Viser arkivet for stikkord egypt

Uri Avnery: Nasser and I

Uri Avnery
October 3, 2015

FORTY-FIVE YEARS ago Gamal Abd-al-Nasser died at the early age of 52. It is not an event of the past. It continues to have a huge influence on the present, and probably will on the future.

My meetings with him go back to 1948. I used to joke that “we were very close to each other, but we were never properly introduced!”

It happened like this: in July we were desperately trying to stop the advance of the Egyptian army towards Tel Aviv. The cornerstone of our front was a village called Negba. One evening we were told that an Egyptian unit had cut the only road to this kibbutz and dug in across it.

The company to which I belonged was a mobile commando unit riding on jeeps, each with two machine guns. We were ordered to storm the position and retake it at any costs. It was a crazy idea – you don’t use jeeps to attack dug-in soldiers. But the commanders were desperate, too.

So we advanced in the darkness along the narrow road until we reached the Egyptian position and were met with murderous fire. We retreated, but then the battalion commander joined us and led another attack. This time we literally overran the Egyptians, feeling human bodies under our wheels. The Egyptians fled. Their commander was wounded. As I later found out, he was a major named Gamal Abd-al-Nasser.

After that, the fortunes of war turned. We got the upper hand and surrounded an entire Egyptian brigade. I was a part of the besieging force when I was severely wounded. On the opposite side was Major Abd-al-Nasser.

FOUR YEARS later, Gingi called me in great excitement. “I must meet you immediately,” he told me.

Gingi is the Hebrew slang version of ginger, as the British call a red-haired person. This particular gingi was a small, very dark Yemenite. He was nicknamed Gingi because he had very black hair – that was our kind of humor then.

Gingi (his actual name was Yerucham Cohen) had served during the war as the adjutant of the Southern front commander, Yigal Alon. During the fighting, a short ceasefire had been arranged to allow both sides to retrieve the dead and wounded left lying between the lines. Gingi, who spoke excellent Arabic, was sent to negotiate with the emissary of the encircled force – Major Abd-al-Nasser.

As so happens, during their several meetings, a friendship sprang up between the two men. Once, when the Egyptian was very depressed, Gingi tried to comfort him and said: “Cheer up, ya Gamal, you will get out of here alive and have children!”

The prophecy was fulfilled. The war ended, the encircled brigade returned to a hero’s welcome in Cairo. Yerucham was appointed to the Israeli-Egyptian armistice commission. One day his Egyptian counterpart told him: “I was asked by Lieutenant-Colonel Abd-al-Nasser to tell you that a son has been born to him.”

Yerucham bought a baby suit and at the next meeting, gave it to his counterpart. Nasser sent back his thanks and an assortment of cakes from the famous Groppi Café in Cairo.

IN THE summer of 1952, the Egyptian army rebelled and, in a bloodless coup, sent the playboy king Farouk packing. The coup was led by a group of “Free Officers”, headed by a 51-year old general, Muhammad Naguib.

I published in my magazine a message of congratulation to the officers.

When I met Gingi, he told me: “Forget about Naguib. He is just a figurehead. The real leader is a fellow called Nasser!” So my magazine had a world scoop – long before anyone else in the world, we disclosed that the real leader was an officer called Abd-al-Nasser.

(A word about Arab names. Gamal is a camel, a symbol of beauty for Arabs. Abd-al-Nasser – pronounced Abd-an-Nasser – means “Servant of [Allah] the victorious”. Calling the man just Nasser, as we all did, conferred on him one of the 99 names of Allah.)

When Nasser officially became the leader, Yerucham told me in deepest secrecy that he had just received an astounding invitation: Nasser had invited him to come, privately, to see him in Cairo.

“Go!” I implored him. “This may be a historic opening!”

But Yerucham was an obedient citizen. He asked the Foreign Office for permission. The minister, Moshe Sharett, the renowned peace-lover, forbade him to accept the invitation. “If Nasser wants to talk with Israel, he must apply to the Foreign Office,” Yerucham was told. That was, of course, the end of the matter.

NASSER WAS an Arab of a new type: Tall, handsome, charismatic, a spellbinding orator. David Ben-Gurion, who was already getting old, was afraid of him, and perhaps envied him. So he plotted with the French to overthrow him.

After a short voluntary exile in a Kibbutz, Ben-Gurion returned in 1955 to his post as Minister of Defense. The first thing he did was to attack the Egyptian army in Gaza. By design or mistake, many Egyptian soldiers were killed. Nasser, angry and humiliated, turned to the Soviets and received large shipments of arms.

Since 1954, France was facing a war of liberation in Algeria. Since they could not imagine that the Algerians would rise up against France of their own free will, they accused Nasser of inciting them. The British joined the club because Nasser had just nationalized the British-French company that ran the Suez Canal.

The result was the 1956 Suez adventure: Israel attacked the Egyptian army in the Sinai desert, while the French and the British landed in their rear. The Egyptian army, practically surrounded, was ordered to return home as hastily as possible. Some soldiers left their boots behind. Israel was intoxicated by this resounding victory.

But the Americans were angry, and so were the Soviets. US President Eisenhower and the Soviet President Bulganin issued ultimatums, and the three colluding powers had to withdraw completely. “Ike” was the last American president who dared to face down Israel and the US Jews.

