Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak

Leave it to Israel to show its contempt for the wishes of Arab people. President Obama has bent over backwards to avoid taking sides on the unrest in Egypt, but this is not enough for Israel; there he is being accused of betraying Hosni Mubarak, because Obama has not given him the unequivocal support Israel feels he deserves. Obama and European leaders are being accused of willingness to dump Mubarak for the sake of political correctness! Ah, is that what respect for the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights means to Israelis, mere naive political correctness? After all Israel has done to show its scorn for international law and the rights of Palestinians, nobody should be surprised. This story is from Reuters

Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak
By Douglas Hamilton

JERUSALEM | Mon Jan 31, 2011 12:54pm EST

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – If Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday.

Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel’s President Shimon Peres is not a minister.

“We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak,” he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. “I don’t say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East.”

Newspaper columnists were far more blunt.

One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks.

Who is advising them, he asked, “to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president … an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?”

“The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations … is painfully naive.”

Obama on Sunday called for an “orderly transition” to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on Mubarak to step down, but signaling that his days may be numbered.


Netanyahu instructed Israeli ambassadors in a dozen key capitals over the weekend to impress on host governments that Egypt’s stability is paramount, official sources said.

“Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications,” Haaretz daily quoted one official as saying.

“The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not,” said an Israeli official, who declined to be named.

“Right now it doesn’t look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel.”

Writing in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed “a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation.”

To win popular Arab opinion, Obama was risking America’s status as a superpower and reliable ally.

“Throughout Asia, Africa and South America, leaders are now looking at what is going on between Washington and Cairo. Everyone grasps the message: “America’s word is worthless … America has lost it.”

Are Israeli leaders actually so blind as to be unable to see the consequences of supporting this brutal tyrant when it is only a matter of time before he is forced from power? Obama does not want to be on the wrong side of history. If he opposes the uprising as Israel and other tyrants in the region think he should, whoever takes power in Egypt will have all the more reason to believe USA has no respect for democracy, human rights, or international law, when its financial or military interests are at risk. Israel may have no problem taking this stand, because they know there is no love lost between the average Arab and Israel, whereas Mubarak has been their best ally in the region. It may seem to Israelis that this is just a matter of practical politics, an ally is an ally no matter how the people are repressed. For far too long, USA has taken the same attitude, supporting brutal regimes all over the world because they facilitated US financial and military interests.

I think Obama is squandering a great opportunity to show that he does support the democratic aspirations of all people, as he said in his State of the Union speech last week. He is trying to walk a tightrope, which pleases nobody and looks more like cowardice than a principled stand. Israel has made it quite clear they do not care about the rights of Egyptians, demeaning the protestors as a raging mob, because they fear what will happen when Mubarak loses power, and wish to prevent that at any cost. As is standard with Israeli policy, this attitude of insular paranoia will backfire on them, big time. In the eyes of Israel, America has lost it, its word is worthless because Obama has realized Mubarak has gone too far, has lost his credibility, and has no chance of riding out these protests, especially since the real power in Egypt, the Army, is exhibiting signs of torn loyalty and has ruled out using any more force against the protestors. Who is being naive here? What would Israel have USA do to show it is a reliable ally? Obama is naive to think he can straddle the fence, but not naive enough to think he can help Mubarak stay in power! To abandon a sinking ship is not a sign of naivete or political correctness. I just wish Obama had the nerve to take a firm stand in support of the protestors, and tell Mubarak straight out he has gone too far and must step down, or at least go to the United Nations and sponsor a resolution declaring Mubarak in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

Robert Fisk interviewed Mohamed ElBaradei for the Independent, published today. He issued a harsh warning to Mubarak.

ElBaradei is surprisingly mild when he speaks of Mubarak the man. He last saw him two years ago. “I would go to see him when I returned from a UN mission or a holiday. I always received a friendly reception. It was a very cordial relationship. It was one-to-one, just us, and there was no formality. I would tell him what I thought of this or that problem, what might be done. He doesn’t really have advisers who have the guts to tell him the truth.”

Much good did ElBaradei’s advice do. He is outraged by the arson and looting. When I ask if state security policemen were behind the arson – which is used by Mubarak, Obama and Clinton to “tag” those who demand Mubarak’s departure with violence – the mouse shows its teeth. “They (the police) were, we are now hearing about documents which show that some of these uniformed officers have taken off their uniforms and gone about looting. And everybody says that they have been ordered to do this by the regime or the ministry of interior or whatever. And if this is true, then this is the most sinister of criminal acts. We have to verify this. But for sure, many of these bands of thugs and looters are from part of the secret police.”

And then suddenly, in that high voice, eyes glittering behind pebbling spectacles, the mouse becomes a tiger. “When a regime withdraws the police entirely from the streets of Cairo, when thugs are part of the secret police, trying to give the impression that without Mubarak the country will go into chaos, this is a criminal act. Somebody has to be accountable. And now, as you can hear in the streets, people are not saying Mubarak should go, they are now saying he should be put on trial. If he wants to save his skin, he better leave.”

And Israel thinks USA should stand by this tyrant, that he is being abandoned in the name of political correctness? I ask again, who is being naive here? Israel may be able to keep Palestinians under control with brutal repression, but they are a minority with little ability to fight back. Mubarak has been able to control his people by similar means, but they are too numerous and angry to put down, this time.

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  • 20 Responses to “Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak”

    1. Aletha Says:

      The Washington Post reported today that Human Rights Watch has confirmed the charge made by Mohamed ElBaradei about who is doing the looting.

      Looters included undercover Egyptian police, hospitals tell Human Rights Watch
      By Leila Fadel
      Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 8:36 AM

      CAIRO – Human Rights Watch confirmed several cases of undercover police loyal to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s regime committing acts of violence and looting in an attempt to stoke fear of instability as demonstrations grew stronger Tuesday against the autocratic leader.

      Peter Bouckaert, the emergency director at Human Rights Watch, said hospitals confirmed that they received several wounded looters shot by the army carrying police identification cards. They also found several cases of looters and vandals in Cairo and Alexandria with police identification cards. He added that it was “unexplainable” that thousands of prisoners escaped from prisons over the weekend.

      “Mubarak’s mantra to his own people was that he was the guarantor of the nation’s stability. It would make sense that he would want to send the message that without him, there is no safety,” Bouckaert said.

      Over the past three days, state television has been reporting alarmist news about violence and criminals among the demonstrations in an attempt to discredit the democratic movement.

      President Obama has called on Mubarak to begin the transition to new leadership immediately. Obama is moving in the right direction, though much too slowly and cautiously in my eyes, and it remains to be seen whether the new leadership will give him any credit for his lukewarm support.

      The Financial Times has posted an editorial about the Israeli reaction.

      Israel’s chance to hail the Arab dawn
      Israel’s fears, though understandable, are overblown. Neither in Egypt nor in Jordan have citizens poured on to the streets in order to condemn their government’s moderate policies towards Israel. Their grievances are emphatically domestic in nature. They focus on a lack of civil rights, the indiscriminate behaviour of their state security apparatuses, decades of misgovernance by rulers not chosen in free elections, social injustice, poverty and hunger. In many ways the demonstrators are demanding precisely the sort of freedoms and opportunities for personal fulfilment that Israelis, living in an established democracy, take for granted.

      Revolutions are inherently unpredictable events, and change can seem risky, because no one can be sure where it will lead. But just as it would be folly for the US and its European allies to put themselves on the wrong side of history by denying Arab aspirations to human rights and economic advancement, so Israel should recognise that the blossoming of freedom in Egypt and Jordan would work to its long-term advantage. Trust and friendship are most solidly anchored among governments that do not oppress their own peoples. Israel itself has been regularly taught this lesson over the past 40 years in the occupied Palestinian territories. Now it should have the courage to revise its view that Israel’s security rests, in part, on permanently repressive Arab regimes.

      I imagine those Israeli pundits and politicians would view the above as hopelessly naive, since it appears they believe Arabs, no matter what their beliefs and aspirations, are not to be trusted. Courage is not the strong suit of regimes who believe repression is the key to security.

      Nawal El Saadawi, in a Democracy Now interview yesterday, also averred the aspirations of the Egyptian uprising are not to establish a Muslim fundamentalist regime.

      Leading Egyptian Feminist, Nawal El Saadawi: “Women and Girls are Beside Boys in the Streets”

      NAWAL EL SAADAWI: We are in the streets every day, people, children, old people, including myself. I am now 80 years of age, suffering of this regime for half a century. And you remember, Mubarak is the continuation of Sadat. And both Sadat and Mubarak, you know, their regime worked against the people, men and women. And they created this gap between the poor and rich. They brought the so-called business class to govern us. Egypt became an American colony. And we are dominated by the U.S. and Israel. And 80 million people, men and women, have no say in the country.

      And you see today that people in the streets for six days, and they told Mubarak to go. He should have gone, if he respects the will of the people. That’s democracy. Because what’s democracy? It’s to respect the will of the people. The people govern themselves. So, really, we are happy.

      But what I would like to tell you, the U.S. government, with Israel and Saudi Arabia and some other powers outside the country and inside the country, they want to abort this revolution. And they are creating rumors that, you know, Egypt is going to be ruined, to be robbed, and they are also preventing—we don’t have bread now, and the shops are using this to raise the price. So they are trying to frighten us. They have two strategies: to frighten the people, so we say, “Oh, we need security, we need Mubarak,” because people are living in fear. But when I go to the streets, there are no fear, you know, but when I stay at home and listen to the media, I feel, “What’s going to happen?” But when I go to the streets, to Midan Tahrir, and see the people, the young people, the old people, the men, I feel secure, and I believe that the revolution succeeded. So, they are trying to abort the power outside and inside. But we will win.

      AMY GOODMAN: And Nawal El Saadawi, you often hear in the United States, “Is this going to be like the Iranian Revolution?” not talking about throwing out the dictator so much, but a fundamentalist revolution. Your response? Nawal?

      NAWAL EL SAADAWI: They are frightening us by the Ikhwan Muslimin, and that if Mubarak—they tried for years to tell us that “Who protects us from the fundamentalists, like Khomeini and Iraq? It’s Mubarak.” You know, and this is not true. This revolution, the young people who started the revolution and who are continuing to protect it, they are not political, ordinary young men and women. They don’t belong to the right or the left, or Muslim. There was not a single Islamic religious slogan in the streets. Not one. They were shouting for justice, equality, freedom, and that Mubarak and his regime should go, and we need to change the system and bring people who are honest. Egypt is living in corruption, false elections, oppression of women, of young people, unemployment. So the revolution came, it was too late. This revolution is too late, but anyway, it came. So—

      NAWAL EL SAADAWI: Women and girls are beside boys in the streets. They are—and we are calling for justice, freedom and equality, and real democracy and a new constitution, no discrimination between men and women, no discrimination between Muslims and Christians, to change the system, to change the people who are governing us, the system and the people, and to have a real democracy. That’s what women are saying and what men are saying.

      Why should USA or Israel have any problem supporting this cause? Their fears are overblown at best, disingenuous and self-serving at worst. It is long past time for Mubarak to go. The revolution could be messy and not turn out as the majority wants, but any interference by USA or Israel will be far more likely to cause the revolution to turn out badly than to influence it in any good way.

      “Egypt is living in corruption, false elections, oppression of women, of young people, unemployment.” This is the regime Israel and USA have supported for thirty years. The reasons are obvious and disgusting, and that either nation would cast aspersions on this revolution shows their true colors. If Obama meant what he said about supporting the democratic aspirations of all people, he can show it by taking an unequivocal stand in support of this revolution. His waffling and fence-straddling do not do him or this nation credit. Israel needs to wake up and smell the coffee. Their preference for the regime of a friendly tyrant is part of the reason so many Arabs are hostile to Israel. If Israel wants to be respected, it ought to show respect for the legitimate aspirations of this revolution. I am not holding my breath, but stranger things have happened.

    2. Aletha Says:

      The Internet is back up in Egypt, but things are getting really nasty there, as thugs in support of Mubarak are fighting with the protestors. The mass media here are not unbiased sources of information. One might find better information from local bloggers, such as this blog of a young Egyptian woman.

      The Global Fund for Women has issued a statement in support of the revolution.

