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OBAMA'S EGYPT POLICY UNDERCUTS US'S M.E. STANDING, AS MORSI TILTS CONSTITUTION & PLAYS TO HAMAS IN GAZA
Volume XI, No. 2,919 • October 16, 2012
Barry Rubin, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 14, 2012
There are two problems with US policy toward the Middle East:
both the analysis and response aren’t just wrong, they make
things much worse.
Sherif Younis, Egypt Independent, Oct. 8, 2012
The most critical culprit in the current draft constitution being
finalized by the Constituent Assembly is the definition of
citizenship — who is a citizen? The draft constitution defines
citizens as those whose identity is primarily Islamic, and,
secondly, nationals of the country. In this conception of
citizenship, the state aims to control and hegemonize
citizens’ visions, stances and beliefs, working to entrench
them and produce standardized citizens.
Khaled Abu Toameh, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 11, 2012
Some 50,000 Palestinians, most of them from the Gaza Strip,
have been granted Egyptian citizenship over the past few months,
an Egyptian security official revealed Thursday. The official said that
the Egyptian Interior Ministry had been instructed to give Egyptian citizenship
to all Palestinians who were born to Egyptian mothers.
Yoav Zitun, Ynet News, Oct. 15, 2012
Al-Masry Al-Youm , Egypt Independent, Oct. 13, 2012
Not Influence the ‘Arab Spring’: Barry Rubin Jewish Press, Oct. 16th, 2012
THE REGION: EMPOWERING THE MIDDLE EAST’S RADICALS
Jerusalem Post, October 14/2012
There are two problems with US policy toward the Middle East: both the analysis and response aren’t just wrong, they make things much worse.
The White House has supported the anti-Semitic, anti-American Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria; insisted the Brotherhood is moderate; gave untrained, unreliable Libyans control over the US ambassador’s security leading to his death; denied revolutionary Islamists attacked the US embassy and ambassador in Libya for reasons having nothing to do with a California video; apologized for the video in a way that escalated the crisis elsewhere; wrongly claimed al-Qaida is finished, etc.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration responds with a democracy- will-solve-everything approach which the same people ridiculed when President George W. Bush advocated it. The errors are deepened in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s latest defense of these wrong-headed policies in a speech given at my first employers, the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Her argument is that the United States should ignore violence and extremism and help build democracies.
The problem is that most of the violence and extremism comes from forces that the Obama administration supports or groups basically allied with those forces. Everything she says lays a basis for disaster:
The US government must not be deterred by “the violent acts of a small number of extremists.” The problem is not a “small number” of extremists – implying al-Qaida – but a large number of them. Extremists now rule in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, Tunisia, and – despite camouflage – Turkey. They may soon be running Syria.
More than a decade after September 11, the Obama administration is fighting the last war – the battle against al-Qaida – rather than recognizing that a small group committing periodic terrorist acts is less important than a huge organization taking over entire countries. “We recognize that these transitions are not America’s to manage, and certainly not ours to win or lose.”
Of course the United States doesn’t manage these transitions, but does – or can – have influence. In Egypt, the Obama administration used its influence to push the military out of power and encourage the Brotherhood. In Syria, it backed management by the pro- Brotherhood Turkish regime and the choice of a Brotherhood-dominated exile leadership. In Bahrain, if not stopped by the State Department it would have helped bring to power a new regime likely to have been an Iranian satellite.
“But we have to stand with those who are working every day to strengthen democratic institutions, defend universal rights, and drive inclusive economic growth. That will produce more capable partners and more durable security over the long term.”
Yet the Obama administration has definitely not stood with those people! It has not channeled arms to moderates in Syria, but rather to the Brotherhood, and tolerated Saudi Arabia supplying arms to Salafis. It has done nothing to protect the rights of women or Christians.
Moderates in Lebanon, Syria and Egypt – as well as Turkey and Iran – know the Obama administration has not helped them. “We will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism, or achieve perfect security. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs.”
Yes, perfection is hard. But what does that have to do with sending the ambassador to Libya into a lawless city with no protection? And of course you can’t achieve even minimal security if you refuse to recognize where unrest and anti-American hatred originate.
For example, the Egyptian government knew that there would be a demonstration outside the US embassy in Cairo and must have known the demonstrators would storm the compound. Their security forces did nothing to protect the embassy. Why? Because they want to stir up anti-Americanism and use it to entrench themselves in power, even as the Obama administration praises the Brotherhood’s regime and sends lots of money.
“For the United States, supporting democratic transitions is not a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity.” This is absurd. Are “democratic” regimes always better for American strategic concerns than dictatorships? That’s untrue in Egypt and many other countries in the past half-century.
Clinton said there has been a backlash against extremist groups in Libya and Tunisia. But the backlash is by frightened people who fear, with good reason, that the extremists are winning.
“We stand with the Egyptian people in their quest for universal freedoms and protections.... Egypt’s international standing does depend both on peaceful relations with its neighbors and also on the choices it makes at home and whether or not it fulfills its own promises to its own people.”
