Regime silences Egypt uprising anniversary

This Foreign Policy article says it best–the fifth anniversary of the great popular uprising that ousted the hated regime of dictator Hosni Mubarak passed just the way the current regime wanted–in silence. But it doesn’t tell the whole story.

A long, wide and deep crackdown by the regime of ex-army commander Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has thousands in prison–Muslim Brotherhood members and liberal protesters–and whatever opposition still exists in Egypt is lying low.

Where this article falls down, though, is the same way that Western coverage of Egypt almost always falls down–interviewing only the protester side. As early as 2012, just a year after the popular revolution, I found it easy to get negative comments about the turmoil from downtown Cairo merchants, who were suffering from the lack of tourists and the general economic malaise made worse by the unrest. There’s no sign of them in this article, or in most others. No one is going out to find the battered majority, and they’re not coming to us–they’re just trying to survive.

If millions of people wanted to protest against the el-Sisi regime–they would, just as

ch11 (2)

Anti-Morsi demonstration, 2013

they protested against the Muslim Brotherhood regime of President Mohammed Morsi,  clearing the way for el-Sisi to depose him in 2013. Certainly many people are afraid to demonstrate, and many of their leaders are in prison–but millions more Egyptians are tired of the turmoil, and many others are judging el-Sisi by his economic record, which is still being written.

If el-Sisi’s government can bring about economic improvement of the type the trickles down to the common person, raising standards of living and providing jobs–then the average Egyptian will happily support the military dictatorship. Democracy is for the elite, for the West. Egyptians have more important issues on their plate–if they have a plate at all. The main fact to remember is–40 percent of Egypt’s 82+ million people live near or below the international poverty line. That’s $2 a day per person. That’s all that really matters in Egypt today, pushing even the vital issue of oppression of women into the background.

For most Egyptians, democracy and protest aren’t even in the Top Ten these days.

Advertisements

5 years after Arab Spring–still broken: Mark on the radio

Five years ago today, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians crowded Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square, starting the popular revolution that deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak and gave Arab Spring its name. Five years later, the region is still in chaos–or transition, depending how you look at it. ISIS is on the rise, and world powers have “failed” to stop the civil war in Syria. Those “quotes” are there because it’s clear that this is beyond the ability of world powers to control.

Syria Iraq sectarianRussian bombing runs have helped the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad regain control of parts of its native Alawite stronghold for now, but as this map shows, relating to Syria and Iraq according to their official borders is becoming a waste of time. This is what I mean when I say, over and over again, that the region is undergoing a historic realignment. It’s hard for the world to accept that–it has institutions like the UN that are built around nations, and nations are disappearing over here. These are some of the things I talked about a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh, starting with the ISIS video showing some of the terrorists who carried out the Paris atrocities.

Iraq kidnapping puts US on the spot–Mark on the radio

The reported kidnapping of three American contractors in Baghdad puts the US

Baghdad US Embassy

Huge US embassy in Baghdad

involvement in Iraq exactly where Washington doesn’t want it–on the front pages of the papers and here on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago. We know the White House listens to our live broadcasts on Monday mornings, because President Obama practically quoted me in his State of the Union address:

“The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia…. Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks…do not threaten our national existence.”

In this 4-minute broadcast, we also talk about the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal and the curious response of critics who seem to want the deal to fail. The result of that would be a nuclear-armed Iran, and is it really worth that to be able to say, “I told you so”?

Why are they so angry? They’re in charge!

As expected, Martin Sherman has replied at length to my analysis of his article blaming

Duma

Israel’s Shin Bet security service for mishandling the investigation of the terror attack that killed a baby and his parents in the Palestinian village of Duma last July.  Here’s his column–it appears every Friday in The Jerusalem Post. Friday’s paper is like the Sunday paper in the West, with by far the largest circulation. Mine ran Thursday, so more people would have seen his original and his reply than saw my analysis.

A friend asked me why I didn’t link to Sherman’s original column when I posted my reply. I responded that i didn’t see it as my role to make it easier for people to read that diatribe. It’s easy enough to find as it is. This week, on the other hand, I’m guiding you to the reply for two reasons.

First, and less important–his response just repeats his arguments, tries to refute some of mine by labeling them this or that, insults me here and there, ignores my conclusions and endorses one that he claims not to understand. Lame. I would have expected better.

What stands out here, though, is the tone both of the original and of this reply. It’s angry, petulant, persecuted. That’s typical of thinking and writing from his side of the Israeli political spectrum. Their main mind set is that they are surrounded by enemies who are out to get them, just as they believe Israel as a whole is surrounded by enemies out to get it.

Israel’s station in the world is a topic for another article, and you can get a hint about how I see that by reading my post about BDS and its ineffectiveness.

It’s the attitude of the right that puzzles me. The Israeli right has been in charge here since 1977, except for  few brief brief stints. Yet the right lashes out at perceived enemies as if the entire right wing were about to be swept up in a massive Shin Bet raid and locked in a windowless dungeon, while the hated left ruins the country.

Perhaps without this persecution complex, they lose their fire, their main reason for fighting on. Certainly Israel’s left, decimated by the failure of the peace process with the Palestinians, is not a worthy enemy anymore, divided among those who want to be just  bit more liberal than the regime, those who cling to outmoded hopes for peace with the Palestinians while blaming Israel, and those who want to shift the focus to domestic issues. As a result, Israel’s left is so marginalized that there’s no reason even to pay attention to it, much less build it up into a life-threatening monster.

