‘CiF’ contributor: Israel launched Operation Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo”

Electronic Intifada contributor Rana Baker just published a commentary at ‘Comment is Free’ (‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Palestinians‘, July 10), which should have been titled ‘Egypt’s coup does not bode well for Hamas‘ – for it’s the autocratic leadership in Gaza City whose fortunes clearly evoke her sympathies.

However, whilst the essay itself – arguing that, whichever political movement ultimately attains power in Cairo, the Islamist led territory will suffer – is unspectacular, the opening paragraph contained two remarkably dishonest claims.  Baker writes, thusly:

When Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February 2011, Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip joined the celebrations of millions of Egyptians. Mubarak, after all, was the enforcer of Israel’s siege on Gaza and allowed Tzipi Livni, then Israeli foreign minister, to initiate “Operation Cast Lead” from the heart of Cairo.

The first claim, that Mubarak enforced Israel’s siege on Gaza – suggesting that his decision to keep the Rafah crossing mostly closed after Hamas ousted Fatah was made at the behest of Israel – is extremely dishonest, imputing Israeli control over Egypt’s government and ignoring the real factors, such as Cairo’s refusal to recognize Hamas due to concern over their own Islamist opposition. 

As AP reported in 2009:

[Egyptian Foreign Minister] Aboul Gheit repeated Egypt’s argument that it cannot open Rafah unless Abbas’ Palestinian Authority – which runs the West Bank – controls the crossing and international monitors are present.

He said Hamas wants Rafah opened because it would represent implicit Egyptian recognition of the militant group’s control of Gaza. Of course this is something we cannot do, Aboul Gheit said, because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank.

Further, whatever additional considerations were at play in Egypt’s policy vis-a-vis the Rafah crossing, to suggest that Jerusalem was pulling Cairo’s strings borders on conspiracy.  

However, the second claim made by Baker in the sentence – that Mubarak “allowed” former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni “to initiate Operation Cast Lead from the heart of Cairo” – is even more bizarre.  Indeed, Baker’s link from the sentence leads to a Guardian report which doesn’t even suggest such a thing.

The only report even hinting at this seems to be a 2010 WikiLeaks cable (from the U.S. State Department) which claimed that “Israel had tried to coordinate Operation Cast Lead with Egypt and Fatah, offering to allow [Egypt] and the Palestinian faction to take control of Gaza after an Israeli defeat of Hamas.” However, the report concludes by stating quite clearly that “the GOI [government of Israel] received negative answers from both.” The WikiLeaks document does include a vague and unsurprising observation that “Israel, the PA and Egypt were in contact before [Cast Lead],” but nothing to support Baker’s absurd allegation that Livni launched Cast Lead “from the heart of Cairo.”

Baker’s dishonest narrative alleging Israeli control of Arab lives – in an essay which, interestingly, doesn’t appear on the Guardian’s Israel page – may play well on the streets of Cairo and Gaza City, but you have to scratch your head over the credulity in the face of such risible claims by “professional” editors in London.  

Guardian editorial takes the side of Morsi (or Mubarak?)

To get an idea of just how outrageous a recent Guardian editorial (on Dec. 7) defending President Morsi and criticizing the liberal opposition truly was, here are two tweets by commentators with otherwise unimpeachable Guardian Left credentials:

Here’s Guardian Cairo correspondent Jack Shenker.

Here’s ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Rachel Shabi:

Here are a few excerpts of the Guardian editorial in question:

[The crisis in Egypt] is not about the proposed constitution,

[The opposition is engaged in] a power battle in which the aim is to unseat a democratically elected president, and to prevent a referendum and fresh parliamentary elections being held, both of which Islamists stand a good chance of winning. Morsi, for his part, is determined that both polls be held as soon as possible to reaffirm the popular mandate which he still thinks he has.

The opposition on the other hand has never accepted the results of freely held elections, parliamentary or presidential, and is doing everything to stop new ones being held

So, the Guardian, when faced with a choice between a Muslim Brotherhood which is ideologically opposed to true democracy and individual freedoms – a political predisposition clearly on display in Morsi’s recent decision to assume dictatorial powers - and a political opposition which is at least marginally progressive, chose the reactionary Islamists.

The following post by a Lebanese writer, who blogs at Karl reMarks, is titled The Guardian’s Editorial on Egypt Re-Imagined‘, and is based on the same Dec. 7 Guardian editorial re-imagined as if it were written in January 2011, with minor changes like replacing Morsi with Mubarak.

As the crisis in Egypt develops, it is becoming increasingly clear what it is not about. It is not about the elections, or the economic crisis, or Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Nor is it about the arrangements for a successor to the president. Nor even is it about the temporary but absolute powers that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, assumed for himself – for a mere thirty years, and which will lapse the moment the Egyptian people stop making a fuss.

Urging the opposition to shun dialogue, Mohamed ElBaradei said that Mubarak had lost his legitimacy. So the target of the opposition is not the constitution, or the emergency law, but Mubarak himself. What follows is a power battle in which the aim is to unseat a democratically elected president, with 88.6% of the vote, and to prevent fresh parliamentary elections being held, both of which the ruling NDP stand a good chance of winning. Mubarak, for his part, is determined that both polls be held as soon as possible to reaffirm the popular mandate which he still thinks he has.

In weighing who occupies the moral high ground, let us start with what happened on Wednesday night. That is when the crisis, sparked by yet another Mubarak decree when he was at the height of his domestic popularity over the role he played in stopping the yet another Israeli assault on Gaza, turned violent. The NDP party sanctioned a violent assault on a peaceful encampment of opposition supporters in Tahrir Square. But lethal force came later, and the NDP was its principle victims. NDP offices were attacked up and down the country, while no other party offices were touched. This does not fit the opposition’s narrative to be the victims of state violence. Both sides are victims of violence and the real perpetrators are their common enemy.

Mubarak undoubtedly made grave mistakes. In pre-empting decisions by the courts to derail his reforms, his decrees were cast too wide. His laws have many faults, although none are set in stone. The opposition on the other hand has never accepted the results of freely held elections, parliamentary or presidential, and is doing everything to stop new ones being held.

