To get an idea of just how outrageous a recent Guardian editorial (on Dec. 7) defending President Morsi and criticizing the liberal opposition truly was, here are two tweets by commentators with otherwise unimpeachable Guardian Left credentials:
Here’s Guardian Cairo correspondent Jack Shenker.
Let me say once again, I totally disassociate myself from this@guardian editorial on #Egypt - it’s offensive & wrong: guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/…
Here’s ‘Comment is Free’ contributor Rachel Shabi:
What is the Guardian thinking with this awful, misleading editorial on #egypt? bit.ly/VDYy6T
Here are a few excerpts of the Guardian editorial in question:
[The crisis in Egypt] is not about the proposed constitution,
[The opposition is engaged in] a power battle in which the aim is to unseat a democratically elected president, and to prevent a referendum and fresh parliamentary elections being held, both of which Islamists stand a good chance of winning. Morsi, for his part, is determined that both polls be held as soon as possible to reaffirm the popular mandate which he still thinks he has.
The opposition on the other hand has never accepted the results of freely held elections, parliamentary or presidential, and is doing everything to stop new ones being held
So, the Guardian, when faced with a choice between a Muslim Brotherhood which is ideologically opposed to true democracy and individual freedoms – a political predisposition clearly on display in Morsi’s recent decision to assume dictatorial powers - and a political opposition which is at leastmarginally progressive, chose the reactionary Islamists.
The following post by a Lebanese writer, who blogs at Karl reMarks, wrote the following piece titled ‘The Guardian’s Editorial on Egypt Re-Imagined‘, which is based on the same Dec. 7 Guardian editorial re-imagined as if it were written in January 2011, with minor changes like replacing Morsi with Mubarak.
As the crisis in Egypt develops, it is becoming increasingly clear what it is not about. It is not about the elections, or the economic crisis, or Egypt’s relationship with Israel. Nor is it about the arrangements for a successor to the president. Nor even is it about the temporary but absolute powers that the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, assumed for himself – for a mere thirty years, and which will lapse the moment the Egyptian people stop making a fuss.
Urging the opposition to shun dialogue, Mohamed ElBaradei said that Mubarak had lost his legitimacy. So the target of the opposition is not the constitution, or the emergency law, but Mubarak himself. What follows is a power battle in which the aim is to unseat a democratically elected president, with 88.6% of the vote, and to prevent fresh parliamentary elections being held, both of which the ruling NDP stand a good chance of winning. Mubarak, for his part, is determined that both polls be held as soon as possible to reaffirm the popular mandate which he still thinks he has.
In weighing who occupies the moral high ground, let us start with what happened on Wednesday night. That is when the crisis, sparked by yet another Mubarak decree when he was at the height of his domestic popularity over the role he played in stopping the yet another Israeli assault on Gaza, turned violent. The NDP party sanctioned a violent assault on a peaceful encampment of opposition supporters in Tahrir Square. But lethal force came later, and the NDP was its principle victims. NDP offices were attacked up and down the country, while no other party offices were touched. This does not fit the opposition’s narrative to be the victims of state violence. Both sides are victims of violence and the real perpetrators are their common enemy.
Mubarak undoubtedly made grave mistakes. In pre-empting decisions by the courts to derail his reforms, his decrees were cast too wide. His laws have many faults, although none are set in stone. The opposition on the other hand has never accepted the results of freely held elections, parliamentary or presidential, and is doing everything to stop new ones being held.
The Guardian is not only supporting a racist, antisemitic, anti-Christian, anti-West Islamist movement, but are remaining loyal even when a more liberal alternative is possible.
Ever since Mubarak was forced to resign in February 2011, a sense of a new dawn has swept over Egypt. Grand words and phrases such as “democracy,” “civil rights,” “freedom” and “state of institutions” have become the focus of political discourse, because of the sense that all of those fine characteristics of democracy have finally come to Egypt. As citizens of a state that has been treading on the path of independence and sovereignty for more than two hundred years, the Egyptians have been waiting for their turn to board the democracy train and enjoy its advantages, which many other peoples have been doing, among them peoples who have overthrown dictators and won their freedom only a few years ago, like the peoples of Eastern Europe.
