattered the regime's claim to be a patron of resistance against Israel.

The fallout from the attack on the Yarmouk refugee camp in south-west Damascus on Sunday night is now reaching beyond Syria's borders, with Lebanon and Jordan braced for a fresh refugee crisis.
About 1,000 Palestinians had reached Lebanon less than 48 hours after a Syrian jet bombed a mosque and a school inside Yarmouk camp, the first time the large, sprawling section of the capital had been targeted from the air and only the second time it had been struck since the civil war began. The air strike is believed to have killed about 25 people and wounded several dozen more.
The new arrivals say they fear that authority in the Syrian capital is starting to crumble. They are now openly hostile towards a regime that had long portrayed itself as the protector of the 500,000 Palestinians living in Syria, most of whom had called Yarmouk home until now.

"No Palestinian will trust them anymore after what they did on Sunday," said Abu Khalil, a father of three who has taken refuge in the infamous Beirut refugee camp Sabra-Shatila. "All of us accept that blood has been drawn between us and the regime. There is a debt to settle. It will never be like it was.".....

The Yarmouk attack is also being seen as a turning point by senior Palestinian officials in Lebanon. Qassem Hassan, the general secretary of the PLO in Sabra-Shatila, said: "We sense a very bad smell to this. Why this is happening, we can't understand. The PLO had taken a position not to support the regime or the other side.
"We did not interfere in the affairs of Syria and they shouldn't have interfered in ours. A volcano has erupted here. Is this part of a plan to reorganise the Middle East? We don't know. But it is a very big event.""

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

NBC's Richard Engel tells of Syrian kidnapping escape

US journalist and his colleagues were rescued after a gun battle between their captors and rebel fighters,

"When the threats of execution began for the team of NBC journalists kidnapped by a group in Syria loyal to President Assad, they were underlined by a terrible reality.

For even as Richard Engel and his colleagues working for the US television network were taken into captivity five days ago, blindfold and bound, it was in the knowledge that one of their rebel guides had already been shot and killed.

Their ordeal came to an end at 11pm on Monday in a dramatic gun battle when a group of opposition fighters discovered and freed Engel and four other members of his team – including producer Ghazi Balkiz, cameraman John Kooistra and an unnamed engineer – who were being moved by car.

"As we were moving along the road, the kidnappers came across a rebel checkpoint, something they hadn't expected. We were in the back of what you would think of as a minivan," an unshaven Engel told NBC's Today programme.
"The kidnappers saw this checkpoint and started a gunfight with it.
"Two of the kidnappers were killed. We climbed out of the vehicle and the rebels took us. We spent the night with them."
"It was a very traumatic experience," Engel said. He said he believed the kidnappers were a Shia militia group loyal to the Syrian government, adding that they executed at least one of his rebel escorts on the spot at the time he was captured.
"They kept us blindfolded, bound," said the 39-year-old reporter, who is one of the most high-profile television foreign correspondents in the US.
"We weren't physically beaten or tortured. A lot of psychological torture, threats of being killed. They made us choose which one of us would be shot first and when we refused, there were mock shootings," he added.
"They were talking openly about their loyalty to the government," said Engel.
"This was … the Shabiha. This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar Assad."....."

Voting for Egypt's constitution

Polling stations across Egypt seemed to be marred with irregularities - is no one in charge?


"....Democracy is not simply a matter of elections and majority-rule; it is perhaps more importantly a safeguarding of ideals of freedom and justice - the same ideals which inspired the January 25 Revolution and for which the revolutionaries continue to lobby. Many embittered revolutionaries will remain opposed to the current draft of the constitution, even if it is passed by popular vote, precisely because it is not written in the revolutionary spirit, for which many sacrificed and died, and without which Mr Morsi and dominating Islamists would have never had the opportunity to rule. That the voting process proceeded with so much opposition reveals a government unwilling to compromise or hear the demands of its people, especially the people who enabled it to come to power. A constitution that is illegitimate in the eyes of many activists has only been undermined further by a highly flawed voting process, regardless of the outcome of the vote."

Is this the Muhammad Morsi new constitution for Egypt? By Carlos Latuff

Arab-Israeli MP may face election ban

Election panel to consider motions against Haneen Zoabi, who took part in Gaza flotilla in 2010, and two Arab parties

in Jerusalem,

".....In response to the move to disqualify her, Zoabi said: "This is the time to choose between fascism and democracy." Only "dark regimes" could be proud of disqualifying candidates, she added.