The Guardian is not only supporting a racist, antisemitic, anti-Christian, anti-West Islamist movement, but are remaining loyal even when a more liberal alternative is possible. 

You don’t need to agree with our critique of the paper’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to acknowledge that the ‘Guardian Left’ ideology in many ways resembles the reactionary right more than anything truly progressive?

‘Comment is Free’ contributor: Israeli leaders murder Palestinian children to score electoral points

Up to 37,000 people (mostly civilians) have been killed in the Syrian civil war since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime erupted 20 months ago.

During the Libyan Civil War, roughly 15,000 were killed.

At least 846 Egyptians (mostly civilians) were killed during the Egyptian revolution – the 3 week uprising which toppled Hosni Mubarak. Many were killed by  police forces “shooting protesters in the head and chest with live ammunition.”

Around 219 were killed during street protests in Tunisia. 

The death toll thus far in operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ has been 40 Gazans and 3 Israelis.

But, guess which country Egyptian ‘Comment is Free’ contributor  demonizes as vicious killers of Arabs?

In ‘Gaza is no longer alone‘, Soueif not only advances the insidious narrative that Israel’s operation ‘Pillar of Defense’ was launched by Netanyahu to win an election (a meme parroted by Guardian journalists Harriet Sherwood and Simon Tisdall) but characterizes the conflict as a “killing spree” inspired by Zionist blood lust.

Soueif writes the following, in a post which was highlighted at the Guardian’s ‘live blog’ on the conflict:

“Israel has always sold itself to the west as a democracy in a sea of fanaticism. The Arab spring has undermined that narrative, possibly fatally. So Israeli politicians have been pushing hard for a war against Iran and, in the interim, they’ve gone on a killing spree in Gaza.

If they had wanted to instigate violence against themselves they could not have done better than to assassinate Ahmed al-Jaabari, the Hamas commander who’s prevented attacks on Israelis for the past five years. With his killing they’ve raised the probability of these attacks resuming, as is happening now. They can then try to hijack the narrative of the Arab spring and wind the clock back to “Islamist terrorists v civilised Israelis”. Meanwhile, they take the heat off Bashar al-Assad’s murderous activities in Syria – and, of course, score hawkish points for Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak before the coming elections.

But they have served to remind the world that Israel is a democracy where politicians may order the murder of children to score electoral points. [emphasis added]

So, for Soueif, murdering Palestinian children is quite popular among the Jewish electorate.

The enormity of this smear – a staggering moral inversion which evidently was unchallenged by Guardian editors – is difficult to even fathom.

Speeches which literally call for the murder of every last Jew on earth have been made by Hamas leaders and other leading Islamist figures – calls for genocide which can be found on several reputable websites.

And, such extreme, homicidal antisemitism isn’t confined to Palestinian leadership, as suicide bombing, for instance, against Israeli civilians remains disturbingly popular among the Palestinian electorate.

In fact, after Palestinian terrorists from the West Bank butchered five members of the Fogel family in 2011 – brutally stabbing to death parents Udi and Ruth and their children aged 11, 4 and 3 months – there was celebrating on the streets of Gaza.

A Palestinian man distributes sweets in the streets of the southern Gaza town of Rafah to celebrate murder of five Israelis (Getty Images)

Not only is there no celebrating on the streets of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem when Israeli strikes against Hamas terror targets inadvertently injure or kill Palestinian civilians, but the IDF goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties during anti-terror operations.  This is one of the reasons why, according one leading British military expert, the ratio of civilian deaths to combatants killed in Gaza wars has been unprecedentedly low.

While there are no Israeli electoral benefits for causing Palestinian civilian casualties, you have to wonder which political crowd Guardian editors are trying to appease by sanctioning Soueif’s hideous smear against the Jewish state.

The death of Camp David? On the real world consequences of “Land for Peace”

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

Terrorist in Sinai with RPG

Does “land for peace” work?

Recent developments in the Sinai Peninsula, where the ‘Red Sea Riviera’ has spiraled into anarchy and violence, have put into sharp focus the serious consequences of Israel’s initial decision to embrace retreat as a guiding diplomatic philosophy.

The outbreak of hope that erupted following the signing of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was palpable.

Based on 1978’s Camp David Accords, this first attempt at a comprehensive peace between Israel and one of its neighbors was a valiant attempt to end 30 years of relentless hostility and costly wars.

Did the Israelis truly desire peace?

Well, by withdrawing from Sinai, Israel gave up:

Furthermore, Israel relinquished Taba — a resort built by Israel in what had been a barren desert area near Eilat — to Egypt in 1988. Taba’s status had not been resolved by the Camp David Accords.

In return, what was Egypt’s contribution to peace? A promise to end belligerence and military aggression.

While the Jewish State sacrificed much for the sake of peace, including an opportunity to become energy independent, the Middle East’s most powerful Arab nation reciprocated with a cold, if non-belligerent, shoulder.

While this frigid yet tolerable status quo defined relations between Jerusalem and Cairo for three decades, the 18 months since the Egyptian revolution forced out President Hosni Mubarak – ushering in a Muslim Brotherhood-led government – has transformed the Sinai into a vortex of chaos and violence. And the deteriorating security situation across its southern border has shocked Israel into coherence.

With Egypt firing missiles in the Sinai Peninsula for the first time since the 1973 Yom Kippur war, following an upsurge in Islamist attacks in the region, both Israel and Egypt must come to terms with the phantom peace of 1979 and consider seriously revising the terms of the treaty – for the sake of both countries.

It may well be time for Israel and Egypt to revisit the negotiating table with the aim of developing an action plan to confront and quell the Islamist insurgency that has swept over the Sinai Peninsula.

While Sinai’s spiraling out of control is due in part to such “imports” as global jihadist groups infiltrating the peninsula, the local population has also joined in on the festivities. In her latest Guardian report, Harriet Sherwood asserts that the vast desert peninsula is inhabited largely by Bedouin tribes, who for decades have been marginalised, neglected and impoverished.