Overnight, Nasser became the hero of the entire Arab world. His vision of a pan-Arab nation moved into the realm of possibility. The Palestinians, deprived of their own homeland which was divided between Israel, Jordan and Egypt, saw their future in such a broad nation and admired Nasser.

In Israel, Nasser became the ultimate enemy, the devil incarnate. He was referred to officially and in all the media as “the Egyptian tyrant”, and frequently “the Second Hitler”. When I proposed making peace with him, people considered me insane.

CARRIED AWAY by his immense popularity throughout the Arab world and beyond, Nasser did a foolish thing. When the Israeli Chief of Staff, Yitzhak Rabin, threatened the Syrians with invasion, Nasser saw an easy way to demonstrate his leadership. He warned Israel and sent his army into the demilitarized Sinai desert.

Everybody in Israel was frightened. Everybody except I (and the army). A few months before, I was informed in secret that a leading Israeli general had confided to friends: “I pray every night that Nasser will send his army into Sinai. There we will destroy it!”

And so it happened. Too late Nasser realized that he had walked into a trap (as my magazine announced in its headline.) To stave off disaster, he issued blood-curdling threats “to throw Israel into the sea” and sent a high-ranking emissary to Washington to plead for pressure to stop Israel.

Too late. After a lot of hesitation, and after getting explicit permission from US president Lyndon B Johnsen, the Israeli army attacked and smashed the Egyptian, the Jordanian and the Syrian forces within six days.

There were two historic results: (a) Israel became a colonial power and (b) the backbone of pan-Arab nationalism was broken.

NASSER REMAINED in power for another three years, a shadow of his former self. He obviously did some thinking.

One day my French friend, the renowned journalist Eric Rouleau, asked me to come urgently to Paris. Rouleau, an Egyptian-born Jew working for the prestigious French newspaper Le Monde, was at home with the Egyptian elite. He told me that Nasser had just given him a long interview. As agreed, he submitted the text to Nasser for confirmation prior to publication. After some consideration, Nasser struck out a crucial section: an offer to Israel to make peace. It was essentially the offer that formed the basis for the Sadat-Begin peace agreement nine years later.

But Rouleau had the full interview on tape. He offered to give me the text, so that I could transmit it to the Israeli government on condition of total secrecy.

I rushed home and called a leading member of the Israeli government, Finance Minister Pinchas Sapir, who was considered the most dovish member of the cabinet. He received me at once, listened to what I had to say and showed no interest at all. A few days later, during the Black September crisis in Jordan, Nasser suddenly died.

WITH HIM died the vision of pan-Arab nationalism, the rebirth of the Arab nation under the flag of a European idea based on rational, secular thought.

A spiritual and political vacuum was created in the Arab world. But nature, as we all know, does not tolerate empty spaces.

With Nasser dead, and after the violent end of his successors and imitators, Sadat, Mubarrak, Gaddafi and Saddam, the vacuum invited a new force: Salafi Islamism.

I have warned many times in the past that if we destroy Nasser and Arab nationalism, religious forces would come to the fore. Instead of a fight between rational enemies which can end in a rational peace, it will be the beginning of a religious war, which will by definition be irrational and allow for no compromise.

That’s where we are now. Instead of Nasser, we have Daesh. Instead of the Arab world led by a charismatic leader, who gave the Arab masses everywhere a sense of dignity and renewal, we are now facing an enemy which glorifies public beheading and wants to bring back the seventh century.

I blame Israeli and American political blindness and sheer stupidity for this dangerous development. I hope we still have enough time for it to be reversed.

Uri Avnery on the war on Gaza

Son of Death
23/08/14

THE WAR was over. Families returned to their kibbutzim near Gaza. Kindergartens opened up again. A ceasefire was in force and extended again and again. Obviously, both sides were exhausted.