For the first time in the history of modern Egypt, true, not rigged, elections were held for parliament and the presidency, and for the first time the people of Egypt saw how their sweet dream to be a state of its citizens is coming true, a state of constitution and law, of law and order, not the state of a dictator and his sons where every decision is an expression of the personal interest of someone who no one knows when – if at all – his autocratic rule will come to an end. The immediate expression of these hopes was supposed to be an upgrade to the Egyptian economy and an increase of per capita income. In a country where tens of millions live in unplanned neighborhoods, without running water, sewage, electricity or telephone, economic welfare is a matter of existential importance, and without it, life is too much like death.
But the greater the hope, the greater the disappointment. Almost two years have passed since the beginning of the “Spring” and Egypt only continues to slide down the slippery, dangerous slope into the swamp of political, civil, constitutional, and administrative problems, with almost no control of how things develop as they bring Egypt closer to the brink. The paralysis that has taken hold of the government is an obstacle to any progress in the wording of the new constitution, which was supposed to give the country a set of consensual and binding rules of the political game, and the rage over the lack of these rules drives many Egyptians out of their minds.
The elected president, Muhammad Morsi, a representative of the long-standing and well-known Muslim Brotherhood movement, at first enjoyed much credit from the public at large, but is now perceived in these troubled times as the new dictator, after issuing a few “constitutional declarations” which grant him broad powers over other governmental agencies, particularly the legal system.
Morsi dismissed the attorney general, despite the claim that he had no authority to do so. According to Morsi’s “declarations,” his decisions are not subject to legal review, not even by the high court. Many Egyptians – even those who believed in him, supported him and voted for him – now feel that two years ago they managed to overthrow a military dictator and in his place they got a religious dictator.
In the summer, when Morsi dismissed Field Marshall Tantawi and other military commanders, his prestige increased in the eyes of most of the citizens of the country because this step was interpreted as the end of the rule of officers and the beginning of civilian rule. Even the cruelty of the military in breaking up the demonstrations against him added to Morsi’s popularity, since he was seen as an opposing force to the military. However, he quickly lost a significant portion of the public credit because he failed to reconvene the parliament after it had been dispersed by the high court and because he did not convene the committee for drafting the constitution.
Morsi’s public struggle with the legal guild arouses the anger of opponents and supporters alike: his opponents rage over his attempts to control the legal system, which is supposed to be free, professional and without political bias, and his supporters are angry because he has not controlled this elite, professional class, which is not elected, but imposes its agenda on the state.
With the military, Morsi succeeded in avoiding conflict, but this is because he does not dare touch the economic monopolies from which the military makes a very good livelihood. The reason that Morsi did not take over the assets of the military is because he needs loans from the deep pockets that the military controls without oversight of the office of treasury or the tax authority.
Visit Barry Rubin’s blog, Rubin Reports.
Most of the debate over the current wave of anti-American demonstrations in the Middle East is, to be frank, pretty silly. It disregards both historical experience and basic political sense. Consider the following points:
–There have been several such waves before, notably over Salman Rushdie, the 2001 attacks, and the “Danish cartoons.” Leaving some death and destruction in their wake, these waves of demonstrations then fade away bringing no significant political change. No amount of apology and groveling had any perceivable positive effect. This one will also end soon but the battle for political power in each country continues as does the decline in American credibility and influence.
–The causes of these demonstrations are not some act of Islamophobia but the agitation of revolutionary Islamist groups that work systematically every day to build anti-Americanism, hatred of the West, and the loathing of Jews and Christians.
–As long as free speech exists in the West, there will always be events that provide pretexts for outrage. Radical Islamists will make sure that even the most obscure of events can be used. It has also been shown how things that happen in the West are deliberately distorted. For example, Danish Islamic clerics added cartoons that had nothing to do with those published by a Danish magazine to intensify anger and hatred.