Choosing a compelling narrative over facts on the ground, Ms Sherwood significantly downplays the Sinai Bedouins’ contribution to the reign of anarchy that has taken hold of the peninsula.

In truth, the Bedouins of the Sinai have rather cashed in on the lawless state of affairs. Tribesmen have been smuggling in Eritrean and Sudanese fortune seekers who are, along with drugs and weapons, smuggled into Israel.

And post-peace Sinai has inflicted a body blow to Israel’s security in another way. For it is through the peninsula that most of the weapons Hamas has succeeded in stockpiling in Gaza were smuggled in through the tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip with Sinai.

What a difference a peace makes, no? Israel’s original capitulation spawned many others. The pullout from Sinai set the stage for later expulsions and launched a three-decade long period rife with Israeli retreat.

And have all these retreats – Bethlehem, Hebron, Jenin, and Gush Katif- brought Israel one moment of peace? The grandchild of the 1978 Camp David Accords, the Oslo process, brought only a dramatic escalation in violence and bloodshed.

Necessity being the mother of invention, Israel must take a cold, hard look at the failed promises, dashed hopes and lives lost as the direct result of the strange calculus known as ‘land-for-peace’. Going forward, a new diplomatic paradigm, based on mutual respect, trade, tourism, investment and collaborative efforts in the fields of technology and medicine should be developed. In other words, scrap land-for-peace and replace it with peace-for-peace.

Until then, Israel and its neighbors are destined to wallow in a state of low-level bellicosity, with occasional flare ups as we’ve seen over the last several days in the Sinai Peninsula.

The danger of Western projection: Egypt’s ‘Spring’ devolves into atavistic authoritarianism

A guest post by Gidon Ben-Zvi, an Anglo-Israeli writer who blogs at Jerusalem State of Mind

Egyptians are choosing between a radical Islamist and Hosni Mubarak’s former prime minister in the second day of a presidential runoff greatly dominated by the country’s military.

Two days before the second round of the country’s first “free” presidential elections, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court ruled to invalidate the parliamentary election there. With parliament, 75 percent of whose members were Islamists, being dissolved, the military has taken over total authority.  

Egyptian protesters chant slogans against country’s military ruling council & Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, as one holds a poster with merged photos of Mubarak and Ahmed Shafiq with stars of David, at Tahrir Square on Thursday.

The highest court in the land also ruled that the army-backed candidate, Ahmad Shafiq – the last president to serve under Hosni Mubarak- could stay in the race, in what was widely seen as a double blow for the Muslim Brotherhood

The decision was denounced as a coup by opposition leaders, who fear that they will lose much of the political ground they have gained since Mubarak was ousted 16 months ago. 

What do these latest developments mean for the much ballyhooed ‘Arab Spring’? Does the West now find itself in the awkward position of condemning the Egyptian military and simultaneously demanding that the Muslim Brotherhood be put into power?  

This thoroughly misunderstood revolution has laid claim to the hearts and minds of many an erudite Western observer. Did not the awakening that flowered with the removal of Hosni Mubarak usher in a new dawn of social cohesion, economic vibrancy and political democracy

Evidently not. In a country woefully unprepared for democracy, the apparent choice for the good citizens ofEgypt is now between a Sharia state and a military junta. 

One reason that that the West got it wrong was that it fell under the spell of several tantalizing myths, including the one that attributes Mubarak’s ouster to the Facebook generation. While the young and wired up may have played a role in sparking the Arab Spring, they have not been its main beneficiaries. 

The West also overestimated the significance of the democratic secularists and the degree to which demonstrators across Egypt were committed to Western-style democracy rather than a quasi democracy that represented Islamist values.  

Indeed, pro-democracy activists may have induced a gullible Western public to swoon, but they never succeeded in generating a grass-roots following inside of Egypt, which in the end is more important.

Grossly underreported in the media coverage coming out of Tahrir Square was the rise to prominence of the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood. The leading Islamist party in Egypt, which had been banned from participating in national politics by Mubarak, reaped the benefits of a suddenly open political system. 

Last Thursday’s decision by the supreme constitutional court -whose judges were appointed by Mubarak - brings into sharp focus the old regime’s complete lack of public support.

Such machinations bode ill for the Arab world’s newest ‘free society’. In fact, Egypt remains a ‘fear society’ – whose rulers lack the legitimate support of the people. In order to remain in power, Mubarak’s coterie must apparently resort to extraordinary judicial maneuvers. 

As such, despite the West’s infatuation with the image of pro-liberty demonstrations and protests occurring across the Arab world, there’s actually nothing new taking place underneath the Cairo sun.  

In fact, the rise of religious revolutionary forces that drove a nation’s strongman to leave his country bears a striking resemblance to the events leading up to 1979’s Iranian Revolution. 

Once the Western powers realized that Iranian society was on the verge of a fundamental change, they chose to accommodate this change. After recognizing the opposition groups, they facilitated them with opportunities such as media coverage. Through this action, changes accelerated with an unexpected speed.  

It appears, then, that the West is once again on the wrong side of history. What’s behind this chronic inability to get it right? Besides buying into a few unexamined assumptions about the ‘Arab Spring’, Westerners have also tended to lean heavily on the Eastern European revolutions of 1989 as point of reference. Indeed, the unpopularity of these regimes in 1989 is comparable to the loathing expressed across theMiddle East at inert and intolerant authoritarian rulers in 2011. 

However, the role of foreign forces in 1989 and 2011, respectively, is strikingly different. The unpopularity of regimes swept out of power by in 1989 originated in the fact that they were imposed from the outside — from the Soviet Union after World War II — and the governments were seen as tools of a foreign government.  

The Arab Spring was different. The regimes did not come into being as foreign impositions. Nasserism, the ideology of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who founded the modern Egyptian state, was not imposed from the outside. Indeed, it was an anti-Western movement, opposed to both European imperialism and what was seen as American aggression. 

Until the West learns to read and interpret events on the ground with better accuracy, it will continue to find itself waking up in bed with Iranian Mullahs and Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

Ultimately, such diplomatic naiveté only serves to arouse public suspicion in these countries towards Western intentions in the Middle East. 