And then, suddenly, the war came back.
What happened? Well, Hamas launched rockets against Beersheba in the middle of the ceasefire.
Why? No why. You know how the terrorists are. Bloodthirsty. They can’t help it. Just like scorpions.
But it is not so simple.
THE CAIRO talks were near success, or so it seemed. But Binyamin Netanyahu was in trouble. He hid the Egyptian draft agreement for a long ceasefire even from his cabinet colleagues. They learned about it only from the media, which disclosed it from Palestinian sources.
Apparently, the draft said that the blockade would be greatly relaxed, if not officially ended. Talks about the building of a port and airport were to start within a month.
What? What did Israel get out of this? After all the shooting and killing, with 64 Israeli soldiers dead, after all the grandiose speeches about our resounding victory, was that all? No wonder Netanyahu tried to hide the document.
The Israeli delegation was called home without signing. The exasperated Egyptian mediators got another 24 hour extension of the ceasefire. It was to expire at midnight on Tuesday, but everybody on both sides expected it to be extended again and again. And then it happened.
At about 16.00 hours, three rockets were fired at Beersheba and fell into open spaces. No warning sirens. Curiously enough, Hamas denied having launched them, and no other Palestinian organization took responsibility. This was strange. After every previous launching from Gaza, some Palestinian organization has always proudly claimed credit.
As usual, Israeli airplanes promptly started to retaliate and bombed buildings in the Gaza Strip. As usual, rockets rained down on Israel. (I heard the interceptions in Tel Aviv).
BUSINESS AS usual? Not quite.
First it became known that an hour before the rockets came in, the Israeli population near Gaza was warned by the army to prepare their shelters and “safe spaces”.
Then it appeared that the first Gaza building hit belonged to the family of a Hamas military commander. Three people were killed, among them a baby and his mother.
And then the news spread: It was the family of Mohammed Deif, the commander of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. (Qassam was a Palestinian hero, the first rebel against British rule in Palestine in the 1930s. He was hunted down and killed by the British.) Among those killed this Tuesday were Deif’s wife and baby son. But it seems that Deif himself was not there.
That in itself is no wonder. Deif has survived at least four attempts to assassinate him. He has lost an eye and several limbs, but always came out alive.
All around him, his successive commanders, political and military peers and subordinates, dozens of them, have been assassinated throughout the years. But he has led a charmed life.
Now he heads the Israeli hit list, the most wanted and hunted Palestinian activist. He is the No. 1 “Son of Death”, a rather biblical appellation used in Israel for those marked for assassination.
Like most inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, Deif is a child of refugees from Israel. His family comes from the village Kawkaba, now in Israel, not far from Gaza. I passed through it in the 1948 war, before it was razed to the ground.
For the Israeli Security Service, he is a prize for which it is well worth breaking the ceasefire and reigniting the war.
FOR MANY security agencies around the world, including the American and the Russian, assassination is a sport and an art.
Israel claims to hold the gold medal.
An assassination is a complicated operation. It requires a lot of time, expertise, patience and luck. The operators have to recruit informers near the victim, install electronic devices, obtain precise information about his every movement, execute their design within minutes once the opportunity presents itself.
Because of this, there is no time for confirmation from above. Perhaps the Security Service (usually called Shin Bet) got permission from Netanyahu, its sole political chief, perhaps not.
They obviously were informed that Deif was visiting his family. That was a golden opportunity. For months, indeed for years, Deif has been living underground, in the literal sense – somewhere in the maze of tunnels his men had dug beneath the Strip. He was never sighted.
Since the beginning of this war, all the other prominent Hamas leaders have also been living under the ground. From Ismail Haniyeh down, not one of them has been seen. The unlimited command of the air by Israeli planes and drones makes this advisable. Hamas has no anti-air weapons.
It seems to me highly unlikely that Deif would risk his life by visiting his family. But Shin Bet obviously got a lead and believed it. The three strange rockets fired on Beersheba provided the pretext for breaking the ceasefire, and so the war started again.
Real aficionados of the art of assassination are not very interested in the political or military consequences of their actions. “Art for art’s sake”.
A propos, the last Gaza war, two years ago, started the same way. The Israeli army assassinated the de-facto al-Qassam leader, Ahmed Jaabari. The ensuing war with its many hundreds of dead was just collateral damage.
Jaabari was at the time filling in for Deif, who was convalescing in Cairo.
ALL THIS is, of course, much too complicated for American and European diplomats. They like simple stories.
The White House immediately reacted to the resumption of hostilities by condemning the Hamas launching of rockets and reaffirming that “Israel has a right to defend itself”. The Western media parroted this line.
For Netanyahu, whether he knew in advance of the assassination attempt or not, it was a way out of a dilemma. He was in the unfortunate position of many leaders in history who start a war and do not know how to get out of it.
In a war, a leader makes grandiloquent speeches, promises victory and bountiful achievements. These promises seldom come true. (If they do, like in Versailles 1919, that may be even worse.)
Netanyahu is a gifted marketing man, if nothing else. He promised a lot, and the people believed him and gave him a 77% rating. The Egyptian draft proposal for a permanent ceasefire, though markedly pro-Israel, fell far short of a victory for Israel. It only confirmed that the war ended in a draw. Netanyahu’s own cabinet was rebellious, public opinion was souring perceptibly. The resumption of the war got him out of this hole.
But what now?
BOMBING THE Gaza population draws more and more criticism from world public opinion. It also has lost its appeal in Israel. The maxim “Let’s bomb them until they stop hating us” obviously does not work.
The alternative is to enter the Gaza Strip and occupy it completely, so that even Deif and his men have to come up to the surface to be assassinated. But that is a dangerous proposition.
When I was a soldier in the 1948 war, we were taught never to get into a situation which leaves the enemy no way out. In such a case, he will fight to the end, causing many casualties.
There is no way out of the Gaza Strip. If the Israeli army is sent to conquer the entire Strip, the fighting will be ferocious, causing hundreds of Israeli and thousands of Palestinian dead and injured, and untold destruction. The Prime Minister will be one of the political victims.
Netanyahu is fully aware of that. He doesn’t want it. But what else can he do? One can almost pity the man.
He can of course, order the army to occupy only parts of the Strip, a village here, a town there. But that will also spread death and destruction, to no manifest gain. In the end, public discontent will be the same.
Hamas threatened this week to open “the gates of hell” for us. This hardly affects the inhabitants of Tel Aviv, but for the villages and towns near Gaza this is really hell. Casualties are few, but fear is devastating. Families with children leave en masse. When calm returns, they try to go home, but then the next rockets drive them away again.
Their plight evokes a very strong emotional response throughout the country. No politician can ignore it. Least of all the Prime Minister. He needs to end the war. He also needs a clear image of victory. But how to achieve this?
The Egyptian dictator tries to help. So does Barack Obama, though he is furious with Netanyahu and hates his guts. So does Mahmoud Abbas, who is afraid of a Hamas victory.
But as of now, the man who has the final decision is the Son of Death, Mohammed Deif, if he is alive and kicking. If not, his successor.
If he is alive, the assassination of his wife and baby son may not have made him gentler and more peaceable.