"The rightwing has become accustomed to setting itself above the law, above human rights and above the rules of democracy," Zoabi said. Its goal, she said, was to "completely eliminate freedom of speech, political pluralism and the deviation from a narrow ideological consensus, which views an Arab who fights for his rights and his place as a great enemy.".....

But according to Adalah, a legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, which is representing Zoabi and the two parties, the composition of the supreme court is more conservative than in the past.

It says the motions should be seen in the context of the past four years of Binyamin Netanyahu's government, in which 20 laws that "target and discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel" have been passed.

"This process should be understood as a direct continuation of escalating measures taken against Israel's Arab-Palestinian citizens and their elected representatives," said Hassan Jabareen, of Adalah. "It is not acceptable for the majority to exclude minority representatives from the parliamentary process; there is no legal basis to do so and this step risks the gradual disenfranchisement of 20% of Israel's population."

In its response to the motions, which it described as racist, Adalah said there was insufficient evidence or a legal basis for disqualification. Israel's attorney-general has also said there is insufficient evidence to disqualify Zoabi or the two Arab parties......"

Syria: after Assad falls, what then?

The alliance between foreign jihadists and some Syrians shows the fight for Syria will not end with the fall of the regime

The Guardian,

".....Support for al-Nusra can be seen as both a symptom of the drunkenness of anticipated military victory, prematurely proclaimed, and an attempt to further undermine the political solution the UN still seeks. What happens as a result will not be decided by a conference in Marrakech, but on the ground. One thing is certain: the fight for Syria will last a long time, and will not end with the fall of the regime."

Monday, December 17, 2012

Al-Jazeera Video: مقاتلات النظام السوري تقصف مخيم اليرموك الفلسطيني

"قصفت مقاتلات تابعة للنظام السوري اليوم وللمرة الأولى مخيم اليرموك للاجئين الفلسطينيين في دمشق. وقد أدى القصف لمقتل وجرح العشرات ونزوح المئات من أهالي المخيم. يأتي هذا فيما أعلن أكثر من مائة من عناصر الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين القيادة العامة بقيادة أحمد جبريل أعلنوا انشقاقهم وتشكيلهم الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير فلسطين القيادة الحرة.

Al-Jazeera Video: Alawite community forced to flee homes

"In Syria, Al Jazeera has visited a village in Idlib province which was once home to the Alawite community, the sect of President Bashar al-Assad. They fled when opposition forces pushed into their territory, the fighters say the Alawites have been working with the government, and have blood on their hands as well. Zeina Khodr reports from the Idlib Province inside Syria."

Al-Jazeera Video: ما وراء الخبر- سيطرة الجيش الحر على مدرسة المشاة

Real News Video: Constitutional Vote Polarizes Egypt

Unofficial results show central Cairo voted against the constitution while rural regions, where the ruling Muslim Brotherhood wields influence, voted in favor 

More at The Real News

Egypt’s Referendum Clears 1st Round, But Critics Seek Re-Vote After Charges of Rigged Polls

Democracy Now!

"Egyptian voters headed to the polls on Saturday in a referendum on a controversial draft constitution. According to unofficial preliminary results, the document passed the first round with 57 percent of the vote with a turnout of just 31 percent. A second round is scheduled for this Saturday in remaining areas. A coalition of human rights groups has called for a revote, citing thousands of complaints of violations at the polls, including a lack of full judicial supervision. Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports from Cairo......"

Egypt’s New Pharaoh

By Chris Hedges

"When Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran after 14 years in exile on Feb. 1, 1979, he set out to destroy the secular opposition forces, including the Communist Party of Iran, which had been instrumental in bringing down the shah. Khomeini’s declaration of an Islamic government, supported by referendum, saw him rewrite the constitution, close opposition newspapers and ban opposition groups including the National Democratic Front and the Muslim People’s Republican Party. Dissidents who had spent years inside Iran’s notoriously brutal prison system under the shah were incarcerated once again by the new regime. Some returned to their cells to be greeted by their old jailers, who had offered their services to the new regime.

This is what is under way in Egypt. It is the story of most revolutions. The moderates, who are crucial to winning the support of the masses and many outside the country, become an impediment to the consolidation of autocratic power. Liberal democrats, intellectuals, the middle class, secularists and religious minorities including Coptic Christians were always seen by President Mohamed Morsi and his Freedom and Justice Party—Egypt’s de facto political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood—as “useful idiots.” These forces were essential to building a broad movement to topple the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. They permitted Western journalists to paint the opposition in their own image. But now they are a hindrance to single-party rule and are being crushed.....