The pseudo-intellectualism of the Guardian which robs Israeli terror victims of their humanity

As usual, we have no idea who wrote the Guardian editorial of August 19th on the subject of the Sinai Peninsula and the still ongoing regional violence, but judging from the editorial’s content, it seems that not only is it doubtful that the writer would be capable of finding Dahab or Nuweiba on a map, but that he or she is intent upon tailoring situations and events in order to make them conform to the Guardian World View.

Consider the would-be axioms set out in the following paragraph:

“There were under-the-table arrangements between Israel and states with which it had correct but cool relations, like Egypt and Jordan, and even with those with which it had extremely bad relations, like Syria. But this system, always prone to breakdown, was obviously threatened by the events of the Arab spring. In particular, a distracted interim government in Egypt was not going to keep the lid on the Sinai and Gaza in the old way, while a government fighting for its life in Syria might conceivably lurch into actions it would have avoided in more stable times.”

The writer avoids mentioning numerous important facts, one being that the peace treaties signed between Israel and Egypt, and later Israel and Jordan, make very clear stipulations regarding border controls and internationally enforced security protocols: hardly “under-the-table arrangements”.

Secondly, “extremely bad relations” is a rather euphemistic description for two countries such as Israel and Syria still in a state of war, their mutual border being subject to the conditions of a UN monitored cease-fire. In other words, the writer has already attempted to take all the signed and binding agreements out of the equation, presumably in order to prepare the reader for his or her next step: the assertion that something is new about the situation in Sinai and that it can be explained away as a mere unfortunate glitch on the part of a “distracted interim government in Egypt”.

That, of course, is far from being the case. Even Mubarak’s Egypt had little control over Sinai, except for the relatively small area of the coastal tourist resorts.  For many years now the Egyptian authorities have confronted growing Islamist radicalisation among Bedouin and Palestinian residents of Sinai and have experienced numerous terror attacks – often targeting the vital tourism industry – on their own soil.

Whilst the situation may well have become even more volatile since Mubarak’s exit from the stage in January of this year, the explanation for that cannot be attributed to mere ‘distraction’ (particularly in light of the fact that less than a month ago the interim Egyptian government had no problem organising itself to deal with an attack on the police station in El Arish) and this editorial’s attempt to downplay the less attractive side effects of the ‘Arab Spring’ it has spent the last eight months lauding shows a disturbing unwillingness to face up to the ever more obvious facts.

The rising influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist factions in Egyptian society, the public calls for annulment of the peace treaty with Israel and even for war, the anti-Israel and often anti-Semitic motifs seen on the streets of Egyptian cities and towns as part and parcel of the ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrations and the disturbing fact that the current Cairo regime is often untowardly influenced in its actions by the calls coming from the street have all been studiously ignored by Guardian columnists trapped in their own stereotypical concepts. 

In this editorial we therefore see an effort to explain away events and downplay the ever-growing Islamist influence, which was no doubt exacerbated by the escape or release of Salafists and other Hamas, Hizbollah and Al Qaida associated extremists from Egyptian prisons during the upheaval of the revolution.  

That the writer of the editorial is able to state that “[s]uggestions have been made that Iranian intelligence and Islamist groups like al-Qaida are probing the area” would be amusing if it did not reveal such a deplorable ignorance of the situation which has existed for some already considerable time. Equally ridiculous are the attempts to analyze the Sinai Bedouin in blatantly Western terms. Smuggling is but one Bedouin occupation – entirely respectable in that society – which will continue as it has done for centuries, regardless of whether or not there happens to be an embargo on Gaza or discontent with Egyptian law.

However, this editorial also has other aims besides defending the reputation of the ‘Arab Spring’ in which the Guardian is so heavily invested. The sterile description of last Thursday’s attacks in almost flippant terms indicates an effort to downplay both the scale and the gravity of the attacks. The terrorists (or in Guardian parlance, “gunmen”) did not merely “shoot up Israeli vehicles” as the writer claims: they used anti-tank weaponry, among other things, to indiscriminately murder Israeli civilians including two small children and two sisters – both kindergarten teachers – on their way to a holiday with their husbands.  The Guardian’s refusal to acknowledge the human aspect of this multiple terror attack; its careful avoidance of any phrase, sentence or information which might make those Israelis  murdered in cold blood come across as ordinary human beings deserving of the reader’s sympathy, is of course hardly novel, but it does serve a wider political purpose.

That dehumanization of Israelis, by which the victims of the attack become “vehicles” rather than real flesh and blood human beings, assists the writer when he or she goes on to opine that “the immediate problem is to prevent tit-for-tat exchanges between the Israelis and Gaza militants escalating into something worse”.  The use of the phrase “tit-for-tat exchanges” is interesting. Not only does it imply triviality, but also equivalence. In other words, the Guardian sees a moral parallel between the unprovoked and pre-planned attacks upon Israeli civilians either travelling on major transport routes or sitting in their own houses in Ofakim or Be’er Sheva and  the right (and indeed obligation) of a sovereign nation to defend its citizens as best it can. It equates the elimination of the Al Qaida influenced ‘Popular Resistance Committee’ terrorist militia leaders and operatives with random attacks upon non-military targets: attacks which are deliberately designed to murder as many innocent men, women and children as possible in acts of pure indiscriminate terror.

Yet again, one million Israelis (the equivalent of ten million Britons) in the south of the country will spend tonight sleeping – or trying to – in air raid shelters and safe rooms as rockets, missiles and mortars continue to be fired by a plethora of terrorist groups from Gaza. The fact that the Guardian’s editors continue to downplay terror attacks on Israelis, refusing to call the governing body in Gaza to account and whitewashing the Islamist elephant in Gaza, Sinai and the rest of Egypt with ridiculous fictional versions of facts and events in the process, indicates one very simple thing.

 The famous Guardian World View deprives its holders of the ability to recognize the humanity of an entire nation whilst at the same time making them blind as a lovesick youth when it comes to so-called analysis of their radical chic terror heroes and ‘Arab Spring’ demonstrators.  

