Friday, July 5, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: The Rhetoric of National Disaster

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

Note: this article was written before Mursi was dismissed.  An additional, updated article will be posted on Sunday's blog.

These days, when Egyptian spokesmen appear in the media - Mursi's supporters as well as those  demanding his resignation - there is new and disagreeable rhetoric that increasingly dominates the public discourse. It begins with the name of the opposition movement, called "tamrrud" - "rebellion". It is no longer a protest or demonstration, it is a rebellion. The rebels waved signs with the slogan "irhal" - "leave" or "get out" - exactly like the signs that the demonstrators in Tahrir Square ("Liberation", from the British) waved two and a half years ago, when the target was Mubarak. By using this slogan, the demonstrators are equating Mursi with Mubarak, and there can be no worse insult to the president, who won the first democratic elections ever held in Egypt. Another slogan that was brought out of the January 2011 demonstration storage bin is "al-sha'b yurid isqat al-nitham" - "the people want to topple the regime". The implicit message is that the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood is just as illegitimate as Mubarak's regime was.

Others yell "Mursi - Kursi", meaning  "Mursi, the chair", mocking Mursi for being stuck to his chair like Mubarak was, in his time. Mursi's supporters cling to the concept of the Shar'iyya - legitimacy - that the elections gave him, and assert that the demands for his resignation are illegitimate . His opposition calls out, "We will defend you, Egypt", implying that "the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to our homeland and our country", and some yell, "Free Egypt" (from the Brotherhood's occupation).

But the new and ominous factor is how both sides freely use radical expressions not used in the past, like "We will not yield", "red line", "blood will be spilled", "to the end", "we will fight with our spirits and our lives". These expressions clearly connote the tremendous amount of tension between the two camps: the opposition to Mursi in Tahrir Square, and his supporters in Rab'ia Al-Adawiyya Square. There was also tension regarding what the army would do when the period of the ultimatum elapsed, because the army imposed the ultimatum on both sides, but it was rejected by both sides. The Army has called on everyone "to act responsibly" because a descent into violence  - the beginning of which was marked by  more than twenty fatalities and hundreds of injured - would bring a national disaster upon Egypt, the beloved country of both sides.

However, too many people feel that it is "now or never": the rebels feel that if they go back home, Mursi and the Brotherhood will rule over them forever, and the Brotherhood is sure that if their victory is taken from them by force they will crash as an organization, which ultimately attained its goal and then failed to hold on to it. Each side wants absolute victory for itself, and total defeat for the other side. In post-Mubarak Egypt - unfortunately - a sense of collective consciousness where everyone can sit together and solve conflicts peacefully has not developed. The cultural polarization, political radicalization, the torrid summer, the economic collapse, the high unemployment, the hopelessness, the increasing violence, the approaching Ramadan and rhetoric of extremism all are jet fuel that is poured on the public conflagration in Egypt. These are the materials that national disaster is made of, and Egypt is surely capable of deteriorating into a situation similar to that in Syria.

Israel - surprisingly - is almost not mentioned at all in relation to the crisis, which is proof of both its seriousness and its severity. Nevertheless, Mursi - in an attempt to throw a bone to the masses - might cut off relations with Israel,  or send the army into Sinai to "regain sovereignty" of the peninsula, but the worst thing would be if millions of Egyptians begin marching toward Israel in search of two things: water and bread. The waves of the Egyptian disaster might arrive to our shores, and we must be prepared.


Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
( is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.

Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper. 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

Egypt’s Second Revolution: Questions of Legitimacy

by Hani Shukrallah

Democracy is constituted by the express and active will of real, living people, not by a box; this is especially true when these people are engaged in an on-going revolution, charting their and their nation’s future

Fireworks light the sky moments after Egypt's military chief says the president is 
replaced by chief justice of constitutional court outside the presidential palace in Cairo
(Photo: AP)

The US government, a substantial section of mainstream Western media and the ousted Muslim Brotherhood all seem to agree: what took place in Egypt over the past few days was a military coup, a setback for the country's alleged "transition" to democracy. 

Irrespective of the variety of vested interests involved, what the three detractors of one of the most potent popular revolutionary upsurges in modern history is contempt. Twenty-two million signatures (at nearly 50 percent of the nation’s adult population) are collected demanding the ousting of the president; the same demand is made by some 17 million people (at nearly 30 percent of the adult population) as they hit the streets throughout the country, in what has been described as the biggest demonstration in the history of mankind, and they do so against a barrage of threats and predictions warning of 30 June’s "rivers of blood," and stay there.