      Standing in Solidarity with the People of Egypt
      February 01, 2011

      A new dawn is rising in Egypt. Approximately two million people have gathered in Tahrir (Liberation) Square in Cairo to demand the end of the Mubarak regime. Among them are Global Fund for Women advisors and grantees who, together with their people, are raising their voices against injustice in their call for freedom, equality, and democracy. The revolution has swept across all Egyptian provinces and cities, even little villages, where on a daily basis for a week, women and men have taken to the streets in protest. The Global Fund for Women stands in solidarity with the brave women and men who are risking their lives to create a new country, one that respects human rights, justice and equality for all.

      This revolution has been long in the making. Over the past few years, we have been receiving reports regularly from our grantee partners, like the Land Center for Human Rights, of strikes and protests in multiple districts across Egypt. They have informed us that the entire society—from workers in textile factories, to farmers and day laborers, to bloggers and students—are not only speaking up and demanding their rights, but enduring being arrested and beaten in the process.

      Hundreds have been killed and over 1,000 people have been brutally injured by the police in response to peaceful demonstrations. Sadly, this savage response to peaceful protestors has been the Mubarak regime’s approach since the 1970s when it imposed an emergency law to crush any dissent and political organizing. In recent years, the Mubarak regime has intensified its repression and torture. The government recently passed a law restricting the work of civil society organizations. Nadim Center, one of our grantees, has been documenting the torture of political dissidents, bloggers, and union organizers in Egyptian jails. Last July, an Egyptian youth, Khalid Said, was tortured to death in a police station. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented how the regime’s brutality has intensified under the global war on terror. Furthermore, Mubarak’s rule has been marked by rigged elections, widespread corruption and human rights violations, including harassment and violence against women, which many of our grantee partners, including Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, have well-documented during their election monitoring in 2010 and in years past. Many western and Egyptian-government media are diverting attention away from the peaceful protests by focusing on looting. To the contrary, our advisors and grantees are reporting that people are quickly organizing into neighborhood committees to protect public and private property, even forming a human shield around the National Museum. What is not being reported by these news outlets is that many caught looting and inciting violence are actually Mubarak’s secret police and hired thugs who have in the past rigged elections and attacked demonstrators. The media is also spotlighting the Muslim Brotherhood and extremist religious groups, when in fact the Muslim Brotherhood only recently joined the protests and only constitutes a segment of the opposition. What they are missing is that youth, including young women, are on the streets calling for a democratic non sectarian government and chanting for unity for a brighter future for all of Egypt’s people.

      The Global Fund for Women calls upon the United States and Egypt to fulfill the demands of the people calling for change and end to violence and retaliation. We believe that calls by the Obama administration for political and economic reform is too little, too late and is being interpreted as an endorsement of Mubarak and his policies, and against the Egyptian people’s calls for democracy. People in Egypt are united under one slogan: THIS REGIME MUST END.

      We call upon the US government to stand on the right side of history and support the Egyptian people’s right to true democracy and freedom. The U.S. aid to Egypt (second to Israel in the region), including military weapons, has been used in the past and during the last few days against peaceful protestors. We as a nation must no longer support repression.

      Are you listening, President Obama? Trying to straddle the fence is encouraging Mubarak to try to stay in power. He has already shown his true colors, too many times. This is not a reliable ally, despite what Israel and previous Administrations may have thought. He is a despot and a criminal, who should not be presiding over a transition. If he is allowed to stay in power, that transition will be far from peaceful. The army may have the sense to refuse to attack the protestors, but there are plenty of loyalists who have no compunctions about inflaming the situation, with deadly consequences.

    3. Aletha Says:

      Now the thugs are beating up journalists! This story is from CNN, who had a couple of their own reporters roughed up.

      Journalists targeted, beaten, detained by Mubarak supporters
      February 02, 2011
      By the CNN Wire staff

      Sent as reporters to document the turmoil in Egypt, journalists on Wednesday became targets — beaten, bloodied, harassed and detained by raging men, most all in some way aligned with embattled President Hosni Mubarak.

      Numerous news outlets — including the BBC, ABC News and CNN — reported members of their staffs had been attacked, most on the streets of Cairo. In several cases, news personnel were accused of being “foreign spies,” seized and whisked away, and often assaulted.

      “It was pandemonium. There was no control. Suddenly a man would come up to you and punch you in the face,” said CNN’s Anderson Cooper, describing being attacked by pro-Mubarak demonstrators with two colleagues outside of Tahir Square.

      The Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news network was among the worst hit, its office damaged and several of its staff targeted. Among them was correspondent Ahmed Abdullah, who his editor confirmed Wednesday was found bloodied and transported to a hospital after being severely beaten by his captors.

      Maurice Sarfatti told the Brussels-based Le Soir newspaper, which he writes for along with publications in Switzerland and France, that he “received a steam of blows to the face” from men claiming he backed leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei.

      “I am being guarded by two soldiers with Kalashnikovs (rifles) and bayonets,” said Sarfatti, according to a translation from Le Soir. “They say I will be taken before the intelligence services. They say I am a spy.”

      The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy organization, claimed that such accounts were all too commonplace around Cairo. In a news release, the group detailed about a dozen incidents, accusing men — most of them described as pro-Mubarak demonstrators, “plainclothes police,” uniformed officers and military — of perpetrating attacks on reporters toting cameras and notepads.

      The group laid the blame for this violence squarely on President Mubarak’s administration, accusing it of scheming to suppress and stifle news coverage.

      “The Egyptian strategy is employing a strategy of eliminating witnesses to their actions,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the committee’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “The government has resorted to blanket censorship, intimidation and, today, a series of deliberate attacks on journalists carried out by pro-government mobs.”

      Hours later, as he walked past raucous Mubarak backers toward the Tahir Square, the hub of Wednesday’s confrontations, Cooper said one man suddenly came out and tried to grab his cameraman’s camera, screaming at them and pushing.

      That triggered what the CNN host called a “mob,” which swarmed around Cooper and his two colleagues. They turned to head back, doing so only after getting hit repeatedly by fists and bottles, with some men trying to rip clothing off a female CNN producer. Egyptian soldiers positioned nearby, he claimed, saw the chaos unfold but did nothing.

      “There were certain individuals in that crowd itching for a fight,” Cooper said, noting that his cameraman had a bloody eye but otherwise they suffered minimal injuries. “We certainly saw that very up close… It can get nasty very, very quickly.”

      Other journalists who were attacked fared worse.

      In a prepared statement, Jean-Francois Juillard, secretary-general of the advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said “the use of violence against media personnel is especially shocking.”

      “These attacks seem to have been acts of revenge against the international media for relaying the protests calling for President Mubarak’s resigning,” Juillard said. “We urge the international community to react strongly to these excesses. And we remind the Egyptian government that it has a duty to apply the law and to urgently restore security for everyone, including media personnel.”

      Excesses is too mild a term. Perhaps this should be a case for the International Criminal Court. That is something Obama could suggest to the United Nations. It might not go anywhere, but it might also send a stronger message to this brutal tyrant that he has gone too far.

      The Washington Post reported today about the deliberations going on within the Administration:

      Egypt has Obama cautiously shifting world view on democracy
      By Anne E. Kornblut and Peter Wallsten
      Washington Post Staff Writers
      Friday, February 4, 2011

      Shortly after taking office, President Obama traveled to Cairo to declare a new day in U.S. relations with the Muslim world – saying there was “no straight line” to building democratic societies in the Middle East.

      The June 2009 address was in part intended to show a clean break from a George W. Bush-era “freedom agenda” of promoting electoral democracies across the region. Yet Obama now finds himself forced to move much closer to that worldview as he escalates pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make immediate changes.

      Obama has shifted in that direction cautiously over the past week and a half, balancing between urging wider freedom and maintaining his position that the events are for Egyptians, not Americans, to decide. To some extent, that may be his only safe course: Obama does not yet know what kind of government will take shape in Egypt, and administration officials are confident that if it a hostile regime were to wind up taking hold, the president would inevitably take some of the blame.

      And so the rhetoric has been circumspect. On Sunday, the administration called for an “orderly transition.” By Tuesday, that had escalated into a demand that Mubarak begin implementing democratic changes immediately, but it was not clear what that meant, or exactly what the White House would like to see happen next. Although senior officials have made it plain that they want Mubarak to leave office right away, Obama has not said the same. He has left that to protesters in the streets of Cairo – and to some outspoken foreign policy hawks at home, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

      Obama has navigated some internal divides as well. In the Situation Room on Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice – who has a history of urging pressure on authoritarian regimes – called for the administration to take a harder line on Mubarak, one administration official said. That view was met with some resistance from others, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Obama decided that, in his public remarks about Mubarak that night, he was “not going to go all the way, but not let him off the hook,” one official said. In typical fashion, Obama shared his comments with his advisers ahead of time and allowed each side to weigh in.

      So the President is cautious, straddling the fence, while people are being beaten and murdered. This must be what passes for practical politics, given the fear that the wrong people may end up taking power. That is a bogus excuse for this indecisive waffling. At what point would Obama decide this friendly tyrant has gone too far? Would it have to become a genocide for Obama to decide to ask the United Nations to intervene? Mubarak is playing Obama for a fool, and I do not want to speculate what is the problem with Hillary Clinton, who appears reluctant to do anything but protest the violence and ask for restraint. Mubarak has no intention of exercising restraint. If that is not clear by now, what will it take? If the Egyptian Army had not decided it would not attack the protestors, one can bet Mubarak would have started a major massacre. His secret police are not numerous enough to try that, but they are responsible for the violence, and Mubarak is still giving their orders.

      The Post writers are missing a crucial distinction between the Bush policy and what is going on now. Bush attempted to establish “democracies” by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, installing unpopular puppet regimes and calling it liberation and democracy. This revolution is happening without US encouragement, indeed in spite of US policy which has been to support brutal tyrants who were friendly to US business interests, with the excuse that a democratic government might be like Hamas, hostile to those interests and to Israel. That kind of thinking is still going on; the Post article goes on to say,

      The administration is mindful of the potential drawbacks of becoming too closely involved in the internal upheaval of another country. The Bush administration pressured the Israeli government to allow elections to go forward in the Palestinian territories in January 2006 – then found itself in the uncomfortable position of leading a boycott of the elected Hamas government, embittering many Palestinians.

      Egypt has elections scheduled for this fall, and without Mubarak on the ballot, some fear the Muslim Brotherhood could gain political power. Such a victory would put Obama in a place similar to the one Bush found himself in after the 2006 Palestinian elections, and would challenge his pledge to allow Egyptians to determine their political future.

      That outcome would be likely only if Obama continues to straddle the fence, which would be a powerful argument that USA has only been on the side of democracy when it likes the outcome of the election. This revolution is worth supporting wholeheartedly, whether Israel likes it or not.

    4. Aletha Says:

      Bloomberg News posted a chilling story of a terrifying encounter their reporter had with the Egyptian police.

      ‘You Will Be Lynched,’ Says Egyptian Policeman: First Person
      By Maram Mazen – Feb 4, 2011 5:54 AM PT

      Having a policeman say he wanted to kill me wasn’t my most frightening moment yesterday in Cairo. That came when police and civilians smashed our car windows — with the five of us inside it — jumped up and down on the roof, spat on us, pulled my hair, beat my friends and dragged us into a police van.

      The five of us were lucky: We emerged from our confrontation with President Hosni Mubarak’s police and operatives alive and relatively healthy. Violence over the past 11 days, much of it in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, has killed as many as 300 people in Egypt, according to the United Nations.

      But it was a day I never dreamed could occur in my native city. It happened not because I was a reporter, a Sudan-based contract journalist for Bloomberg News returning to Cairo for vacation. The friends giving me a ride downtown were just trying to take food and first-aid supplies to those injured the previous night in clashes with pro-Mubarak protesters.

      We got out of the car when we arrived at about 11:30 a.m. in Talaat Harb square near Tahrir, our planned transfer point for the medical supplies. We felt somewhat safe, as one of the demonstrators had told us it was a secure entrance. When I left the night before, it was controlled by anti-Mubarak protesters.

      In less than a minute, a mob of about 40 civilian men surrounded our car, banging on the vehicle and grabbing our bags. They looted 1500 Egyptian pounds ($256) worth of medical supplies and 800 pounds worth of food and drinks, uninterested in our explanation of whom it was for.