In fact, Egypt’s people voted – 75 percent in parliamentary elections and about 53 percent in presidential balloting – for those opposing universal freedoms and protections. And if Obama won’t get tough, the Brotherhood regime knows it can repress people at home and let terrorists stage cross-border attacks against Israel without concern for its international standing.
“We have, as always, to be clear-eyed about the threat of violent extremism. A year of democratic transition was never going to drain away reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship.”
Drain away? This year has empowered radicals! An Obama administration so far from reality subverts US interests and makes the Middle East a far more tragic and dangerous place. They are doubling down on their errors and will no doubt continue to do so if they have four more years to continue making costly mistakes. (Top of Page)
FASCISM IN OUR NEW CONSTITUTION
Egypt Independent, October 8, 2012 - 16:23
The most critical culprit in the current draft constitution being finalized by the Constituent Assembly is the definition of citizenship — who is a citizen? The draft constitution defines citizens as those whose identity is primarily Islamic, and, secondly, nationals of the country. In this conception of citizenship, the state aims to control and hegemonize citizens’ visions, stances and beliefs, working to entrench them and produce standardized citizens.
Women, in particular, are largely excluded from the constitution, while the basic concepts of creativity and rebellion, as well as revolt, are largely supressed. Members of the Constituent Assembly are neither stupid, nor are they playing the fool. They are drawing on old ideas of the state as one that disciplines the nation in order for the people to reconcile with a supposed identity.
To them, this is the essence of patriotism and freedom. This understanding is essentially a legacy of Nasserism, adopted by the Muslim Brotherhood and radical nationalists. The idea of stipulating a fixed predetermined identity for the state essentially aims at producing a suppressive state. And it is a self-contradictory idea that suggests that a certain identity — be it Islamic or Egyptian — in fact exists, yet is dealt with as an identity that has to be imposed and protected against “distortions” or “foreign influences.”
This idea eventually divides the nation into a group of “indigenous people” who are seen to carry the authentic identity of the state on the one hand, and outsiders and traitors on the other hand. The state, with its suppressive tools, is supposed to teach the people about their identity, which is also paradoxically supposed to be inherent in them.
That way, state suppression of freedom and pluralism becomes the essence of its own understanding of freedom — and herein lies the contradiction in this draft constitution. Therefore, the initial chapter on the identity of the state restricts freedom before even reaching the freedom chapter.
Let us now discuss some proposed articles of the constitution to better understand the problematic stipulations and their consequences in Egypt following the 25 January  uprising.
Article 1: The Arab Republic of Egypt is a unified state with indivisible sovereignty. It has a democratic regime that depends on the principles of shura [consultation], pluralism and citizenship, and that regards all citizens as having equal rights and duties. The Egyptian people are a part of the Arab and Islamic nation and insist on their belonging to the Nile Basin, the African continent and their Asian corridors.
The principle of shura is an ambiguous concept, and to say that democracy depends on shura — which is a vague idea, even in Islamic jurisprudence — opens the door to restricting democracy. But given the Islamist composition of the Constituent Assembly, this ambiguity may have been intentional.
Article 5: Sovereignty is for the people alone and the people are the source of powers. The people exercise sovereignty and protect it, and preserve national unity in the manner determined in the constitution.
It is worth noting here that some members of the assembly have suggested that the article states that sovereignty is for God alone, who has bestowed it on the nation to exercise it, and that the people are the source of powers.
The variation on the article suggested by some members is reflective of the general spirit dominating the chapter on fundamental state components. This chapter suggests that the state enjoys authority over the Creator, and that it has, in the name of the people, surrendered sovereignty to Him, such that this sovereignty, which is exalted from a religious perspective, has a concrete geographical space throughout which the people can exercise sovereignty.
This is a giant step toward the creation of a religious state. In practice, who would have the authority in this religious state? Rumor has it that there is a tendency within the assembly to grant this authority to Al-Azhar.
But if in fact such a stipulation is passed, Islamists from the different currents will scramble to control this institution, since whoever controls it would be in control of society and the religious state. Additionally, by taking politics outside the context of the concrete and controllable — through bestowing sovereignty to God — we will be in fact laying the foundation for a fascist state….
Article 9: The divine entity is sacrosanct, and so are the entities of the Messengers of God and his Prophets, the wives of the Prophet and the Righteous Caliphs.
The stipulation to protect prophets and messengers assumes that the state is a religious one, and more precisely Sunni — one that undermines the concept of citizenship and equality mentioned above. This article reveals a desire on the part of the assembly to undermine citizenship and freedom of expression, given that poetic and literary works often figuratively refer to these figures and the divine entity.
Article 12: The family constitutes the basis of society, and it finds its pillars in religion, ethics and patriotism. The state and society should preserve the religious and ethical identity of the family and the values determining its identity, and work on retaining its coherence and stability, and protecting it.
State hegemony over the identity of the family is a form of interference in private life that reaches the level of fascism, and opens the door to political conflict over the use of state tools to determine the crux of that identity and impose it. Family values and ethics are a relative and changeable concept, and so it is unimaginable to have a predetermined model for them, unless within the framework of a Nazi or fascist regime. For example, some Egyptian families allow that their daughters travel abroad to work or study, while others do not. And the majority of Egyptian families would not have allowed their daughters to travel alone a few decades ago. Ethics and the concept of religion are changeable and historical. This article crystallizes why the idea of state identity itself is problematic.