Published here with permission from the author.

Statment from the Social Democratic Party of Egypt

March 9, 2013
After discussing the different views the supreme council agreed upon:
1. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party is independent in its decisions taken by all of its elected bodies.
2. The ESDP is a founding member and one of the main pillars of the National Salvation front (NSF) and is committed to all its decisions.
3. The ESDP believes that elections are essential for the democratic process, but elections will be worthless without clear conditions including: -

• The principle of separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, which was severely violated by the catastrophic constitutional declaration and its devastating consequences, must be respected

• The Attorney General who was appointed in conformity with the constitutional declaration must return to the bench or sent on loan.

• The resignation of the Interior Minister, called the butcher by the people, must be accepted or he should be dismissed immediately.

• The parties represented in the previous parliament in addition to a representative of the NSF and public figures must form a committee for the preparation of elections law and political rights law and provide it to the Supreme Constitutional Court.

• Full guarantees fair elections including: complete judicial supervision, a limit of 500 voters per ballot box, and full internal and foreign monitoring of the elections, should be declared.

• Campaign funding should be limited and the use of places of worship for campaigning must be prevented.

• A committee of impartial constitutional experts should present a document, signed by the President and the party leaders, with the necessary amendments.

Hussein Gohar
International Secretary
Egyptian Social Democratic Party (ESDP)

-Quartet must stop demanding Hamas to recognise Hamas

Nabil Shaath, an aide to the Western-backed Palestinian president said today that international mediators of the Quartet (USA, EU, Russia and UN) should drop their demand that Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers recognise Israel.

Nabil Shaath spoke just hours before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ West Bank Fatah government is to sign a reconciliation deal with Hamas, ending a four-year rift. An interim unity government is to follow.

You’ll find the story in todays Haaretz

Avnery on why Israelis don't copy the Egypt revolution

A Crazy Prophet

“WHY DON’T the masses stream to the square here, too, and throw Bibi out?” my taxi driver exclaimed when we were passing Rabin Square. The wide expanse was almost empty, with only a few mothers and their children enjoying the mild winter sun.

The masses will not stream to the square, and Binyamin Netanyahu can be thrown out only through the ballot box.

If this does not happen, Israelis can blame nobody but themselves.

If the Israeli Left is unable to bring together a serious political force, which can put Israel on the road to peace and social justice, it has only itself to blame.

We have no bloodthirsty dictator whom we can hold responsible. No crazy tyrant will order his air force to bomb us if we demand his ouster.

Once there was a story making the rounds: Ariel Sharon – then still a general in the army – assembles the officer corps and tells them: “Comrades, tonight we shall carry out a military coup!” All the assembled officers break out in thunderous laughter.

DEMOCRACY IS like air – one feels it only when it is not there. Only a person who is suffocating knows how essential it is.

The taxi driver who spoke so freely about kicking Netanyahu out did not fear that I might be an agent of the secret police, and that in the small hours of the morning there would be a knock on his door. I am writing whatever comes into my head and don’t walk around with bodyguards. And if we did decide to gather in the square, nobody would prevent us from doing so, and the police might even protect us.

(I am speaking, of course, about Israel within its sovereign borders. None of this applies to the occupied Palestinian territories.)

We live in a democracy, breathe democracy, without even being conscious of it. For us It feels natural, we take it for granted. That’s why people often give silly answers to public opinion pollsters, and these draw the dramatic conclusion that the majority of Israeli citizens despise democracy and are ready to give it up. Most of those asked have never lived under a regime in which a woman must fear that her husband will not come home from work because he made a joke about the Supreme Leader, or that her son might disappear because he drew some graffiti on the wall.

The Knesset members who were chosen in democratic elections spend their time in a game of who can draw up the most atrocious racist bill. They resemble children pulling off the wings of flies, without understanding what they are doing.

To all these I have one piece of advice: look at what is happening in Libya.

DURING THE whole week I spent every spare moment glued to Aljazeera.

One word about the station: excellent.

It need not fear comparison with any broadcaster in the world, including the BBC and CNN. Not to mention our own stations, which serve a murky brew concocted from propaganda, information and entertainment.

Much has been said about the part played by the social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, in the revolutions that are now turning the Arab world upside down. But for sheer influence, Aljazeera trumps them all. During the last decade, it has changed the Arab world beyond recognition. In the last few weeks, it has wrought miracles.

To see the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the other countries on Israeli, American or German TV is like kissing through a handkerchief. To see them on Aljazeera is to feel the real thing.

