Monday, January 31, 2011

Holding One's Breath

The winds of change in the societies that make up the lands of North Africa and the Middle East in the past few months have burst forth to sweep throughout the Moslem land. These indifferences are now being exacerbated by the "revolutions" in Arab countries around Israel. Added to this there has also been a massive wave of negative views in the personal/public opinion of many Europeans towards Israel.

World opinion towards Israel has drastically eroded since the "Cast Lead" operation with its infamous Goldstone report, based on the scandalous lies and falsified testimonies of the Palestinian Hamas led regime, and in the aftermath of the Turkish "Humanitarian Flotilla" affair. World opinion has and continues to be manipulated by the pro-Palestinian propaganda front with outright lies and distorted and baseless facts used to "bad mouth" Israel. In country after country the world opinion has been brought to focus in a myopic manner on the Palestinian – Israeli conflict as the major cause of all injustices in the Middle East. Little or no light has ever been shown on the corrupt Arab regimes that clamored for the eradication of the "Zionist Entity" from the beginning.

Those of us who reside in Israel are truly concerned for the future Israel and of our region and of the world. With us in Israel the changes that are occurring are of vital strategic concern since they could affect our very physical existence. We in Israel have a deep concern over these recent developments since they are happening right next door and not thousands of miles away across a vast ocean. Added to these changes are the on going threats from our neighbors in Lebanon –vis a vis the Shi'ite Hezbollah. We continue to suffer our daily dosage of abuse in the world press from the Palestinians and their supporters who, "Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity," to reach a final agreement for peace. We also cannot forget the ongoing threat of immediate nuclear immolation promised almost daily by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And let us not forget the occasionally whimper from the supposedly democratically elected President Bashar al-Assad in Syria

We ask what has brought about this harbinger for a change in the Arab countries around us? Just why were the members of the western intelligence agencies caught unaware of the revolutions? Is revolution a new thing in the Arab world? What is the meaning of these changes and are they forebodings of Islamic radicalization Iranian style or are they really revolutions for democratization and social reform?

The countries of the ex French North African holdings of Algeria and Tunisia have known change. These ex colonies had western educated values of Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité exuberated by the French. The prosperity that the bourgeoisie city dwellers had experienced during the long French colonial rule was not a common thing as with the areas of the ex Ottoman Turkish Empire. The great majority of the populated coastal city areas are very westernized with educational opportunities mixed with capitalistic values. Islam to the majority of them is the religion but it is not the fundamentalist belief as with those in the rural southern region of the Sahara desert areas. From the majority of the reports from Algeria and particularly Tunisia the issue is social and economical and is not directly related towards relations with Israel. The ex-Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was a corrupt politician who manipulated his office to enrich his family and associates. So to have him kicked out was a Tunisia affair of state.

Egypt which had a long history of English occupation is very similar in its make up with the ex North African French colonies. However as has been pointed out Egypt suffers from tremendously vast difference in social classes and wealth. It too has an upper middle to high class of extremely wealthy individuals. Many of whom are from what could be termed "old money". Egypt has consistently suffered from a vast impoverished and uneducated Islamic lower class. Nearly 60 million Egyptians attempt to eke out meager livings from farming the Nile River soil and over a million live off the refuse of the garbage dumps of Cairo.
In Egypt you have the members of the low to middle classes who are hard working petty bureaucrats, university graduates and professionals who do not receive wages anywhere near those of their counterparts in American or Europe. Some are making less than $100 a month.

Over the past century, from the time of the British occupation, those wanting of a better life for themselves and their children have gravited to the major cities of Cairo and Alexandria. They moved there for opportunities in commerce and education. For many years in Egypt upward movement was only made possible for those who had a "wasta", an influential intermediary to promote their application for employment in a society where most people lived in poverty. The young Egyptian middle class merchants still live well below the wealthy Egyptian elite and this has created the wave of animosity and resentment of those born into wealth and power.

Several statements, made by the thousands of participants in the demonstrations flooding Tahrir Square, that sound loudly are those of the members of the medical profession, educators and lawyers who are paid ridiculously low salaries. University students who can foresee no positive future after their years spent studying for a diploma are at the forefront of the movement. These are young Egyptians who are fed up with the futility of looking for a job that will allow them to improve their status in life and provide for their family.

The wealthy to extremely wealthy merchants and land owners of Egypt have created a pseudo aristocracy of their own which until the recent riots together with Mubarak controlled all life in Egypt. The failure of the high class to assist the members of the educated professional class to earn a decent living has caused the animosity which has burst forth onto the streets and squares of Egypt. The resentment of the masses due to continual abuse and deprivation has spontaneously come forth. Or is it spontaneous?