Such attitudes may be tediously predictable in a students’ union rag written by immature youth, but they are far from appropriate for a news organization which purports to provide its readers with serious, informed, factual and objective analysis. 

Lost in translation? Haaretz in Hebrew, and in English

A guest post by AKUS

Ha’aretz seems to have learned a lesson in misrepresenting matters from the anti-Israeli foreign press. This is how it announced the appointment of a new foreign minister for Egypt on its English-language website:

He seems like just the sort of nice chap Israel should be happy to see rise to the top in the “new Egypt”.

Unfortunately, in the Hebrew version of the same announcement, it seems that Israel will be stuck with the “old Egypt”:

For those who do not read Hebrew, what this says is:

“Nabil el-Araby, who served as Egypt’s ambassador to the UN, replaced Achmed abu El Rit. In the past, he led initiatives against Israel”.

Quite a different story. Moreover, the Hebrew article includes the following, noticeably absent from the English version:

The dismissal of Achmed abu El-Rit, who served under Mubarak, comes despite the fact that he  spoke in praise of the revolutionary forces in his country. At the meeting of the Arab League last week, Abu El-Rit said the demonstrations in his country were “the most wonderful in history”

Ha’aretz’s English version does not even provide readers with this example of El-Rit’s abject support for his new masters.

It is fascinating to see this anti-Israeli newspaper using tactics similar to those employed by Arab despots – in this case printing one thing in Hebrew, and another for Western consumption to fuel its attack on the country in which it is based.

Guardian Self-Parody Watch: CiF essay compares Wisconsin union protests with revolts against dictators in Mid-East

I had to read the CiF essay by Daniel Shultz (A Spirit of Solidarity, from Tunis to Wisconsin) - in the CiF Belief sectiona couple of times to make sure he was saying what I thought he was saying.

Though Shultz’s opening passage attempts to create some sort of plausible deniability for subsequent criticism, he truly seems to be making the argument that protests by state unions in the state of Wisconsin – over Governor Walker’s plan to trim union health benefits – is somehow morally comparable to the political upheavals in the Middle East inspired by decades of oppression and tyranny.

Only in the mind of the Guardian Left could such a comparison be taken seriously, yet how else are we to interpret the following:

“Something connects these events. It’s like dominoes: Mohammed Bouazizi’s death prompted an outpouring of rage and sorrow from ordinary Tunisians that led to the ouster of their government. Egyptians, inspired by their example, took to the streets until Hosni Mubarak had no choice but to step down. Libyans are on the verge of doing the same to Muammar Gaddafi, and the discontent continues to spread. The Egyptians recognised some kindred spirit in the protests in Wisconsin, as have residents of 30 other nations, at last count.”

But it even get’s funnier:

What connects Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Capitol Square in Madison, to my mind, is not simply a populist expression of discontent, but the God of the exodus once again opening up a new future where there was none before, leading ordinary people into a new way of life where they are more connected to one another.

To characterize this passage as draw-dropping doesn’t nearly do justice to how comical it truly is.

In a month my wife and I will celebrate Passover, which commemorates the story of the Exodus, in which the ancient Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.

I’m now wondering if our old and quite staid (and, evidently, neoconservative) Passover Seder should be updated so that – in addition to paying tribute to the G-d who led my ancestors out of Pharaoh’s slavery in Egypt with an outstretched arm – we also pay tribute to Wisconsin State Union Employees (AFSCME Council 24) who led their dues paying members out of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s bondage of slightly increased contributions to their generous health benefits.

(Next in the CiF Belief section: The Guardian HaggadahA Passover Seder from the perspective of the Pharaoh).

Rabbi Howard Cooper’s Act of Bad Faith

It probably should have come as no surprise to see Rabbi Howard Cooper peddling his wares on CiF on February 19th.  After all, he is a member of Independent Jewish Voices, has defended Caryl Churchill’s antisemitic playlet ‘Seven Jewish Children’, describes Israel as being “morally bankrupt” and as having “reached a new and shameful nadir in its history” for defending its citizens against years of Hamas rocket attacks as well as having the gall to elect a government of which he does not approve.

Nevertheless, even the predictable can be disappointing. It is sad to see yet another British Jew collaborating with the Guardian in its long-term assault on Israel’s legitimacy. It is even more disturbing to see a Rabbi cynically use the Jewish faith as a tool with which to advance the political concept that Israelis do not represent ‘the true spirit of Judaism’. However, given Rabbi Cooper’s egregious record, it is reasonable to assume that he is entirely aware of what he is doing and that for his own political reasons he has no qualms about presenting himself as an authoritative voice giving undeserved credence to the Guardian World View that the nice, docile and ‘authentic’ Jews are the ones who do not live in or support Israel.

Exploiting his position as a religious leader, Rabbi Cooper stokes the fires of the growing urban myth – fuelled by the Guardian and certain other media outlets – to the effect that Israelis were disturbed to see Hosni Mubarak toppled last week.

“I recognise the notion of bending “the arc of history toward justice”. It forms part of my understanding of a Judaic vision for humanity. So I was saddened by the predominantly muted and apprehensive response to these uplifting events from many of my fellow Jews in the UK and in Israel. How is it possible, I have wondered, not to be moved and inspired by the sight of a people finding its voice to join protests against decades of dictatorship, corruption, brutality and repression?”

“Is it because this begrudging Jewish response has been dictated not by a recognition of the power of the human spirit to overcome oppression, but by fear?”

“But the spectre of Israel once again surrounded by implacable annihilatory enemies haunts the Jewish imagination. It’s as if fear is soldered to our soul. Fear that past patterns of prejudice will be repeated and thereby determine our future. I find this kind of fearfulness both dispiriting and a betrayal of the Judaism I hold dear.”

“For our response to these events to be dictated by our fears, rather than our hopefulness about the human spirit, is an act of bad faith: it reneges on the spiritual vision of our Judaic heritage. In secular terms, it puts us as Jews on the wrong side of history – it puts us on the side of repression and brutality.”