      Smashed Window

      I held onto my backpack, with my Egyptian ID card, as a group of 20 men tried to tear it from me. We managed to get back into the car and sped toward downtown. As we were driving away, one of the mob smashed a side window with a metal rod.

      Then we saw an army tank. It was the army that permitted the massive march on Feb. 1 by promising not to fire on demonstrators. And it was the army that told people to return home the next day.

      We pleaded with the soldiers on the tank to protect us: One plainclothes man had followed us in a car from Talaat Harb square, accompanied by others on foot. The soldiers did nothing and we drove quickly on.

      Our next potential saviors appeared: a group of uniformed policemen, dressed in winter black pullovers. We approached them in the car, asking for protection. Then the man who followed us from Talaat Harb arrived and accused our driver, my friend Mahmoud, of running over seven people as we left the square. It wasn’t true.

      Traitor Accusations

      A policeman took away the car key, and about 50 men in plainclothes and five policemen started pounding on our car. They asked our nationality — we were all Egyptians — and accused us of being Palestinians, Americans and Iranians. And, they said, traitors to Egypt.

      For about 30 minutes, though it seemed more like an hour, the crowd grew, reaching between 100 and 200. They smashed the back windshield, shattering glass all over the car and in our clothing. Men got onto the roof of the car, jumping and yelling. We tried to hold it up with our hands so it wouldn’t fall on us.

      Then uniformed policemen took our ID cards and searched the car, our bags and our pockets. They took both my mobile phones and Mahmoud’s Blackberry, promising to give them back.

      Finger Across Neck

      A policeman looked me in the eye and said: “You will be lynched today,” running his finger across his neck. Others spat on us. They hit the two men in our group in the face through the broken windows, scratching Mahmoud and punching my other male friend. Someone pulled my hair from the back.

      That is just the first half of this horrifying story. As Ms. Mazen observes, she is lucky to be alive. This is the regime USA and Israel have supported for thirty years. Obama still will not call on Mubarak to resign immediately, only that a transition should happen immediately. Obama is exhorting Mubarak to consider his legacy. That legacy is already irredeemable. Why is Obama still hedging his bets? Mubarak is waving aside all condemnations and demands he step down, with only a few token concessions in response.

      The Los Angeles Times has a story about how Israel is sticking by Mubarak. It is entirely possible Israel has the ear of President Obama, at least enough to cause Obama to tread cautiously, which is supposedly prudence, but in fact is enabling Mubarak to cling to power.

      Israel fears regional regime change
      By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times
      February 4, 2011, 3:25 p.m.

      Reporting from Jerusalem —
      Israel likes to call itself an island of democratic stability in a Mideast sea of dictatorships. But now that democratic winds are blowing through the region, Israelis have been reluctant to embrace mounting calls for regime change beyond their border.

      Even as the U.S. applies pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down, Israel’s leaders are urging caution, fearing that free elections in neighboring Arab nations will usher in governments that are more hostile.

      Simply put, Israel would rather have autocratic friends than democratic enemies.

      Though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has limited his public comments about Mubarak — any endorsement by Israel would be seen as a kiss of death in most of the Arab world — he has privately conveyed his support to the Egyptian president and ordered Israeli ambassadors around the world to help tamp down expectations for sweeping reform in Egypt, according to Israeli media.

      Netanyahu warned this week against getting caught up in romantic ideals. Many Israelis who have fumed because they believe the U.S. abandoned its longtime ally Mubarak worry that losing him as president could destabilize the region and endanger the landmark Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. They say U.S. officials naively believe Egypt can be transformed into a strong democracy.

      “We must look around with our eyes wide open,” the prime minister told lawmakers Wednesday. “We must identify things as they are, not as we’d like them to be.”

      Israelis have good reason to have mixed feelings about Arab democracies. Elections in Lebanon and the West Bank and Gaza Strip served to bring to power two of its archenemies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Both are labeled as terrorist groups by the U.S. and Israel.

      The Islamic regime in Iran, which is now Israel’s greatest threat, rose out of a popular revolution that was hijacked by extremists, Netanyahu noted.

      Some critics here have faulted Netanyahu for failing to back democratic tides in Egypt and Jordan. Haaretz newspaper wrote in an editorial that Netanyahu is “clinging to the old, collapsing order.”

      But many Israelis share Netanyahu’s concern that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist opposition group, and Iran would try to turn Egypt into “another Gaza run by radical forces that oppose everything the democratic world stands for.”

      It is rare to see Israeli hypocrisy stated so bluntly in US media. “Simply put, Israel would rather have autocratic friends than democratic enemies.” This is not only shortsighted, but shows the contempt in which Israeli leaders hold the Muslim world. Israel may fear Muslim extremists will hijack this revolution, but that fear is without basis, pure paranoia. It could only happen if USA or Israel make the mistake of openly opposing the revolution. Obama and Netanyahu may both be concerned about the outcome, but at least Obama is not going to openly stand in the way of the revolution. Israel fears the worst, but its leaders are not foolish enough to try to openly intervene. Netanyahu speaks of being wary of romantic ideals, of seeing things as they are. He has made a career of seeing things as he wants to see them, a proclivity common among Israelis which has made peace with the Palestinians impossible, a “romantic ideal,” since Israel has consistently refused to negotiate in good faith.

      Israel thinks its security requires that the democratic aspirations of its neighbors must be seen as a threat, since as Shlomo Brom, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, is quoted in this article, “the street does not like Israel.” Israel likes to consider itself the only reliable ally USA has in the Middle East. Some reliable ally. This alliance has been at least partially responsible for the enmity of so many Muslims toward USA.

    5. Aletha Says:

      Yesterday Nawal El Saadawi wrote an article describing what is happening in Egypt. This was posted at the Ms. blog and the Women’s Media Center blog.

      EXCLUSIVE From Tahrir Square: The City in the Field
      By Nawal El Saadawi
      (Translated and edited by Robin Morgan)

      Egyptian feminist Nawal El Saadawi embraces a younger generation determined to achieve the revolutionary goals to which she and others have devoted their lives.

      Now, almost age 80, I have lived to witness and participate in the Egyptian Revolution of 25 January 2011.

      I am writing this Sunday morning 6 February 2011. For 12 days and nights now, millions of Egyptian women and men, Muslims and Christians, people of all ideologies and beliefs—the Egyptian people—have continued to unite under the banner of spontaneous popular revolution. They unite against the existing corrupt, tyrannical system, rotten from the head to the feet of the modern Pharaoh. His throne is sticky with the blood of the people, as his ruling party releases thugs to kill the young, and parliament’s deputies forge fake laws, while trading in land and women, drugs and bribes. His so-called educated elite long ago sold its pens and conscience, misleading public opinion, all for the interests of positions in government, large or small.

      But this revolution has launched young women, men, and even children from their homes, driving them forward, protecting each other. So the old order is falling, and with it falls what the police call “Security,” and with it falls the elite controlling information and culture, and with it falls the self-appointed “Committee of the Wise Men” who are linked to wealth and power. And party leaders, even those in so-called opposition who nevertheless opportunistically supported the regime covertly and overtly for more than half a century, all are falling.

      These were the forces that wreaked chaos under the name of security, dictatorship under the name of democracy, poverty and unemployment under the name of development and prosperity, prostitution and harassment and misogyny under the name of freedom of choice or tradition, and subordination and servile colonialism under the name of partnership and friendship or the peace process. They imprisoned women like myself, owners of voices and pens, trying to silence us inside their cells, or isolate us and distort our reputation, or expel us to exile outside and inside the homeland.

      But this time is different. This time there poured forth millions of men and women, to the streets of all the provinces, all the villages and cities, from Aswan to Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, every inch of the homeland. In the capital, Cairo, shines the field of liberation, Tahrir (which means Liberation) Square—our land, our camp. It is a tent city over asphalt, and inside the tents one bloc solid of human beings.

      We do not leave our place even when attacked last Wednesday 2 February by police disguised in civilian clothes, who broke into our field—gangs hired by the regime, taking bribes. Gunmen with all kinds of weapons riding horses and camels came thundering at us. I was sitting in the square talking with young people, and I saw with my own eyes the barbarism, riders in the field, fire everywhere, dust and smoke covering the ground. I saw fireballs flying in the air, and young women and men drop down and bleed.

      Yet the Egyptian people’s dovish calls for freedom, dignity, and justice persisted, and the Defense Committee of Revolutionary Youth was able to triumph over the thugs, and even arrest some of the bribe-takers with all their identity cards—including state security officers, trustees of police. Some of them have no work, some of them admitted taking 200 pounds and being promised 5000 pounds if they dispersed the people in the field and showered Molotov cocktails down on us.

      Still, it goes on. Young people set up the tents for rest a few hours at night, so the mothers of infants and their children would no longer be on the ground in the cold and the rain. Hundreds of young girls walk free, chanting—and not one has been sexually harassed or molested. The chants are for freedom, dignity, and equality—and many are led by women, with men following. Coptic Christians are side by side with Muslims. Even some of the youth of the Muslim Brotherhood told me, “We disagree with some your writings but love you because you did not change opportunistically, you have been consistent.” Another young man came to embrace me and say, “Oh Nawal, we are the new generations who read your books. I did and was guided by creativity and rebellion and the revolution of your thoughts.”

      Swallowing tears, I said to them, “This Eid (festival) is to us all the festival of freedom, dignity, creativity, rebellion, and the revolution.”

      Meanwhile Mubarak clings to power, hoping he can outlast the protestors, knowing that all the condemnations from Western leaders are just words. President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton call the violence against the protestors and journalists “unacceptable.” Big deal. Mubarak is worse than “unacceptable;” he is a brutal tyrant, and his actions are CRIMES. It does not appear the Egyptian Army has the nerve to arrest him, nor does Interpol. What would he have to do to face prosecution by the International Criminal Court, order his thugs to murder some journalists? It has already almost come to that, but not quite. Too bad the powers that be have such a long history of supporting tyrants like Mubarak; now that he has gone too far, the protests of Western leaders are all too easy for Mubarak to dismiss, too hollow, calculating, and hypocritical to carry much weight.

    6. Aletha Says:

      The threat to cut off aid to Egypt is proving empty, as expected. The reasoning is that it is important to preserve “leverage” with the military. This story is from the Los Angeles Times

      U.S. lawmakers now back Egypt aid
      By Paul Richter, David S. Cloud and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times
      February 9, 2011

      Reporting from Washington —

      Influential U.S. lawmakers have eased their threats to cut aid to Egypt, reflecting a growing consensus in Washington for preserving U.S. leverage with Egypt’s powerful military amid the country’s civil upheaval.

      The shift comes as Obama administration officials, the Pentagon and powerful pro-Israel groups in Washington urge continued aid to Egypt, about $1.5 billion a year, mostly in military assistance.

      Although protesters in Cairo are demanding that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resign immediately, the Obama administration is urging a more gradual reform process, headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman, that would allow Mubarak to remain in office for now.

      U.S. officials believe the military should play a crucial role in that process and deserves continued support. Pro-Israel groups fear that a loss of aid could jeopardize Israel’s security.

      Just last week, a chorus of lawmakers backed protesters’ demands for Mubarak’s resignation, and some called for an aid freeze to force changes.

      Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had earlier said “all options are on the table,” including aid cuts. But in an interview Tuesday, he said that now “is just not the right time to threaten that.”

      McCain said he was concerned that a reduction in aid might affect Egypt’s willingness to cooperate with Israel.

      Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, declared last week that he would not vote for aid to Egypt, adding that he knew no lawmaker who would.

      This week, however, Leahy appeared to soften his position, saying through a spokesman that he would oppose any new aid “until the situation is resolved.”

      White House officials said earlier in the crisis that they would review the aid if the Mubarak government didn’t move promptly toward political reform. But within a few days, officials clarified that they weren’t considering cuts to aid.

      Administration officials are trying to preserve their relationship with the military, which they see as vital for carrying out political reforms.

      Freezing or reducing aid could erode U.S. influence with Egypt’s military at a time when the U.S. is working to avoid a violent crackdown on the protesters, Pentagon officials said.

      “It may have the opposite effect of what we would like to see happen in Egypt,” said one senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity when discussing those assessments.

