Tag Archives: egypt

Three Muslim Women

Well, two women and a girl, really.

I want you to watch these three videos.

The first two especially appear to run counter to our preconceptions, or prejudices, which tell us that all Egyptians hate Jews.

I have no idea what these young women think of Israel or even Jews but I really don’t care. One thing for sure, it will be based on human rights and justice and not on deep-seated irrational hatred.

The first one shows and Egyptian activist Ibhama Abi Saif giving an interview direct from Tahrir Square in Cairo to Israel’s Channel 10 front man Guy Zohar.

Now, in any country, an interview with someone in Tahrir Square reporting their views on the Muslim Brotherhood with a backdrop of the square heaving with protestors would be normal.

But here we see a really charming Egyptian women, clearly religious SPEAKING PERFECT HEBREW.

The context of such an event is the ongoing demonisation of Jews, Zionists and Israelis in Egypt, which is so antisemitic that I, for one, did not see any headroom for such an interview.

Ibhama Abi Saif is polite, eloquent, charming and friendly, non-antagonistic. What’s going on? I had to check my own prejudices with this one. I really love this young woman.

Why am I so enthused by this interview? It gives us all hope. it shows us what the Middle East could look like if you take away the hate. It shows us what normalisation might look like.

Ibhama ends her interview with a most Jewish phrase ‘b’ezrat Hashem’ – with G-d’s help, a direct equivalent of ‘Inshallah’ Wonderful, inspiring and moving even though it’s just an interview.

Here’s a transcript.

Channel 10’s Guy Zohar interviews Egyptian journalist and activist Ibhama Abi Saif.

Egyptian journalist and political activist who agreed to speak with us in Hebrew directly from Tahrir Square.
Guy: Shalom

Ibhama: Shalom Guy.

Guy: So what is going on behind you there?

Ibhama: As you can see, there are masses of people gathering against our regime in Egypt. They want to overthrow the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi for us is not just a president. He is in the service of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Guy: But he was elected in democratic elections.

Ibhama: I agree with you that there was a vote and the ballot box had their say. But every president, everywhere in the world, derives his legitimacy from the people. If the nation takes that right away from him. He cannot remain in power. We don’t want him anywhere. The masses are out in the streets demanding to over throw him. As far as I’m concerned, and from what I understand This is the epitome of democracy in any country.

Guy: But aren’t you concerned the military will abolish the democracy?

Ibhama: I am not afraid, and no Egyptian is afraid of its military. Our military is one with the nation. As our motto states. This is what we expect from our military. To stand with the people, and this is what is happening.

Guy: And what about the Muslim Brotherhood’s response?

Ibhama: I don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood is that dense or stupid. They know the military will not remain silent, that it will act with an iron fist against anyone who thinks he can hurt the people. We are not Syria and we will never be Syria.

Guy: I must ask you, aren’t you worried about speaking Hebrew in the middle of Tahrir Square?

Ibhama: I am not afraid to speak Hebrew in any place in Egypt, where we have people who know Hebrew. They ask me if I’m Egyptian or not, and I tell them that I am Egyptian and this is the language I learned and that I am implementing. I am not afraid at all and it is actually normal here. We have many people who speak several languages, and it’s cool.

Guy: Very nice. Is there something important for you to tell us Israelis?

Ibhama: Yes, of course. I see what is going on in Israel. I call, not just on Israelis but every nation which is not receiving the treatment it deserves from its government or its president, not to remain silent. If Bibi and Lapid are not doing their job, get rid of them, replace them with someone who will do what you want. If they made promises and didn’t keep them. Don’t stay silent. We were also promised many things and they didn’t make good, so we are now removing them. I believe the people will decide what it really wants. Onwards!

Guy: Ibhama Abi Saif, thank you very much. I hope you will continue to update us.

Ibhama: With the help of God. You’re welcome. Bye.

The second video is a report by a young Egyptian woman, Dalia Ziada telling the AJC website viewers not to believe or take at face value what they see reported from Egypt.

She begins ‘Dear friends’.  In another video an ecstatic Dalia begins ‘Dear, dear, dear Agency friends’ soon after Mohamed Morsi is removed from power.

The report below  is about the ‘massacre’ of 50 Muslim Brotherhood members by the Egyptian army. But all is not what it seems.

So, yet another charming young religious Egyptian woman, this time reporting (in perfect English) to a Jewish Human Rights organisation! Something she does regularly. She even met AJC folks at the AJC Global Forum! She reports frequently to the AJC from Cairo and she is in fear of her life for doing so. Incredible.  Maybe the real Arab Spring will be led by women such as this. Inshallah!

The third I’m sure you are aware of – Malala – the bravest girl on the planet.

You can read her story with extracts of her speech at the UN General Assembly here.

And the full speech here on ‘Malala Day’.

See the some highlights below.

This is not the speech of a 16 year old girl. This is the speech of a great politician. This speech is close to the impact of Martin Luther King’s ‘I have A Dream’ speech (and she mentions him in her speech) in Washington 50 years ago, this is the speech of a future world leader. It is a most quotable speech and one that will live long in the memory. People will be watching the speech in a hundred years time.

This is a speech that can change the world – for the better. And it comes from a 16 year old Muslim girl from Pakistan.

Are these three videos the seed of something new, something exciting, something that can change our world and free us from mediaeval religious Fascism and moves toward toleration, acceptance and respect?

Maybe not in my lifetime, but I didn’t expect to see the end of the Soviet Union or the tearing down of the Berlin Wall either.

Empowering women, especially women in cultures that have always oppressed them or disrespected their rights, is what the rest of this century will be about.

Maybe it won’t be about a Jihad against the West but an uprising of strong, confident brave women who will change attitudes and lead us all to a brighter more hopeful future.

B’ezrat Hashem. Inshallah.

Hélas in Gaza and other stories

You may have though not much has been going on in Gaza recently. That is, if you stick to the mainstream media.

When it comes to the BBC, my headline could have been ‘Clueless in Gaza’. Apologies to both John Milton and Aldous Huxley.