This revolution, like all revolutions, has called poor believers into the streets to battle the party’s opponents. The opposition is branded the enemy of the revolution and, more ominously, the enemy of Islam; the anti-government protesters, in the words of Morsi, are the stooges of foreign embassies and Israel. And the poor—the Lumpenproletariat—are only too happy to lend their services as shock troops in defense of sacred beliefs and the promised future of glory and bread. They already detested those they are now being rallied against. Once released by the state from traditional forms of restraint, the mob willingly becomes vicious.

The last three weeks of street violence presage a period of blood and repression. The opposition, which at first wanted to boycott the referendum, is mounting a beleaguered effort to defeat it. The lines are drawn. Morsi and the Brotherhood have been exposed as the heirs of the old dictatorship in new garb. The struggle for an open society is being waged by the betrayed on the streets of Egyptian cities. It will be a fight to the death. Brotherhood posters put up throughout Egypt in support of the pending constitution urge people to vote yes to “Supporting Legitimacy and Shariah [Islamic law].” Those who oppose legitimacy and Islamic law, it goes without saying, are heretics."

هآرتس: نقل عتاد عسكري أمريكي إلى الأردن


"نقلت صحيفة "هآرتس" على لسان مراسلها على الحدود بين الأردن وسورية، اليوم الاثنين، أن تدفق اللاجئين السوريين إلى يتصاعد في الأيام الأخيرة بادعاء الخشية من قيام النظام السوري بتوجيه ما أسمته "ضربة أخيرة" من الممكن أن تستخدم فيها أسلحة كيماوية، مشيرة إلى أن قوات أمريكية تستعد لتدخل محتمل في سورية في حال تم استخدام أسلحة دمار شامل.

وأشارت إلى أن تقارير الأمم المتحدة تشير إلى أن نحو نصف مليون سوري تحولوا إلى لاجئين في دول الشرق الأوسط، وخاصة في الأردن وتركيا ولبنان.

كما أشارت إلى مخيم "الزعتري" الذي أقيم على الحدود بين سورية والأردن، والذي يعيش فيه اليوم نحو 32 ألفا من اللاجئين السوريين. وبدأ يوم أمس إقامة المئات من الخيام لاستيعاب موجة لجوء جديدة.

كما كتبت "هآرتس" أنه مع تصاعد المخاوف من استخدام أسلحة كيماوية من قبل النظام السوري، فإن هناك علامات كثيرة تشير إلى استعداد الجيش الأمريكي للتدخل السريع في سورية.

وأشارت إلى أنه في الأيام الأخيرة هبطت في مطارات الأردن طائرات شحن أمريكية تحمل عتادا عسكريا. كما لفتت إلى أنه يوجد منذ وقت طويل قوات تابعة للجيش الأمريكي في الأردن تعمل بشكل رسمي على تدريب الجيش الأردني وقوات الأمن التابعة للسلطة الفلسطينية (كتائب دايتون). وأن تقارير نشرت في الشهور الأخيرة تشير إلى أنه تم تعزيز هذه القوات لمساعدة الأردنيين في الاستعداد لإمكانية سقوط أسلحة كيماوية في الأردن.

كما أشارت الصحيفة إلى أن الإدارة الأمريكية أكدت على أن استخدام السلاح الكيماوي في سورية يلزم بتدخل عسكري خارجي، وأنه في هذه الحالة من المتوقع أن تكون الأردن قاعدة لقوات خاصة تتسلل إلى سورية للسيطرة على مخازن الأسلحة الكيماوية.

وكتبت "هآرتس" أيضا أن مجلة "أتلانتيك" الأمريكية نقلت قبل أسبوعين عن مسؤولين في الأردن قولهم إن الأردن رفضت طلبين إسرائيليين لـ"العمل عن طريق الأردن ضد الأسلحة الكيماوية السورية".

Foreign nerves limit Syria rebel arms, Assad's arsenals raided

"(Reuters) - Syrian rebel success in capturing government armories is rendering increasingly irrelevant Western efforts to limit supplies from abroad and avoid sophisticated arms reaching Islamist militants.
Western nations, particularly the United States, remain highly nervous of weapons falling into the wrong hands, while even Saudi Arabia and Qatar - by far the two most enthusiastic rebel backers - appear to have cut back support in recent weeks.