      Many pro-Israel groups in the U.S. have been skeptical that Egypt was doing its part to support peace in the region under its 1979 treaty with Israel, and they had urged cuts in aid, said Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now.

      But the same groups now worry that the crisis might result in a more threatening government in Cairo. As a result, “they’re quietly supportive of Egypt aid,” said Friedman, director of policy and government relations for the group.

      Oh what a tangled web. These legislators are either completely misreading the situation, or their political considerations trump reality. The military has torn loyalties, between Mubarak and the protestors, whose grievances they can understand. There should be no military aid to Egypt while Mubarak clings to power. US legislators should be more concerned about leverage with the revolutionaries than the military. The military leaders would understand the cutoff of aid would not be aimed at them, but at Mubarak. What is up with this idea of a gradual transition headed by Vice President Suleiman? That man has blood on his hands just like his boss. The protestors want a revolution, and they are ready, willing, and able to take over. If the rest of the world sits back and watches, urging reforms, there may not be a revolution; Mubarak will keep uttering placating cliches while he prepares to hand power over to his son. Obama keeps saying the future of Egypt is for its people to decide. They have already decided, Mubarak must go, now! They deserve support, not this fence straddling and political gamesmanship!

    7. Aletha Says:

      CNN has a story today about Wael Ghonim, the local head of marketing for Google who administered the Facebook page that called for the initial protest on January 25.

      Wael Ghonim: Negotiation days with Mubarak are over
      From Ivan Watson, CNN
      February 10, 2011 — Updated 0203 GMT (1003 HKT)

      Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian activist hailed by many fellow protesters as a hero, had a message Wednesday for his country’s leaders: “If you are true Egyptians, if you are heroic Egyptians, it’s time to step down.”

      Ghonim, who was freed Monday after being held by Egyptian authorities for 10 days, said it is “no longer the time to negotiate” with the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

      “There’s a lot of blood now” that has been spilled, he said. It’s time for people at the highest levels of the government “to apologize to the families” of those killed, he said.

      Human Rights Watch said Tuesday 302 people had been killed in the Egyptian protests — 232 in Cairo, 52 in Alexandria and 18 in Suez. “A lot of times, the policeman would stand on the bridge and shoot people down,” Ghonim said. “This is a crime. The president need to step down because this is a crime.”

      Ghonim played a key role in organizing the protests that have convulsed Egypt for more than two weeks. He was the administrator of a Facebook page that is widely credited with calling the first protest January 25. “The plan was to get everyone onto the street,” he said. “Number one was that we are going to start from poor areas.”

      As the plan succeeded, the organizers’ tactics shifted, he said. “We went on the street on the 25th and we wanted to negotiate,” he said. “They decided to negotiate with us at night with rubber bullets, with police sticks, with water hoses, with tear gas and with arresting about 500 people. Thanks. We got the message. Now, when we escalated this and it became really big, they started listening to us.”

      Then, with a tear track running down his cheek, he challenged Vice President Omar Suleiman to try to undo his efforts and those of his supporters. “Kidnap me, kidnap all my colleagues!” he said. “Put us in jail! Kill us! Do whatever you want to do. We are getting back our country. You guys have been ruining this country for 30 years. Enough! Enough! Enough!”

      Yet Ghonim said he is uncomfortable about being the face of the popular uprising in Egypt.

      “This is not about me,” he said several times during an hour-long interview in a relative’s Cairo apartment.

      Ghonim added that he is proud of the protests, which he described as a “youth revolution” and “Revolution 2.0.” The Muslim Brotherhood, he said, played no role in organizing the initial protests, and in fact “would not participate.”

      Ghonim conceded that Mubarak has “sacrificed a lot” for Egypt but said the 82-year-old leader represents a system that needs to be replaced. He demanded that Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party be dissolved immediately. He also said, though, that Mubarak should be treated with dignity.

      He said the initial goal of the protests was to call for the resignation of Egypt’s unpopular interior minister and demand improved conditions for the poor. The calls for Mubarak’s resignation came after Egyptian security forces responded to peaceful protests with force, he said.

      Police clashed with protesters in the early days of the protests, before being replaced by the military, which created a generally more peaceful atmosphere.

      Ghonim, who comes from an affluent Egyptian family, said the activists who organized the protests intentionally designed their movement to be anonymous and faceless, without a clear leader.

      The Muslim Brotherhood would not participate! How at odds with the propaganda coming from worried leaders in USA and Israel, who say not so fast, the Muslim Brotherhood is behind all this and may end up taking power. Mr. Ghonim says his greatest heroes are Gandhi and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. I have no heroes, but I do respect greatly what Gandhi accomplished. Zuckerberg is another matter; I dislike him intensely, but I can understand that Facebook was very useful in organizing these protests. But that is all besides the point. What matters is that the people in Egypt want a revolution, but the rest of the world is offering scant support, so it is entirely possible Mubarak will be able to outlast these protests. When the eyes of the world move on, he may just order a crackdown, and there could be a major bloodbath that makes the killing of these first 300 protestors look like a picnic. Since it seems unlikely the international community would intervene, I can only hope the Egyptian Army will arrest Mubarak if he continues to order his thugs to create chaos and mayhem. I think Mubarak is guilty of far worse crimes than Julian Assange, but USA will do everything in its power to get Assange extradited to face trial, and possible execution, while Mubarak can kill his people with impunity, laughing at Western politicians who scold him for his “unacceptable” behavior. Obama claims he supports the aspirations of all people for democracy? Will he show those words mean something? I would not hold my breath.

    8. Aletha Says:

      Mubarak must be enjoying the spectacle he created today. The Egyptian Army had announced he would step down, but of course that did not happen. Instead Mubarak has delegated some of his authority to Vice President Suleiman, a slap in the face to the protestors and President Obama, who was caught off guard, expecting something more “credible, concrete and unequivocal.”

      This story is from the Guardian

      Barack Obama impatient for credible transition in Egypt
      Ewen MacAskill in Washington
      Friday 11 February 2011 05.11 GMT

      Barack Obama expressed dismay at the failure of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to stand down and said the Egyptian government has yet to put forward a “credible, concrete and unequivocal path to democracy”, as Egypt prepared today for what protesters predicted would be the biggest protests yet.

      The US president’s patience appeared to be nearing its end after being wrong-footed and embarrassed earlier in the day by an expectation that Mubarak was planning to stand down.

      The US unhappiness with Mubarak was echoed by European leaders.

      The White House, the state department and the Pentagon will be seeking explanations from their counterparts in Egypt as to what went wrong. Obama’s critics claimed he had been set up and the whole incident reflected his naivety.

      The Obama administration had hinted early on Thursday that Mubarak was on the eve of departure. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, giving evidence before the House intelligence committee, predicted there was a “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down” by Thursday night.

      Obama, on a trip to Michigan, shared the sense of optimism, saying the world was “witnessing history unfold”.

      But these hopes were dashed by Mubarak in a televised speech, leaving Obama and Panetta looking foolish. Panetta said later his comments had been based on erroneous news reports rather than CIA reports.

      Obama, returning from Michigan, watched Mubarak’s statement aboard Air Force One and, on landing, rushed to the White House for an unscheduled meeting with his national security advisers.

      He issued a statement afterwards that amounted to a rebuke, albeit mild, of Mubarak for not standing down. After a fortnight of dithering, it was the strongest statement by Obama in favour of democracy.

      “The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity,” Obama said, reflecting his dismay with Mubarak.

      He praised the protesters, aligning the US clearly behind them for the first time: “Those who have exercised their right to peaceful assembly represent the greatness of the Egyptian people, and are broadly representative of Egyptian society.” This amounted to a rejection of Mubarak’s claim that foreigners were behind the protests.

      Demonstrating scepticism with Mubarak’s claim to have handed over power to his vice-president Omar Suleiman, Obama said any reforms had to be “irreversible”.

      The Obama administration has been putting pressure on Mubarak since last week to stand down straight away, but Mubarak, in what appeared to be a direct snub to the US president, said he would not bow to international pressure.

      Mubarak’s response offers further evidence of the US’s slow decline from its status as superpower to a position where it is unable to decisively influence events in Egypt, in spite of that country being one of the biggest recipients of US military aid.

      The administration has shifted from solidly supporting Mubarak, to suggesting he should go now, only to back him at the weekend to remain in office until the autumn – a decision that secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reversed hours later when she threw US support behind Suleiman.

      What did Obama and Clinton expect to accomplish with all this equivocal dithering? The President finds himself looking foolish and disrespected, but after all this straddling the fence, perhaps he deserves it. Where is the International Criminal Court? How can Mubarak get away with this? Unfortunately there are brutal regimes galore all over the world, and Mubarak is far from the worst. The International Criminal Court could make an example of Mubarak, but that would be quite a departure for them. Still Mubarak has committed grave crimes, not just recently, and is in violation of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

      Mohamed ElBaradei reacted despairingly to the Mubarak speech, calling on the Egyptian Army to save the country. This story is from CNN

      Mohamed ElBaradei: ‘Egypt will explode’
      By the CNN Wire Staff
      February 10, 2011 9:20 p.m. EST

      Cairo, Egypt (CNN) — Major Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei warned of potential violent unrest after President Hosni Mubarak announced late Thursday he would not step down before September elections.

      Mubarak “is gambling with his country” in order to stay at the helm, ElBaradei told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

      He reiterated the message of his Twitter account, which read, “Egypt will explode. Army must save the country now.”

      Major clashes between the people and the army, which Egyptians traditionally believe has been on their side, would be devastating, said ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

      ElBaradei’s outlook had changed since hours before, when Egyptians, including thousands packed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, expected Mubarak to step down rather than delegate powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman.

      The arrangement failed to mollify opposition leaders or those who have rallied in Tahrir Square for more than two weeks. Another mass protest is planned again Friday after prayer services.

      “Mubarak is only one part of this regime,” human rights activist Gigi Ibrahim, one of the Tahrir Square protesters, told CNN. “People have been here for 17 days, and they are not for Suleiman, either,” Ibrahim said. “Mubarak has lost all legitimacy, and now him handing over the power to the vice president is as illegitimate as Mubarak being in power.”

      ElBaradei told CNN that Egyptians will not accept the new arrangement.

      “Suleiman is considered to be an extension of Mubarak. They are twins. Neither of them is acceptable to the people,” he said. “For the sake of their country, they should go.”

      ElBaradei said a leadership council and a caretaker government should rule the North African nation for one year during a transition to a more democratic process.

      So why on earth did Obama and Clinton throw their support to Suleiman? In what way would he represent a “credible, concrete and unequivocal path to democracy?” He would not, not by any stretch of the imagination. Obama must have been aware of that, but he is acting as if he is just now realizing Suleiman is loyal to Mubarak, not the people of Egypt. The regime is rotten through and through; it is not just Mubarak who has to go. Is UN as helpless as USA to put pressure on Mubarak? USA got UN to slap sanctions on Iran, though that was to punish Iran for wanting nuclear power, to which Iran is entitled according to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not for its repression of its people. If sanctions can be placed on Iran for not committing any crime, why is it unthinkable to place sanctions on Egypt? Though initially some US leaders were calling for the suspension of military aid to Egypt, it appears even that has been taken off the table. What is really going on here?

    9. Aletha Says:

      The people of Egypt have thrown off the yoke of the tyrant! It appears the army did step in to save Egypt after all. AP is reporting

      “Both of last night’s addresses by Mubarak and Suleiman were in defiance of the armed forces,” Maj. Gen. Safwat el-Zayat, a former senior official of Egypt’s General Intelligence, told al-Ahram Online, the Internet edition of Egypt’s leading daily, on Friday.

      Perhaps yesterday Mubarak thought he could escape the inevitable, but he must have realized his time was up, the revolution could not be stopped.

      I have discovered an online petition to the International Criminal Court to prosecute Mubarak and his interior minister. I found the link in a comment to the Egyptian blog I cited above. I have signed it on behalf of Free Soil Party USA. I urge everyone to sign on to this. Mubarak should not be allowed to retire to a life of luxury with his ill-gotten gains. The Swiss authorities have already moved to freeze the Mubarak family bank accounts.

