Tag: Salafis


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.


Barry Rubin

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.

Mark Steyn

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.…

Benny Avni
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.

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.


Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Foreign Policy, July 15, 2011


Five months after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Tahrir Square has, once again, been transformed into a mass protest encampment and the epicenter of the struggle for change in Egypt. Thousands of protesters are entering the second week of a sit-in reminiscent of the one that captured the world’s attention during the 18-day uprising that began on Jan. 25.

At the heart of the matter is the feeling of many that the basic demands of the revolution have gone unfulfilled, with little indication that a path for real change lies ahead; that the calls for justice and accountability for members of the former regime and security forces accused of killing protesters have gone unanswered; and that the revolutionary demands of “bread, freedom, social justice” have all but been abandoned.…

In Tahrir, protesters have dug in for the long haul. The middle of the square has been converted into a tent city, complete with winding pathways, food stocking centers, and a hairdresser. Electricity has been routed from street lamps to power fans and recharge cell phones. Wi-Fi Internet connections and satellite TV have been set up. Protesters have organized popular committees to protect the entrances, sweep the streets, and make collective decisions about living in the square.…

The sit-in began after issues that have been simmering for the past five months boiled over in the last few weeks, culminating in massive demonstrations across the country on July 8—the biggest protests since the Supreme Council came to power.

The anger and frustration began to escalate on June 26, when the trial of the much-reviled former interior minister, Habib Al-Adly, and six of his aides was postponed for a second time. The victims’ outraged family members gathered outside the courthouse and pelted police vehicles with rocks as they drove away. Two days later, clashes broke out between police and relatives of those killed in the uprising at an event honoring martyrs of the revolution. The clashes quickly spread to the Interior Ministry and Tahrir Square, where thousands of demonstrators had rushed in solidarity, and escalated into the largest street battles between security forces and protesters since Mubarak’s fall. Security forces used rubber bullets, birdshot, tear-gas canisters, as well as reportedly live ammunition, in some cases, against the demonstrators and taunted them, some while brandishing swords. Protesters fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails, and more than 1,000 people were injured. The fierce clashes convinced many that the security apparatus remains unreformed.…

Less than a week later, clashes erupted at a Cairo courthouse after a judge ordered the release on bail of seven police officers accused of killing 17 protesters and wounding 300 others in the canal city of Suez—widely viewed as the symbolic heart of the revolution. The ruling touched off two days of rioting in Suez, with hundreds of people torching police cars and trying to storm government buildings.… Over the past five months, only one policeman has been convicted—in absentia—for the killing of protesters during the revolution, in which nearly 1,000 people were killed. Over the same time period, more than 10,000 civilians have been tried in military courts, where they are routinely denied access to lawyers and family and receive sentences ranging from a few months to five years.…

Despite the scale of the July 8 protests and the open sit-in, there was no immediate reaction from the Supreme Council. Instead, in what activists saw as another provocation, the military announced that Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi had sworn in a new minister of information, the Wafd Party’s Osama Heikal. The Information Ministry has long been viewed as an integral part of the state propaganda apparatus, and many believed the position, which had not been filled for five months, would remain vacant.…

On July 9, Prime Minister Essam Sharaf vowed to suspend police officers accused of killing protesters and said a panel would be created to speed up court cases against them and those accused of corruption. However, that same evening, the interior minister, Maj. Gen. Mansour Essawi, publicly contradicted Sharaf’s statement and refused to suspend accused policemen.…

A July 12 televised address by the council’s Gen. Mohsen el Fangari…warned that Egypt was “facing a planned and organized attempt to disrupt the country’s domestic stability” and that the Supreme Council “will take any and every action to confront and stop the threats surrounding the country.” In a gesture much-derided by the protesters, Fangari repeatedly wagged his finger at the camera and insisted the military “will not give up its role in administering the country in such a critical time in the history of Egypt.”

