Last week, Egyptians went to the polls in record numbers, in the first free elections since Hosni Mubarak was deposed last February. Over the weekend, Egypt’s High Election Commission announced that the Muslim Brotherhood’s fundamentalist Freedom and Justice Party garnered approximately 40 percent of ballots cast, while The Nour Party, representing the more hard-line Salafi Islamists, captured nearly 25 percent.
The initial results, from Cairo and Alexandria, offer a strong indication of how the new parliament will look, despite two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country’s 27 provinces over the coming month, and runoff elections on Monday and Tuesday to determine all of the seats allocated for individuals in the first round. But the grip of the Islamists over the next government appears set, particularly considering their popularity in provinces voting in the next rounds.
The new parliament will be tasked with selecting a 100-member panel to draft Egypt’s new constitution, sparking fear amongst liberal forces that the text will be heavily influenced by Islamic doctrine.
This concern is being echoed in the Jewish state. On Sunday, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his “hope that the new government that is formed in Egypt will recognize the importance of the peace treaty with Israel and its contribution to regional stability.” However, the projected combined absolute parliamentary majority for the Brothers and Salfis bodes poorly for this prospect.
EGYPTIAN ELECTION OUTCOME IS WORSE
THAN I EXPECTED
Pajamas Media, November 30, 2011
Since last February I have predicted that the Muslim Brotherhood would win elections in Egypt. People have thought me very pessimistic. Now the votes are starting to come in, and…it’s much worse than I thought. My prediction that the Brotherhood and the other Islamists would gain a slight majority seems to have been fulfilled, and then some. According to most reports, the Brotherhood is scoring at just below 40 percent all by itself.
The results are worse than expected for two reasons.
First: the votes we now have come from the most urban areas of the country. If there are Facebook sophisticates, they’re going to be in Cairo and Alexandria. If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile? If the fascist party came in first in some European countries’ Social Democratic districts, you know you are in trouble.
The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.
Second: the moderate parties didn’t even come in second—they came in third, or close to it. The Salafists—people who are even more radical than the Muslim Brotherhood—came in second. That they did that well is a surprise. That they did that well without bumping the Brotherhood down a notch is really shocking.
Estimates for the Justice Party, the Facebook kids of January, are getting 5 to 10 percent. Even together with the other two main moderate parties, that means the liberals won’t be able to block anything. Already the Brotherhood is tasting blood and talking about pressing the army junta to accelerate the turnover of power.
It’s hard to see, though, that there can be any such transfer of power. The voting is far from finished and will be going on for about three months more, followed by a presidential election. And yes, the results so far suggest that the Islamists will also win the presidency.
That’s when the fun really starts. President Barack Obama is going to face a challenge he is incapable of meeting, since he doesn’t even understand what’s going on. He’s like a man who has been told that a ferocious lion is really a playful kitten and then tries to feed it by hand.…
The Wall Street Journal is saying that the Salafists will push the Brotherhood further to the “right,” and that’s a very sensible point. Why should the Brotherhood even pretend to be moderate when the people have spoken and they want Sharia with cherries on top?
So the Islamists won and the election was fair. Should we feel good that democracy has functioned and that the people are getting what they want? Or should we feel bad that the people want a repressive dictatorship, the repression of women, the suppression of Christians, conflict with Israel, hatred of the West, and the freezing of Egyptian society into a straitjacket that can only lead to continued poverty and increasing suffering?…
The vote count [will] become clearer…but now we know: this is what (Egyptian) democracy looks like.
National Review, December 3, 2011
I’ve been alarmed by the latest polls. No, not from Iowa and New Hampshire, although they’re unnerving enough. It’s the polls from Egypt. Foreign policy has not played a part in the U.S. presidential campaign, mainly because we’re so broke that the electorate seems minded to take the view that if government is going to throw trillions of dollars down the toilet they’d rather it was an Al Gore-compliant Kohler model in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie than an outhouse in Waziristan. Alas, reality does not arrange its affairs quite so neatly, and the world that is arising in the second decade of the 21st century is increasingly inimical to American interests, and likely to prove even more expensive to boot.
In that sense, Egypt is instructive. Even in the giddy live-from-Tahrir Square heyday of the “Arab Spring” and “Facebook Revolution,” I was something of a skeptic. Back in February, I chanced to be on Fox News with Megyn Kelly within an hour or so of Mubarak’s resignation. Over on CNN, Anderson Cooper was interviewing telegenic youthful idealists cooing about the flowering of a new democratic Egypt. Back on Fox, sourpuss Steyn was telling Megyn that this was “the unraveling of the American Middle East” and the emergence of a post-Western order in the region. In those days, I was so much of a pessimist I thought that in any election the Muslim Brotherhood would get a third of the votes and be the largest party in parliament. By the time the actual first results came through last week, the Brothers had racked up 40 percent of the vote—in Cairo and Alexandria, the big cities wherein, insofar as they exist, the secular Facebooking Anderson Cooper types reside. In second place were their principal rivals, the Nour Party…[which] translates into English as “the Even More Muslim Brotherhood.…” In the so-called Facebook Revolution, two-thirds of the Arab world’s largest nation is voting for the hard, cruel, bigoted, misogynistic song of sharia.