All my adult life I have advocated involved journalism. I have tried to teach generations of journalists not to become reporting robots, but human beings with a conscience who see their mission in promoting the basic human values. Aljazeera is doing just that. And how!

These last weeks, tens of millions of Arabs have depended on this station in order to find out what is happening in their own countries, indeed in their home towns – what is happening on Habib Bourguiba Boulevard in Tunis, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli.

I know that many Israelis will consider these words heretical, given Aljazeera’s staunch support of the Palestinian cause. It is seen here as the arch-enemy, no less than Osama bin Laden or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But one simply must view its broadcasts, to have any hope of understanding what is happening in the Arab world, including the occupied Palestinian territories.

When Aljazeera covers a war or a revolution in the Arab world, it covers it. Not for an hour or two, but for 24 hours around the clock. The pictures are engraved in one’s memory, the testimonies stir one’s emotions. The impact on Arab viewers is almost hypnotic.

MUAMMAR QADDAFI was shown on Aljazeera as he really is – an unbalanced megalomaniac who has lost touch with reality. Not in short news clips, but for hours and hours of continuous broadcasts, in which the rambling speech he recently gave was shown again and again, with the addition of dozens of testimonies and opinions from Libyans of all sectors – from the air force officers who defected to Malta to ordinary citizens in bombed Tripoli.

At the beginning of his speech, Qaddafi (whose name is pronounced Qazzafi, whence the slogan “Ya Qazzafi, Ya Qazzabi” – Oh Qazzafi, Oh Liar) reminded me of Nicolae Ceausescu and his famous last speech from the balcony, which was interrupted by the masses. But as the speech went on, Qaddafi reminded me more and more of Adolf Hitler in his last days, when he pored over the map with his remaining generals, maneuvering armies which had already ceased to exist and planning grandiose “operations”, with the Red Army already within a few hundred yards from his bunker.

If Qaddafi were not planning to slaughter his own people, it could have been grotesque or sad. But as it was, it was only monstrous.

While he was talking, the rebels were taking control of towns whose names are still engraved in the memories of Israelis of my generation. In World War II, these places were the arena of the British, German and Italian armies, which captured and lost them turn by turn. We followed the actions anxiously, because a British defeat would have brought the Wehrmacht to our country, with Adolf Eichmann in its wake. Names like Benghazi, Tobruk and Derna still resound in my ear – the more so because my brother fought there as a British commando, before being transferred to the Ethiopian campaign, where he lost his life.

BEFORE QADDAFI lost his mind completely, he voiced an idea that sounded crazy, but which should give us food for thought.

Under the influence of the victory of the non-violent masses in Egypt, and before the earthquake had reached him too, Qaddafi proposed putting the masses of Palestinian refugees on ships and sending them to the shores of Israel.

I would advise Binyamin Netanyahu to take this possibility very seriously. What will happen if masses of Palestinians learn from the experience of their brothers and sisters in half a dozen Arab countries and conclude that the “armed struggle” leads nowhere, and that they should adopt the tactics of non-violent mass action?

What will happen if hundreds of thousands of Palestinians march one day to the Separation Wall and pull it down? What if a quarter of a million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon gather on our Northern border? What if masses of people assemble in Manara Square in Ramallah and Town Hall Square in Nablus and confront the Israeli troops? All this before the cameras of Aljazeera, accompanied by Facebook and Twitter, with the entire world looking on with bated breath?

Until now, the answer was simple: if necessary, we shall use live fire, helicopter gunships and tank cannon. No more nonsense.

But now the Palestinian youth, too, has seen that it is possible to face live fire, that Qaddafi’s fighter planes did not put an end to the uprising, that Pearl Square in Bahrain did not empty when the king’s soldiers opened fire. This lesson will not be forgotten.

Perhaps this will not happen tomorrow or the day after. But it most certainly will happen – unless we make peace while we still can.

Uri Avnery
February 26, 2011

Uri Avnery (87) is the founder of the Gush Shalom (Peace Now-movement). Member of the Israeli parliament Knesset 1965-74 and 1979-81.

He is famous for crossing the lines during the Battle of Beirut to meet Yassir Arafat on 3 July 1982, the first time the Palestinian leader ever met with an Israeli citizen.

Avnery has written a number of books on the Middle East conflict, notably: 1948: A soldier’s tale, Israel Without Zionists: A Plea for Peace in the Middle East (1968), My Friend, the Enemy (1986),The Bloody Road to Jerusalem (2008) and Israel’s Vicious Circle (2008).

Mubaraks regime lost control of the media

Egypt, ranked behind Zimbabwe in press freedom under the Mubarak regime, now experience a media revolution. In Free African media, Allison Simson reports on how the Mubarak regime controlled Egyptian media and harassed journalists, and how the control regime now crumbles.

Mubarak steps down

Mubarak and his wife left their home this afternoon and on state television, vice president Omar Suleimain told the press that Mubarak has handed the leadership over to the military establishment. See the news on BBC

Senter mot antisemittisme: -Ingen ting av betydning endres i overskuelig fremtid!

Hva er det som egentlig skjer i Midtøsten?

