Israel, Zionism and the Media

Tag: Muslim Brotherhood

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.

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.

Israel Diary – Egypt on the brink

Sitting where I am, a few kilometres from the Egyptian border, and a few yards from Jordan – yes, I’m in Eilat – it’s almost like a geographical paradigm of the pressure, and future potential pressure on Israel.

At the Red Sea Israel comes to a point a few kilometres wide with Egypt to the West and Jordan to the East.

From my hotel balcony I can see these two countries and Saudi Arabia.

Israel is squeezed geographically, politically and psychologically.

The sense of being surrounded was always ameilorated after peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.

These treaties have always been brittle, but diplomatic relations with Cairo and Amman have led to exchanges of technology, water rights agreements, intelligence exchanges  and even political agreements, for example, to contain Hamas.

It seems that the combination of a lone Tunisian market trader who martyred himself in frustration with his government and the social media has emboldened the famous ‘Arab street’ to revolt against dictators and shout ‘Freedom’. Let us not underestimate the effect of the so-called PaliLeaks in destabilising the region and unleashing a Pandora’s box of troubles.

Egypt is by far the most important country in the region to be affected.

There are three options for Egypt as Mubarak frantically tries to hold on to power:

1. Mubarak holds on to power but introduces some reforms to try to placate the people

2. The country moves to a form of democracy

3. The country moves to an Islamist government, possibly behind Mohammed El Baradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Option 1 will never happen, at least not for long. Once the people find their voice and reject a dictator, that dictator is doomed. We have seen this in Romania with Ceaucescu, we saw it in East Germany. We saw it with the Shah in Iran.

The longer Mubarak tries to hold on, the more violent will the revolt become, the more demonstrators will be killed and more chaos there will be.

The United States and the EU will bring pressure for a resolution of the crisis because of the potential effect on oil prices (already rising).

The US and the EU and world markets will fear the possible closure of the Suez Canal with dire consequences for the region as we saw after the last Egyptian revolution when President Nasser closed the Canal and precipitated a war with Britain, France and Israel.

This fear may lead to the unseemly flight of Mubarak

2. I had a very nice driver whilst I was in Jerusalem last week. Let’s call him ‘N’.

If you have ever been in a Jerusalem taxi you will know that politics soon comes up in any conversation.

N made an interesting point: “The Arabs do not know what ‘democracy’ means”, he said.

You may think this is the jaundiced view of an Israeli living near the Green Line, and a self-confessed right-winger, at that. But N had a point.

Is it possible that the true democrats in Egypt, without a paradigm in the region to imitate, except Israel, can conjure a Western-style democracy out of a popular uprising? Where are the politicians, leaders, intellectuals, journalists who will make the West’s dream come true?

If this dream is realised, how will Arab dictatorships react to such a regime? Will they seek to undermine it? Will they attack it? Will they attack Israel as a ploy to play into Egyptian Islamists hands?

3. Watching CNN here last night, their reporter was out on the street in Cairo and almost all the people he interviewed – and interestingly, they all seemed to be women – claimed they wanted freedom and condemned Mubarak. Why? Because, they said, Mubarak was working with Israel.

Yes, that’s right, freedom for these people appears to be the freedom to break the treaty with Israel, open the Rafah crossing, join up with Hamas and Hizbollah and even more concerningly, Iran, and attack Israel.

How quickly will Jordan, Tunisia and others follow suit if Egpyt falls to the Brotherhood.

Here’s a fourth scenario: civil war between Islamists and pro-democracy supporters.

It seems that, regardless of the result, the US and Israel will be identified with the Mubarak regime and the ‘cold peace’ with Israel will be threatened.

I would have a strong sense of schadenfreude if it were not for the fact that Israel will lose out whatever happens.

This would-be schadenfreude is caused by the obsession of the world media,the EU and the UN with Israel and its relations with the Palestinians. So focused are they in vilifying and delegitimising Israel with a viciousness reserved for no other country, so keen have they been to see militant Islam as a reaction to Israel’s ‘oppression’ of Palestinians, so keen have they been to minimise the Islamist threat in the region, that they have been taken unawares by this new potential twist in the Middle East story.

Maybe now they will see that Israel really is a beacon of democracy and freedom and essential to the interests of the West.

I had a little chuckle when Iran gave its support to the people of Egypt in their struggle for democracy against an oppressive regime.

Iranians, apparently, do not do irony.