BBCWatch is running with a story which perfectly illustrates how propaganda against Israel works. First the lie, then the apology, or the short footnote hidden away on a page of a daily newspaper, or Goldstone saying if he knew then what he knows now, or a cartoonist saying ‘but I didn’t realise it was offensive’, or Ha’aretz issuing a ‘correction’.

The story I am referring to is about Omar Mashrawi. I’m sure you recall the heart-rending scenes as Jihad Mashrawi, a BBC employee at the time,  paraded the dead body of his son Omar through Gaza City during Operation Pillar of Cloud, Israel’s operation to stop rocket fire from Gaza.

John Donnison, the BBC correspondent on the ground wrote how the boy had been killed by a shell fired by the Israelis. Despite the evidence at the scene appearing to contradict this claim, or at least causing severe doubt, nevertheless, yet another Palestinian dead baby story was attributed to the Israelis.

Three months later we find the probable truth via no less than the UN HRC as the BBCWatch article tells us, and I quote extensively because I cannot improve on it:

On March 6th 2013 the UN HRC issued an advance version of its report on the November 2012 hostilities and blogger Elder of Ziyon bothered to read the whole thing. The report states on page 14 that a UN investigation found that:

“On 14 November, a woman, her 11-month-old infant, and an 18-year-old adult in Al-Zaitoun were killed by what appeared to be a Palestinian rocket that fell short of Israel.” [emphasis added]

A footnote adds that the UN investigated the incident itself.

Omar Masharawi was the only 11 month-old infant killed on November 14th in the Zaitoun neighbourhood (although the woman killed at the same time was not in fact his mother as the UN report states, but his father’s brother’s wife; Hiba). 

The BBC used the story of Omar Masharawi to advance the narrative of Israel as a ruthless killer of innocent children. It did so in unusually gory detail which etched the story in audiences’ minds, but without checking the facts, and with no regard whatsoever for its obligations to accuracy and impartiality. BBC reporters and editors  – including Jon Donnison, Paul Danahar and the many others who distributed the story via Twitter – rushed to spread as far and wide as possible a story they could not validate, but which fit in with their own narrative.

It is impossible to undo the extensive damage done by the BBC with this story. No apology or correction can now erase it from the internet or from the memories of the countless people who read it or heard it. Nevertheless, the people responsible for the fact that the unverified story was allowed to run – and that it was deliberately given such exceptionally extensive coverage – must be held accountable for their failure to even try to uphold the standards to which the BBC professes to adhere. 

Thus, Israel is demonised. And it is not only western journalists who do it, but Israeli ones too.

Ha’aretz published a story about how Ethiopian women entering Israel were given contraceptive injections. The point being that Israel, which insists it is not a racist, apartheid state, is trying to limit the birth rate of Africans because it is racist. Even at the time the story was rebutted by many sources.The explanation was that these were not long-lasting contraceptive jabs but reversible short-term ones and made at the request of the women for whom more conventional forms of contraception are taboo.

As a result the practice was stopped as being inappropriate.

Nevertheless, what do we find? yes, a plethora of reports telling the world how nasty those Israelis are to let black people into the country and then limit their fertility. The whole idea is nonsense anyway. If Israel were that racist, why spend so much time and effort bringing Ethiopian Jews into Israel in the first place?

And now Ha’aretz has not only given context to its story but has highlighted how its own journalism was hijacked by those with anti-Israel agendas.

 But the story has taken on a life of its own internationally. The words “forced” and “coercion” are being thrown around in the international coverage. Images of Mengele-level persecution of clueless, helpless victims being marched by force from camps to clinics to receive their injections have been conjured up, as the story has travelled from the Israeli media to the national mainstream media, to international and niche publications. The headlines run from the oversimplified to deliberately twisted:

Israel admits forcing birth control shots on Ethiopian women

Israel: Discrimination against Ethiopian Jews

Israel coerced Ethiopian women into taking contraceptive jabs

Israel Admits “Shameful” Birth Control Drug Injected in “Unaware” Ethiopian Jews

The most hostile coverage refers inaccurately to “sterilization” – conveniently ignoring the fact that Depo-Provera is a three-month birth control injection, for which women must voluntarily go to a clinic to receive the shots. It is insulting to the intelligence of Ethiopian women to believe that they did this for years at a time against their will. Certainly, if there was a nefarious plot to stop them from having babies, there would have been a more efficient way to do it.

Back in Gaza, if you recall, our blessed Prime Minister, David Cameron, once characterised Gaza as a prison camp whilst he was endearing himself to Turkish Islamist leader Recep Erdogan.

William Hague, our Foreign Secretary called on Israel to end the blockade.

So, no doubt they will both be much affected by the following facts:

COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) regularly reports on the number of truckloads of goods entering Gaza which continued even under rocket fire. http://www.cogat.idf.il/894-en/Matpash.aspx?Sad Our noble leaders will see that the Gaza prison camp received 400 truckloads of goods and 170 tons of gas this Thursday alone.

On Tuesday 144,310 flowers were exported from Gaza through Israel.

The people of Gaza should be reaping the reward of the quiet which has descended since their government stopped bombarding Israel. Yet, Messrs Hague and Cameron should also note the following:

On the 4th March the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza, a major route for goods, was closed, not by Israel but by Hamas. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/HumanitarianAid/Palestinians/Hamas_closes_Kerem_Shalom_crossing_4-Mar-2013.htm

Over 70 trucks laden with food and other goods are currently waiting on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom crossing for their Palestinian counterparts.

The crossing is currently not operating, as the Palestinian contractor responsible for the Palestinian side decided not to open the crossing today.

His decision stems from attempts by Hamas to replace the current contractor with one of their choosing. Hamas has been actively trying to push the Palestinian Authority out and take charge of the management of Kerem Shalom so that they may collect revenue from goods that enter Gaza.

These actions by Hamas endanger the current security arrangements and threaten the operability of the crossing.

If Gaza were so desperate for goods, why would Hamas close one of its lifelines in attempt to take control of the crossing replacing the Palestinian Authority contractor? Answer? it wants a kick-back for Hamas by operating it.