–The task is not to stamp out “Islamophobia” any more than Soviet Communist or German Nazi propaganda could be dealt with by proving the West didn’t hate workers or did hate Jews. The problem is not some cultural misunderstanding or Western fault but an ideology seeking to seize state power. That ideology and its many sympathizers and even a lot of its local enemies know that building hysterical hatred against America and the West, Christians, Jews and Israel, benefit them.
This is nothing new. Rightly or wrong, in the early 1950s–I’ve seen the documents in which the U.S. government decided not to publicize the Nazi ties of some Middle Eastern leaders including Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. And the CIA decided (in 1950) not to pursue the then Palestinian Arab leader Amin al-Husaini for war crimes though he had been a close collaborator of Hitler. Why? Because it was concluded that such information might make them more, not less, popular.–Examining the current developments, the precise situation in every country is different:
In Libya, the radical Islamists want to overturn a U.S.-sponsored government that will not give them a full Sharia state and which they see as a sell-out. The government doesn’t like the anti-American attacks but its armed forces and administration is heavily infiltrated by radical Islamists so it is not a dependable protector for the very Americans who put it in power.
In Tunisia, a country that is relatively secular by Arabic-speaking standards, the revolutionary Islamists are especially frustrated. They are strong enough to cause trouble but not strong enough to pose a serious challenge to power. The Muslim Brotherhood controls the government but is in a serious coalition with moderates and is being cautious as a result. This makes the radicals all the more provocative. And since the Brotherhood in part sympathizes with them, it will not fully crack down.
In Egypt, the radicals are a front for the Muslim Brotherhood government which the Obama Administration has taught that radicalism and anti-American pays, or at least costs nothing. The Brotherhood regime would like to figure out a way to prove it hates the United States without any cost. Now it knows how to do so. Let the radicals go into the embassy with no interference by the security forces and the Obama Administration will still give it $1.6 billion (including security assistance to an army now controlled by the Brotherhood!), help it buy two German submarines, plan about cancelling $1 billion in debt, and make its president an honored guest at the White House. Since what the radicals do doesn’t injure the regime’s interest, it will let them do what they want. The Brotherhood will even join in the demonstrations. There’s nothing to lose.
In other places the goal is to build the revolutionary Islamist movement. And when everyone forgets about this silly little video there will be more pretexts: American support for governments including those of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Israel; anniversaries of past events; terrorists being held in prison; politicized Muslim religious festivities.
Rocket attacks continue to plague the south of Israel, the last one occurring a few days ago.
Only a few weeks ago the IDF deployed an Iron Dome rocket defense battery near Eilat to deal with the incoming rockets.
These latest strikes follow the massive attack which took place on August 5th, which claimed the lives of sixteen Egyptian soldiers and which was finally blocked by the IDF on Israel’s southern border.
These events are not recent developments. Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, was ousted from his position in disgrace in February of 2011. Since that time, the balance of power in the Sinai Peninsula has changed dramatically, and it seems that the change is to the detriment of all parties in the region, excluding the terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and other minor organizations.
Since the deposing of Mubarak, terror organizations originating in the Gaza Strip have taken control of the Sinai Peninsula, along with other terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which develop their infrastructure of terror everywhere they can, and especially in areas that suffer from lack of government and neglect, such as the Sinai region.
In recent months, they have operated an industry of terrorism at an unprecedented magnitude, including weapons experiments, weapons smuggling, and terrorist attacks.
Since February 2011, the IDF has received several reports on events of weapons experiments in open areas throughout the Sinai. Palestinians terrorists from the Gaza Strip are taking advantage of the lawlessness in the Sinai in order to perform experimentations with weapons of varying grades by firing to areas in Sinai, and receiving way points of the strikes from local collaborators. Through these experiments, the terrorist organizations can improve the weapons’ shooting angles, amount of explosives and projectiles, depending on where the rockets fall.
In addition, the tunnel routes between Gaza and Sinai have developed immensely since the fall of Mubarak’s regime. The tunnel owners have known difficult periods when concentrated joint efforts were made by Israel and the Mubarak regime to create obstacles for these tunnels. They are currently experiencing a profitable period as both their civilian businesses and their collaboration with the terrorist’s industry in Gaza do not encounter any difficulties on the Egyptians part. Some of tunnels are big enough that entire vehicles can be transported through them.