Unprecedented it may be, yet not really worth seeing (the Washington Post persisted in speaking of "rival demonstrations" between Morsi supporters and the "opposition"), it is not democracy; it is the army and the "deep state." Nothing short of the most profound sense of contempt for these very people could explain such utter blindness.

For the Muslim Brotherhood the contempt is deep-seated within a doctrine that constructs the leaders of the Gama’a as the ultimate interpreters of God’s will on earth, and as such owed blind obedience, and a lot of hand-kissing, by their "flock" – little wonder then that a rebellious Egyptian people have come to call them "sheep."

From the Western side of the above equation – and I am still dealing here with ideological perspective rather than crass interest – it is the equally deep-seated conviction that such people as Arabs and Muslims are incapable of insisting on the sort of "liberties" that "Western Man" takes for granted.

Certainly, race has become passé, now replaced by "culture," but what with our ostensibly inherent and immutable "Muslim" culture all we presumably can hope for is the kind of stunted and deformed "democracy" that Morsi and his tribe were offering us, never mind freedom of expression, speech, belief, assembly and protest, never mind also the frenzied power grab of Mubarak’s oligarchic and deeply authoritarian state machinery, kept fully intact but for the change of its bosses.

(In June of this year, the deposed Brotherhood president appointed in one sweep 17 new governors from among his group and its allies, a mere three months ahead of planned parliamentary elections, the better to rig them more effectively).

None of it, however, seemed to really matter, minor snags along the "transition," since all we Arabs and Muslims could hope for and deserve is a 2 percent margin in the ballot box – that is democracy enough in terms of our "culture."

Yet, there is another aspect to the blindness. Throughout history, popular revolutions by one people have had a tendency to inspire revolutionary upsurges by other peoples, just as Egypt’s was inspired by Tunisia’s, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria by both. For such a revolution to lead to a bungling, grimly oppressive Islamist regime, whose single claim to "democracy" is ostensibly "free and fair" elections is to drastically undercut such inspirational value. Would the Greeks find inspiration in such an outcome, or the Brazilians?

It was only on the fourth day of Egypt’s second revolution, and following intense American pressure to keep Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in power, that US President Barak Obama seemed to discover – all of a sudden – that democracy is not reducible to the ballot box.

Well, hey hurray! In fact, the history of democracy the world over is one where democratic liberties are won on the street, not the ballot box. Even if we set aside the founding democratic revolutions of the modern world, from Cromwell to Robespierre, via America’s founding fathers (beside which Egypt’s twin revolutions appear sparkling clean – "legitimacy" – wise), the extension of the franchise was won on the street, and so was the right of women to vote; trade unions, which were crucial in defining the very meaning of democracy and democratic liberties in today’s world, did not come out of the ballot box, but were born and evolved on shop-floors and on the street, and so has been the redefining of democracy in terms of women’s rights and liberation, well beyond the right to vote.
And last but not least Mr. Obama, need we remind you that the mere thought of running for office would not have occurred to you had it not been for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Greensborro Sit-Ins, the March on Washington and the hundreds of other battles, big and small, waged with tremendous sacrifice, on the streets of the self-proclaimed "greatest democracy on earth," by a great many people, including such "legitimacy"unsavory characters as Malcolm X, Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael and Angela Davis?

A very long and heroic march, full of blood and tears, put you in office Mr. Obama, and it was on the street that the heroes of these battles marched. And throughout the ballot box merely translated, almost always partially, and in stunted form, the gains won, yes, on the street.

Which seems to bring us straight back to our own erstwhile president, Dr. Morsi himself.

In his final, customarily incoherent, address to the nation, the former president (and don’t you just love the prefix "former" attached to the title of two presidents in a little over as many years) repeated the word "legitimacy" literally dozens of times. But here is a little reminder Mr. former-president, you were actually in prison when your predecessor, the "legitimate" president of the country, voted into his fourth term in what your American and other Western allies then hailed as Egypt’s first multi-candidate presidential elections, was illegitimately unseated. (There was nothing in the Egyptian Constitution then in force that allowed the president to cede his powers to something called the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – SCAF).