Opposition forces clearly hope the creation last week of a new unified military council and the growing number of foreign powers recognizing them as the legitimate government of Syria will lead to swiftly renewed support and new arms.

Even without that, however, the capture of a growing number of bases from forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad increasingly obviates the need for outside support. Meanwhile, resentment simmers over what many rebels see as yet more broken promises......

Most of the heavier weapons - including truck-mounted anti-aircraft machine guns that have made it significantly harder for government aircraft to strike rebel targets - were taken from Assad's forces.
Those weapons may be one reason why government forces have begun using Scud-type ballistic missiles to strike rebel areas, not risking helicopters or aircraft....."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Citing violations, Egyptian rights groups demand new charter poll

Human rights groups call for rerun of first phase of constitutional referendum due to 'numerous' violations witnessed during voting on Saturday

Ahram Online

"A number of prominent human rights groups have called for a re-run of the first phase of Egypt's constitutional referendum due to numerous violations reported during polling on Saturday.

"Despite the revolution, we had a referendum like those held during the Mubarak era," Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) leader Bahi El-Din Hassan said at a press conference on Sunday.

Hassan went on to list several types of violations that "invalidate the whole [referendum] process."
For example, there were cases of 'fake' judges overseeing the voting at polling stations.

He also accused several judges of closing polling stations early despite an order by the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) to extend voting until 11pm.

Human rights lawyer Negad El-Borai added that members of civil society organisations were banned from entering polling stations. However, members the Freedom and Justice Party were given permits to enter polling stations and sometimes used that access to encourage people to vote 'Yes'.

"We have reported all the violations, but there has been no response from the SEC," added El-Borai, who questioned how the SEC could release statements denying violations had occurred without investigating them....."

Syrian jet fires rocket at Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus

Thousands flee and dozens feared dead after attack on Yarmouk camp as Palestinians in Syria are caught up in civil war,
At least one rocket from a Syrian air force jet has killed and wounded dozens of Palestinians in the largest refugee camp in Damascus, sending thousands of residents fleeing for other areas of the capital now wracked by civil war.

Sunday's attack is believed to be the first strike against the Yarmouk camp by an air force jet, the most potent weapon used so far by the regime in its defence of the capital. The rocket hit a mosque near the centre of the camp, killing at least 25 people, Reuters reports. There was panic in the area near the mosque. Videos posted online showed the dead and injured being collected by residents.

The exodus sparked predictions that the flood of refugees into neighbouring countries, which is already straining resources in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, will further intensify, with Syria's Palestinian population of 500,000 increasingly caught in the middle of the bitter and protracted fighting....."

Gaza to Galilee: The colonial context

Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence, argues author.

By Ben White

"While it is common knowledge that a majority of the population of the Gaza Strip are refugees, it is less well understood where they came from. The shocking reality is that many of the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are a few miles away from the land of their ethnically cleansed former villages, across the border fence in southern Israel. Like so much else with Palestine, you can't understand Gaza if you don't understand the Nakba.
To give a few examples. In 1948, most of the Palestinians of al-Majdal had fled in fear by the time the Israeli army took the town. In November of that year, around 500 were expelled to Gaza. But during 1949, a good number of Palestinians managed to return. Those remaining Palestinians were "concentrated and sealed off with barbed wire and IDF guards in a small, built-up area commonly known as the 'ghetto'". 

The ethnic cleansing of al-Majdal was completed between June and October 1950. And if you haven't heard of al-Majdal before, I'm sure you know the Israeli port city built in its place: Ashkelon.

Or take the village of Najd, whose inhabitants cultivated citrus, bananas, cereals and orchards. They were expelled by Israeli forces in May 1948 and you can find Palestinians from Najd in Jabaliya refugee camp. The Israeli city of Sderot was founded on its land. .....

Framing events in Gaza in the colonial context is vital for understanding the nature of the violence, as well as the separation and sealing off of the territory, a microcosm of fragmented Palestine. The colonial paradigm brings the focus back to the Nakba, to the foundational act of ethnic cleansing and ongoing policies of exclusion. It is a reminder that the answers for Gaza are the same as those for Jerusalem, the southern Hebron Hills and the Galilee: decolonisation, implementation of the Palestinian people's rights - and international sanction of Israel until such a goal is realised."