Av dr. Michal Rachel Suissa, leder for Senter mot antisemittisme (SMA)

Torsdag kveld viste den egyptiske hærledelsen sitt ansikt offentlig for første gang på mange år, og sendte sin mangeårige frontfigur, Hosni Mubarak, bak scenen. Måten det skjer på viser hvem som ennå har makten, og det skapte ingen jubel hos dem som våget å samle seg på Tahrir-plassen. De forsto budskapet: Frontfiguren blir etter hvert byttet ut med en annen frontfigur, og makten blir der den alltid har vært i Egypt og i andre arabiske og muslimske land: Makten er og blir enten hos de militære eller hos de religiøse lederne. “Demokratiet” fungerer enten i stillhet på bakrommet i moskeen eller gjennom gatebråk og mediestøy, som når man skifter ut en fotballtrener etter noen forsmedelige tap, og ikke gjennom folkets valg i en rettsstat.

De aller fleste diktaturene i Midtøsten er frontet enten av tannløse gamle “løver” eller av deres etterkommere. Det er egentlig ingen grunn til å kjempe mot de døende løvene, – naturen gjør jo sitt uansett, og hæren kan ingen kjempe mot. Spørsmålet er derfor hva som egentlig forandrer seg i Midtøsten? Svaret er dessverre enkelt: Ingen ting av betydning i overskuelig fremtid!

Vi kan ikke stole på det vi hører fra våre massemedier fordi de bruker tiden til å forelese ideologisk propaganda som tilslører virkeligheten med ord som revolusjon, demokrati og frihet, istedenfor virkelig å prøve å forstå det som foregår i en verden hvor reaksjonsmønsteret enten er basert på militærmakt eller islam eller en kombinasjon av de to, og der frihet og demokrati er umuligheter, rett og slett fordi de er antiteser både til den militære kommandostruktur og til selve kjernen i islam.

Vi kan heller ikke ha særlig tillit til de såkalte ”ekspertene” som er valgt fordi de bekrefter medienes egne fordommer. NRK har stadig intervjuer med “Midtøsten-eksperter,” hvoriblant leninisten Utvik som i Dagsavisen beskriver Det Muslimske Brorskap som “Egypts sosialdemokrater.” Brorskapet er jo moderorganisasjonen til Hamas som vår utenriksminister synes det er greit å samarbeide med, bare det skjer hemmelig. Det var det muslimske brorskap som innførte hijab som obligatorisk uniformsplagg for sine kvinner. Dette vil vår utenriksminister nå at norske lekdommere skal kunne bære, uten at han synes å forstå at hijab signaliserer en lojalitet til islamsk sharialov som går foran lojaliteten til norsk lov. Det skal eventuelt bli interessant å se om norske forsvarsadvokater tør påpeke dette når dommerpanelets habilitet skal vurderes. Utilsiktet komikk ble det imidlertid da NRKs Sidsel Wold fra Tunisia rapporterte med jubel i stemmen at nå hadde kvinnene der fått frihet til å gå med hijab! Det må vel kunne kalles å være “bortreist.”

Gjennom årene har det alltid vært demonstrasjoner og gateuro i ulike deler av den arabiske og islamske verden. Disse demonstrasjonene har aldri dreid seg om et ønske om demokrati og frihet. De var rett og slett brød-demonstrasjoner. Slavene gikk ut i gatene, ikke av ideologiske grunner, men av sult. Da gikk de mann av huse. Noen av dem ble skutt, prisene ble satt litt ned igjen og roen kom tilbake.

De korrupte diktatorene og deres familier bruker svimlende summer på luksuriøst liv i Europa mens de fattige arbeiderslavene knapt kan kjøpe brødet sitt. Mediene gir ingen opplysninger om menneskerettighetene til disse fattige og undertrykte. Vesten samarbeidet med diktatorene og deres militære våpenkjøpere, for business viser seg alltid å være viktigere enn menneskeverd. Våpen og olje bytter hender, og etterspørselen etter luksusvarer for de herskende dynastier har gitt et stabilt økonomisk tilskudd i våre demokratiske kasser. Er det noen som tror at noe av dette blir annerledes i overskuelig fremtid? Hvis det er så viktig for vestlige medier og politikere å avsette arabiske diktatorer nå, hvorfor var da hverken dette eller demokratiet viktig i Midtøsten de foregående 30 år?

Demonstrasjonene som vi ser i dag i Midtøsten har likevel fått en dimensjon som ikke var der før. Det er riktig at de var tradisjonelle brød-demonstrasjoner til å begynne med, men de utviklet seg til noe mye mer: De ble til vedvarende opprør som spredte seg over hele regionen. Det er viktig å legge merke til at befolkningen i mange land har kommet forbi den grensen som skapes av frykten for regimets fysiske makt. Man ser nå at folk ikke lenge er så redde som før, og dette er noe nytt i araberverdenen som vi tidligere bare har sett i Iran. Men er dette et tegn på sterkere ønske om frihet og demokrati, eller er det en mye dypere form for desperasjon vi ser voksende symptomer på? Kan folk rett og slett ha forstått at ingen av de kandidatene som mediene har nominert til å etterfølge de sittende diktatorene, har noen som helst mulighet for å skaffe lavere brødpriser?