      Israel now finds itself on the wrong side of history. This is from the Los Angeles Times

      Israelis divided on how to respond to Egypt turmoil
      By Edmund Sanders, Los Angeles Times
      February 11, 2011, 1:15 p.m.
      Reporting from Jerusalem —

      As Israel faces what many fear could turn into its most serious national security threat in decades, fault lines are widening over how it should respond and some critics say the government appears ill prepared.

      With the resignation Friday of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who was widely seen as Israel’s most predictable Arab ally, a quiet panic is spreading here as Israelis debate their next move.

      “This whole situation is making Israel’s hawks more hawkish and the doves more dovish,” said Yossi Alpher, a former government peace talks advisor and co-editor of, a Mideast political research firm.

      Critics say Israel’s leaders have so far seemed surprisingly unprepared to react to leadership change in Egypt, whose landmark 1979 peace treaty with Israel has long been a cornerstone of Israel’s stability.

      Even as late as Thursday, many Israeli officials were still confidently predicting that Mubarak would survive until at least September. An Israeli lawmaker telephoned Mubarak on Thursday afternoon to offer words of encouragement.

      “They allowed themselves to go into denial,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli Justice Ministry advisor who is now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. “Now they’ve got no strategy and their options just narrowed.”

      Levy said Israel had relied heavily on Mubarak to defend its regional policies regarding peace talks with the Palestinians and the security cordon around the Gaza Strip, and now will have difficulties adjusting to a more democratic Egyptian government.

      “You can’t be a friend of Arab democracy if you’re an enemy of Palestinian freedom,” Levy said. “In that sense, they are as out of touch with Middle East reality as Mubarak was.”

      Regarding stalled U.S.-brokered peace talks, most expect Netanyahu’s government to adopt a harder line, particularly when it comes to territorial concessions.

      “The new situation will push Israel to be much more obstinate in demands from Palestinians,” said Zvi Mazel, another former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. “We will need a lot of guarantees.”

      Israeli President Shimon Peres is among those countering that Israel should move aggressively to reach an agreement on a Palestinian state to bolster its moderate allies in Egypt.

      “These dramatic events increase the necessity of removing the burden of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the regional agenda,” Peres told a gathering of opinion makers at the annual Herzliya Conference.

      The battle lines have been drawn. Unfortunately Shimon Peres and his allies have very little influence in Israel nowadays. However, reality makes a wonderful teacher, and it is possible that Israeli leaders will wake up and smell the coffee. Israel will need to deal with the new reality that they will no longer be able to claim to be the only democracy in the Middle East, and with any luck, there will be more revolutions against US supported tyrants.

      Regardless, this is a great day, when a nonviolent revolution can throw off the yoke of a tyrant, virtually without any outside help, though no doubt they were encouraged by the revolution in Tunisia. The people of both nations are to be congratulated. They have accomplished a miracle.

    10. Aletha Says:

      There have been large demonstrations in Iran, Bahrain, and Yemen. Hillary Clinton chastised Iran for resorting to violence to suppress dissent, but Yemen has become a crucial battleground in the war on terror, so instead of chastising the government of Yemen for violently suppressing its protestors, there will be “a new training program with Yemen’s counterterrorism unit” to help it combat its “insurgents,” who are allegedly working with al-Qaeda. This story is from the San Jose Mercury News

      Official: US to expand Yemeni military training
      By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press
      Updated: 02/14/2011 06:19:56 AM PST

      WASHINGTON—Faced with an increasingly alarming threat from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the U.S. military will begin a new training program with Yemen’s counterterrorism unit so it can move against militants believed to be plotting attacks on America from safe havens there.

      The effort will mark the first time the U.S. has trained the counterterrorism unit, which has traditionally focused on protecting Yemen’s capital, according to a senior defense official. Under the plan, the training would begin in the next few months, and the Yemenis could more than double the size of their counterterror force, which now numbers about 300.

      The official spoke on condition of anonymity because details are still being worked out.

      The plans come as the U.S. watched rippling public unrest rattle many of its Middle Eastern allies, including autocratic leaders such as Egypt’s former President Hosni Mubarak, who stepped down Friday.

      On Sunday Yemeni police used truncheons to stop protesters, many of them university students, from reaching the capital’s central Hada Square. Witnesses said plainclothes policemen wielding daggers and sticks also joined security forces in driving the protesters back.

      Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh also postponed a trip to Washington scheduled for next month due to the “circumstances in the country,” the state news agency reported.

      Mubarak and Saleh both worked with the U.S. to counter terrorism, and cooperation with Yemen is considered critical by U.S. national security leaders to combat AQAP.

      So far, U.S. defense officials said there has been no impact on U.S.-Yemen military cooperation as a result of the public protests, and that Yemen remains committed to its operations against AQAP. As an example, Yemen has created what one official called a “hard mission force” within the counterterror unit that they want trained to do more precise strikes.

      The new training program would expand U.S. military assistance to Yemen, where AQAP has planned and launched several attack against the U.S., including the attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day 2009 and the failed mail bomb plot involving cargo planes last summer.

      Senior U.S. intelligence officials told Congress Thursday that AQAP is committed to obtaining weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological agents. And the group is still focused on inspiring homegrown American militants to launch their own attacks from within the U.S.

      In other words, the government of Yemen will have a free hand to crack down on protestors however it wishes without fear of US condemnation or withdrawal of aid, because that government is considered a critical ally in the war on terror. Yet Hillary Clinton has no problem condemning Iranian hypocrisy for praising the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt while not allowing its own citizens to protest peacefully. This story is from BBC News

      Clinton expresses US support for Iran protesters
      Later in Washington, Mrs Clinton told reporters that the US administration “very clearly and directly” supports the protesters.

      “What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people, and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime – a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt,” she said.

      Mrs Clinton said the US had the same message for the Iranian authorities as it did for those in Egypt, where President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down after 29 years in power by nationwide mass protests.

      “We are against violence and we would call to account the Iranian government that is once again using its security forces and resorting to violence to prevent the free expression of ideas from their own people,” she said.

      “We think that there needs to be a commitment to open up the political system in Iran, to hear the voices of the opposition and civil society,” she added.

      USA has its nerve, accusing other nations of hypocrisy for cracking down on dissent. USA is extremely selective where protests are to be commended; if a critical ally is being challenged, unless that government is obviously facing imminent collapse, as in Egypt, USA refuses to take sides, at best, or supports the tyrant, at worst, as in the case of Yemen. If an enemy government is being challenged, USA is quick to support that challenge, at least with words. As the BBC News video at that link says, “this time the United States knows what it wants to say.” This is just business as usual, USA supporting democracy only when it expects the outcome will be favorable to US interests. USA is less tolerant of dissent at home than it pretends to be; COINTELPRO was officially discontinued, but its tactics continue under different guises. There are allegations that FBI is targeting antiwar groups, with an eye toward charging them with providing support for enemies of USA. One might have expected that from George W. Bush, but this is continuing under Barack Obama.

    11. Aletha Says:

      The Ms. blog has posted a video of an interview of Nawal El Saadawi a few days before Mubarak resigned by their correspondent Lauren E. Bohn. She is quite optimistic about the revolution.

      Afternoon chat with Dr. Nawal El Saadawi from Lauren E. Bohn on Vimeo.

    12. Aletha Says:

      It is now coming out that the brutal sexual assault on CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan was carried out by male opportunists who had not participated in the protests, but went to Tahrir Square on the night Mubarak resigned. She was rescued by a group of women and Egyptian soldiers. The male revolutionaries seemed to appreciate the presence of women during the protests, but obviously there are still plenty of men in Egypt who want to keep women intimidated. Ms. Logan is recovering and was released from a New York hospital last night. She had been previously one of the scores of journalists arrested by the regime during the protests. This is from a story in USA Today

      Egyptian women say they are frequently yelled at and touched by groups of men in the streets, but that during the anti-government protests, such behavior was less prevalent. “Men and women … everyone was coming together, and I personally didn’t experience any sexual harassment, which was extremely unusual,” said Yasmine Khalifa, 25, a Cairo teacher.

      The mood shifted Friday night, Khalifa said, when thousands of men who had not been part of the protests entered Tahrir Square. Several women reported being harassed, she said.

    13. Aletha Says:

      The New York Times reports on a rift between the President and State Department over how to handle the revolution in Egypt.

      In U.S. Signals to Egypt, Obama Straddled a Rift
      Published: February 12, 2011

      WASHINGTON — Last Saturday afternoon, President Obama got a jarring update from his national security team: With restive crowds of young Egyptians demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate resignation, Frank G. Wisner, Mr. Obama’s envoy to Cairo, had just told a Munich conference that Mr. Mubarak was indispensable to Egypt’s democratic transition.

      Mr. Obama was furious, and it did not help that his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Wisner’s key backer, was publicly warning that any credible transition would take time — even as Mr. Obama was demanding that change in Egypt begin right away.

      Seething about coverage that made it look as if the administration were protecting a dictator and ignoring the pleas of the youths of Cairo, the president “made it clear that this was not the message we should be delivering,” said one official who was present. He told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to take a hard line with his Egyptian counterpart, and he pushed Senator John Kerry to counter the message from Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Wisner when he appeared on a Sunday talk show the next day.

      The trouble in sending a clear message was another example of how divided Mr. Obama’s foreign policy team remains. A president who himself is often torn between idealism and pragmatism was navigating the counsel of a traditional foreign policy establishment led by Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Biden and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, against that of a next-generation White House staff who worried that the American preoccupation with stability could put a historic president on the wrong side of history.

      In interviews, participants described those tensions, as well as offering the first descriptions of Mr. Obama’s two difficult phone calls imploring Mr. Mubarak to take the protesters’ demands seriously. In those conversations, as Mr. Obama pressed Mr. Mubarak without demanding that he resign, the embattled Egyptian leader pushed back hard, arguing that the protests were the work of the Muslim Brotherhood and agents of Iran, a contention the Americans dismissed.

      The officials said the hardest of those conversations came on Tuesday, Feb. 1, barely an hour after Mr. Mubarak announced he would not run for president again. In Mr. Obama’s view, Mr. Mubarak still had not gone far enough. Describing the conversation, one senior official quoted Mr. Obama as telling the Egyptian president, “It is time to present to the people of Egypt its next government.” He added, “The future of your country is at stake.”

      Mr. Mubarak replied, “Let’s talk in the next three or four days.” He added, “And when we talk, you will find that I was right.” The two men never talked again.

      However direct the conversations between the presidents, the public stance taken by the United States fed the perception that there was confusion on the Potomac. Time and again, the administration appeared to tack back and forth, alternately describing Mr. Mubarak as a stalwart ally and then a foe of meaningful political change. Twelve days ago, Mr. Obama was announcing that Mr. Mubarak had to begin the transition “now”; last weekend his chief diplomat was telling reporters that removing Mr. Mubarak too hastily could undermine Egypt’s transition to democracy.

      Inside the White House, the same aides who during his campaign pushed Mr. Obama to challenge the assumptions of the foreign policy establishment were now arguing that his failure to side with the protesters could be remembered with bitterness by a rising generation.

      Despite the fervor on the streets of Cairo, and Mr. Obama’s occasional tough language, the president always took a pragmatic view of how to use America’s limited influence over change in Egypt. He was not in disagreement with the positions of Mr. Wisner and Mrs. Clinton about how long transition would take. But he apparently feared that saying so openly would reveal that the United States was not in total sync with the protesters, and was indeed putting its strategic interests first. Making that too clear would not only anger the crowds, it could give Mr. Mubarak a reason to cling to power and a pretext to crush the revolution.

      It was not only Mr. Wisner’s and Mrs. Clinton’s comments that threw the administration off message. Mr. Biden told an interviewer that he did not believe Mr. Mubarak was a dictator — words he quickly regretted, officials say.

      As the administration struggled to craft a message, it was playing to multiple audiences — the crowds in Tahrir Square, neighboring allies who feared the instability would spread, and home audiences on the left and the right.

      Mrs. Clinton and some of her State Department subordinates wanted to move cautiously, and reassure allies they were not being abandoned, in part influenced by daily calls from Israel, Saudi Arabia and others who feared an Egypt without Mr. Mubarak would destabilize the entire region. Some were nervous because they perceived that the United States had been a cheerleader for the Tunisia protesters.