In light of the recent riots in Egypt against Hosni Mubarak, it is interesting to note the warning that General Muhammad Naguib conveyed to King Farouk during the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 where he provided a summary of the reasons for the revolution:

"In view of what the country has suffered in the recent past, the complete
vacuity prevailing in all corners as a result of your bad behavior,your toying with the constitution,and your disdain for the wants of the people,no one rests assured of life, livelihood, and honor. Egypt's reputation among the peoples of the world has been debased as a result of your excesses in these areas to the extent that traitors and bribe-takers find protection beneath your shadow in addition to security, excessive wealth, and many extravagances at the expense of the hungry and impoverished people."

The success of the previous Egyptian Revolution of 1952 which was a military coup d'état by "The Free Officers Movement" inspired numerous Arab and African countries to remove pro-Western and specifically pro-British Empire and pro-French Empire monarchies and potentates behind the veil of ending corrupt regimes. The question today is whether today's revolution will allow the Islamic fundamentalist Moslem Brotherhood which was outlawed and controlled by the Mubarak security forces to break out and seize control. The members of the Moslem Brotherhood are outspoken critics of the peace with Israel and they are the ones behind the assassination of Anwar Sadat 6 October 1981. Moslem Brotherhood members have created political parties in several countries, such as the Islamic Action Front in Jordan and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank. These parties are staffed by Brotherhood members but kept independent from the Moslem Brotherhood to some degree.

So who or what is this Moslem Brotherhood?

The Moslem Brotherhood is an Islamist transnational movement and in many Arab states it is the largest political opposition organization. The group was founded in 1928 in Egypt and it is the "world's most influential Islamist movement." It was founded by the Islamic scholar and Sufi schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna.

The Brotherhood's stated goal is to instill the Qur'an and Sunnah as the "sole reference point for ... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community ... and state."

Since its inception in 1928 the movement has officially opposed violent means to achieve its goals,with some exceptions such as in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or to overthrow secular Ba'athist rule in Syria (re: The Hama massacre).

In the group's belief, the Quran and Sunnah constitute a perfect way of life and social and political organization that God has set out for man. Islamic governments must be based on this system and eventually unified in a Caliphate. The Muslim Brotherhood's goal, as stated by Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna was to reclaim Islam’s manifest destiny, an empire, stretching from Spain to Indonesia. It preaches that Islam enjoins man to strive for social justice, the eradication of poverty and corruption, and political freedom to the extent allowed by the laws of Islam. The Brotherhood strongly opposes Western colonialism, and helped overthrow the pro-western monarchies in Egypt and other Muslim nations during the early 20th century.

The causes of the revolutions that have occurred recently appear to be based on economic differences and on the inequality between the classes of people. The oppressive regimes run by corrupt politicians and lead by dictators who have misused their office to fatten their own bank accounts. Demonstrators in Tahrir Square have voiced the opinion that the Egyptian people will achieve democracy through will alone and that the United States should stop playing games with dictators.

So why have the injustices of the Egyptian regime under Mubarak been ignored until now by America and the nations of the European Union, the "democratic countries of the world". Why is it such a surprise to Obama?

How does all this tie into Israel Egypt's supposed partner in peace since the Camp David Accords of 1979 under the auspices of President Jimmy –Peanut Man aka Apartheid Wall – Carter? From some statements of the participants in the demonstrations, Egyptians as a whole aren't necessarily interested in reneging on the Egyptian-Israeli peace, though they do want to see the Palestinians treated justly. Those who have been watching the events in Egypt would do well to remember that in his three decades as president, President Hosni Mubarak did very little, if anything, to educate his people and change their perspective of Israel. Though there have been contacts between the Egyptian authorities and Israeli counterparts, at every other level of government and civil society, Israel is considered to be the devilish enemy. It has also been reported that there have been very few anti-Israel slogans or signs during the demonstrations in Cairo. However Israel still remains a convenient bogeyman for all occasions and at the end of the week of demonstrations. The local and government-controlled television stations are now trying to incite the citizenry against the pro-democracy protesters by saying there were Israeli spies among them.

"We don't want to abolish diplomatic relations with Israel," said one of the secular demonstrators in Cairo's Tahrir Square"Liberation Square". "The wars with Israel were bad and we mustn't go back to that. But in the meantime, we must support the Palestinians more and not sell natural gas to Israel." Another protestor shouted. "Mubarak and Suleiman - they're both Israel's clients." Demonstrators have occasionally shouted for Mubarak to "go to Israel". Many Egyptians see Suleiman as closely involved in maintaining the relationship between the Egyptian and Israeli governments.The protesters want democracy, and if they are blaming any foreign elements for supporting Mubarak, then the United States and the Arab League are the ones most frequently criticized.