And there’s more bad news for those who find Israel solely responsible for the welfare of Palestinians whose government is determined to destroy the country that is most responsible for sustaining it. Egypt is destroying smuggling tunnels.

Yes, Islamist, revolutionary, Hamas-loving, Jew-hating Egypt is destroying the tunnels used for years by Gazans to smuggle everything from couscous to Mercedes and missiles.

The smuggling tunnels linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt are a security threat and must be destroyed, a Cairo court ruled on Tuesday, responding to a petition brought by a group of lawyers and activists in the wake of a cross-border attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

The Egyptians even flooded the tunnels recently.

So Messrs Cameron and Hague, where are your complaints to the Egyptians and to Hamas about the way they are turning Gaza into a prison camp, cutting off its routes for import and export?

No, we must only hear about what measures Israel takes to feed and sustain its enemies. All countries do that, don’t they? Supply their sworn enemies with food and power? Assad does it in Syria, yes? What? He doesn’t? Oh. So other countries across the world sustain the non-combatant populations of enemy countries and entities like the Sri Lankans looked after the Tamils in areas controlled by the Tigers?

Oh, I see, only Israelis have to be so generous or else it is a war crime and collective punishment. I understand.

I understand completely.

Mr Cameron, you are needed in Tahrir Square again

According to the BBC, Islamists in Egypt have won the election.

All the warnings about Islamists and the Arab Spring which were so poo-poohed by over-optimistic Western leaders seem to be coming true.

Tunisia, the first country to experience a revolution, also returned an Islamist government which saw fit to invite Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to Tunis as a baying mob shouted ‘Kill the Jews’. Nice.

It is almost a year since I sat watching the upheaval in Egypt in my hotel bedroom TV in Eilat, Israel. I was impressed but cynical. I hoped the true secular democrats would win. I feared they would not. I also noticed the many banners which accused Mubarak of being a Zionist and others which said unpleasant things about Israel and Jews.

Israel was criticised for not embracing the changes across the region. Any suggestion by its politicians or supporters that this was an opportunity to unleash forces that had been held under control by dictators, was dismissed as Israel being a country that claimed to be a democracy but would deny such freedoms for its neighbours.

Soon after President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, Prime Minister David Cameron flew to Egypt to join in the crowds in Tahrir Square declaring how happy he was to see the Egyptian people free at last.

The BBC reported at that time the following:

He said Egypt had a “great opportunity” to push for democracy.

“This is a great opportunity for us to go and talk to those currently running Egypt to make sure this really is a genuine transition from military rule to civilian rule, and see what friendly countries like Britain and others in Europe can do to help.”

How naive was that. It’s typical of a government that is purblind to the real intentions of the Palestinian Authority to engage in the politics of wishful thinking.

If Cameron was so ignorant about the almost certain outcome of a democratic election in Egypt installing the Muslim Brotherhood as the party of government (and joined by a hefty number of Salafist extremists, apparently), then his and his government’s belief that the PA is moderate, just because they would like it be true, is pretty much indicative of the politics of hope and delusion that is now endemic in Europe.

But it is more toxic than delusion.

If you see events in the Middle East through a haze of hope instead of clear-eyed reality you can assert that the impasse in the Israel-Palestine peace negotiations are due to Israeli incalcitrance and the settlements, and not Palestinian rejectionism and Jew-hatred.

You also get involved in the hypocrisy of a UK government, as part of NATO, helping rebel Libyans to unseat a government that it and its predecessors have been cosying up to in order to protect their commercial interests.

It leads to the Gibson Inquiry into claims, as reported by the Daily Mail and othersthat:

MI6 was involved in the illegal transfer of two Libyans into the hands of Colonel Gaddafi.

Democrats are only worth supporting, it seems, when they have a chance of success. Otherwise, tyrants will do just fine.
So Mr Cameron should return to Egypt and Tahrir Square to view the new Egypt, the Egypt of reality where pipelines to Israel are blown up by out of control Hamas supporters in the Sinai, where the Israeli embassy can be attacked with almost lethal consequences, where international peace agreements are likely to be dishonoured.
I happen to be old enough to remember the last great victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt: the assassination of President Sadat who was bold enough to make peace with Israel and perhaps because he did so.
As a result the Brotherhood was suppressed and its activities deemed illegal.
Now it has won. It was the long game for the Brotherhood just is it is for the PA.
So, off you go, Mr Prime Minister, go and see the new Egypt and tell us now about that opportunity for democracy you saw last year.
It’s the same democracy that elects Hamas in Gaza or Ghannouchi in Tunisia.
It’s a strange democracy indeed where the people vote to be enthralled by religious fanatics in place of hardline military dictatorships.
Maybe they need a lesson in democracy from Mr Hague and Mr Cameron; or why not send Cleggy; after all, he is now an expert on the Middle East.
No doubt Mr Cameron will express his hope that the Brotherhood will be democratic and ‘moderate’. Then Hague will announce that it is in Britain’s vital interest to do business with the new regime in Cairo.
Yes, moderate; maybe only 50,000 Christians will have to flee the country this year instead of the 100,000 that left last year.
If there are 50,000 left, that is.

BBC, Panetta, Israel and the blame game

Good ol’ Beeb are at it again.

It seems even the most simple message is spun against Israel, lacks context and distorts intentions.

This was the headline in an article posted earlier this week:

Israel risks Middle East isolation, warns US official

The BBC News website has long touted lies and half-truths which have become accepted ‘facts’.

Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the Middle East, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has warned.

Didn’t anyone notice that, apart from Turkey, it has always been isolated despite two cold peace treaties. ‘Isolated’ should really be ‘threatened’, but no-one will say that. It’s not diplomatic. So they have to put the blame on Israel.

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta did, indeed, say this but here is what he said verbatim:

“It’s pretty clear that this dramatic time in the Middle East, where there have been so many changes, that it is not a good situation for Israel to become increasingly isolated, and that’s what’s happening,” Mr Panetta told journalists aboard a US Air Force plane en route to the Middle East

As reported later in the article. But the BBC has to editorialise, of course.

He said Israel should restart peace talks with the Palestinians and restore good relations with Turkey and Egypt.