The statement did not have the desired effect. That afternoon, in an impressive display of force, thousands marched out of Tahrir Square to the parliament building and the headquarters of the Cabinet of Ministers, which were being guarded by the military a few blocks away. Chanting loudly, they called for Tantawi to step down and blasted the Interior Ministry as thugs. In the evening, Tahrir had its most crowded night since the July 8 sit-in began, with thousands of people crowding the square until the early morning hours in defiance of the Supreme Council.…

The next day, Essawi announced the early retirement of 669 senior police officers in what he called “the biggest shake-up in the history of the police.” While it did not release their names, the Interior Ministry said 18 police generals and nine other senior officers were let go because they were accused of killing protesters in the uprising. In Tahrir, the move was largely viewed as a cosmetic change that did not properly address issues of accountability or a restructuring of the security forces.…

The Supreme Council also announced that parliamentary elections originally planned for September would be postponed until October or November. Many political groups had wanted to delay the poll to give them more time to prepare, and welcomed the move.…

Yet as the days go by, more tents are being set up in the square—numbering between 150 and 200—with no end in sight. Many point to a list of demands put forward by a large number of groups taking part in the sit-in. They include: banning the use of military trials again civilians and the immediate release of all those sentenced in such trials; establishing a special court to try those implicated in the killing of protesters and the immediate suspension all implicated police officers; replacing the interior minister with a civilian appointee and the declaration of a plan and timetable for the full restructuring of the Interior Ministry; replacing the prosecutor general; holding public trials for members of the ousted regime; and replacing the current budget with one that better responds to the basic demands of the poor.

During the 18-day uprising, a common chant that rang out in Tahrir was “The army and the people are one hand.” Five months later, a more frequent chant you hear is for Tantawi to step down and for military rule to end. Egypt’s revolution, it seems, is far from over.


Mordechai Kedar

Independent Media Review & Analysis, July 22, 2011


…Six months [after the Jan. 25 revolution began] the situation in Egypt has only worsened, not improved. Unemployment, which stood at 25% during Mubarak’s rule, has risen dramatically. It is now estimated at 50% or higher, i.e. one of every two wage earners does not have a steady job. The rise in unemployment stems primarily from the disappearance of the tourism industry. Millions of tourists had arrived each year and provided good income for hotel, restaurant and nightclub workers; for taxi and bus drivers; for souvenir and clothing manufacturers; for operators of Nile cruises.… Since the outbreak of the revolution, there are hardly any tourists and those millions of Egyptians who directly and indirectly benefited from such visitors have been without income for six months. Since the unemployed consume less food, clothing and services, many other branches of the economy have suffered from the domino effect of the downturn in tourism. Only a very few of the tens of thousands of Egyptians who are now completing their academic studies will find work.…

Hopes that the new government would clean up the corruption in the public sector have been dashed. Police officers suspected of fatally shooting protestors in January and February have not been suspended, interrogated or put on trial for their crimes. Even Mubarak, allegedly responsible for the shooting of demonstrators, is spending the last few months awaiting trial in a Sharm al-Sheikh hotel rather than in prison.…

The question that has occupied Egyptians this past month is what should come first: should constitutional change precede elections, or should such change be the responsibility of the parliament to be chosen in the next elections. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces resolved the question by deciding to hold elections first; however, they continue to be postponed and are now tentatively scheduled for November. The dozens of new parties will not have sufficient time to organize, giving an advantage to the established parties including the Muslim Brotherhood; the split in that movement, however, has already given birth to five parties and it is unclear if all of them will ultimately run separately.…

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is playing a critically important role. On the one hand, the army took a sympathetic approach towards the revolutionary youth and ousted Mubarak from power. On the other hand, the military undertook the difficult task of running the country during the transition; of restoring the public’s faith in the government corrupt bureaucracy, which has remained largely intact; of stabilizing the economy and of conducting democratic elections in which a president and two parliamentary houses—the People’s Assembly and the Shura Council—would be chosen to jointly establish a government. The public, primarily the young people of the revolution, have well understood this difficult task and have generally accepted the decisions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces over the last few months.