As for the tiny remaining Jewish community of Egypt, there remain only a handful of elderly Jews in Egypt’s second-largest city and virtually none in the capital. Thankfully the shuttered synagogues of Cairo and Alexandria have not been attacked as in Tunisia. The reported shooting incident last weekend near the Israeli embassy was probably not connected to any political violence, but to looting.
President Hosni Mubarak should be commended for his restraint so far in not releasing the full force of his dreaded mukhabarat (secret police) since such widespread demonstrations in other parts of the Arab world would have been quickly crushed by force.

We should all be supportive of the revolution for real democratic changes in Egypt but this is the Middle East and not Western Europe and things usually work differently here. There is little hope that a benign and enlightened democracy will replace Mubarak and that he will replaced by a Western style democratic statesman. What can be said of Mubarak is that he did keep the peace for 30 years, albeit a cold one and he was a staunch strategic ally for the US.
It should be noted here that while mass demonstrations were taking place in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world, US Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, told the House Intelligence Committee that,
"The term 'Muslim Brotherhood' an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam."
Immediately after this very public statement on record, by a leader of the United States Intelligence, Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, one of the world's leading Islamic scholars and a regular broadcaster on Al Jazeera and a leader in the Muslim Brotherhood led Friday prayers on February 18 in Tahrir Square by saying,“Egyptian people are like the genie who came out of the lamp and who have been in prison for 30 years.” He demanded the release of political prisoners in Egyptian prisons, praised the Copts for protecting Muslims in their Friday prayer, and called for the new military rulers to quickly restore civilian rule.
This clerical leader of the Moslem Brotherhood who according to US Intelligence has "eschewed violence" supports suicide attacks on all Israelis, including women since he views the Israeli society as a "completely military" society that did not include any civilians. He also considers pregnant women and their unborn babies to be valid targets on the ground that the babies could grow up to join the Israeli Army.
Specific attention should be focused on a, sermon made by Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi during the Gaza War that was aired on Al-Jazeera, on January 9, 2009 where he prayed (as translated by MEMRI):
"Oh Allah, take your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh Allah, take the Jews, the treacherous aggressors. Oh Allah, take this profligate, cunning, arrogant band of people. Oh Allah, they have spread much tyranny and corruption in the land. Pour Your wrath upon them, oh our God. Lie in wait for them. Oh Allah, You annihilated the people of Thamoud at the hand of a tyrant, and You annihilated the people of 'Aad with a fierce, icy gale, and You destroyed the Pharaoh and his soldiers — oh Allah, take this oppressive, tyrannical band of people. Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one."
The words of al-Qaradawi echo those of the Hamas Charter, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which affirms that "The Day of Judgment will not come until Muslims fight Jews and kill them". I believe that the American "Intelligence" community's assumption that the Muslim Brotherhood have "eschewed violence" is incorrect to say the least!

Given the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to assume a significant role in any future Egyptian government, should democratic elections be held there. It is hardly surprising than many here in Israel are more than a little concerned about what the future of our relations with Egypt might hold in light of Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi remarks and how they were received by the Egyptian demonstrators.

So the question here is; "Is the Palestinian – Israeli conflict still the major cause of all injustices in the Middle East?" Or, as many Israelis have pointed out for years, that our Arab neighbors should strain for democracy to rid themselves of corrupt regimes that keep them destitute? In the famous letter of 1919 from His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Husseini, king of Syria and Iraq, son of Sherif Husain and later King of Iraq, to Felix Frankfurter, Emir Faisal stated;
"People less informed and less responsible have, I am afraid, misrepresented your aims to the Arab peasantry, and our aims to the Jewish peasantry, with the result that interested parties have been able to make capital out of what they call our differences."
The sole reason that the Palestinian – Israeli conflict has been considered the main cause is only due to the high profile propaganda campaign waged in recent years by those aspiring to bring forth an Arab Palestinian state. These propagandists who "Hate" the "Zionist Entity", continually attack Israel for its proud standing as a truly democratic country with equality for all its citizens. For these "Haters of Israel" the Hamas led regime in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and the oppressive regimes in the Arab countries have consistently been above criticism.

So is Israel really a democracy?

Though Israel does not possess a constitution as such, it's Declaration of Independence serves as a quasi legal format for a truly democratic country with basic rights and privileges given to all the states inhabitants. The Israeli declaration issue on May 15th, 1948 states:
"THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open to the immigration of Jews from all countries of their dispersion; will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty,justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."
At the end of the document it is set forth;

"In the midst of wanton aggression, we still call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in its bodies and institutions - provisional or permanent.

We offer peace and neighborliness to all the neighboring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Hebrew nation for the common good of all."