      In fact, some of the differences in approach stemmed from the institutional biases of the State Department versus those of the White House. The diplomats at the State Department view the Egyptian crisis through the lens of American strategic interests in the region, its threat to the 1979 peace accord between Egypt and Israel, and its effects on the Middle East peace process.

      The White House shared those concerns, officials said, but workers in the West Wing also worried that if Mr. Obama did not encourage the young people in the streets with forceful, even inspiring language, he would be accused of abandoning the ideals he expressed in his 2009 speech in Cairo.

      For her part, Mrs. Clinton, too, has called for radical change in the Arab world. In January, on a trip to Qatar, she issued a scathing critique of Arab leaders, saying their countries risked “sinking into the sand” if they did not undertake swift political reforms. She said that stagnant economies and the bulge in the youth population was a recipe for the kind of unrest that later convulsed Tunisia and Egypt. And during a meeting at the White House on Jan. 29, officials said, Mrs. Clinton pushed for the administration to adopt language that would clearly lay the groundwork for Mr. Mubarak’s departure.

      But she also expressed concern later that a hasty exit of Mr. Mubarak could complicate Egypt’s transition to democracy given the lack of a political culture there. Added to that, many foreign policy experts still worry that Egyptians are ultimately faced with a choice between the military on one side and the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, on the other.

      The biases of the authors are apparently with the State Department. The people of Egypt do not view their revolution as a “crisis.” This is insulting to everything they are fighting for. The nervous allies do view this as a crisis, but that is because the friendly dictators fear their own people, and Israel fears an Egyptian democracy will not be as friendly as Mubarak. Too bad, I say. These “experts” who worry about Egypt having to choose between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood obviously have no confidence in democracy. Is it any wonder democracy in USA is so tightly circumscribed and dominated by big money? The people in power would have a lot to lose if people felt they had a chance to throw all the bums out, not just exchange Republicans for Democrats and vice versa. Egypt will have that opportunity. It may be USA could take some lessons from this revolution.

      Obama may have been frustrated that the State Department was putting him “off message,” but it seems Clinton and her aides were merely saying out loud his own reservations. Perhaps Obama doth protest too much. At least some of his advisers realized it was no time to be concerned about stability. This is so telling, “But he apparently feared that saying so openly would reveal that the United States was not in total sync with the protesters, and was indeed putting its strategic interests first.” I doubt the people of Egypt were fooled, but they had more immediate concerns, and perhaps they will understand that Obama was in a difficult position, having to break with Mubarak after an alliance of nearly thirty years. All the same, I think some heads should roll at the State Department, and the powers that be should get it through their thick skulls that supporting tyrants is bad policy, no matter what the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Yemen, … have to fear from these revolutions. I am not holding my breath for that.

    14. Aletha Says:

      Lynette Dumble of the Global Sisterhood Network posted an editorial from Al-Ahram Weekly

      Now for the gender revolution
      Women were among the keenest demonstrators in Tahrir Square, and they have as important a role to play as men in rebuilding Egypt, says Fatma Khafagy*

      I want to see the opposite of what has always happened after revolutions take place now in Egypt. History tells us that women stand side by side with men, fight with men, get killed defending themselves and others along with men, and then nurse the wounded, lament the dead, chant and dance when the struggle is victorious and help to manage the aftermath when it is not. However, history also indicates that after the success of a political struggle, women are too often forced to go back to their traditional gender roles and do not benefit from the harvest of revolution.

      I am sure the Egyptian revolution will not allow this to happen. In the same way that the Egyptian revolution was an inspiring pioneer movement in every sense of the word, it will also break new ground when it shows the world that women and men will be equal in all walks of life after the revolution as much as they were during it.

      Young Egyptian women proved to be brave, effective, fervent, devoted and valuable partners in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in all the governorates during the revolution. All the divides that were institutionalised by the former corrupt regime in Egypt, intended to make us fight each other instead of fighting the real enemy, have now fallen.

      During the 18 glorious days of the revolution, there was no divide between men and women, between Muslims and non-Muslims, between rich and poor and between the educated and the illiterate: all were undertaking the same responsibilities and acting freely by disregarding the conventional gender relations that have been entrenched in our minds by a vicious media, unethical education and an inconsistent political discourse. The former regime sometimes used religion and sometimes used culture to justify the strict gender division that put women aside and that prevailed for decades.

      Despite the millions in Tahrir Square, women of all ages were treated with respect, and there was not a single case of sexual harassment reported. Some young women slept side by side at night in Tahrir Square, and women prayed side by side with men during Friday prayers. Men and women kissed one another when victory was achieved.

      Before the revolution, no one could have thought that these things could happen. We spent much of our time as feminists counting cases of sexual harassment and trying to explain them. Other people kept themselves busy answering questions such as should women pray beside or behind men. Now, the revolution has put such petty discussions aside, and Egypt’s young people have acted freely to throw away in 18 days what we have speculated about and analysed for decades. How can we now make ourselves useful to our revolutionary youth?

      Let us examine the gender discrimination that prevailed in the pre-revolution era and was institutionalised by corrupt governmental institutions. The Egyptian family law has been in place since 1920 without change, and the parliament has refused to change it for almost a century. This law has discriminated against women in the private sphere and has enslaved them.

      The Egyptian revolution, as I witnessed every day and night in Tahrir Square, was not only about getting rid of a political system. It was also about creating another more beautiful and just Egypt that would guarantee human rights to all its citizens. I saw young women discussing with young men what kind of life they wanted to achieve for Egypt. I feel sure that the gender equality that was witnessed in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt will now prevail because we need it to create a better Egypt.

      I would like to seize this opportunity to ask all old and newly formed groups that support the 25 January Revolution to pay attention to the need to include women in their memberships and not only as a token. Let us aim to include at least 40 per cent women in all groups and organisations that support the young people in their revolution.

      I would like to call on all the country’s media, especially radio and television, to talk to women as much as you talk to men, put women in your pictures, interviews, programmes and talk shows. In whatever you do, act to confirm that the new Egypt will now be built by both women and men.

      * The author is a women’s rights activist and a board member of the Alliance for Arab Women.

      Hopefully this vision will be realized. The women of Egypt have reason to be optimistic things will change for them, but it will not be a slam dunk. Men needed the participation of women to win this revolution, but that does not mean men will not attempt to take control of the revolution. There are already ominous signs of that. I found this quote by Manar Ammar from The Women’s International Perspective at the Feminist Peace Network

      In yet another stab to women’s rights, women have been overlooked in the opposition coalition. Despite massive female participation at the protests, all 10 individuals taking over leadership of the movement are male.

      That was written three days before Mubarak stepped down, but there really is no excuse for that. What are these guys thinking?

      Regardless, this revolution shows great promise for real changes for the women of Egypt, if men do not revert to old ways. The demand of Abigail Adams that the rights of women not be neglected after the American revolution fell on deaf ears. I can only hope the young men of Egypt will not turn their backs on the bright promise of this revolution. The women of Egypt have every right to take their place as full and equal partners in the new Egypt. I know, that has yet to happen anywhere in the world, even in this supposedly enlightened nation USA, but the new Egypt could be a beacon for the entire world, showing what is possible when the people throw off the yoke of a tyrant. I wish to add my voice in support of the women of Egypt, calling on the men not to make the mistakes of their elders.

      Speaking of mistakes, USA just vetoed a UN resolution condemning the illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, the first veto by the Obama Administration. This is from the Guardian

      US vetoes UN condemnation of Israeli settlements
      Ed Pilkington
      The Guardian, Saturday 19 February 2011

      The Obama administration wielded its first veto at the UN security council last night in a move to swipe down a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

      The US stood alone among the 15 members of the security council in failing to condemn the resumption of settlement building that has caused a serious rift between the Israeli government and the Palestinian authority and derailed attempts to kick-start the peace process. The Palestinians have made clear they will not return to the negotiating table until Israel suspends settlement building in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

      The decision placed the US in a lonely and controversial position at a time when it is already struggling to define its strategy in a tumultuous Middle East.

      The 14 member countries backing the Arab-drafted resolution included Britain and France.

      The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said the decision to use the veto power – open to the five permanent members of the UN, of which the US is one – “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity”.

      She said Washington’s view was that the Israeli settlements lacked legitimacy, but added: “Unfortunately, this draft resolution risks hardening the positions of both sides and could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations.”

      But the isolated stance of the Obama administration risked the appearance of weakness in its approach to the Middle East and set it on a contradictory course to its earlier tough language against the settlements.

      The Palestinian observer at the UN, Riyad Mansour, said the veto was unfortunate. “We fear … that the message sent today may be one that only encourages further Israeli intransigence and impunity,” he said.

      Washington’s controversial move clearly riled other members of the security council. Britain, France and Germany put out a joint statement in which they explained they had voted for the resolution “because our views on settlements, including east Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace, and constitute a threat to a two-state solution. All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, should cease immediately.”

      I imagine USA felt a need to pacify Israel, since Israel just lost what it saw as a very valuable ally, Hosni Mubarak. This is worse than foolish. If Obama wanted to show USA could be a honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians, let alone the neighbors of Israel, he could not have more effectively sabotaged that intention if he had tried. Way to go, Obama, to show there is no change the Palestinians or the neighbors of Israel can believe in. USA supports the democratic aspirations of all people, as long as they are not Palestinians or perceived as enemies of Israel or USA. Once again USA demonstrates abject hypocrisy, even while Hillary Clinton denounces Iran for hypocrisy because it applauded the revolution in Egypt but cracks down on its own protestors. USA has a lot of nerve pretending to stand on the moral high ground. The Palestinians have rights too, and that Israel does not respect those rights must be condemned if Obama expects to deserve any credibility.

    15. Aletha Says:

      President Obama has finally found a situation where he can be unequivocal, condemning the violence in Libya and threatening sanctions! Could this be because Libya is not considered an ally, but is a major oil producer, unlike Egypt on both counts? This story is from the Guardian

      Barack Obama tells Gaddafi: Libya violence must stop
      Ewen MacAskill in Washington and agencies
      The Guardian, Thursday 24 February 2011

      Barack Obama has warned the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi that he faces the prospect of international sanctions over violence against demonstrators, and condemned Gaddafi’s actions as outrageous and unacceptable.

      Obama is sending secretary of state Hillary Clinton to Europe to discuss what actions can be taken to stop the violence, and to take part in a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

      The US president took care to maintain balance in his pronouncements over the uprisings in Egypt. By contrast, this statement was unequivocal in its criticism of Gaddafi’s actions. Obama promised that the Libyan leader would be held accountable.

      “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop,” Obama said.

      He broke his silence on Libya as US citizens in the country are preparing to be evacuated.

      Signalling he is considering sanctions, Obama said he has asked his administration for a list of options on how to respond to the crisis. “This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we will carry out through multilateral institutions,” he said.

      Gaddafi has had sanctions imposed on him before when he was regarded as a pariah by the US, Britain and others before voluntarily surrendering his weapons of mass destruction. At this stage, the threat of sanctions is mainly symbolic and would not have any immediate impact, though in the long term they could damage the Libyan economy.

      Obama, at the start of his statement, stressed his priority was to protect US citizens in Libya. But turning to the Libyans, he extended condolences to the families who have seen members injured or killed.

      Aligning the US with the protesters, Obama said: “The United States also strongly supports the universal rights of the Libyan people. That includes the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny. These are human rights. They are not negotiable. They must be respected in every country. And they cannot be denied through violence or suppression.”

      He added: “Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people. It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.”

      Perhaps Obama learned something from his mistakes dealing with Egypt. One can hope so, but there are great differences in the stakes for US interests. Already the price of oil is approaching a hundred dollars a barrel on the US market, and the price of Brent crude on the London market is well over that mark. This has hit stock markets hard all over the world, and could easily derail the economic “recovery,” such as it is.

      Meanwhile Obama knows full well his words will fall on deaf ears; Gaddafi will step down when he can no longer deny that he has lost control of his country, not a moment sooner, regardless of what anyone says. The only thing that could speed up this outcome would be actual military intervention to stop the genocide. Otherwise many more people will die before Gaddafi is finally forced to yield. Mubarak was forced to yield relatively easily, because his army refused to attack the protestors, and ultimately forced him to step down. The Libyan army may do likewise; already much of that army is siding with the protestors, but it has not taken matters into its own hands as of yet.