This reality has severely hampered the security on Israel’s southern border. Sinai of the post-Mubarak era has become a focal point for active and brutal terrorism, due to the vacuum created in the region, as the Egyptians do not take responsibility for their sovereign territory and the waste lands are utilized by the terrorist organizations to the outmost.
Member of Knesset Benyamin Ben-Eliezer, an expert on the Egyptian scene stated after the attack: “I hear president Morsi’s statements and I understand he has come to a conclusion that if he does not gain control of the Sinai soon, he will be sitting on a nuclear bomb. Sinai, with all its components – including the Global Jihad, Al – Qaida and other terrorist organizations – is going to become a place that could shake the entire of Egypt.”
How much recent events have eroded U.S. security interests in Egypt depends on how deeply rooted those interests were in the first place. Although the Mubarak government did some things we wanted it to do, it did other things that were anathema. Mubarak, with U.S. complicity and Israeli acquiescence, fed the growth of a military that could be used for good or ill while he fed the Egyptian people lies about Israel, about war, about Jews and about peace. In the bigger picture, Egypt always saw itself with Arab and Sunni and larger Muslim responsibilities as well as responsibilities to its non-Muslim patron, whether the U.S. or Russia before it.
The smart bet was never on Egypt as an actual ally – which presumes a certain fundamental alignment – but on the understanding that things would be worse if Mubarak weren’t there. The now-complete demise of military structure embodied in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – America’s erstwhile ally – was utterly predictable.
In March, Secretary Clinton handed over $1.25 billion to the SCAF in defiance of Democratic Sen. Leahy’s “hold” on the money pending “democratic reforms.” Thus emboldened, the SCAF amended the 1971 constitution to deprive the incoming president of, among other things, the right to declare war. While the State Department publicly demanded complete civilian rule, it was privately relieved to think that the military body in which the U.S. had invested so much money, training and technology would still hold the power of the peace treaty with Israel.
Relief was short-lived. After the terrorist attack in Sinai that killed 16 Egyptians before moving on to Israel, President Morsi channeled Rahm Emanuel and effectively fired the entire leadership of the SCAF. As the end of August, without a murmur of dissent, the Egyptian government restored the right to declare war to the president with the concurrence of Parliament.
The dregs of the SCAF may or may not be asked for an opinion. The President may or may not consult with the revived National Defense Council, which consists of government officials including parliamentarians, ministers and representatives of branches of the military, and meets at the request of the President. In any event, the “representatives of branches of the military” are younger, more Islamist-leaning officers who were not part of the SCAF. They know the lucrative, U.S.-funded military/industrial complex that enriched Sadat, Mubarak, Suleiman and Tantawi won’t be there for them.
The case looks cut and dried – our friends are out; others are in; we lose. Sure enough, President Morsi went to Iran and earlier this week, Egypt declined a U.S. request that an Iranian ship passing through the Suez Canal be inspected for illegal arms. But neither is a new position – they are the evolution of Egyptian, not Muslim Brotherhood, positions.
In April 2011, two Iranian military vessels passed through the Canal under the eyes of the provisional government, which claimed it could not stop a ship from a country with which it was not at war. As I wrote at the time: “[There is] the possibility of Egyptian complicity… this was the first Iranian military passage through the Suez Canal since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 because Egypt has considered Iran to be hostile. Egypt is, in any event, bound by the Security Council to ensure that passing ships comply with the terms of the embargo. According to some reports, the two Iranian naval ships were ‘routinely’ inspected by Egyptian authorities; according to others, Iranian diplomats simply ‘assured’ the Egyptians the ships were not carrying weapons. If the Egyptians did not actually inspect the ship’s cargo, they were snookered. If inspectors checked, found the weapons but still authorized the passage, then an entirely new challenge to sanctions enforcement may be emerging. It is not reasonable to think the inspectors checked and didn’t see the weapons.”