Can you see what they did there? The verbatim quote states a fact and provides the reason for this isolation; the BBC spin on this puts the entire onus on Israel to initiate diplomatic procedures.

But what is the reality?

1. He said Israel should restart peace talks with the Palestinians

Yes, and Israel has repeatedly stated that they are willing to negotiate without preconditions. Prime Minister Netanyahu said so at the UN. It is the Palestinians who are refusing to talk because they want Israel to  stop building settlements, the convenient excuse provided to them by the same President Obama who came out, at last, (nothing to do with re-election, of course) on Israel’s side on the question of a Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN last month.

But wait, the BBC acknowledges…

Israel has agreed to participate in such talks, but the Palestinians want Israel to stop building more homes for settlers in the occupied territories.

Israel announced last week it planned to build 1,100 more homes in a settlement in occupied East Jerusalem

So it is Israel’s fault because they are building homes. In fact the ‘settlement’ in question is Gilo which is a contiguous suburb of Jerusalem and would remain part of Israel in any final settlement agreement. Everyone knows that.

In fact there have been no new settlements, just additions to existing ones. And, as I have always wondered, if Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas genuinely believes that settlements will one day be part of Palestine, then surely Israel is building his future state for him. The whole idea of settlements, love ‘em or hate ‘em, is a complete red herring which was never an impediment to ‘peace talks’ previously.

It’s also a convenient one – for the Palestinians. If Israel were indeed to stop building, why should we believe that Abbas won’t do what he did last time; Israel had a 10 month moratorium on settlement building on the West Bank (but not Jerusalem, granted) and in the 9th month Abbas said he would agree to talks only if that moratorium were extended.

So who’s stopping the talks? You judge.

The argument is ‘how can we negotiate with someone who is building on our land?’ But the point of the negotiations is to decide whose land it is. And wouldn’t you want to negotiate sooner rather than later if you believe that ‘facts on the ground’ are being changed.

2. …and restore good relations with Turkey

I have dealt with Turkey on previous occasions. Turkey wants Israel to apologise for the deaths aboard the Mavi Marmara, pay compensation to the families of the IHH terrorists  who tried to lynch Israeli soldiers, and lift the maritime blockade of Gaza. Only then will Turkey restore relations with Israel.

So not only does Turkey want Israel to apologise for its soldiers’ attempt to save their own lives, they also want Israel to commit suicide by allowing Iranian missiles free passage to Gaza.

And Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan continues to try bully Israel and provoke Israel into an action which will provide him with his apparently sought-after military conflict.

So it is Israel, then,  according to the BBC spin, that must mend the fences with a country which not only severely downgrades diplomatic, military and economic co-operation but does so because it, Turkey, failed to protect its then ally, Israel, from assault by its citizens planning to break a legal maritime blockade (Palmer Report conclusion).

With friends like this…

3. … restore good relations with … Egypt.

Eh? Who’s responsible for this cooling of relations then?

Was it Israel who allowed the gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel to be blown up six times?

Was it an Israeli politician who said that the treaty between the two countries is not necessarily valid for all time?

Was it Israelis who attacked Egypt’s embassy and almost lynched six Egyptian nationals?

Was it Israel who allowed its citizens to carry out a terrorist attack near a southern Egyptian town?

Was it Israel who childishly prevented the sale of palm leaves for a religious festival (subsequently sourced from Gaza, ironically)?

Who is it that has Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elder of Zion freely available, widely read and almost universally believed?

However Panetta did say:

As they take risks for peace, we will be able to provide the security that they will need in order to ensure that they can have the room hopefully to negotiate

Now that could be read as putting the onus on Israel. I read this as an Obama-ese way of saying “If you halt settlement building, we’ll ensure the security of the state post final settlement agreement”. The ‘how’ is moot.

It could mean, as the BBC spins it:

Mr Panetta said the US would make sure Israel maintained its military superiority in the region, but should use this advantage to press for peace.

It is rather ignorant to believe that military superiority will stop missiles and suicide bombers.

So it’s Israel who should make the first move, right? Israel has to make the concessions whilst it is obvious to anyone of any intelligence that the Palestinians just want one concession from Israel: Israel.

As long as that does not change, Israel will have no security and every concession strips it of another layer of protection.

Israeli Embassy in Cairo – what if…

On Friday night, after prayers, a mob of several thousand Egyptians attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Previously, the Egyptian authorities had raised a defensive wall around the embassy but that seems to have acted like a red rag to a bull.

A determined mob broke down the wall and entered the compound, torching it and burning the Israeli flag for the second time in a month.

Some reports suggested that this group was Islamist, others that it was Communists trying to destabilise the country.

What is clear is that several thousand turned up to break in to the compound. More than a thousand were injured and 3 actually died, which is insane.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian police stood back and did nothing. As the mob hammered at the walls and door where the remaining few embassy staff members were huddled, the members of staff of the Israeli embassy were in contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu and asked him to convey their final messages to their loved ones. They were clearly in fear of their life.

According to some reports President Obama called the Egyptian government and demanded they honour their obligations under international law.

Some say Obama even threatened the Egyptians with dire consequences if they did not act to save the embassy staff.

Soon after, commandos rescued the remaining Israelis and smuggled them out of the embassy wearing Arab attire.

Avi Mayer (@avimayer) has reported via Twitter from several sources. Here are some snippets:

I don’t get it. When Netanyahu/Barak called, Tantawi was unavailable. When Obama/Panetta called, he picked up. Is he screening our calls?

Walla: Fearing #Cairo protesters would pretend to be rescuers, #Egypt commandos used “secret sign” and #Israel emb guards opened door.

When I tweeted about the incident earleir this evening a received a couple of brusque rejoinders including this one which I answered vias a retweet:

RT @fat_lam: @RayPCook at least no Israeli was killed, #israel on other hand did kill innocents<<what do you think would have happened to the #Israelis if they had not been saved by #Egyptian army?

This links in to the presumed spark to this incident. Over a week ago now 8 Israelis were killed in separate incidents near Eilat on the border with Egypt when terrorists fired automatic weapons and artillery rounds at a car, a bus and IDF soldiers.