However, this past month has seen a turning point: the army increasingly operates as a ruling body and less as an organization assisting the people in achieving their goals. The public is growing less and less enamored of the Council of Armed Forces and is already waving signs in al-Tahrir Square along the lines of: “Down With the Council of the Armed Forces”; “Council of Armed Forces—Your Credit Has Run Out; “The Revolution Continues”; “Stop Military Trials for Civilians Now”. The names assigned to recent Fridays express the public’s rage at the situation—“Friday of Rage” and “Friday of Warning”—with everyone understanding at whom the rage and warnings are directed.

The above developments have been clearly reflected in the behavior of one of the members of the Council of Armed Forces, General Mohsen Fangary. From the beginning of the revolution on January 25th, he supported the rights of citizens to express their opinions peacefully, and has been very popular among the masses. Two weeks ago, on July 12th, he appeared on local and international media and, in a frightening and intimidating tone, read a statement issued by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces while waving his finger threateningly: “…The council will not relinquish its role during this critical period in Egypt’s history.… Freedom of expression is guaranteed to all, but only within the boundaries of the law. Elections will be the first step, after which the constitution will be drafted. The special courts (i.e. military courts) will not be abolished. The army will not allow violent protests or the obstruction of economic activity; it will not permit the spreading of rumors and misinformation which could lead to disunity, disobedience and the dismantling of the homeland; it will give precedence to the interests of the public over those of individuals. The council will not allow anyone to seize power and will take the necessary measures against threats to the homeland.”

Millions of Egyptians listened with great concern to this threatening announcement, which made it clear to them—from no less than the thundering voice of the popular General Fangary—that the period of hugs and flowers had ended.…

In the next few weeks or months, the [Egyptian] Spring is liable to turn into the Egyptian Summer—hot, steamy, violent and repulsive—in which the cat will be let out of the bag and the youth of Al Tahrir Square will realize that they have replaced one group of officers with another, that instead of Mubarak, they have Tantawi or Fangary, all cut from the same cloth. If conflict erupts, Heaven forefend, it will take place between the revolutionary youth and the army, which, this time, might fire massively at them.

The army may in the interim throw protesters some bones, such as a show trial for Mubarak (if he lives), his wife and sons, and the public might even get to see them swinging from a rope in al-Tahrir Square; aside from momentary joy, however, this will not calm the street. The standing of the Israeli embassy and the peace agreement with Israel might also be impacted, because the army may employ such a stratagem to douse the flames.

In the event of major clashes between the army and the population, many Egyptians are liable to try and reach Israel via Sinai and the open border. Israel must prepare for such a scenario so that it is not caught by surprise when thousands of Egyptians arrive daily, fleeing the cruelty of their army.


Sarah A. Topol
Slate, July 14, 2011


The lease on the gleaming new headquarters of the Nour Party in Mansoura, a large city in the fertile Nile delta 90 miles north of Cairo, was signed just last week, and chairs still in their plastic factory wrapping are stacked against the lime green walls. Seated in the conference room, Sherif Taha Hassan, the spokesman for the local branch of this ultraconservative Islamist party, is beaming as we discuss its chances for success in Egypt’s first parliamentary election since the revolution, tentatively scheduled for the fall. “There is a large Salafi base in Egyptian society. Once people figure out the goals of the party and its [Islamic] reference, they will come to join,” Hassan says, grinning.