Those are undoubtedly easy words to write in Finchley, but they show a lack of empathy for the people living in Israel which is quite shocking when one considers that they come from a man who supposedly understands human beings both as a religious leader and a psychoanalyst. What Rabbi Cooper is saying is that anyone who is not as completely and utterly overjoyed as he is to see unrest on the streets in surrounding countries, anyone who is apprehensive of what the future may bring to the region, is betraying Judaism. That is a very serious charge.

It is a charge, however, which can only come as the product of a specific environment. Happily, there are some Jews in the world today who do not possess the collective memory of persecution in pre-war Europe, Soviet Russia or Arab countries.  They have no understanding of the fear of a mob in the streets or the chill of hearing the cry of ‘Itbah al Yahud!’. They have never been stoned or bombed or attacked by missiles. They have never had to leave their homes in the middle of the night to search for safety in unfamiliar places. Their children have never had to see, let alone use, a gas mask or a bomb shelter.  These things are not ‘spectres’ or products of the ‘Jewish imagination’ as Cooper claims, but very real and present phenomena.

And so, people like Rabbi Cooper can allow themselves to condescendingly lecture others from their particular little island of safety and comfort and – reprehensibly – cast judgement upon their emotions. Predictably, the Rabbi Coopers of this world always come from very privileged societies; we do not see Jews from Iran, Venezuela or Morocco indulging themselves in accusations of betrayal of their shared faith against other Jews in the Middle East.

Rabbi Cooper’s empathy for the Egyptian people shows no bounds; he takes great pains to show in this article that he is on ‘the right side of history’ and if, in order to do so, he has to collaborate with the perpetuation of an unfounded urban myth and even engage in a little ‘sinat hinam’ (baseless hatred) by categorising Jews into good ones who think like him and bad ones who ‘betray’ Judaism, that obviously does not worry him. Neither, apparently, does his rather astounding ability to claim a monopoly on Judaism.

To some, that may seem like strange behaviour for a Rabbi, but the reason for it is perfectly obvious – Rabbi Cooper’s politics trump both his chosen professions.  For him, ‘the right side of history’ does not end in Tahrir square. It involves being on the ‘right side’ in his own society too and in some circles that means post-Zionism and a required ability to empathise more deeply with people who do not belong to his own ethnic group than those who do. And so, just as he was unable to find any sympathy for the children of Sderot when he wrote about operation Cast Lead on his blog (they did not even get a mention), he is also now devoid of any empathy towards those who hope that the Egyptian people are not about to exchange one kind of dictatorship for another.

Any fears that Israelis have about the eventual outcome of the Egyptian uprising are based both on a keen understanding of the forces at work in the region and the experiences of the rise to power of radical Islamist elements in both Lebanon and Gaza by means of democratic elections. Those fears are founded in reality and are certainly no less legitimate than Rabbi Cooper’s own fears regarding the need to be publicly seen to be on the ‘right side’ for the sake of his own self-preservation.

The real ‘act of bad faith’ here is committed not by people displaying honest apprehension at what the future may realistically bring in terms of renewed violence and conflict in this region, but by a man basking in the relative safety afforded by a few thousand kilometres  of distance between himself and any potential danger, who is prepared to abuse his position in order to belittle and deride the legitimate fears of others solely to increase his own esteem in the eyes of his political fellow travelers.

(Postscript: Please note this video of the massive rally in Cairo on Friday, addressed by Yusuf al-Qaradawi.  The chants you hear the crowd roaring are “To Jerusalem (al Quds) we go, for us to be the Martyrs of Millions”)


The radical affiliation of CiF commentator Salah Abdel Maqsoud the Guardian chose not to reveal

CiF published yet another ‘Hug a Bruvver’ article on February 15th in the form of Salah Abdel Maqsoud’s piece lauding the role played by certain sections of the Egyptian media in the recent  uprising.

Maqsoud also took the opportunity to launch an attack on other sections of the Egyptian media.

“Mass walkouts were reported in numerous newspaper offices, news agencies and TV and radio stations, with workers demanding the arrest of editors and other senior personnel for their role in “tarnishing the people’s revolution”.

“As I write these words, numerous demonstrations by media workers continue outside their respective establishments, demanding the resignation of corrupt editors who sided with the former dictator who appointed them in the first place.”

Most people who read this article will, of course, know little about the ins and outs of the Egyptian press and media, and indeed why should they? An occasional eyebrow may be raised at the idea of putting people on trial for ‘tarnishing the people’s revolution’, which sounds uncomfortably Stalinist to anyone not afflicted by a Milne-style nostalgia for the heyday of far Left authoritarianism, but most readers will move on to the next article thinking that Maqsoud and his comrades are brave libertarians who triumphed against a repressive state machine.

Unfortunately, that is not the whole story. The Guardian’s profile of Maqsoud is rather coy.

“Salah Abdel Maqsoud is general secretary of the Egyptian Journalists’ Union.”

What readers are not told is that Maqsoud is also a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Here he is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi – renowned for his vile antisemitic and homophobic rhetoric.

Maqsoud also has something of a history with Makram Mohammed Ahmed, the head of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, upon whom he launched a named attack in his article.

“At his funeral, those attending mounted a protest demanding the resignation of the head of the journalist’s union Makram Mohammed Ahmed. Ahmed had infamously defended the Mubarak regime, stating that Mubarak was no Ben Ali (the former Tunisian dictator), that the regime was solid, and that the revolution was led by a bunch of Muslim Brotherhood thugs. He was prevented by members of the union of speaking at the funeral.”

According to the Independent’s Donald Macintyre:

“But when the chairman of the official journalists’ syndicate, commentator Makram Mohamed Ahmed, widely regarded as a Mubarak loyalist, decided to attend a pre-march press conference yesterday, the mourners erupted in angry shouts of “killer”. They surrounded him amid chants of “Down with Makram and down with state media”, “The mouthpiece of the regime must fall” and – by a few – “you are an agent of America and Israel“.”(my emphasis)

In the 2007 elections which resulted in Makram Mohammed Ahmed becoming head of the Journalists’ Syndicate, Maqsoud ran, and was elected, as a Muslim Brotherhood candidate.