The two ships were later stopped and boarded by the Israeli Navy, and 50 tons of weapons – including Chinese C-704 anti-ship missiles and radars – were impounded. If the administration was surprised, it shouldn’t have been. A decade ago I wrote for JINSA:
The U.S. cannot continue to support dictatorial regimes with no internal legitimacy and whose populations revile us in part because we support the dictatorship. At some point those dictatorships will fall – because, as the President so rightly said, the U.S. will work to establish freedom, liberty and tolerance around the world, and the Arab and Islamic world isn’t exempt. When they fall, we want to be on the side of the people.
The Islamic Oral Law (the Hadith) quotes the prophet Muhammad who stated: “My nation will be split into seventy two factions, and only one of them will escape Hell.” Since Muhammad closed his eyes for eternity in the year 632 CE, the Muslims – regarding this tradition – have been absorbed by two questions, one theoretical and one practical. The theoretical one is: which is the correct and righteous faction which is destined to inherit Paradise, and which are all of the other factions to whom the gates of Hell are open wide to receive them. The practical question, which stems from the theoretical, is how each faction verifies that it – the correct and the righteous – is the one that will live in an earthly paradise, and how can it make concrete life hell for the other factions.
These questions were first dealt with immediately after Muhammad’s funeral, when the Muslim elders met to decide who will be the Caliph, Muhammad’s successor. Ali bin Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin, who was also his son-in-law, claimed that the caliphate belonged to him, but his claim was not accepted and three others were named as caliphs before him. He waited twenty-four long years until he was named as the fourth Caliph. During this time he consolidated around him a support group, who were even willing to engage in violent battle in order to take over the status of sovereignty. They were the first Shi’ites. The meaning of the word Shi’a in Arabic is “faction”, meaning the faction of Ali.
After Ali was murdered in 661, his son, Hussein, continued to claim that the leadership belongs to him, because he was of the clan of Hashem, the family of the Prophet, and not the Caliphs of the Umayyad clan, a branch of the Quraysh tribe, which seized control. Because of this claim he was seen as a rebel and in the year 680 he was caught by the army of the regime near the city of Karbala in Southern Iraq, and slaughtered together with most of his family and supporters. This event was the seminal event of the Shi’ites until today, and the Shi’ites mark the “Ashura” – the “yahrzeit” – of Hussein with memorial rites, some of them beating and wounding themselves until they bleed.
Over the years, Shi’a developed its own theology and religious laws so different from that of Sunni, which is mainstream Islam, that there are those who claim that the Sunna and the Shi’a are two different religions. Many Sunnis see Shi’ites as heretics of a sort, and more than a few Shi’ites see Sunnis in the same way. Many Shi’ites see Sunni as najas, or unclean. The Shi’ites say that their claim to leadership is based on two chapters in the Qur’an, while the Sunnis claim that these two chapters are a Shi’ite forgery. For all of history the Shi’ites have been considered as a group which is rebelling against the regime and therefore the judgement for a Shi’ite is death. In areas where the Shi’ites have ruled, this was the fate of the Sunnis.
The struggle between the Sunna and the Shi’a continues in full strength until today, with Iran leading the Shi’a side while Saudi Arabia is in the forefront of Sunni Islam.
In Saudi Arabia, the Hanbali school leads, with its extreme Wahhabi version of Islam, according to which the Shi’ites are heretics. Therefore the Shi’ites who live in Eastern Saudi Arabia are ground into dust: they are forbidden to sound the call to prayer on loudspeakers because their call includes a Shi’ite addendum. They are forbidden to mark the Ashura publicly and they are forbidden to demonstrate. The Saudi regime relates to them with fierce determination and zero sensitivity.
The Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) which cost one million people their lives on both sides, was part of the struggle between the Shi’a and and the Sunna, because Saddam Hussein was Sunni. In Lebanon, the Shi’ite Hizb’Allah fights the Sunnis and their friends over hegemony in the Land of the Cedars, and in Bahrain the Farsi-speaking Shi’ite majority has been trying for years to free itself from the Sunni minority which rules over it with an iron fist and an outstretched arm. This past year, when the spirit of the “Arab Spring” brought the Shi’ite majority into the streets, Saudi Arabia occupied Bahrain and forced the sectarian genie back into its bottle.