Before this spring’s Egyptian revolution, Salafis—adherents to a fundamentalist approach to Islam influenced by Saudi Arabia—eschewed politics.…

Today, Nour is printing shiny blue fliers, hand-painting placards, organizing community outreach meetings, and setting up volunteer medical teams to go into villages to treat the impoverished, as well as offering reduced-price prescription drugs bearing the party’s logo at participating pharmacies, subsidized by Nour. The first Salafis in Egypt officially to register as a political party, Nour has already set up offices in 15 of the country’s 27 governorates, more than can be said for most of the fledgling liberal parties, who remain worried about organizing effective nationwide campaigns before the vote.…

Salafism is not a singular ideology with one leader; instead, it is a broad conservative movement that includes some extreme views. Salafis aspire to emulate the ways of the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, known as the saluf. In Egypt, most Salafi schools of thought are influential in particular geographic areas—Nour in Alexandria, Al-Fadila (Virtue) in Cairo, for example—and the possibility of alliances of different sheiks across the country bringing supporters to each other’s campaigns may help all the Salafis at the ballot box.

The Salafis trying to form political parties have thus far stayed mostly neutral when it comes to controversial issues, but individual Salafi sheiks have made harsh statements to the Egyptian media denouncing the possibility of a Christian president and the right of women to assume positions of power.…

Whatever their numbers, the presence of vocal fundamentalist parties in the next parliament, which will be tasked with selecting the 100-member council that will be drafting Egypt’s new constitution, may well affect policy discussions in this already conservative country. “The Salafis could drag the parliamentary debate further to the right by setting the standard for ‘Islamic authenticity,’ saying that they represent the true voice of Islam,” says Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center.…

Eventually, Hammad concedes, the Nour Party will attempt to apply the whole of its fundamentalist understanding of Islam, which includes archaic punishments, like stoning adulterers and cutting off thieves’ hands. “But this is according to steps. This is not in one morning, that if I am the president of Egypt, I will come and cut off your hand,” Hammad tells me. First, the Nour Party plans to fix the problems of economic disparity in the country, to reduce the factors behind such crimes, then, yes, it will move on to punishment.…

It seems that a popular uprising started in large part by young, liberal, Facebook-savvy activists has brought new opportunities for Egypt’s ultraconservatives.



Jerusalem Report, July 22, 2011


“We know the Israelis have spies here,” says Ahmad Sleiman as he carefully places his oranges in crates outside his fruit stand in the impoverished Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba. “So it’s logical to believe that Ilan Grapel was working for the Mossad,” he continues, as several of his customers nod in approval.

Across town in the equally rundown Shobra district, Muhammad Mustafa, a 51- year-old clothing retailer, echoes their fears. “The foreigners know we are weak now and the chance for destabilizing the country is high,” he says. “So we need to be extra careful these days after the revolution.…”

[Ilan] Grapel, 27, immigrated to Israel from the US in 2005 and was arrested at his hotel in Egypt on June 8, accused of inciting sectarian strife and gathering intelligence. The Emory University law school student came to Egypt to work with a non-governmental organization focused on helping African refugees, arriving before the February revolution that deposed Mubarak. He attended many of the rallies in Tahrir Square.…

Photos plucked from Grapel’s Facebook page show him dressed in olive fatigues, and were prominently featured on the front page of many Egyptian dailies, along with articles detailing his military service as a paratrooper in the Israeli Defense Forces’ 101st Battalion and his participation in the 2006 war in Lebanon against Hizballah. The media has listed the charges against Grapel, including claims that his mission was to deliberately foment tension between the protesters and the military during the 18-day revolution.

Al-Ahram, the leading daily under the Mubarak regime, alleged in an article that “Grapel is an integral part of the Mossad. He has experience and advanced training in the Mossad.…” Grapel’s family has denied the charges against him, with his mother Irene calling them “complete fabrications,” according to media reports. Despite the lack of substantive evidence, many in Egypt were quick to declare Grapel guilty. “The Israelis are always trying to pick up information in Egypt,” says Muhammad Asfour, a 42-year-old state employee. “Being a student provides a perfect cover to learn about the country.…”

The Grapel affair illustrates that Egypt’s transition to democracy is unlikely to reduce hostility toward Israel or to dispel beliefs that the Jewish state is responsible for many of Egypt’s woes. Furthermore, with an unbridled press publishing sensational accounts and new publications competing for readers, episodes such as the Grapel affair are likely to proliferate.