The short 90-year history of independent Egypt is that it got worse. Mubarak’s Egypt was worse than King Farouk’s Egypt, and what follows from last week’s vote will be worse still. If you’re a Westernized urban woman, a Coptic Christian, or an Israeli diplomat with the goons pounding the doors of your embassy, you already know that. The Kingdom of Egypt in the three decades before the 1952 coup was flawed and ramshackle and corrupt, but it was closer to a free-ish pluralist society than anything in the years since. In 1923, its finance minister was a man called Joseph Cattaui, a member of parliament, and a Jew. Couldn’t happen today. Mr. Cattaui’s grandson wrote to me recently from France, where the family now lives. In the unlikely event the forthcoming Muslim Brotherhood government wish to appoint a Jew as finance minister, there are very few left available. Indeed, Jews are so thin on the ground that those youthful idealists in Tahrir Square looking for Jews to club to a pulp have been forced to make do with sexually assaulting hapless gentiles like the CBS News reporter Lara Logan. It doesn’t fit the narrative, so even Miss Logan’s network colleagues preferred to look away. We have got used to the fact that Egypt is now a land without Jews. Soon it will be a land without Copts. We’ll get used to that, too.
Since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact two decades ago we have lived in a supposedly “unipolar” world. Yet somehow it doesn’t seem like that, does it? The term “Facebook Revolution” presumes that technology marches in the cause of modernity.… But in London, young Muslim men use their cellphones to share Islamist snuff videos of Westerners being beheaded in Iraq. In les banlieues of France, satellite TV and the Internet enable third-generation Muslims to lead ever more disassimilated, segregated lives, immersed in an electronic pan-Islamic culture, to a degree that would have been impossible for their grandparents. To assume that Western technology in and of itself advances the cause of Western views on liberty or women’s rights or gay rights is delusional.…
O SENDS THE WRONG SIGNAL ON EGYPT
NY Post, November 29, 2011
As Egypt launched a 10-day parliamentary election yesterday, President Obama was setting the wrong tone. [Last week], the White House chastised Egypt’s military rulers and urged them to “immediately” transfer power to…well, that part remained unclear, so let’s fill it in: the Islamists.
The generals of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces—Egypt’s rulers since President Hosni Mubarak was run out of office back in February—believe that letting go of power will result in fawca hareema—Arabic for “chaos,” a word now dominating the local vocabulary. With no credible economic plan or viable liberal-minded leader in sight, they have a point.
Sure, since assuming power, Field Marshall Mohammed Hussein Tantawi & Co. have grown too comfortable controlling a country that we hoped would become a democracy. And yes, the SCAF elite also has too many tentacles in Egypt’s economy. But the alternatives aren’t much better.… The young men and women that forced out Mubarak won’t make many gains in the current election for parliament or next June’s presidential poll.…
Which leaves the Muslim Brotherhood and the other Islamists, who seek to rule Egypt by sharia and steer it away from the West. In the runup to this week’s election, as the army increasingly signaled that the elected parliament and a new “civilian” government would become its puppet, the Islamists took to Tahrir Square to show their dissatisfaction.…
Meanwhile, at 3 a.m. [the next] morning, the White House released a statement: “Full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible.” That message…amounted to a public spanking of Tantawi.
The White House has been wishy-washy on much worse atrocities in places like Syria, but now it’s willing to turn on the Egyptian army, the one institution that’s identified with US interests in Cairo. And who’s gaining from this public spanking? As Brookings Institution foreign-policy director (and Obama supporter) Martin Indyk told The New York Times, “The ones who benefit most from it are the people who don’t necessarily have our best interests in mind—the Islamists.”
Alarmed Israeli officials reportedly sent hurried messages to DC over the weekend, warning Obama against dropping Tantawi by the wayside, as he did to Mubarak last winter. (The army is the only force willing to maintain a minimum facade of keeping intact the peace treaty with Israel—which is the basis for the $3.1 billion a year in US aid to Cairo.)
But America’s interests in Cairo go further than assuring the peace treaty with Israel. Egypt is the most populous, and for decades most influential, Arab country. A fast descent into chaos would strengthen only the Islamists and assures that anti-Americanism will intensify in its aftermath—in Egypt and across the region.