Brød-demonstrasjoner i disse landene har alltid oppstått når det har vært uår og stigende matvarepriser på verdensmarkedet. Da har regimene fått tilsagn om støtte, bistand og subsidier fra sine venner i Vesten, og så har de greid å ri stormen av for en stund. Men slik er det ikke nødvendigvis lenger. Siste årets internasjonale matvarekrise har vært voldsom på grunn av omfattende naturkatastrofer i flere verdensdeler. Det som finnes av reserver kjøpes nå opp av land som Kina og India med sine voksende kjøpesterke befolkninger, og tilbake sitter den underutviklede og tilbakestående araberverdenen hvor de fleste landene ikke har verken økonomisk eller politisk evne til å sysselsette og fø sine voksende uproduktive befolkninger. Det problemet løses ikke med å bytte ut en diktator med en annen, og dette tror jeg begynner å gå opp for folk.

Men makten springer fremdeles ut av geværløpene i Midtøsten, og vi vil langt inn i fremtiden få se en voksende krise i disse landene. I en slik situasjon kan det for noen av regimene oppstå en sterk fristelse til å søke å provosere frem en åpen konflikt med Israel som kan ta noe av oppmerksomheten bort fra deres egenproduserte elendighet. Vi ser eksempel på dette i dag hvor Irans president proklamerer et Midtøsten uten Israel og USA. Faren er der for at slike eventyrere skal få tilslutning, men heller ikke den islamske antisemittismen vil løse noen av regionens problemer. Det iranske regimet forstår dessuten at de selv sitter på en sosialpolitisk vulkan etter mer enn tretti års vanstyre.

Det er bare en grunnleggende og langvarig prosess med endring og modernisering av kultur, økonomi og politisk mentalitet som kan bidra til økonomisk og sosial fremgang i Midtøsten. Noe slikt gjennomførte Kemal Atatürk og de militære i Tyrkia for 80-90 år siden. Den egyptiske hæren har makt til å holde Mubarak på plass så lenge den finner det hensiktsmessig. Den kan også proklamere og gjennomføre hva den vil av “reformer” som vi ser i dagens erklæring fra de militære. Men de kan ikke tilfredsstille demonstrantene på Tahrir-plassen uten løfte om massiv finansiell støtte og matvarehjelp fra Vesten.

Å forestille seg at folk som ElBaradei med støtte fra Det muslimske brorskap skal kunne få til en ideologisk modernisering og økonomisk oppsving i Egypt, er vel å strekke håpet litt langt, noe brorskapet antakelig forstår. Selv i Tyrkia ser vi nå at man fort finner veien tilbake til islam når de militære svekkes fordi landet ikke lenger er truet utenfra. Egypt, Iran og Midtøsten er ikke truet utenfra. De er truet av sin egen katastrofale udugelighet, – innenfra.

Med vennlig hilsen,

Senter mot antisemittisme (SMA)

dr. Michal Rachel Suissa, leder

Mubarak has spoiled his last honorable option

but to change an undemocratic regime peacefully, was never easy. Europe’s regime changes in the past were much more brutal than the revolution in Egypt has been, so far.

Read Robert Fisk of The Independent, on the dilemma Mubarak leaves unsolved here

Uri Avnery on the Egypt uprising

A Villa in the Jungle?

WE ARE in the middle of a geological event. An earthquake of epoch-making dimensions is changing the landscape of our region. Mountains turn into valleys, islands emerge from the sea, volcanoes cover the land with lava.

People are afraid of change. When it happens, they tend to deny, ignore, pretend that nothing really important is happening.

Israelis are no exception. While in neighboring Egypt earth-shattering events were taking place, Israel was absorbed with a scandal in the army high command. The Minister of Defense abhors the incumbent Chief of Staff and makes no secret of it. The presumptive new chief was exposed as a liar and his appointment canceled. These were the headlines.

But what is happening now in Egypt will change our lives.

AS USUAL, nobody foresaw it. The much-feted Mossad was taken by surprise, as was the CIA and all the other celebrated services of this kind.

Yet there should have been no surprise at all – except about the incredible force of the eruption. In the last few years, we have mentioned many times in this column that all over the Arab world, multitudes of young people are growing up with a profound contempt for their leaders, and that sooner or later this will lead to an uprising. These were not prophesies, but rather a sober analysis of probabilities.

The turmoil in Egypt was caused by economic factors: the rising cost of living, the poverty, the unemployment, the hopelessness of the educated young. But let there be no mistake: the underlying causes are far more profound. They can be summed up in one word: Palestine.

In Arab culture, nothing is more important than honor. People can suffer deprivation, but they will not stand humiliation.

Yet what every young Arab from Morocco to Oman saw daily was his leaders humiliating themselves, forsaking their Palestinian brothers in order to gain favor and money from America, collaborating with the Israeli occupation, cringing before the new colonizers. This was deeply humiliating for young people brought up on the achievements of Arab culture in times gone by and the glories of the early Caliphs.

Nowhere was this loss of honor more obvious than in Egypt, which openly collaborated with the Israeli leadership in imposing the shameful blockade on the Gaza Strip, condemning 1.5 million Arabs to malnutrition and worse. It was never just an Israeli blockade, but an Israeli-Egyptian one, lubricated by 1.5 billion US dollars every year.