As the IDF pursued the perpetrators and despite every effort not to hit anyone on the Egyptian side, several Egyptian soldiers were killed by Israeli fire. One of the reasons given is that the terrorists were actually dressed in Egyptian uniforms or something similar.

The tweeter above is not concerned with Israeli deaths just the Egyptian ones despite an expression of regret from Israel.

This is the cover story for the Egyptian mob.

The truth is that no excuse is required for a mob raised on an anti-Semitic diet of Jew-hatred.

Egyptian clerics are often very keen to demonise Israel and the Jews.

Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion appear to be standard reading and are freely available.

Israel is blamed for every calamity in a press which is often hysterically (in both senses) obsessed with Israel hatred: when a tourist was attacked and killed by a shark in Sharm-el-Sheikh, Mossad were blamed;

an Israeli is currently under arrest for spying even though there does not appear to be a case to answer;

during the demonstrations in Tahrir Square foreign journalists were accused of being Israeli spies and the CBS reporter Lara Logan was brutally sexually assaulted and accused of being an Israeli in February.

Even yesterday the appearance of a female journalist was met with accusations that she was Israeli and she had to be rapidly whisked away.

So it appears that the Arab Spring has become an excuse for mob rule and taking the law into ones own hands in certain sections of Egyptian society.

These same people who accuse Israel of breaking international law are only too quick to do the same themselves.

There are some positives:

The Egyptian authorities have arrested and arraigned several of the trouble-makers

A Bahraini government spokesman tweeted:

Not protecting the Israeli embassy in Cairo is a clear violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961 on diplomatic relations

I’m not completely au fait with the relations between Bahrain and Israel, but given the almost uniform hatred of the Arab world against Israel, this is a very decent thing to have said, and it constitutes a reprimand.

But here’s the ‘whatif’ bit. The guards inside the embassy had guns. They even fired some warning shots in the air according to Avi Mayer (@avimayer). They were given permission to open fire on the crowd should their lives be in danger.

Now here’s the thing; imagine that – they asked permission to save their own lives knowing that if it came to this the diplomatic fallout would inevitably go against Israel.

So, what if the commandos were a little late and the mob had battered down a wall and there were the guards, guns drawn, and the mob attacked them, presumably filled with jihadi zeal and the prospect of paradise for dying whilst trying to kill some Jews.

Does this sound familiar? Think Mavi Marmara, a somewhat different arena, yet, nevertheless, armed Israelis with no intention of lethal conflict are faced with a baying mob ready to lynch them.

So what if the Israelis fired, killed nine or ten of their attackers and then the Egyptian cavalry arrived and saved them.

What would the world have said? Would they be condemned for using excessive force as the Palmer report found?

With more Egyptian blood on their hands would Israel have been blamed for its citizens defending what is, in international law, sovereign territory?

What would all the leftists say? What would the Guardian say? I can take a pretty good guess; they would have found a way to condemn the Israelis. They would quote members of the mob saying that they had no intention of hurting anyone.

Some elements in Israel would call for an end to the peace treaty. The UN would have demanded an investigation.

Yet, the situation is not dissimilar to the Mavi Marmara. If a mob is coming at you with clearly lethal intent, what is a proportionate response?

And, ‘what if’ the Egyptian commandos got there too late and six Israelis were lynched? General rejoicing across the Arab and Muslim world whilst their governments would disingenuously condemn the deaths and, at the same time, try to ‘explain’ them in the ‘context’ of the ‘incident’ near Eilat.

Israelis would demonstrate outside the Egyptian embassy – maybe. But as now, and as always, Israelis would respect the Egyptian embassy physically.

It should be noted that before the mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, a man was arrested in Tel Aviv for throwing a stone at the Egyptian embassy. Throwing a stone. One man. So much for the evil, murderous Israelis so often characterised across the world.

If the Israelis had killed anyone we would have a third incident, along with the Flotilla and the terrorist attack on the highway near Eilat where Israelis killed those trying to kill them and were condemned for doing so.

With a poll showing the majority of Egyptians wanting to end the 32 year treaty with Israel, despite the commendable, but somewhat belated actions of the Egyptian government, it is clear that when a new government is elected it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that it will do so on an anti-Israel ticket.

Additionally, 60%, according to another poll, want to restore Sharia Law.

The prospects for a continued peace with Israel look fragile and would only be maintained for strategic reasons rather than a wish for peace.

 

Israel intercepts ship in international waters – no accusations of piracy

You may recall the Mavi Marmara incident last year when Israeli soldiers and navy intercepted a flotilla of ships on what they called a ‘humanitarian’ mission to break the maritime blockade of Gaza.

There was an almighty row with Turkey and the UN and almost universal condemnation because Israel exercised its right to search ships intent on breaking its maritime blockade, redirect them to an Israeli port, inspect them and then ship the aid themsleves.

Nine jihadi ‘activists’ were killed when the Israelis boarded the lead vessel, a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara. The activists had laid a well organised ambush and were killed when they attacked the Israelis with lethal force.

The accusations were many, but one was that because Israel had intercepted in international waters they were ‘pirates’ and had no legal right to do so. This is just plain false; any country has a right to intercept ships where there is a genuine belief it may be smugglings arms to its enemy or breaking a legally declared blockade.

The legal niceties were of no concern to those who rushed to judge the Israelis who later admitted operational mistakes.

Those who criticised and pilloried Israel already judged that Israel had no rights to intercept the Mavi Marmara – period.

The fact that the Mavi Marmara was ostensibly a lead ship carrying humanitarian aid proved to be convincing evidence that Israel is a rogue state that attacks innocent humanitarians.

I have already dealt with the incident at length last year. However, I’ll repeat one interesting point that went all but unnoticed internationally and it was this: on board were dozens of battery-powered wheelchairs. Innocent enough? But no, Hamas were disappointed that these were the wrong type of wheelchair with the wrong type of battery. Why? Because the right type of battery could be used to lay explosive devices.

The above proved to me that even innocent items of aid can be a cover for nefarious ends.