We do not know the real story behind your escape from prison, whether it was the people in charge who broke you out of it, or a Hamas contingent imported especially for that purpose, as has been suggested in recent months. And frankly, I do not care. Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood leaders were political prisoners, and in a revolution, setting political prisoners free is right and proper, even if "illegitimate."

The thing is, of course, that since the revolution the powers that be in Egypt, hijackers all, have been juggling "revolutionary legitimacy" and formal, legal legitimacy as stipulated by the Constitution and the law of the land, willy-nilly, arbitrarily – and always in ways best tailored to suite their immediate ends. The SCAF did so, over and over again, and so did the Muslim Brotherhood.

The starkest and most flagrant example of this was the "elected" president’s flaunting of constitution, law and democratic norms, by issuing, in November 2012, a Constitutional Declaration immunising his decisions against judicial review, immunising as well that mockery of a legislative body, the consultative Shura Council (the third of which members are appointed by the president, the other two-thirds scornfully voted in by a measly 7 percent of the electorate), and vesting it meanwhile with full legislative authority, and immunising furthermore, a Constituent Assembly, which had been transformed into a closed club of the Muslim Brotherhood an its Salafi and Jihadi allies. Both these institutions had been facing imminent rulings of unconstitutionality by Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court.

And what was Morsi's justification of such draconian measures which clearly aimed at perpetuating the Muslim Brotherhood’s sway over the country until such a time as humanity meets its maker? "Revolutionary legitimacy!" Well, Mr. former-president, this is exactly what is called being "hoist by your own petard," with the added qualification that yours’ was that of a hijacker, while the people who unseated you derived their revolutionary legitimacy from a real, living revolution, historically unprecedented by virtue of 22 million signatures, by virtue of millions on the streets.

Hani Shukrallah


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Egypt: Now What?

by Robert Spencer

Egyptian protesters 

Few analysts expected that the demonstrations in Egypt over the past few days would result in such a swift toppling of Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime, and no one can be sure of what is going to happen next in Egypt, but there are some things we do know:

First is that the forces standing for equality of rights for all and a free society in Egypt are overjoyed at what happened Wednesday. Secularists and Coptic Christians are celebrating, and insisting to a Western press that has been as indefatigably pro-Muslim Brotherhood as Barack Obama that this is not a military coup, but a revolution, a true people’s revolution as the “Arab Spring” that toppled Mubarak was supposed to be.

For this group, Egyptian Army Chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sounded all the right notes as he announced the removal of Morsi and the suspension of the Sharia constitution that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues had forced upon the Egyptian people. “We’ll build an Egyptian society,” Al-Sisi declared, “that is strong and stable, that will not exclude anyone.” Morsi, of course, had insisted that the Egyptian society he had in mind wouldn’t exclude anyone, either, but the nation’s Christians and Western-oriented women knew that their inclusion would be ensured only if they knew their place. They hope that Al-Sisi’s statement represents a genuine affirmation of a society that will not impose Islamic law and will guarantee equality of rights for all.

What’s more, Egypt’s new rulers moved swiftly late Wednesday night to shut down three Islamic supremacist TV channels, including one run by the Muslim Brotherhood, and also raided Al Jazeera’s Egyptian offices – clear indications that they want to set Egypt on a course away from Sharia and Islamic absolutism.

I’m a free speech advocate. I don’t believe people whose views one dislikes should be shut down. That’s the road to tyranny. That’s the weapon of the desperately insecure and authoritarian Left. These Islamic supremacist channels should have been allowed to operate, as long as they weren’t the only voices speaking to Egyptians. Still, this is a good indication of the current leadership’s determination not to allow Sharia in Egypt.

Also ecstatic at Wednesday’s events, however, are the Salafists and other Islamic supremacist factions that despised Morsi for not imposing Islamic law quickly enough. Some protesters over the last few days even superimposed an image of Morsi over a Star of David, much as the “Arab Spring” demonstrators defaced posters of Mubarak by drawing Stars of David on his forehead. The implication in both instances is that the protesters despised the rulers for being pawns of the hated Israelis, and specifically for not abrogating the Camp David Accords and going to war with Israel.

Especially now with its economy in tatters, Egypt has good reason not to go to war with Israel, for doing so would likely jeopardize the billions it receives in aid from the United States – even in this age of Obama. Morsi, as pragmatic as the Muslim Brotherhood has been for ages, and as willing as his organization has always been to work toward final victory in stages, showed little signs of risking that aid. But this pragmatism enraged Islamic supremacists, who castigated Morsi for his gradualism (tadarruj), a concept that Sharia hardliners frown upon.