The recent political developments in Egypt since the fall of its president, Hosni Mubarak, on February 11, 2011 have been stressful and troublesome. Mubarak’s fall was unavoidable, mainly because of his determination to have his son, Gamal Mubarak, succeed him. Gamal Mubarak’s succession was refused my most the Egyptians not only because of its humiliating nature — a son of the President of the Republic inheriting Egypt as if it was a private property — but equally because of Gamal Mubarak’s oligarchic power and wealth that dominated political life in Egypt. In November, 2010, the Gamal Mubarak faction made its fatal mistake when they monopolized 98% of the seats of the Egyptian Parliament.
Since the fall of Mubarak, Egypt’s military rulers – the SCAF – have made a number of fatal mistakes that strengthened the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] and weakened liberals. The first grave mistake was to delegate an Islamist, Tarek al Bishry, to draft the constitutional amendments that were endorsed by a popular referendum on March 19, 2011. Instead of starting democratic reform by drafting a new democratic constitution, the committee decided to start the process not only by electing a new parliament that was overwhelmingly Islamist, but by giving this new parliament the right to draft the constitution. The plea by Egyptian intellectuals to have the constitution drafted by a committee of educated, intellectual figures was ignored by the ruling SCAF, which incorrectly calculated that members of the Ikhwan, who had far more outreach and popularity, would accept playing whatever role the SCAF designed for them.
The victory of the Islamic groups in the parliamentary election of November 2011 was a natural result of the following factors: A) the 19/3/2011 constitutional amendments, B) reliance on a number of Islamist advisers, including Essam Sharaf, who was Prime Minister for a number of months, and C) the unjustified rush, driven by the Islamist advisers, that was characterized by early parliamentary elections, and also by totally disregarding the article in the constitution that bans political parties that have a religious agenda.
Since the Islamists’ triumph in November, 2011, the battle stood mainly between the Ikhwan, who became excessively confident that Egypt would ultimately fall into their hands, and the members of the military SCAF, who were focused mainly on protecting the military establishment’s various assets, benefits, merits and immunity. For instance, the Ikhwan announced their intention to give the leadership of the army, intelligence service, security services, and the Ministry of Interior to MB figures – certainly not on SCAF’s recommendation, but mainly to figures known for their sympathy with the MB.
The Ikhwan benefited enormously when SCAF pressed Ahmed Shafeeq to run for Egypt”s Presidency. It was not difficult for the Ikhwan to launch a campaign of character-assassination against Shafeeq, who was a member of Mubarak’s narrow circle as well as Mubarak’s last Prime Minister.
The Obama administration’s support for the Ikhwan was of immense value to its candidate. In parallel to the strong support of the Obama administrating, huge Qatari funds were also instrumental.
Although there were rumors that Ahmed Shafeeq won more votes, the SCAF chose to announce Morsy’s victory, probably to avoid consequences similar to what happened in Algeria slightly more than 20 years ago, when a civil war broke out after the Algerian president cancelled the results of the parliamentary elections when they seemed to be overwhelmingly in favour of the Islamists. It is rumored that in case Ahmed Shafeeq were to be announced as victorious, a violence would have exploded all over Egypt.
The Obama administration’s support for the Ikhwan emanates from an extremely flawed understanding of the Ikhwan‘s agenda, which has been unchanged since its inception in 1928. The two pillars of this project have been: First, abolishing the entire judicial and juridical system that had been introduced in Egypt in 1883 and was based on the French legal system, the Napoleonic Code. Instead, the Ikhwan would introduced a legal system based on Islamic Sharia law, including amputating hands, stoning and whip-lashing. Second, reviving the political vision of a Caliphate, which aims at uniting all Muslim societies under a single ruler, similar to the Ottoman Empire abolished by Kemal Ataturk ninety years ago.
Originally published by Gatestone Institute http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org