Today, the IDF intercepted the Victoria, a Liberian-flagged container ship which had set sail from Latakia in Syria, sailed to Turkey and was then bound for Alexandria in Egypt.

Someone, or good intelligence, had tipped off the Israelis and they boarded without incident 200 miles off the coast of Israel, much further from Israeli waters than the Mavi Marmara.

On board they discovered a huge cache of arms from Iran. Who would have guessed, eh?

You can see the photos on Flickr here http://www.flickr.com/photos/idfonline/sets/72157626272235856

The ultimate destination of these arms was Gaza and Hamas.

This is not the first time Israel has intercepted illegal arms destined for a terrorist group.

So I ask you: where is all the outrage this time that Israel has boarded a vessel in International waters? If it was piracy with the Mavi Marmara, then it’s piracy with the Victoria, no?

But here’s the difference: the Mavi Marmara had huge publicity behind it, was bent on directly challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and had people on board intent on confronting and killing Israelis.

The captain of Victoria did not object and stopped to allow inspection. Result: no violence, no inuries, no death and tonnes of illegal arms.

Iran is in clear breach of international law, but no-one will censor her in the UN.

Why is there such silence and indifference to the Israeli boarding? Answer: the culprits were caught in flagrante delicto there were no representatives aboard from numerous anti-Israel or anti-Zionist groups, no cameras, no TV, no opportunity to demonise Israel and no propaganda victory to be won.

A couple of weeks ago Iranian war ships penetrated the Mediterranean for the first time since the Islamic revolution. They passed through the Suez canal and ended up… yes, you guessed it, in Syria.

It does not take much more than simple arithmetic to come to the conclusion that one or both of these ships were bringing the very arms which were aboard the Victoria.

This time, Israeli intelligence was spot on, and maybe they had some help from the Turks, who knows, because the Israeli government were at pains to make it known that Turkey was not involved in any way.

This whole incident exposes  why Israel has the right to intercept shipping, as our own Prime Minister prophetically (or was he tipped off) declared last week. Maybe he was aware that it was coming and so prepared the way to be able to say that the UK was, this time, in support of the action in a ‘humanitarian’ free zone.

It also shows very clearly that Israel had the exactly identical right to intercept the Mavi Marmara rather than to trust virulently hostile passengers and jihadis intent on confrontation.

Such is worldwide hypocrisy and cant when it comes to Israel’s right to defend itself.

 

See ore here: http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/News/today/2011/03/1501.htm

 

 

So the Egyptian uprising is good for Israel, is it?

In the wake of the Egyptian uprising, everyone was telling Israel not to fear Egyptian democracy.

Israel was particularly concerned that a new government would tear up its 30 year treaty with Egypt which brought peace to Israel’s southern border and also provided a natural gas pipeline to supply a substantial percentage of Israel’s energy needs.

This same pipeline provides gas to Jordan, and both Israel and Jordan had negotiated preferential rates well below global prices.

Soon after the uprising the pipeline was blown up and gas supplies to Israel and Jordan halted.

The optimists said that this was some sort of reaction to the Mubarak government or the work of ‘Islamists’ and the pipeline would be restored.

It hasn’t.

Delaying tactics and excuses have now given way to a blatant cutting off of supplies.

The Elder of Ziyon reports :

An Egyptian source is quoted as saying that the Egyptians cannot resume pumping gas to Jordan and not to Israel without causing an international incident. Therefore they are preferring not to pump gas to Jordan altogether – just to hurt Israel!

This is somewhat contradicted by another statement the Elder reports:

Yesterday, a Jordanian official said that Egypt would be raising its price of gas to Jordan to be more in line with the going rate.

But they can’t sell to Jordan and not to Israel without causing a major international incident. Yet, is it really true that anyone would care about such an incident?

Yes, the United States would care, and their support, both financial and political, to the new regime and its putative successors would be at risk.

So the Egyptians just delay.

The point is really this: it would be politically unacceptable for the new regime to sell gas to Israel, despite the agreement and the fact that Israel has a part share in the consortium doing the pumping.

The Egyptian people did not just get rid of Mubarak because he was a dictator, but because he had continued the Sadat peace agreement with Israel, albeit rather half-heartedly.

This was known as the Cold Peace.

Well it’s now well below zero, folks.

Egyptians overwhelmingly hate Israel. Those who fuelled the uprising hate Israel. Any rapprochement, any deal, is unpopular and would cause more trouble.

All those who told Israel it should not fear democracy in Egypt may have to eat their words.

There is no democracy in Egypt, at least not yet. And when they do finally vote, I doubt any party will stand on an Israel-hugging platform.

Any cancelling of the peace treaty and the placing of Egyptian troops in Sinai could be catastrophic for the region, and especially Israel.

This will be a play-off between the power and influence – and money – of the United States and the anti-Israel, and often antisemitic, rhetoric of Egyptian politics and public discourse.

Is it not sad to observe that Egypt’s best chance for a true democracy and prosperity would be full political, cultural technological and economic relations with Israel. That would build a better future for all Egyptians.

Let’s hope my analysis is very wrong. Time will tell.

I did take time to look at a survey here taken last month which appears to show that I am wrong.

In this survey, taken by phoning people at random in Cairo and Alexandria by the Pechter Group, 37% of respondents supported the peace treaty with Israel and 22% opposed. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas did not have a lot of support.

Another survey reorted in the Huffington Post revealed:

On Israel and Palestinians: 69% said that of all Obama policies they were most disappointed toward Israel and Palestine; 90% named Israel as one of two nations that are the greatest threat to them and Egyptians were split as to whether there would ever be lasting peace between Israel and Palestinians.

Perhaps more revealing was this:

On Iran: 86% say Iran has a right to pursue its nuclear program, 56% agree Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and 79% say it would be positive if Iran acquired nuclear arms.

The problem is, however, that unless a strong democracy can be created, extremists will find a way to attack the treaty with Israel. Clamping down on these elements could be seen as regressive and unpopular.

The support for Iran’s nuclear programme is worrying.

It doesn’t exactly paint the pretty picture that the Western media is so keen to portray.

Arab democracy, Western hypocrisy

I’ve been thinking (dangerous), musing, reading and self-questioning. In other words, a normal day.