Ironically, however, now that Morsi is gone (at least for now), that U.S. aid could be at risk anyway. Barack Obama issued a stern statement Wednesday, directing U.S. government agencies to “review” the aid they’re giving to Egypt:
The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.
Obama made no similar statement when Hosni Mubarak was toppled. The Muslim Brotherhood could well use this statement as a knife to the throat of Egypt, demanding that they be restored to power as the only means to ensure that the American aid keeps flowing and that Egypt’s economy doesn’t collapse utterly.

And to be sure, the Brotherhood is still around, and still enjoys broad popular support, despite the black eye that Morsi’s disastrous regime has given it. The developments in Egypt Wednesday are surprising and welcome, but they do not presage a new birth of freedom in Egypt, any more than did the toppling of Mubarak and the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to take some joy in events that have Obama, whose support for the Muslim Brotherhood has been consistent and unstinting since he invited its leaders to attend his June 2009 speech in Cairo, “concerned,” and have Muslim Brotherhood groups in the U.S. such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) issuing confused and angry statements questioning the protesters’ motives and reminding the world that Morsi was democratically elected.

Whether the demonstrators in Egypt who brought down Morsi can ultimately defeat the pro-Sharia forces in Egypt and establish a truly free society, and whether enough of them even really want to, remains to be seen. But if Obama and CAIR see them as foes, they can’t be all bad.

Robert Spencer


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Obama Orders Review of US aid to Egypt

by Daniel Siryoti and News Agencies

Senator Leahy: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree • Obama calls for swift return to democratically elected civilian rule.

The Egyptian army -- U.S. funded
Photo credit: AP

Daniel Siryoti and News Agencies


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Power and the Arab Revolutions – Some Thoughts on the Latest Events in Egypt

by Jonathan Spyer

egyptian revolution post revolution
The latest events in Egypt confirm one of the salient patterns that have governed the upheavals in the Arab world of the last years. This is the troubling but unmistakable fact that despite all the chatter about peoples’ power, democracy, civil society and the rest of it, when it comes to the real, grown-up exercise of political power in the countries in question, there remain only two contenders: the forces of political Islam, and the armed forces of the ancien regime.

That this is so seems empirically irrefutable – from Algeria to Gaza, via Syria and Egypt – the forces that when the talking is done go out to do battle with one another for the crown are the Islamists and the armed men of the regime (the latter usually organized under the banner of a secular, authoritarian nationalism.)

What is currently taking place in Egypt is a military coup in all but name. The army – the force through which Mubarak, Sadat and Nasir governed – is mobilizing to end the one year rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. It remains to be seen whether Mohammed Morsi and his comrades will yield to this mobilization, or attempt to resist it.

If they attempt the latter, Egypt will stand before a situation analogous to that of Algeria in 1991, when the regime’s military sought to annul the election victory of the Islamist FIS movement. The result was a bloody civil war which in retrospect may be seen as the precursor of what is now taking place in Syria, and what may now lie ahead in Egypt.

If, on the other hand, the Brotherhood choose to acquiesce to the demands of the military, then President Morsi’s remark that this will represent the reversal of the 2011 revolution is entirely correct. What will transpire will be military rule, presumably with a few civilian figureheads placed on the mast to enable the west to pretend that it is something else.

In 2010, I wrote a book called ‘The Transforming Fire’ which contains the following sentence; “In the Middle East, it is the regimes or the Islamists; there is no third way.” I undertake the somewhat vulgar act of quoting myself not in order to demonstrate what a very clever boy indeed I’ve been, but rather to indicate that this basic fact of the presence of two serious contenders for power in the main countries of the Arabic speaking world has been obvious and apparent before the events of 2011, which are usually (though inaccurately) held to mark the advent of the historic processes currently being witnessed in the Middle East.

To paraphrase George Orwell’s poor Winston Smith, however, I understand how, but I do not quite understand why. After all, the throngs of young people that we have witnessed in recent days in the streets of Egypt are not a mirage. No more were the young civil society activists who began the uprising in Syria, or the sophisticated liberals and reformers in Egypt. What are the factors which time and time again prevent the emergence of a muscular, representative, civilian and secular politics in the Arab world?