In a rush to declare Democracy Now, we tend to forget a hard-learned lesson…: Having elections before other elements of good governance are established can actually set the cause of democracy back. To help Egyptians progress toward real democracy, we must give them some time to build it up. In the meantime, we have little choice but to back the army, the one power that for now can assure some stability and that remains pro-American.
THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD IS RISING
AND APPEASEMENT IS NOT AN OPTION
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
FoxNews.com, December 01, 2011
How would the media and politicians react if 5,000 “activists” chanted “death to Jews” outside a City Hall in your community? How would European religious leaders react if neo-Nazis packed the Cologne Cathedral or Notre Dame to threaten Muslims, Jews and gays?
We all know the answer: Loud and sustained protests of “Not on our Watch.”
But last week, Egypt’s ascendant Muslim Brotherhood provided a foretaste of their definition of religious tolerance during a rally convened at Cairo’s most prominent mosque. 5,000 people joined where the chant “one day we shall kill all the Jews “ echoed time and again along with “Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Judgment Day is coming.”
The world’s reaction? So far—stone cold silence. Not from the media, nor Interfaith talking heads, not the EU, and as far as we know nothing from the Obama administration. If world leaders lacked the courage to protest those genocidal rants over the weekend, they are unlikely to utter a word now that the first round of democratic elections gives every indication that the next Egyptian government will be lead by the very same Muslim Brotherhood.
Unfortunately, weakness and wishful thinking seem to be the twin pillars of current U.S. and Western European thinking about Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, much as it was about Hitler’s Nazi Party during the pre-World War II era of European appeasement.
Formed in the late 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood—an Egyptian organization with global affiliates in North Africa, Hamas-run Gaza, and even Europe and the U.S.—consistently opposed the democratic process until a few years ago when it cynically decided that “one man, one vote, one time” could be its ticket to power.
With an estimated 40% of the vote in Egyptian parliamentary elections…the Muslim Brotherhood now opportunistically denies for political advantage its longstanding opposition toward democracy and the rights of Egypt’s women and Coptic Christians.
But about one thing it’s unwaveringly consistent: its hatred of Israel and Jews everywhere.
Such rants by the Brotherhood are designed not only to mobilize the mass of Egypt’s voters—as high as 80 percent of whom according to recent public opinion polls support Sharia-law imposed death sentences for homosexuals, adulterers, and Muslims who convert to another religion—but to lay the groundwork for killing Egypt’s thirty-year old peace treaty with Israel.
Hatred of the Jews has been consistent Brotherhood policy before and during World War II when Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna teamed with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, as well as Adolf Hitler in trying to create a Jew-free Middle East. The Brotherhood founded its first branch in Britain’s Palestine mandate to fight against the creation of Israel in 1945. Assassinated in Egypt in 1949, Hassan al-Banna never set foot in the Palestinian territories, yet Hamas considers him their “martyr.”
Despite this clear record of hatred for Jews and Israel, as well as imposing Sharia law, western leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, embraced official contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood last July. The sad truth is that the Obama administration’s “engagement,” in addition to immediately deflating the hopes of Egyptians campaigning for a truly democratic society, will likely produce disastrous results infinitely greater to those spawned by the Bush administration’s decision to legitimate Hamas’ participation in the 2006 Palestinian elections. That led to Gaza’s rapid conversion into a theocratic dictatorship, bringing misery to the people of Gaza, and the firing of thousands of missiles killing and maiming Israeli civilians.
The abrogation by a Muslim Brotherhood-led Egypt of its peace treaty with Israel would edge the Middle East, already on edge because of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, closer to a catastrophic regional conflict.
The world must begin to hold the Muslim Brotherhood accountable for their words and deeds. A Muslim Brotherhood unleashed further threatens religious minorities, and the hopes of the multitudes who risked life and limb in Tahrir Square to demand freedom and a better future, not an autocratic theocracy.
There may be no easy answers. But one thing is clear. Global appeasement of the Brotherhood will only ensure that last week’s genocidal slogans will soon become tomorrow’s policy.
(Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centerin Los Angeles,
is a member of CIJR’s International Board.)
Leon Volovici (1938-2011)
A dear friend, Leon Volovici z’l left us on December 2, 2011.
Leon was a valuable member of CIJR’s academic council. He was the author of multiple books, including Encounters in Jerusalem (2001), New Encounters in Jerusalem (2007), and his latest, From Yassi to Jerusalem and Back (2010).
Leon also edited Journal 1939-1944, the Romanian-Jewish Holocaust, by Mihail Sebastian (Ivan R. Dee, Chicago, 2000).
Leon was a participant in the latest Conference on Romanian Jewry held in Israel November 6-9, 2011.
We will miss you, Leon! CIJR extends its deepest sympathies to Leon’s family.