What is at the forefront of our minds and our TV screens at the moment is the unfolding drama of Egypt.

I have been struck, somewhat unexpectedly, by a sort of epiphany; a moment when I can see politicians and diplomacy for what they are.

I have been infuriated by the utter hypocrisy of Egypt’s western allies, the vaunted western democracies and the news media.

First Obama, who like his predecessors, has supported Mubarak and his awful regime. He believed that stability in the region required Egypt to work with the US, (who payed billions to maintain the regime and prop up its military) as a bulwark against Islamism. He believed that this long-held strategy would prevent a regional implosion and, ultimately preserve the peace between Israel and Egypt. Well, it worked, didn’t it? For more than 30 years.

Obama was not alone, of course; like everyone else he did not believe that democracy could be born from an Arab womb without a strong US midwife (Iraq, Afghanistan) and a sturdy pair of forceps.

Governments have to work with regimes they might not approve of, but the West has long supported or at least tolerated dictators only to turn against them at the slightest sniff of the outbreak of democracy, or more often when their own interests have changed.

This was not so much a sniff but a full-blown bout of influenza. Obama turned against Mubarak and declared he wanted to see a smooth transition of power according to the will of the Egyptian people; a will he had not believed existed and which now he applauded.

Where was his support and that of the western democracies for the will of the Egyptian people before? What did he or any other western democracy ever do to encourage democracy in countries suffering under dictators?  All the US ever did was invade and militarily intervene to impose their national will and their idea of democracy on Iraq, Afghanistan and before this Vietnam. One could also mention Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada.

OK. I don’t want to bash the US, but as the leaders of the free world their foreign policy was often guided by fear; it used to be Communism, now it’s Islamism. In this Internet era, maybe a tweet or a leak is as powerful as an ICBM or an armoured division.

Outside of the Monroe Doctrine area, Europe has always gone along with their ally. Perhaps only in Yugoslavia where the battle was about preventing genocide and stabilising Europe did the West get it right, despite many mistakes.

Perhaps events like those in Egypt show us that international politics is really about self-interest and is governed by a hefty dose of Realpolitk; if the dictator is on your side, prop him up, if he is against you, undermine, attack, invade. There is no true morality in international politics, only the pretence of it.

The problem with this approach is most apparent when your client, or unsavoury dictator friend, falls from grace, and  this is particularly embarrassing when your guy is replaced by a democracy; just the sort of government you should have been supporting all along.

Governments like the UK and the USA then have to come up with some platitudes and become imperiously statesmanlike and request, guide, coerce their former ally to fall on his sword so they can greet with fanfare the new government, the one they always really wanted, a government of the people, a true democracy which they now support and expect to continue with relations as normal.

So, when this new democracy comes into being it is not surprising that those governments who supported its predecessor are not exactly flavour of the month.

Well, we don’t have a democracy in Egypt yet, but if we do, then the US and its allies will have some explaining to do, which it has already decided to do by offering a few billion dollars in aid.

Am I being too cynical?

Such is political life. Hypocrisy is sort-of built-in.

And, of course, nowhere is Israel held up as the only democracy in the Middle East; in fact, today, I heard someone on a news programme looking forward to Egypt being the FIRST democracy in the region.

What region is that? North Africa?

Egypt and the Web 2.0 revolution

Who cannot be moved by the images coming out of Egypt and especially Tahrir Square in Cairo over the past 3 weeks.

Who can fail to be impressed by the dignity and self-control, the patriotism and the aspiration. after all, don’t we all want democracy everywhere?

What we have witnessed is a new type of revolution. The precursors of this revolution have been the Iranian protests about the allegedly rigged re-election of President Ahmadinejad, the popular protests in Tunisia which ousted the incumbent president and even the student protests in the UK over student fees.

Copycat uprisings have also sprung up in Jordan and Algeria with little impact so far.

Is this a new dawn of democracy for the Middle East?

As many commentators have observed, these popular uprisings and protests have been co-ordinated by young people using social media and mobile devices.

This is seismic because in the Brave New World of cyber- protest and revolt, political agitation and organising, it is the youth of the world (and the Arab world is a particularly young demographic) who are setting the pace, upsetting old norms and paradigms and leveraging their knowledge of social media and the World Wide Web to attempt to sweep away the former centres of power.

This new-found power is bad news for dictators and tyrants. Democracies can absorb it and even use it. Authoritarian societies which try to suppress the freedom of information and control the press are finding it increasingly difficult to outwit those members of their societies who find on the Internet an outlet for grievance and an access to the truth.

The media has presented us with well-spoken, western-dressed, young, savvy Egyptians who give us hope that Egypt can find its way to true democracy and  provide inspiration for other oppressed people in the Middle East and beyond.

Yet, all this could still go wrong. The new military government has confirmed the existing treaty with Israel but has now suspended the Constitution. What will that mean?

If democracy is established, can it be sustained? Will Egypt become a second Iraq where its very freedom will, ironically, allow dark forces, those of fundamentalism, to infiltrate from home and abroad and pitch the country into turmoil? Will the spirit of settling old scores, now apparent, throw the country in an internecine struggle.

Can Egypt divest itself of the antisemitism that is so pervasive?

And finally, those sophisticated representatives of Egyptian society who spoke so well  in front of the world’s cameras are the educated minority of Egypt’s middle classes and ruling elite.

On the street there are millions of impoverished and disinherited Egyptians whose leanings and inclinations may be more in the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood, especially if there aspirations and expectations are not met in good order.

Will Egyptian democracy be good for Israel? I would say ‘yes’ were it not for the clear underlying and sometimes overt demonstrations of anti-Israel sentiment and the known dislike of Israel and the Jews that is so endemic in Egyptian society.

If the miracle does happen, an Israel-Egypt alliance would be a powerful force for peace and democracy in the region.

Somehow, I feel it will be more complex and dangerous than the euphoric media now expect.

Israel Diary – Martin Gilbert and the warning from history

Well, I’ve been back for more than a week, but reading Martin Gilbert’s latest tour de force, ‘In Ishmael’s House’ (published by Yale) whilst I was in Israel and watching the outbreak of the Egyptian popular uprising, which also occurred whilst I was there, has given me much food for thought.