It’s time for Israel’s right wing to grow up and accept responsibility for the condition of the nation, both the bad and the good, instead of looking all over for others to blame. Their latest target is European governments that fund pro-Palestinian NGOs, a bit of an irritant but far from a game-changer.

Israel’s situation, as I’ll write in that upcoming article, is actually pretty good, and that’s either because of or in spite of the leadership of the right for the past three-plus decades. It’s logical that Israel’s leaders and their right-wing followers would take credit for that, instead of looking for the next perpetrator of the next witch hunt against them.

Jerusalem Post picks up my anti-extremism article

Here’s my article taking on Israeli academic Martin Sherman on the subject of the terror attack last July in Jpostthe Arab village of Duma. It’s in the print edition of The Jerusalem Post, where Sherman’s column ran, and here, online. As one could expect, the negative comments are coming in, but as of this moment they’re civilized and to the point. I’m expecting worse. Also, I know the paper ran my article by Sherman before printing it, and his next column is tomorrow (Friday) in the same paper–so stay tuned. This should get interesting.

I’ve already been asked if I’m afraid of retaliation from right-wing extremists, and no, I’m not. After 44 years covering wars, terror attacks and military operations, I don’t scare easily. Anyway, it’s not the Israeli way, and I’m not anticipating any actual nastiness beyond the screen here. and I welcome that. If there’s more, you’ll be the second to know–after the police.

A master of reinforcing fear and loathing

 

I’ve avoided reading Martin Sherman’s articles for years, knowing what to expect. But when my friend Perry Dror, a serious supporter of Israel who lived here for some years, asked my opinion on his latest, I decided to plunge in.

Martin Sherman and I have opposite methods of research and writing. He starts with a premise, and then finds, distorts or invents facts to support it, while ignoring facts that don’t.

I start with discovering facts, and experience and knowledge, and they lead me to a conclusion.

Sherman’s latest is called, “Presumption of guilt.” Here are the facts:

In July, someone threw a firebomb into a house in Duma, a Palestinian village in Dumathe West Bank, killing a two-year-old and his parents. Slogans spray-painted in Hebrew on the wall of the house were typical of extremist Jewish settlers and their campaign called “Price Tag,” targeting Palestinians in response to their attacks or Israeli government moves they find objectionable.

Israel’s security agency, Shin Bet, detained a number of settlers and finally charged two with the attack.

It appears, then, that Sherman’s goal is to question the evidence in the case. It is that, indeed, but much more. His article is a skillfully crafted piece of tendentious writing that could be studied in the classroom for its structure and content.

From the outset, supporters of the extremists among the settlers insisted that Arabs must have been responsible, that Jews would never do such a thing. The slogans on the wall, their level of Hebrew and biblical reference counter that, but keep in mind that facts don’t matter here. And of course, Sherman takes care to state that if the arrested man is guilty, he should be punished. He takes care to state the opposite of all of his arguments, so you’ll see how fair he is.

Sherman commences on a campaign to discredit the Shin Bet, since, he maintains, “subterfuge is their trade.” Actually, intelligence and enforcement are their trade, and subterfuge is one of their tools.

And how does he refute the evidence? By quoting newspaper reports from Haaretz and the New York Times, after carefully pointing out that they are “Leftists.” That’s Israeli rightist code for “anti-Semitic, Israel-bashing devils.” So if even these devils have questions, what can that mean for the sane people over here?

And what is his counter-evidence based on? Reports by the two papers from the scene of the attack, quoting Palestinian witnesses. Some people say they saw two masked attackers, some say they saw four. Some say they escaped in one direction, some say another.

Welcome to the real world. This is not a CSI episode on TV where everything falls quickly and neatly into place. This is how real investigations begin. They end after the professionals put together what actually happened and file charges. This time it took four months. Sherman must know that.

He gives away his real agenda by dragging out ancient incidents involving the Shin Bet, one a major mess-up in 1984 and two others from the era of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995—Margalit Har-Shefi and Avishai Raviv—that are known triggers to excite anger and resentment among the right, especially when they are misrepresented as he does here.

We come away, then, with a subliminal message that not only is the suspect probably not guilty, neither is anyone else, really. The Shin Bet is the guilty party for its tactics, or maybe, as he hints darkly, another “ethnic”—Palestinians, in other words.

He closes with an ominous “word of caution,” not to violent extremists who burn Palestinians alive, but to “hand-wringing, moralistic mea culpa folks” who denounce the attack in Duma as terrorism. Again, the nuance is telling. “A work of caution” indicates a warning, a threat. None is stated, but we get it.

He charges that those who equate this terror attack with Palestinian terror attacks are harming Israel. The truth is that this terror attack harmed Israel.

The definition of terrorism around here is violent acts designed to make it impossible for one’s enemy to continue living as he does where he does. That applies equally to Palestinians who attack Israelis and to Israelis who kill Palestinians in the dead of night, burn their fields, uproot their olive groves and shoot up their houses. The goals of each side are the same—to force the other side to leave.

The difference, and it isn’t hard for me to figure why he wouldn’t write this, is that Israelis and their government are shocked and appalled by terror attacks like this, while Palestinians and their government praise and cheer terror attacks against Israelis. That distinction leaves Jewish terrorists as the tiny, despised minority that they are, not an integral part of the well-oiled, legitimate and powerful body known as Israel’s right.

I imagine that if Martin Sherman reads this and decides to respond, he will call me a “Leftist,” with that capital “L” to denote some sort of religion. Anyone who has read the articles on my website knows that I can’t be categorized, because I go where the facts, my experience and my knowledge take me. I am a serious writer who cannot be dismissed by adjective.

Neither can Martin Sherman.