I have reflected many times – out loud – how I would feel if I were a 15 year-old boy in Alexandria, Amman or Aleppo, seeing my leaders behave like abject slaves of the Americans and the Israelis, while oppressing and despoiling their own subjects. At that age, I myself joined a terrorist organization. Why would an Arab boy be different?

A dictator may be tolerated when he reflects national dignity. But a dictator who expresses national shame is a tree without roots – any strong wind can blow him over.

For me, the only question was where in the Arab world it would start. Egypt – like Tunisia – was low on my list. Yet here it is – the great Arab revolution taking place in Egypt.

THIS IS a wonder in itself. If Tunisia was a small wonder, this is a huge one.

I love the Egyptian people. True, one cannot really like 88 million individuals, but one can certainly like one people more than another. In this respect, one is allowed generalize.

The Egyptians you meet in the streets, in the homes of the intellectual elite and in the alleys of the poorest of the poor, are an incredibly patient lot. They are endowed with an irrepressible sense of humor. They are also immensely proud of the country and its 8000 years of history.

For an Israeli, used to his aggressive compatriots, the almost complete lack of aggressiveness of the Egyptians is astonishing. I vividly remember one particular scene: I was in a taxi in Cairo when it collided with another. Both drivers leapt out and started to curse each other in blood-curling terms. And then quite suddenly, both of them stopped shouting and burst into laughter.

A Westerner coming to Egypt either loves it or hates it. The moment you set your foot on Egyptian soil, time loses its tyranny. Everything becomes less urgent, everything is muddled, yet in a miraculous way things sort themselves out. Patience seems boundless. This may mislead a dictator. Because patience can end suddenly.

It’s like a faulty dam on a river. The water rises behind the dam, imperceptibly slowly and silently – but if it reaches a critical level, the dam will burst, sweeping everything before it.

MY OWN first meeting with Egypt was intoxicating. After Anwar Sadat’s unprecedented visit to Jerusalem, I rushed to Cairo. I had no visa. I shall never forget the moment I presented my Israeli passport to the stout official at the airport. He leafed through it, becoming more and more bewildered – and then he raised his head with a wide smile and said “marhaba”, welcome. At the time we were the only three Israelis in the huge city, and we were feted like kings, almost expecting at any moment to be lifted onto people’s shoulders. Peace was in the air, and the masses of Egypt loved it.

It took no more than a few months for this to change profoundly. Sadat hoped – sincerely, I believe – that he was also bringing deliverance to the Palestinians. Under intense pressure from Menachem Begin and Jimmy Carter, he agreed to a vague wording. Soon enough he learned that Begin did not dream of fulfilling this obligation. For Begin, the peace agreement with Egypt was a separate peace to enable him to intensify the war against the Palestinians.

The Egyptians – starting with the cultural elite and filtering down to the masses – never forgave this. They felt deceived. There may not be much love for the Palestinians – but betraying a poor relative is shameful in Arab tradition. Seeing Hosni Mubarak collaborating with this betrayal led many Egyptians to despise him. This contempt lies beneath everything that happened this week. Consciously or unconsciously, the millions who are shouting “Mubarak Go Away” echo this contempt.

IN EVERY revolution there is the “Yeltsin Moment”. The columns of tanks are sent into the capital to reinstate the dictatorship. At the critical moment, the masses confront the soldiers. If the soldiers refuse to shoot, the game is over. Yeltsin climbed on the tank, ElBaradei addressed the masses in al Tahrir Square. That is the moment a prudent dictator flees abroad, as did the Shah and now the Tunisian boss.

Then there is the “Berlin Moment”, when a regime crumbles and nobody in power knows what to do, and only the anonymous masses seem to know exactly what they want: they wanted the Wall to fall.

And there is the “Ceausescu moment”. The dictator stands on the balcony addressing the crowd, when suddenly from below a chorus of “Down With The Tyrant!” swells up. For a moment, the dictator is speechless, moving his lips noiselessly, then he disappears. This, in a way, happened to Mubarak, making a ridiculous speech and trying in vain to stem the tide.

IF MUBARAK is cut off from reality, Binyamin Netanyahu is no less. He and his colleagues seem unable to grasp the fateful meaning of these events for Israel.

When Egypt moves, the Arab world follows. Whatever transpires in the immediate future in Egypt – democracy or an army dictatorship – It is only a matter of (a short) time before the dictators fall all over the Arab world, and the masses will shape a new reality, without the generals.

Everything the Israeli leadership has done in the last 44 years of occupation or 63 years of its existence is becoming obsolete. We are facing a new reality. We can ignore it – insisting that we are “a villa in the jungle”, as Ehud Barak famously put it – or find our proper place in the new reality.

Peace with the Palestinians is no longer a luxury. It is an absolute necessity. Peace now, peace quickly. Peace with the Palestinians, and then peace with the democratic masses all over the Arab world, peace with the reasonable Islamic forces (like Hamas and the Muslim Brothers, who are quite different from al Qaeda), peace with the leaders who are about to emerge in Egypt and everywhere.

Uri Avnery
February 5, 2011