A politics of this type, which can combine the readiness for the use of force with a commitment to the open society seems to me to be the foundation stone for workable democracy.

In my own country, Israel, it very clearly exists. The primordial call of Jewish identity is the bedrock on which the democratic structure stands and is defensible and defended. Take away the former, and the latter would soon fall too.

Now the willingness to use force in order to defend rests at root always on something ‘irrational’, ie deeper than profit-loss, self-interested thinking. It must by necessity do so, since by engagement in such activity, the individual increases the possibility of his or her own early extinction. The ‘trick’ for making the open society work and be defensible seems to me the ability to combine or harmonize this deeper, non-rational layer of human motivation with the entirely rational commitment to institutions, structures, checks, balances and so on.

In the highly populated countries of the Arab world, glaringly, this has never been achieved. The liberal reformers are quite unable to command the kind of potent loyalties by which movements sustain themselves and win. Today, in Egypt, it is not they who are the real political and military actors. The required levels of commitment exist, solely, in the hands of Islamists on the one hand, and authoritarian nationalists on the other.

For as long as this remains the case, secure, rights based societies are likely to remain elusive in the Arabic-speaking world. But is the reason why it is the case, ultimately, because of powerful, pervasive ideas and practices in these societies which militate against the development of the kind of movements and institutions which could form the basis for a defendable civil society? It may well be. An unreformed, power-oriented religion that commands the deep loyalty of masses of people, and a stress on community security over individual rights would be the most notable factors here. And if it is so, it means that the anger of the populations at mis-managed societies will continue to be mis-directed, and that much remaining strife almost certainly lies ahead.

Jonathan Spyer


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Al-Qaeda's Jihad on Anti-Morsi Egyptians

by Raymond Ibrahim

Since Islamists have tasted power -- Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda -- it is unlikely that they will quietly release the reins of power without a fight.
Now that the Egyptian military appears to have granted the nation's wish—to be rid of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, as millions have been chanting, "Irhal" ["Leave office"] -- al-Qaeda appears to have stepped in.

Hours before Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was sidelined by the military council, Muhammad al-Zawahiri, Egypt's al-Qaeda leader, declared that the terrorist organization would wage a jihad to save Morsi and his Islamist agenda for Egypt. (They would not be the first Islamic terrorists to come to his aid; Hamas members were earlier arrested from inside Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, where they opened fire on protesters.)

According to a July 2 Veto Gate report, "al-Qaeda, under the leadership of Muhammad Zawahiri, is currently planning reprisal operations by which to attack the army and the Morsi-opposition all around the Republic [of Egypt]." The report adds that, hours before this information was ascertained, Zawahiri had been arrested and was being interrogated—only to be ordered released by a presidential order. He has since fled to the Sinai, where al-Qaeda is stationed—not to mention where Morsi had reportedly earlier summoned thousands of foreign jihadis to come to his aid whenever necessary, and where he may even have smuggled Muhammad Zawahiri's brother, Ayman Zawahiri—al-Qaeda's supreme leader.

In another report, Muhammad Zawahiri "offered joy to our Muslim Brothers in Egypt, for in all circumstances, we will not lose, Allah willing- - quite the contrary." He added that "if matters reach a confrontation, then to be sure, that is in our favor -- for we have nothing to lose. And at all times and places where chaos reigns, it's often to the jihad's advantage." Zawahiri concluded by saying that even if many and important jihadis and Islamists are arrested, it matters not, "for we sold our souls to Allah" -- a reference to Koranic verses like 9:111 -- "and welcome the opportunity to fight to the death."

In the context of all these threats, many Egyptians are understandably worried. Right before the military intervened, a Tahrir TV host frantically and repeatedly called Morsi a "murderer," and the Brotherhood, a "gang of murderers," adding, "Oh Minister of Defense -- move! Move! Move and save the country! There is no time!" This may also explain why so many leading Islamists -- including Morsi himself -- have been arrested and held by the military, on the charge of inciting Muslims against anti-Morsi demonstrators, by portraying them as "apostates" who must be fought and killed for are trying to resist the implementation of the Sharia of Allah.

They may also be being held as hostages to dissuade al-Qaeda from waging an all-out jihad, as many of those arrested -- Safwat Hegazy, Hazim Abu Ismail, Tarek al-Zomor, Khaled Abdullah -- are open friends of Muhammad Zawahiri.