"فورين بوليسي" تمنح المرزوقي المرتبة الثانية في قائمة أهم 100 مفكر عالمي لعام 2012


"منحت مجلة "فورين بوليسي" الأمريكية، الرئيس التونسي المنصف المرزوقي، المرتبة الثانية من بين أهم مئة مفكر عالمي لسنة 2012، لقدرته على الحفاظ على أفكار "الربيع العربي".
وعرّفت المجلة بالتاريخ السياسي للرئيس التونسي المؤقت، مشيرة إلى قدرته على تسيير تونس خلال المرحلة الانتقالية بعد الإطاحة بالنظام السابق في 14 كانون ثاني / يناير العام الماضي.
وقد تصدر القائمة مناصفة، كل من زعيمة المعارضة البورمية، أونغ سان سو كيي، ورئيس ميانمار السابق، ثين سين.
وتصدر مجلة "فورين بوليسي" عن مجلس السياسة الخارجية الأمريكية، والتي تعتبر من أهم مراكز البحث وصنع القرار في العالم.
يذكر أن الرئيس التونسي تسلم أيضا جائزة المعهد الملكي البريطاني للشؤون الدولية "شاتام هوس"، وذلك لدوره الفاعل في مرحلة الانتقال الديمقراطي في تونس.
والمنصف المرزوقي (67 عاما)، مفكر وسياسي معارض لحكم الرئيس السابق زين العابدين بن علي، ومن أبرز النشطاء المدافعين عن حقوق الإنسان في تونس.
غادر إلى المنفى في فرنسا في كانون أول / ديسمبر 2001، ليعمل محاضرا في جامعة باريس، وعاد إلى تونس بعد الثورة في 18 يناير / كانون الثاني عام 2011.
وتولى المرزوقي رئاسة حزب المؤتمر من أجل الجمهورية منذ تأسيسه حتى 12 كانون أول / ديسمبر عام 2011، وفاز حزبه بـ29 مقعدًا في انتخابات المجلس الوطني التأسيسي العام الماضي، خلف حركة النهضة الإسلامية، ليصعد بعد ذلك إلى سدة الرئاسة بقصر قرطاج.

Al-Jazeera Video: Gaza's power system raises concerns

"As winter approaches, Gaza's only power station is struggling to cope with demand. Electricity cuts last for up to 8 hours a day.
If the promised fuel shipment arrives from Qatar, most families will depend on generators this winter - only if they can afford them.

Al Jazeera's Nadim Baba reports from Gaza on the plight of those that cannot afford generators."

The president's people and clan

Although the Muslim Brotherhood's participation in Egypt's post-revolution democratic transition was essential, the group has since shown it will do anything to hold onto power


Khaled Fahmy , Sunday 16 Dec 2012
Ahram Online

".....Unfortunately, time has shown that I was wrong about the Brotherhood's ability to transition from the mentality of targeted victims into the ruling elite at the helm. The Brotherhood was neither able to shed the mentality of persecution or present real solutions to the country's troubles.....

Instead of holding Brotherhood leaders accountable for their fiery statements that fanned the flames and caused this tragic outcome, the president blamed a 'third party' and fulul. Meanwhile, he ignored many torture incidents that Brotherhood members inflicted on protestors outside the palace – which groups that monitor torture in Egypt said they had never witnessed, even under Mubarak.

The president forgot that, by ignoring these acts by his people and clan, he was undermining the pillars of the state he is responsible for upholding, eroding his already frail legitimacy and deepening the fractures in society.

I was optimistic about the Brotherhood's ability to overcome the historic challenges they were facing; last month, I participated in a public debate about whether democratic transition in Egypt had been disappointing. I rejected the premise and said that, although democratic transition was marred by some defects in the beginning, the future would prove that the Brotherhood would realise the importance of democracy and embrace it.

But after the events of the past two weeks, I was proven wrong once again. The events of Wednesday, 5 December unveiled the Brotherhood's aversion to democracy and fear of the people's right to express themselves. It also showed how far the group was willing to go to maintain its grip on power and hold it tight.

History will record 5 December as the day when the Brotherhood's mask fell after the group miserably failed in its first genuine test after coming to power. It is also the day when the Brotherhood got fed up with the opposition and did not hesitate to use the most sordid methods to suppress its opponents.

History will also record that President Morsi proved on that day that he obeys the orders of MB leaders, and that he lost an opportunity to become the president of all Egyptians and made do with being the leader of one segment of Egyptians. It is that segment that he courted and called his people and clan."