      The wonders of US hypocrisy never cease. Those fine words about universal human rights sound great, but who is Obama trying to fool? There are many nations which do not respect those rights, many of which are considered US allies, or significant trading partners. Egypt was a prime example. Israel is another, at least concerning the Palestinians. It could be argued that USA leaves a lot to be desired in its respect for rights of peaceful assembly and free speech. Why is FBI spying on dissenters? That has been going on for decades, and no doubt has intensified since the attacks on 9/11/2001. Nevertheless, UN has a responsibility to stop genocide, and perhaps if this desperate clinging to power by Gaddafi does not cease soon, UN will act. I think it is far more likely the Libyan army will do as the Egyptian army did, put a stop to this madness.

    16. Aletha Says:

      It appears the remarkable absence of sexual harassment during the protests has not carried over. It seemed as if Egyptian men had learned something about how to respect women, but has that all gone by the wayside, as men revert to their old ways? This story is from the Los Angeles Times

      Egypt’s women face growing sexual harassment
      By Bob Drogin, Los Angeles Times
      February 23, 2011

      Reporting from Cairo —

      On the night Hosni Mubarak fell from power, the crowds that rejoiced in Cairo’s central square were so dense, so roiling and rowdy that Mohamed Assyouti couldn’t push his way through when his girlfriend, Mariam Nekiwi, was assaulted several yards away.

      “A group of men surrounded her from four directions and closed her off,” he said.

      First someone grabbed her groin, she said. Other hands groped the rest of her body, pinching hard and yanking at her clothes. She was shoved one way and then the other. The frenzy was so sudden, the crush so stifling, that she could barely see. She shouted, and then screamed. The reaction was swift.

      “People started yelling at me to be quiet,” recalled Nekiwi, a 24-year-old video editor, still shaken by the ordeal. “They said: ‘Don’t tarnish the revolution. Don’t make a scene.’ They said: ‘We are men. We’re sorry. Just go now.’ ”

      Later that night, Feb. 11, CBS News correspondent Lara Logan came under what the network later described as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating by a mob of unidentified men in another part of Tahrir Square.

      Logan’s clothes were ripped off and her body was covered with welts and bruises, sources here said, before soldiers came to her rescue, firing live rounds in the air to disperse the attackers. She was evacuated to the U.S. and hospitalized for several days.

      The attack on a high-profile female TV reporter shocked Americans and dominated U.S. news cycles, partly eclipsing the historic changes underway in Egypt.

      It also challenged an inspiring narrative that had focused on nonviolent protesters and their idealistic calls for freedom from a despot.

      Egyptians who knew of the attack, which was overshadowed by the broader tumult here, also were horrified. But many were not surprised.

      Catcalls, fondling, indecent exposure and other forms of sexual harassment by strangers are an everyday occurrence for women on the streets of Cairo, according to human rights groups, social scientists, diplomats and interviews with Egyptians. Moreover, predatory packs have brutalized women at several public places, including a soccer stadium, in recent years, according to witnesses and local news accounts.

      “There is increasing violence against women in our society,” said Nehad Abul Komsan, head of the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights, a nongovernmental group that campaigns against such abuse.

      Theories abound to explain the violence. Unable to find decent jobs or affordable apartments, many men don’t marry until their mid-30s, social scientists say. Premarital sex is taboo, so sexual frustration is said to run abnormally high.

      At the same time, analysts say, prosecutions are rare. Many families pressure wives, daughters and sisters to keep quiet after being attacked rather than invite scandal. So-called honor killings, the slaying of women by male relatives for supposedly tarnishing the family’s honor, ensure their silence. Such killings are common in Egypt, according to the National Center for Social and Criminological Research.

      Politics are also to blame. Civil society was shredded under Mubarak and traditional respect for women frayed as well. Then, in May 2005, government security officers were filmed tearing the clothes and pulling the hair of four women — three journalists and a lawyer — at a protest rally.

      “After that, we saw dramatic change,” said Komsan, of the women’s rights center. “It was like a very clear message that anything was allowed. Women became an open target.”

      In the summer of 2006, authorities were embarrassed when women were molested on a major street in Cairo during celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. The following year, police announced that a crackdown had resulted in hundreds of arrests.

      But rights lawyers said most of the men were quickly released.

      In 2008, Komsan’s group polled 2,020 Egyptians and 109 non-Egyptian women. The results: 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women surveyed said they had suffered sexual harassment. About half the women said they were harassed every day.

      “This is a daily phenomenon for all women now,” said Hafez abu Seada, secretary-general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. “Unfortunately, it’s become a very common practice.”

      It’s also the premise behind “678,” a feature film that opened last month in Cairo. Inspired by true stories, the movie portrays three women — one veiled and poor, one middle-class and striving, the other rich and privileged — who fight back after a lifetime of indignities and mistreatment. Some critics denounced the film, warning that it would tarnish Egypt’s image, but women have packed theaters to see it.

      Mohamed Diab, the director, shot some scenes at a packed Cairo soccer match last February. His script, which includes a gang assault on the rich woman, proved prophetic.

      “We went in only 50 steps, and men in the crowd grabbed my actress and pulled her away,” he said. “Her clothes were ripped off. She fainted. The actors had to fight their way over to rescue her.”

      At least some of the pro-democracy protesters saw the mostly peaceful demonstrations at Tahrir Square as a way to change all that.

      The protesters who occupied the square for 18 days developed an unusual bond. They not only risked their lives against gunmen and thugs, many risked their futures, saying they feared that Mubarak’s secret police could imprison and torture them if they failed.

      Cultural barriers quickly fell. Men and women mingled freely, a rare sight in a culture that still segregates the sexes in many schools and offices. Teenage girls and women slept in makeshift tents on the square each night. Many had never slept away from home before. Some felt so safe they brought their children.

      For the first 16 days, no sexual molestation or other crimes were reported. Women spoke of the dawn of a new era.

      But on Feb. 10, rumors that Mubarak might step down drew tens of thousands more people to the square. Many had waited out the turmoil until the victory seemed clear. Though still primarily festive, the tenor of the crowd changed.

      As the sun set, Beatrice Ghirinjhelli, a 46-year-old former teacher who grew up in Egypt but lives in Greece, entered the square from a bridge that crosses the Nile. As the crowd inched forward, a man groped her from behind.

      “He repeated it several times,” she said. “I screamed. The crowd was so heavy, I couldn’t pick him out. I felt like a piece of meat at the butcher.”

      The next night, when Mubarak finally quit, another man groped Ghirinjhelli the same way.

      “I managed to grab his arm,” she said. “But he turned and got away. And then another man touched me too. I was so disgusted, and I just turned around and left.”

      Logan, the CBS reporter, has yet to publicly describe her ordeal. No one was arrested for the assault, and given Egypt’s current turmoil, no arrests are likely.

      Logan may have been singled out because state-run TV had spent days demonizing foreign reporters as U.S. spies and agents of Israel or, incongruously, backers of two extremist groups, Hamas or Hezbollah. Other reporters were beaten and harassed by pro-Mubarak forces during the uprising.

      But Komsan, the women’s rights activist, said the assault shows that violence against women isn’t just a problem of the past.

      “The respite we saw at Tahrir was temporary,” she said sadly. “It means a revolution doesn’t end all our problems.”

      True, a revolution in and of itself does not end all problems, and most revolutions do end up repeating many of the same abuses that sparked the revolution. Still, it is clear that Egyptian men, at least the idealists who protested before the end of the Mubarak regime, are capable of refraining from harassing women. They showed Egypt could realize the dawn of a new era. Unfortunately revolutions rarely live up to their ideals, and it is especially rare that men change their attitudes towards women. This is why the absence of problems with harassment was such a hopeful sign. The male leaders of the revolution should denounce the harassment of women, to embarrass men who persist in their old ways and make it known this will not be tolerated in the new Egypt. Otherwise, this revolution may turn out like most other rebellions in history, merely replacing one set of corrupt leaders with another set, while the rights of women get shuffled way down the list of priorities. The respite from abuse of women does not have to be temporary. If the revolutionaries want their revolution to be a beacon to the world, as it could be, the men must take the rights of women seriously. This revolution in Egypt showed it is possible; now it is up to the men to carry that true revolutionary spirit forward into the future.

    17. Aletha Says:

      It has been a fortnight since Mubarak was forced to step down, and the revolution in Egypt has more work to do. The honeymoon between the army and the revolutionaries appears to be over. Many had fears the army would be reticent about purging the vestiges of the Mubarak regime, and it appears those fears are justified. This story is from the New York Times

      Egyptian Military Forces End to New Protest
      Published: February 25, 2011

      CAIRO — Tens of thousands of protesters returned Friday to Tahrir Square, the site of demonstrations that led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two weeks ago, to keep up the pressure on Egypt’s military-led transitional government.

      But by early Saturday, the military made it clear there would be limits to further dissent as soldiers and plainclothes security officers moved into the square, beating protesters and tearing down their tents, witnesses said.

      In a day that had begun with equal parts carnival and anti-government demonstration, protesters’ called for the quick cancellation of the Emergency Law, which for three decades has allowed detentions without trial, and the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, a former air force general appointed by Mr. Mubarak days before he stepped down.

      But after night fell, the protest transformed into a tense standoff between protesters and the military, whose neutrality during the uprising, and unwillingness to fire on the protesters, had turned them into popular heroes.

      The first sign of tension arose when hundreds of people rallied in the intersection in front of the prime minister’s office, barred from taking their protest any closer to the ornate building by armored personnel carriers and a line of soldiers armed with Tasers.

      The crowd returned to a chant heard often in the days before Mr. Mubarak fell, replacing his name with the prime minister’s: “The people want the overthrow of Ahmed Shafiq!”

      Military police surrounded the protesters and kept them from leaving until late at night, witnesses said, while in Tahrir about a thousand people began to pitch tents and settle in for the night.

      After midnight, soldiers and police officers took over the square.

      Salma Said was asleep in a tent when it began to fall down on top of her. Outside people were screaming, and she emerged to see people being beaten by soldiers and armed plainclothes security officers wearing masks.

      “They had their faces covered like criminals,” she said, “They only showed their eyes.”

      “One of the officers threatened to shoot us and said he was going to set our tent on fire,” she said.

      During the day Friday, the atmosphere could not have been more different. Many protesters had brought their families and were resting on blankets spread out in a grassy traffic island. A man sold chopped liver grilled on a portable stove, vendors offered cheese sandwiches and cups of sweet tea and others sold revolution souvenirs like t-shirts and headbands.

      Solidarity with the antigovernment protesters in Libya was also a major theme. Crowds circled the square carrying two massive flags more than 25 feet long, one Egyptian and one of the Libyan monarchy overthrown by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 1969. Throughout the day protesters chanted “Long live free Libya.”

      Protesters called on the military-led transitional government to fulfill demands made during the 18-day protest in Tahrir Square, including the release of political prisoners, the removal of all ministers appointed by Mr. Mubarak and the prosecution of the former president and high ranking members of his party for corruption and abuse of power.

      The military has shown little interest in firing Mr. Shafiq, but many Egyptians see him as a proxy for the former president, who has been keeping a low profile in the resort town of Sharm el Sheik since his ouster on Feb. 11.

      Revolutions are rarely easy, usually messy, and apparently this one will be no exception. The army appears to have its own ideas about what it was all about. They knew Mubarak had to go, but seem determined to preserve some of his worst policies and people. The committee set up to amend the Constitution is woefully inadequate and unrepresentative, as Nawal El Saadawi described in Ahram Online this past Monday.

      Shortcomings of the new Constitution committee
      Nawal El Saadawi , Monday 21 Feb 2011

      I was surprised when I read about the new committee for constitutional amendments headed by Tarek El-Bishry with lawmakers, a representative for Copts and another from the Muslim Brotherhood. I thought that after the glorious popular revolution, which raised the banners of freedom, justice and dignity, that a committee would be formed to rewrite the entire Constitution (and not just to amend it) in order for it to correspond with the goals and demands of the revolution. But, unfortunately, the composition of the committee has nothing whatsoever to do with what millions of Egyptian revolutionaries – youth, men, women and children – had called for.