On the other hand, although the Brotherhood has been portrayed in the U.S. as "just another" political party -- or, in the mystifying words of James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence, "largely secular," which is the last thing it is -- it is folly to think that Morsi, the Brotherhood, and all their Islamist and jihadi allies are going to go peacefully.

Now that the Islamists have tasted power -- Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood, or al-Qaeda -- it is unlikely that they will quietly release the reins of power without a fight. History has proven that many jihadis never give up -- unless they are in prison or dead. And as Egyptian al-Qaeda leader Muhammad Zawahiri pointed out, not only have they long been inured to sufferings and deprivations -- they have nothing to lose.

Raymond Ibrahim is author of the new book, Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, 2013). A Middle East and Islam expert, he is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and author of The Al Qaeda Reader.

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Obama's Hopes of a Moderate Brotherhood Dashed

by Dan Margalit

It's official: Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has deposed President Mohammed Morsi. Another revolution made it to the history books. July, with its high temperatures, has a tendency to produce revolutions and regime changes in the land of the Nile. 

Sixty-one years ago to the month, Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser spearheaded the Free Officers' coup that ousted King Farouk and sent him into exile. In July 2012, Morsi appointed Hesham Kandil as prime minister. His government imploded within the year. Once again, in July. 

The United States is celebrating 237 years of independence on Thursday. That the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood took place on this day is charged with symbolism. U.S. President Barack Obama has actively contributed to the mirage of Egyptian democracy under the Muslim Brotherhood that has developed in the wake of his Cairo Address in 2009, after which he abandoned his ally, former President Hosni Mubarak. 

Obama threw his support behind Morsi, dismissing reports that his election was rigged, because he believed the Muslim Brotherhood's voice was the voice of the Egyptian street. 

Obama was convinced that there were moderates in the Muslim Brotherhood. He envisioned a Turkish-style democracy emerging in Egypt, only to discover that Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was constantly obstructing the American bandwagon's path. 

Obama's phone call to Morsi reflects a sense of disappointment in Washington over the Muslim Brotherhood's conduct and their supposed promise of democracy. During the call, Obama hinted that Morsi, only a year into his first term as president, should start packing. Sissi's announcement late Wednesday night made that suggestion a reality, and Morsi is no longer in charge.

The Muslim Brotherhood's failure was inevitable; it had nothing meaningful to offer to the tens of millions of starved, unemployed Egyptians or those who, despite their academic backgrounds, are now aimlessly wandering the streets. 

Morsi's departure dashed the romantic hope that there was someone inside the Muslim Brotherhood you could do business with.

For now though, the turmoil continues. Some form of military council will be in charge, but Israel should not shed a tear. Morsi alienated everyone, but because of the geo-political situation, he felt compelled to maintain Israeli-Egyptian cooperation on defense matters. This was evident in the coordinated redeployment of forces in Sinai that was meant to counter the global jihad elements in the peninsula. 

There is good reason to believe that these professional ties will continue, perhaps even improve. Although the protesters in Tahrir held on to tradition by chanting anti-Israeli slogans, such chants have more to do with what they were taught to believe than with any core conviction. Their rage is directed at Hamas in the Gaza Strip more than at the Jewish state, because the former represents the Muslim Brotherhood. 

From a regional viewpoint, the Muslim Brotherhood has made enormous strides over the past several years. 

One state after another fell by the wayside, and the Brotherhood filled in the vacuum. Each victory propelled them to the next. 

Among the affected countries, Egypt is the most important; if the Muslim Brotherhood's gains could be undone in Cairo, perhaps too in other Arab states, one after another.
As they say in Arabic, in sha Allah (God willing).

Dan Margalit


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The World Council of Churches has a Naïve Attitude on Syria

by Michael Curtis

In its statement on May 29, 2013 following an international and ecumenical conference in Beirut, the World Council of Churches (WCC) did not deal in any specific way with the violence in Syria but simply made a perfunctory reference to the "dire humanitarian situation in Syria."  It was more potent in criticizing the State of Israel. The statement held that Israel was responsible for "the dispossession of Palestinian people ...from their land by Israel occupation."  It asserted that Jerusalem was "an occupied city which a government which has adopted discriminatory policies against Christians and Muslims alike."

In an earlier statement of September 4, 2012 which called for an end to the violence in Syria in all forms, without reference to any particular source of the violence, the WCC spoke of the situation of Christians in Syria. It expressed confidence that "the churches in Syria, which are deeply rooted in the land, and have developed a long historic experience of engagement in the life of the society will have an important role in national dialogue especially in this critical and difficult moment."