“Commenting on the new board of the Press Syndicate, Salah Abdul Maqsoud, a fourth time elected Press Syndicate board member who claims the biggest haul of services inside the syndicate, confirmed that he will as a MB candidate extend his hands to Makram Mohamed Ahmed and he will cooperate with him as much as he can for the sake of the press community.”

“Abdul Maqsoud confirmed also that the current coalition between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Leftist powers inside the syndicate will continue like previous syndicate rounds.”

“He also added that the syndicate will remain open for all Egyptians and all Arabs and it will be closed only in the face of the Zionists so that it helps everyone to give vent to his ordeal, cause or problem. He added along with the other MB colleague, the elected board member Mohamed Abdul Qoddous that they represent all journalists because all journalists, not only MB ones, voted for them.” (my emphasis)

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Why was this deleted?

The essay, “Egypt’s media revolution“, CiF Feb. 15, by Salah Abdel Maqsoud, didn’t exactly produce an avalanche  of comments, but predictably included several about Israel, which prompted this:

And, then:

I guess the Guardian’s “community standards” forbids any mention of their own bias, hypocrisy, and ideologically driven agenda.

The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, anti-Semitism, and the “Arab street”

“He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate.” – Biblical Midrash

If there was a professional license for journalists with codified moral standards similar to physicians’ Hippocratic Oath, one which instructs those engaged in the polemical arts to, at the very least, do no harm, Simon Tisdall would have had his revoked the day he penned a passionate apologia for Sudan’s President, Omar al-Bashir – in a diatribe attacking (as racist and Islamophobic) those in the West who dared to hold Bashir accountable for the atrocities committed against the non-Arab black population in Darfur.

Such a moral inversion, of course, is nothing new, and indeed informs much of the ideological orientation of the Guardian Left.

But, Tisdall’s post-Colonial politics must be at least broadly understood to properly contextualize his framing of the Egyptian political upheaval, and the broader policy implications for the U.S. and the West –Out of Egyptian Protests a new Obama doctrine is born“, CiF, Feb. 11th.

In Obama’s support for Egyptian protesters, and his abandonment of Hosni Mubarak, Tisdall applauds what he sees as the end of a policy where “America has largely turned a blind eye to repression in pursuit of wider security…interests” – suggesting, I suppose, that there are nations in world who don’t act out of concern for their own national security, and failing to acknowledge that the political divide in the Middle East is rarely between dictators and democrats, but between secular autocrats and Islamic extremists.

Turning to Israel, Tisdall notes:

“Israeli leaders, too, are alarmed. They never quite trusted Obama. And repression of the Arab masses by Arab autocrats suited them quite well for, by and large, the Arab street has always been more hostile to Israel than the Arab elites.”

I ask that you read this passage a couple of times to really let the malice sink in.

The repression of the “Arab masses”, we are informed, is a desired outcome for Israeli leaders when, of course, what Israeli leaders are concerned about, as even the most casual observer must surely understand, is the fate of the peace treaty with Egypt, and the possibility that yet another extremist movement dedicated to their destruction will arise – adding another border state governed by a regime hostile to its very existence.  The mind spins at the capacity of those predisposed towards such hostility to frame even Israel’s desire to maintain peace with its neighbors in a negative light.

But, the last passage of the above quote, where we are instructed that the “Arab street” is more hostile to Israel than the ruling elite, is where the intellectual tick of his illiberal anti-Imperialism is mostly clearly revealed.  The “Arab street” he refers to has an overwhelming and unfiltered antipathy towards Jews (no, not just Israelis) that’s quite, let’s say, unenlightened. A Pew Global Research Poll in 2010 showed that anti-Semitism is nearly universal across the Middle East – with a staggering 97% of Jordanians, 97% of Palestinians, and 95% of Egyptians (for instance) openly expressing animosity towards Jews.  Tisdall’s authentic Arab street is more reactionary, it seems, in its level of tolerance towards the Jewish minority than its slightly more pragmatic despotic leaders.

But, saving the worse for last, Tisdall – clearly relishing the role of nurturing such “authentic” Arab enmity towards Israel – casually takes aim at the Jewish state’s clear advantage in the region in every measurable political and social category, by framing the nation as merely one which “hitherto” could “pose as the region’s only real democracy”, before warning that even this supposed advantage “is slipping.”

And, here is Tisdall’s moral confusion expressed is in its most acute form.  As with any rigid ideology, inconvenient political realities – ones which threaten the edifice you strive constantly to maintain – are merely rhetorical challenges to be dealt with.  Israel’s parliamentary democracy, free press, independent judiciary, and progressive mores concerning sexual and religious minorities which are on par with, and sometimes exceed, that of other Western democracies, are, as stubborn democratic parts, quite resistant to his assault. But, as a broader amorphous whole Israel’s democracy can be contorted to suit the abstraction that the Jewish nation-state has become for the Guardian Left.

Tisdall’s enmity towards Israel, like his romanticism of the mythical Arab street – as with all bigotries – robs its object of its uniqueness, its particularism, its fierce and undeniable reality.

His soft bigotry which denies moral agency to malevolent extremists is ultimately informed by the same intellectual currents which allows him to deny liberal democracies their moral advantage – a malady on full display in Tisdall’s fantastical musings on heroism and villainy in the Middle East.

Egypt’s Velvet Coup

A guest post by AKUS

Like people waking up with a hangover, much of the world is beginning to wonder what exactly happened in Egypt this month.

The Guardian was so enthralled by the events that it started publishing articles simultaneously in Arabic, pandering, apparently, to what it must believe is a Bolshevik style group of revolutionaries taking over the country to create a workers’ paradise to Egypt. The Guardian chooses to brush aside any unpleasantness (“whatever follows …”) and continues true to form in an editorial, Egypt: brave new Arab world:

“Whatever follows, this is a moment of historic significance. It re-establishes Egypt as the leader of the Arab world and Egyptians at its moral core. This revolution – the only word that fits – was carried out by ordinary people demanding, with extraordinary tenacity, basic political rights: free elections, real political parties, a police force that upholds rather than undermines the rule of law. Try as some may to paint them as the lackeys of Islamism, they did this on their own and, to a large extent, peacefully. This was a fight in which Muslims and Christians stood side by side. No sectarian flags were visible in Tahrir Square, just the national one.”