Article 14: The state guarantees that women strike a balance between their duties toward the family and their work in society, and it also guarantees that women are treated as equal to men in the political, social, cultural and economic realms of life, all while upholding the rulings of Islamic Sharia.
While the stipulation that Islamic rulings become the main source of legislation was previously taken out from Article 2 of the constitution, its re-emergence here could threaten the principle of equality. Certain fatwas allow the marriage of young girls, for instance, for many of them were issued in old times.… Will these fatwas still hold? Women should not become victims of these flaws.
Article 15: The state and society are committed to safeguarding ethics and protecting them, and entrenching authentic Egyptian traditions and the exalted religious discipline, patriotism, ethical values, the historical and civilizational legacy for the nation, general manners and Arab culture, and maintaining monuments and natural reserves within the limits of the law and public order. The state commits to following those principles and entrenching them.
The idea of having a predetermined, essentially Islamist identity for the state and its residents crystallizes in this article. Regardless of the type of identity, having the identity stated in the constitution from the outset indicates that the constitution is authoritative because it entrusts the state with determining proper ethics, traditions and legacy, and safeguarding them. Yet this vision is illusory, since values and traditions mean different things in different parts of the country.
More alarmingly, however, this stipulation allows for the emergence of an ethical police force to monitor and control what is vaguely defined as ethics and norms. This empowers the emergence of “vigilante morality police” by radical groups such as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, or regular citizens who would volunteer to terrorize their fellow citizens in accordance with official or unofficial understandings of proper ethics and norms.
In general, the above constitutional articles assume that the state is superior to the people, and should hence instill certain ethics in society, which are, in certain perceptions of this constitutional chapter, “derived from the divine.”
And finally, the state here is conceived as one that reflects the “will of a nation” and does not express the “will of its people.” This understanding treats the nation as an external body of people that surpasses civilizations and has roots in the past, and seeks to be present in the future. This is exactly the basis of fascism and Nazism.
(Sherif Younis is a lecturer of Egyptian and European modern history at Helwan University, and a professional translator. This article was originally published in Egypt Independent's weekly print edition and has been translated by Dina Zafer.) (Top of Page)
EGYPT GRANTS CITIZENSHIP TO 50,000 PALESTINIANS
Khaled Abu Toameh
Jerusalem Post, October 11, 2012
Some 50,000 Palestinians, most of them from the Gaza Strip, have been granted Egyptian citizenship over the past few months, an Egyptian security official revealed Thursday. The official said that the Egyptian Interior Ministry had been instructed to give Egyptian citizenship to all Palestinians who were born to Egyptian mothers.
The official, who was not identified, told the Egyptian newspaper El-Watan that the instructions came from the country’s High Administrative Court in Cairo last May. The official pointed out that the number of Palestinians who have received Egyptian citizenship increased dramatically after the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak. Egypt now occupies second place – after Jordan – in granting citizenship to Palestinians.
The court decision paved the way for thousands of Palestinians, particularly those living in the Gaza Strip, to apply for and receive Egyptian passports. Until recently, Egypt, like most Arab countries, had refused to grant citizenship to Palestinians in accordance with an Arab League resolution dating back to 1965.
According to the resolution, “Palestinians who are residing in the Arab countries are given, upon their request, valid travel documents. The concerned [Arab] authorities must, wherever they be, issue these documents or renew them without delay.”
The Arab countries have justified their refusal to grant citizenship to Palestinians by arguing that they wish to protect the Palestinian identity and ensure their return to their original homes inside Israel. The Egyptian official also revealed that Cairo was now studying the request of an additional 35,000 Palestinians to receive Egyptian citizenship.
He predicted that by 2013 the number of Palestinians who would have received Egyptian citizenship would rise to 100,000. Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, disclosed earlier this year that he too had become an Egyptian national thanks to the fact that he had been born to an Egyptian mother. (Top of Page)
Yoav Zitun, Ynet News, Oct. 15, 2012
Military deploys sophisticated sensor system along new fence,
volatile Dune sector. Deployment moved up following increase
in Sinai-based terror threats.
Al-Masry Al-Youm , Egypt Independent, Oct. 13, 10/2012
Jama'a al-Islamiya hinted Friday that it may be willing to resort to violence
in order to see Sharia adopted in the latest draft of the constitution from the
Constituent Assembly. The group called on Egyptians to collect funds for
what it described as a battle against “secularists and liberals.”
Not Influence the ‘Arab Spring’: Barry Rubin Jewish Press, Oct. 16th, 2012
One argument we will be increasingly hearing is that President Barack Obama
couldn’t have done anything to change events in the Middle East. This is ironic
of course because when things were going well he wanted to take credit as the
inspiration for the “Arab Spring.”
Prof. Frederick Krantz, Director (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Prof. Harold Waller (McGill University)
Prof. Ira Robinson, Associate Chairman (Department of Religion, Concordia University)
Baruch Cohen, Research Chairman (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)
Ber Lazarus (Canadian Institute for Jewish Research)