That confidence has been shaken with information about events in June in Syria. The WCC became aware of the brutal murder on June 24, 2013 of Father Francois Mourad, a 49 year old Syrian monk, in the village of Ghassaniyah, a Christian village near the Turkish border. He had sought refuge in the Franciscan monastery of St, Anthony of Padua , where ironically he felt safe after being forced to leave his home in Aleppo, and was murdered there by jihadists. The general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, was "profoundly shocked and deeply concerned over the brutal murder." The nature of the murder is still not clear because of alternative versions. Some suggest Mourad was beheaded; others that he was shot eight times in the monastery which was also looted.

His sentiments can be appreciated but what is surprising are two things:  the lateness of the discovery by him and the WCC of the reality of the violence in Syria, as compared with the alacrity of finding alleged Israeli misdeeds; and the relative tameness of the response.  The WCC suddenly realized that religious communities were being targeted by acts of violence. But it believed  that these acts were aimed at dividing and manipulating Syria, and therefore it stressed the need to reject any attempt to use religion  as an instrument of psychological warfare, political strategy or intimidation.

The WCC was not unaware of previous brutality in Syria. It had expressed "deep pain" over the massacre of innocent people and especially children in the village of Taldou, in the area of Houla in Syria on May 25, 2012 when 108 people were killed, many of whom were executed. However, it was not clear which group it held responsible for the massacre and other atrocities and who should be brought to justice for the inhumane and morally and ethically unacceptable act.

 The WCC now found that it had become apparent that foreign radical and terrorists elements are making use of the conflict in Syria and are deliberately targeting Christians, not sparing clergy and religious institutions and shrines. Those elements are attempting to sow interreligious tension. Churches were being looted and destroyed. The WCC held that Islam should not be misused as a justification for aggression against neighbors, and especially against civilians. The WCC realized that it was now looking at a completely different and tragic picture than in March 2011 when it thought that the uprising in Syria seemed to be a sign of hope for the Syrian people.

The good will of the WCC cannot be doubted in its aspiration for peace and reconciliation conditioned by justice. But its judgment on political and social matters is more open to question. It is one thing to call in an abstract way for all parties to engage in dialogue as the only solution to safeguard the unity and pluralistic nature of historic Syria. It is another to omit any proposals for specific action that the WCC and all well intentioned people might make to end the slaughter of Syrians, now estimated at 100,000.

Michael Curtis


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Obama Doubles Down on Egypt Folly

by Jonathan S. Tobin

Late Wednesday afternoon, the silence from the White House about events in Egypt finally ended. In a statement, President Obama claimed that he is neutral on the question of who controls Egypt but wishes to uphold certain principles. The text contains anodyne proclamations about democracy and the participation of all groups in the government of Egypt that are unexceptionable. But it also clearly states that the president is “deeply concerned” about the ouster of Morsi and the suspension of the Egyptian constitution that brought him to power, calls upon the military not to arrest the deposed leader or other Muslim Brotherhood officials, and then pointedly says that he has “directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.”

In other words, you don’t have to read too closely between the lines to understand that Obama is angrier about regime change in Cairo than he ever was about the Islamist attempt to remake Egypt in their own image.

President Obama stood by passively for a year as Morsi and the Brotherhood began to seize total power, repress critics and pave the way for a complete transformation of Egypt into an Islamist state without threatening a cutoff of U.S. aid. Now Obama has finally found the guts to use America’s leverage over the country but only to register his protest against the downfall of the Brotherhood.

This will do nothing to help Morsi and the rest of his authoritarian crew that had already topped the excesses of the Mubarak regime in only a year. The Egyptian military knows–despite the attempt of the Brotherhood to sell the West on the myth that a fascist-style movement like their brand of Islamistm is democratic in nature–that the only way to prevent it from fomenting violence is to use the same tactics it wanted to employ against Morsi’s critics.

But by doing so in this manner, the president has made it clear again to the Egyptian people that his sympathies are not with those who want a government that doesn’t wish to impose Islamism on the country or the minority that actually want democracy but with Morsi and the Brotherhood. Rather than repair the damage he has done in the last three years, the president sounds as if he is determined to double down on his mistakes.
Jonathan S. Tobin


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