The editor who wrote that glibly headed column should re-read “Brave New World” before wishing a similar future upon the Arabs. The Guardian editor may have been pleased to see no sectarian flags, but was not disturbed by the rabidly anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli posters on display. Egyptian media had no trouble, pro or anti-Mubarak, blaming Israel for either the demonstrations or the continuing existence of the Mubarak regime.

An article by Yehudit Barsky, “Anti-Semitism in Tahrir Square” provides examples showing Mubarak with a Magen David painted on his forehead, including pre-printed versions – clearly a popular theme:

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More hate beneath the line: Guardian readers’ continuing demonization of the Jewish state

Amos Harel’s column in CiF today, “What will become of Israel if Mubarak falls?” laid out the concerns Israel has concerning the possibility that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak may be replaced by a leader from the Muslim Brotherhood, or Brotherhood affiliated group – and the potential ramifications for the 30-year-old Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty.

However, the sober and non-tendentious analysis by Harel, a correspondent for the left-wing Israeli paper, Ha’aretz, still managed to elicit a flurry of anti-Israel vitriol beneath the line.

It’s quite telling that, even when Israel expresses the desire to maintain peaceful relations with its neighbors, it’s still vilified by Guardian readers – many whom seem prepared to demonize the Jewish state no matter how unrelated their hyperbole is to the commentary their supposedly responding to.

While the words and themes may differ, all such commentary is usually united by a one core narrative: That Israel is a uniquely oppressive (even evil) state that has no moral legitimacy – and should be seen as an ogre among the community of nations.

Only four hours after the article appeared, here’s what we have:

Israel is a belligerent state, and the U.S. is merely Israel’s puppet: (See Israelinurse’s post on a CiF piece by John Whitbeck, who described the U.S. as “slavishly subservient” to Israel.)

Israel has no moral right to exist:

Israel is an apartheid state which should be boycotted.  Israeli fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, or other radical Islamist movements are actually a sign of Israeli racism. (See our post on Rachel Shabi’s CiF piece making a similar claim.)

The commentary by the Ha’aretz correspondent represents nothing but Mossad propaganda.

Israel is a criminal state.

Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman is actually an Israeli agent.

Israel is a cruel, inhumane, oppressive state, which betrays the memory of Holocaust victims – and indeed inflicts suffering on others that is reminiscent of the suffering inflicted against Jews through history.

Everyone has advice for Israel

A guest post by AKUS

The pundits are out in force explaining why the turmoil in Egypt is good for Israel if the Israelis could only understand it.

Of course, the pundits have nothing to lose if it turns out that they are wrong and the Egyptian democrats decide that a war with Israel is a good thing, as supported by 98% of the Egyptian population.

On the right, we have pro-Israeli Jews with nothing to lose:

In backing change in Egypt, U.S. neoconservatives split with Israeli allies

But the events in Cairo have exposed a schism between two longtime allies: neoconservative Republicans, who strongly advocate democracy and the George W. Bush “freedom agenda” around the globe, and Israelis, who fear that a popularly chosen Islamist regime could replace that of President Hosni Mubarak.

(Silly Israelis. All they have to fear is fear itself)

“Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu likened the situation in Egypt to that of Iran, making the menacing prediction that a post-Mubarak Egypt could join other “repressive regimes of radical Islam.” The sentiment has been widespread in the Israeli press – and roundly dismissed by prominent American Jewish neoconservatives, who do not see a takeover of the Egyptian government by the Muslim Brotherhood as inevitable.”

(Who could imagine Egypt going “radical Islam”? When have you ever seen something like that happen? Stop making “menacing” remarks, Mr. N.!!)

“There’s been an Israeli position which is, ‘We love Mubarak,’ that permeates their whole society, the political class,” said Elliott Abrams, who was deputy national security adviser in the last Bush administration. “That certainly differs from many of us in the pro-Israel camp in the United States.”

(Yes – the view from across the Potomac certainly looks more sensible than the view from across the Suez Canal).

And on the “left”, if a multi-billionaire can be “left”, we have George Soros, presumably writing for the Jews dedicated to Israel’s destruction at JStreet:

Why Obama has to get Egypt right

Revolutions usually start with enthusiasm and end in tears. In the case of the Middle East, the tears could be avoided if President Obama stands firmly by the values that got him elected.

(But of course, Israel shouldn’t be concerned if things work out a bit differently):

In free elections, the Brotherhood is bound to emerge as a major political force, though it is far from assured of a majority.

(What could derail democracy in Egypt?)

The main stumbling block is Israel.

(Of course. But fortunately, Israel has less influence in the US than in the past, which the wiser Jews in Washington know is its own good):

In reality, Israel has as much to gain from the spread of democracy in the Middle East as the United States has. But Israel is unlikely to recognize its own best interests because the change is too sudden and carries too many risks. And some U.S. supporters of Israel are more rigid and ideological than Israelis themselves. Fortunately, Obama is not beholden to the religious right, which has carried on a veritable vendetta against him. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is no longer monolithic or the sole representative of the Jewish community. The main danger is that the Obama administration will not adjust its policies quickly enough to the suddenly changed reality.

(Anyway, why not roll the dice and see what happens? I’ve got nothing to lose):

I am, as a general rule, wary of revolutions. But in the case of Egypt, I see a good chance of success.

(And if not, there’s always money to be made somewhere else …)

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Meanwhile, on the right, everyone is in favor of democracy in the ME just as GWB wanted:

Egypt protests show George W. Bush was right about freedom in the Arab world

It’s amazing how smart all these people are.

But will they be sitting in the tanks, or putting on their gas masks on their children in their sealed rooms, or rushing to the bomb shelters when the fighting starts and the missiles fly in the Middle East?