      The committee should have included honourable intellectuals who combine both the qualities of aptitude and integrity from across the political, legal, economic, social, intellectual and cultural spectrum. It should also include representatives from all strata of society, including the youth, women, Copts and Muslims. Amending the Constitution is not the exclusive preserve of men of law, but the entire population, all sectors, and most prominently progressive advanced thinkers who are in step with the Egyptian People’s Revolution which demanded the ouster of the regime – not just the removal of the president and a rearrangement of members of his regime.

      I don’t know what the criteria were for choosing the committee’s members; how can it not include the youth after they triggered this revolution and stood their ground and sacrificed their blood in order for it to succeed. There are hundreds of thinkers among their ranks who are qualified in every sector, including the law.

      Neither did the committee include one single woman from the intellectuals in political, social and other fields, or even one female law professor, counsel or judge although Egypt has hundreds of them. The Great Revolution was undertaken by men and women, not only men, and based on freedom and justice. How is it, then, that women are blocked from their right to participate in drafting a new civic Constitution which does not discriminate between citizens on the basis of their gender, religion, ethnicity, creed, class or any other criterion.

      Women constitute half of society (a much higher percentage than the Muslim Brotherhood or Copts), they participated in the popular revolution side by side with men, their blood was also spilled and they spent 20 cold nights in the rain in Tahrir Square since 25 January, until Mubarak was ousted. They too swept and cleaned up Tahrir Square before they went home. So how is it that they are denied the right to participate in building society and the new regime? Is this the justice the revolution demanded?

      History has taught us how popular revolutions are aborted by remnants of the ousted regime, and the first thing to be abandoned is the rights of women. We have learnt our lesson, and as soon as we returned from Tahrir we formed the Popular Committee for Establishing the Egyptian Women’s Union, which was aborted several times under the regime of Mubarak and his wife. This scattered the power of women in Egypt and subjected them to the control of the cabinet and the First Lady.

      The success of Egypt’s Popular Revolution of 25 January relied on unity, awareness and organisation. The power of millions of organised and conscientious people overpowered all the weapons of the regime, including a brutal police and a deceptive media maligning the men and women of the revolution by labeling them as traitors and enemy agents. But these weapons of the government were decimated in the face of a united, cognizant, peaceful force of the Egyptian people.

      Accordingly, the establishment of the Egyptian Women’s Union is necessary to unite and organise women in order for them to become an enlightened political force capable of imposing their rights and presence on all institutions, from the top to the bottom. It will represent women in a just way in all the new committees, including the one for amending the Constitution, in order to draft a new civic Constitution treating all citizens as equal, without discrimination on the basis of gender, religion or any other criterion.

      I fear the Egyptian army thinks it can preserve business as usual, with a new face to replace the tyrant, and a few criminals from the old regime put on trial. “History has taught us how popular revolutions are aborted by remnants of the ousted regime, and the first thing to be abandoned is the rights of women.” This is right on the mark. Ms. Saadawi says the women of Egypt have learned their lesson. That may be, but the army evidently has not. The army in Egypt is much too powerful and connected, and appears to be loath to give that up. Mubarak may not be in control any longer, but some of his people are still in power, and it appears they will not be going anywhere soon. The army may think that since the hated tyrant is no longer calling the shots, that will be enough to satisfy some of the revolutionaries, at least enough so that they will not be able to carry on with their demands for change. It is possible the army just wants to take things slowly and will eventually turn power over to the people. That was its promise, but it must be tempting to some of the powers that be in the army to try to keep their power and privileges, hoping the fall of Mubarak will defuse the revolution. That will not happen if people like Ms. Saadawi can keep the fires of revolution alight. The people of Egypt must be vigilant and keep pressing. They accomplished the first stage of their revolution, but the next stages might be much harder and more bloody.

    18. Aletha Says:

      Hillary Clinton went to Cairo Tuesday, offering to meet with the Egyptian revolutionaries, but they were not interested. This story is from the ABC News blog Political Punch

      Young Leaders of Egypt’s Revolt Snub Clinton in Cairo
      March 15, 2011 1:17 PM
      ABC News’ Kirit Radia and Alex Marquardt report:

      A coalition of six youth groups that emerged from Egypt’s revolution last month has refused to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Cairo earlier today, in protest of the United States’ strong support for former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by the uprising.

      “There was an invitation for members of the coalition to meet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but based on her negative position from the beginning of the revolution and the position of the US administration in the Middle East, we reject this invitation,” the January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition said in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

      Mubarak was one of the United States’ strongest allies in the Middle East over successive American administrations. He enjoyed a cozy relationship with top US leaders, which courted Egypt with massive military aid packages as thanks in large part for its support for Israel.

      “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family. So I hope to see him often here in Egypt and in the United States,” Secretary Clinton told the Arab language satellite channel al Arabiya during a 2009 interview.

      As the revolt strengthened in the streets of Cairo, Clinton was perceived as slow to recognize the strength of the protest movement.

      “Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people,” Clinton told reporters when first asked about the unrest on January 25.

      In a separate statement provided to an Egyptian newspaper the youth group said “the US administration took Egypt’s revolution lightly and supported the old regime while Egyptian blood was being spilled.”

      The waffling and fence-straddling of the US Administration before it became clear the Mubarak regime would not survive will not be soon forgotten. US foreign policy has been riddled with such hypocrisy and opportunism. If the new Egypt is less than friendly to USA and Israel, it will be unfortunate, but I would not fault the people of Egypt for resenting longstanding US and Israeli policy that wholeheartedly supported the tyrant, until Obama decided he had better not risk remaining on the wrong side of history.

    19. Aletha Says:

      The Egyptian military is not living up to its promises. Today a blogger was sentenced to three years in prison for criticizing the army! This story is from the New York Times

      Egypt Sentences Blogger to 3 Years
      Published: April 11, 2011

      CAIRO — An Egyptian blogger was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for criticizing the military in what human rights advocates called one of the more alarming violations of freedom of expression since a popular uprising led to the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak two months ago.

      “Maikel is the first prisoner of conscience in Egypt after the revolution,” Adel Ramadan, one of his lawyers, said in a telephone interview. “This ruling is a warning to all journalists, bloggers and human rights activists in Egypt that the punishment for criticizing the army is a sentence in a military prison.”

      Mr. Ramadan said that a military tribunal had sentenced Mr. Nabil to serve his term at Tora Prison here. His lawyers and his family were barred from communicating with him after the sentencing.

      The charges against Mr. Nabil included insulting the military establishment and spreading false information about the armed forces. The tribunal charged him with spreading information previously published by human rights organizations like Amnesty International on the army’s use of violence against protesters, the torture of those detained inside the Egyptian Museum and the use of forced pelvic exams, known as “virginity tests,” against detained female protesters.

      Mona Seif, a rights advocate, said Mr. Nabil may have been singled out as an easy target, partly because of previous run-ins with the military and partly because of his pro-Israel views. Mr. Nabil, who is Christian, refused to fulfill his obligatory military service in 2010 on pacifist grounds and has campaigned against forced conscription ever since, Ms. Seif said.

      On his blog, Mr. Nabil argued that little changed when Mr. Mubarak was removed from power. “The revolution until now has succeeded in getting rid of the dictator, but the dictatorship is still there,” he wrote.

      Mr. Nabil also wrote, “Even though the army pretended more than once to have sided with the revolution, the imprisonment and torture of activists continued exactly in the same way that used to happen before the revolution, as if nothing had changed.”

      This was the third time a blogger has been brought before a military tribunal in Egypt, but the first since the ouster of Mr. Mubarak in February, when hopes for democracy had flourished. In the last two months, the military has brought hundreds of civilians before its tribunals, including scores of protesters for a variety of other acts.

      On Saturday, the security services cleared Tahrir Square, killing two protesters and charging several dozen with violations of curfew and a ban on demonstrations.

      The military has pledged to turn over the running of the country to a civilian government once elections for Parliament and the presidency are held.

      Ms. Seif called Mr. Nabil’s sentence “a warning message” to the military’s critics that they “run the risk of being imprisoned like he is.”

      “The things they charged him with, most of us could also be charged with,” she said. “The evidence and the testimony they used against him are things that I and a lot of human rights campaigners have been writing about too.”

      It appears that the cohorts of Hosni Mubarak may have decided they could orchestrate a coup, deposing him while keeping many of his policies intact. Things could turn very ugly in Egypt if the revolutionaries are forced to the conclusion their revolution is in grave danger of being thwarted. The loyalties of the Army have been a question mark ever since the protests began. The military leaders gave the impression they were on the side of the revolution, but that impression is getting harder to believe by the day. They had a great deal of influence and lucrative contracts under the Mubarak regime, which they may be loathe to give up. It will be yet another sad tale of a revolution turned sour if it turns out the Army intends to keep its privileged position, promising democracy only as a means of defusing the revolution. They may instead keep their promises, but recent developments are ominous.

    20. Aletha Says:

      Nawal El Saadawi wrote an editorial published in the Guardian about the hypocrisy of the Egyptian elite.

      New song of Egypt’s elite
      Nawal El Saadawi in Cairo
      Tuesday 26 April 2011 23.00 BST

      What makes revolutionary thought unique is its clarity and dignity, and its clear grasp of freedom and justice: simple, clear words that are understood without the need for any help from elite writers or thinkers.

      In the columns of many of Egypt’s national newspapers, the same face-lifted, hair-dyed dignitaries who spent years justifying and beautifying the corruption of past rulers still write regularly. They now praise Egypt’s revolutionaries just as they once praised Hosni Mubarak and his ministers.

      Their words jumble everything, until the truth disappears – the simple, plain truth that the law and the constitution must be fair, and must be applied equally to everyone; that a leader should not be spared a just trial, nor punishment if he is found guilty of killing demonstrators or stealing money, or corruption, or any other charge.

      Mubarak has now been indicted, but the trial is being constantly delayed for health reasons, or political or other reasons. There is pressure from both inside and outside the country to spare him. Some people – the elite thinkers who write in newspapers – want to empty the revolution of its significance. They want to turn it into a song that we listen to yearly on 25 January, just as we listen to “I love you Egypt” songs during processions of national hypocrisy.

      All their writings sound the same, revolving around the same concealed idea, as if they meet at night and agree upon it. “Oh, pure youth of the revolution,” they say, “you are noble; you rise above revenge. You are the youth of a pure revolution, not like the French revolution that executed King Louis XVI and his family. Your white revolution shed no blood.”

      Their tears pour with the flowing ink of their pens. But they did not shed tears for the youth who were killed and wounded on the streets and in Tahrir Square. They did not cry for the youth who lost their eyesight to the snipers’ rubber bullets, or for the people of Egypt who have suffered hunger, unemployment, and abuse in prisons. They only shed tears for leaders who have spilled blood and taken money.

      In their desire to protect fallen leaders from the people’s trials, they say that God alone can punish and reward. “To all the youth of the revolution, trust God and do not listen to the words of infidels who are calling for punishment.”

      But how can there be justice without a trial? Why are they afraid of a trial if they are innocent and if their defendant is innocent? Mubarak was the one who gave orders to ministers – and to some of our elite writers, too, as he distributed rewards and positions among them. None of them ever opened their mouth except to shower Mister President with compliments, or to show their loyalty to him by following his orders. None of them ever met the president without emerging from the meeting waxing lyrical about their “unique and unprecedented encounter”.

      This is the new song that the Egyptian elite is singing today. To this day, its members occupy the thrones of culture, information, writing and art. You could almost sense from them that the trial will not take place – and if it did, it would be a sham, and it would end with acquittal and a safe passage outside the country. I hope I am wrong – for the sake of protecting Egypt from another burning revolution.

      The Egyptian elite are loathe to give up their power and prestige. They will find a way to make the revolution meaningless, if they are allowed to keep sabotaging it. Mubarak may not be in power, technically, but his stooges are still running things, and they hope the revolutionaries can be bought off to settle for the symbolic victory of toppling the tyrant. The struggle for real change is far from over; realistically, it has only just begun. In a way, the situation in USA is similar; many people thought the struggle for real change was won when Barack Obama won the election, but realistically, that struggle has only just begun, and Obama, the Democratic leadership, and mainstream pundits, like the Egyptian elite and military, are standing in the way.

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