So I thought I’d take the liberty of extending my Israel diary from the comfort of my home in England.

Firstly, for anyone who is interested in the experiences of Jews in Muslim lands from the beginnings of Islam in the 7th century right up to the present day must read this seminal book.

I must admit that I was pretty much ignorant of the history of Jews in Muslim lands with only a vague notion that there were good times and there were bad times.

This book confirmed that was the case. But it also confirmed that whatever the circumstances, however benign the Muslim ruler or government was, troubled times were never far away. Indeed, there are many similarities with the Jewish experience in Christian lands.

I was amazed that even comparatively recently, and certainly within the last 100 years, Jews have led comfortable, successful and influential lives in Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Morocco and even Libya.

Jews have had positions of power and have been patriotic citizens of many Arab states across the Middle East.

Despite these sometimes protracted periods of affluence where Jews achieved a level of social standing, integration and honour far in excess of that experienced by their co-religionists in Europe, there was always an undercurrent of uncertainty and even fear.

This fear came from the dark corners of Islam where Jews were always the target of politicians and demagogues wanting a scapegoat or a common enemy to unite the people.

This undercurrent of Jew-hatred is ever-present in Islamic states as it has been in Christian ones. For decades, even centuries, it is suppressed and even legislated against, but the day always comes when Jews were murdered, dispossessed, dhimmified, oppressed, subject to medieval forms of treatment and humiliation, taxed, ghettoised, their civil liberties denied.

Reading the book has many moments of wonderful co-operation, mutual respect, neighbourliness, fraternity, friendship and decency. Such were the circumstances in much of the Arab world before 1947 on the eve of the declaration of the State of Israel.

But as soon as Israel came into being it released a backlash against the Jewish citizens of Arab countries which is rarely documented in the West and has been all but airbrushed out of Middle East history. Jews were expelled and their property and possessions taken from them or they chose to leave because of intolerable danger and random or orchestrated attacks. And when they left, it was usually with nothing or they had to sell off for a pittance.

This narrative is almost wholly absent from any discussion on Middle East history. When Jewish Arabs, as they often considered themselves, and many still do, arrived in Israel, where hundreds of thousands settled, they were absorbed, they did not remain refugees and never had that status for very long. They have never been compensated for their losses. After all, the vast majority never chose to leave their comfortable lives in Cairo or Damascus, Fez or Tripoli, Baghdad or Kabul.

It was Arab nationalism and  Islamic self-assertion and atavistic hatreds and prejudices which drove out the Jews. The Arab world has been made judenrein to a far greater extent than even Europe was during the Nazi period without, thankfully, the genocide.

A sad and little-known or acknowledged aspect of the modern form of Arab Islamic Jew-hatred has direct connections and dubious inspiration from the Nazi Jew-hatred. The role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, in raising a Muslim SS Division, persuading Hitler not to allow Jews to escape to Palestine and even a suggestion from Gilbert that it was Husseini who may have given the idea of the Final Solution to Hitler, are all explored in this book.

How often do we hear that Palestinian dispossession as a result of a European problem with the Jews was an unjust solution to that problem, but we never hear how Islamic support of the Nazis in North Africa and Mesopotamia as well as Palestine was part of that Solution and actually assisted in driving Jews to the very land from which their Muslim opponents wanted them to leave.

Nevertheless, the Jewish civilisation and culture with all its glories and millennia-old history was swept away and all but obliterated within a few decades because the Jews dared to assert their independence and carve out a few thousand square kilometres in their ancient homeland.

The lesson from history is this: unless the Muslim states can, once and for all, disengage their religious narrative from hating or despising and certainly mistrusting Jews qua Jews, then peace and co-operation will never be possible.

It is this echo of the Nazi past that finds its modern extreme form in the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizbullah as well as Al Qaeda and Iranian anti-Zionism. In its less overt forms it can be found on the Arab street and literature and the all too frequent presence of translations of Mein Kampf and the fraudulent and defamatory Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

There is an important linkage to all of this with regard to the current popular uprising in Egypt. Commentators are keen to point out the lack of anti-Western and anti-Israeli sloganising and banners in Tahrir Square and elsewhere. They do not show, however, an underlying anti-Zionist narrative that can spill over to bigotry and worse.

Many pro-Zionist websites are keen to find images of anti-Zionism and antisemitism from this uprising to support their fears of an Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood takeover. They tell us about interviews with elements in the crowd who tell us Mubarak was little more than a Zionist stooge, that it was the Jews who, in pr0pping up the dictator, were responsible for the Egyptians repression. These same websites tell us of those who want to attack Israel and destroy it, who want to ‘restore’ Palestine to the Palestinians, who still harbour a grudge because the Israelis/Jews defeated them in every war the Egyptians waged against them, occupied their country and humiliated their army.

It is hardly surprising that such views are held by so many in Egypt when, despite the ‘cold peace’ with Egypt for more than 30 years, despite co-operation in suppressing fundamentalists, border security, intelligence sharing, the Egyptian clergy, press and media have continued to pour out antisemitic vitriol poisoning the minds of the people whose Islamic culture has always allowed a space for Jew-hatred and suspicion. How often did we hear UK reporters say that all foreign press were suspected of being ‘Zionist’ agents.

Today came the welcome and stabilising news that the Egyptian army would respect existing treaties including the one with Israel.

History tells us we need more from this revolution. We must see a modern secular state that rejects Islamist narratives. We must see a proudly Muslim people with one of the greatest histories and cultures in the world realise that the democracy they crave already exists, however imperfectly, in Israel and that if they want true peace and prosperity they must continue to work with and improve relations with Israel, drop the antisemitic narrative and play an important role in spreading democracy to the entire region.

This will  have a far greater impact on peace and the prospects for Palestinians than cleaving to Islamist, undemocratic paradigms. The danger is not just the Muslim Brotherhood but a democratic state that, nevertheless, still hates Jews and Zionists and is prepared to do something about it.

We can only wait and hope.