“Egyptians have been taught that Israel is the enemy. That won’t change,” explains a local journalist. “With no censor to moderate views, the media can say whatever they want. And that means writing the most outrageous things against Israel.”





Caroline B. Glick

Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2011


The coverage of recent events in Egypt is further proof that Western elites cannot see the forest for the trees. Over the past week, leading newspapers have devoted relatively in-depth coverage to the Egyptian military authorities’ repressive actions in subduing protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, particularly during their large protest last Friday.

That is, they have provided in-depth coverage of one spent force repressing another spent force. Neither the military nor the protesters are calling the shots anymore in Egypt, if they ever were. That is the job of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The proximate cause of last Friday’s mass demonstration was what the so-called Twitter and Facebook revolutionaries consider the military’s slowness to respond to their demand for ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s head on a platter. The military responded by announcing that Mubarak and his sons will go on trial for capital crimes on August 3.

Beyond bloodlust, the supposedly liberal young sweethearts of the Western media are demanding a cancellation of the results of the referendum held in March on the sequencing of elections and constitutional reform. Voting in that referendum was widely assessed as the freest vote in Egyptian history. Seventy-seven percent of the public voted to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September and to appoint members of a constitutional assembly from among the elected members of the next parliament to prepare Egypt’s new constitution.

The protesters rightly assert that the early elections will pave the way for the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of Egypt, since the Brotherhood is the only well-organized political force in Egypt. But then, the liberals said they wanted popular rule.

The Facebook protesters demanded Mubarak’s immediate removal from power in January. They would not negotiate Mubarak’s offer to use the remainder of his final term to shepherd Egypt towards a quasi-democratic process that might have prevented the Brotherhood from taking over.

In their fantasy world—which they inhabit with Western intellectuals—the fates of nations are determined by the number of “likes” on your facebook page. And so, when they had the power to avert the democratic Islamist takeover of their country in January, they squandered it.

Now, when it is too late, they are trying to win through rioting what they failed to win at the ballot box, thus discrediting their protestations of liberal values.

Their new idea was spelled out last week at an EU-sponsored conference in Cairo. According to the Egyptian media, they hope to convince the military they protest against to stack the deck for the constitutional assembly in a way that prevents the Brotherhood from controlling the proceedings. As Hishan el-Bastawisy, a former appellate judge and presidential hopeful explained, “What we can push for now is that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has to put some guarantees of choosing the constituent assembly in the sense that it does not reflect the parliamentary majority.”

So much for Egypt’s liberal democrats.

AS FOR the military, its actions to date make clear that its commanders do not see themselves as guardians of secular rule in Egypt. Instead, they see themselves as engines for a transition from Mubarak’s authoritarian secularism to the Brotherhood’s populist Islamism.

Since forcing Mubarak to resign, the military junta has embraced Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. They engineered the Palestinian unity government which will pave the way for Hamas’s victory in the Palestinian Authority’s legislative and presidential elections scheduled for the fall.

Then there is Sinai. Since the revolution, the military has allowed Sinai to become a major base not only for Hamas but for the global jihad. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu warned on Monday, Egyptian authorities are not asserting their sovereignty in Sinai and jihadists from Hamas, al-Qaida and other groups are inundating the peninsula.

Last week’s move to open Egypt’s border with Gaza at the Rafah passage is further proof that the military has made its peace with the Islamic takeover of Egypt. While the likes of The New York Times make light of the significance of the move by pointing to the restrictions that Egypt has placed on Palestinian travel, the fact is that the Egyptians just accepted Hamas’s sovereignty over an international border.…

Not only is Egypt denying itself hundreds of millions of dollars in revenues by cutting off gas shipments to Israel, (and Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). It is destroying its reputation as a credible place to do business. And according to the New York Times, it is also making it impossible for the Obama administration to help the Egyptian economy. The Times’ reported this week that the US tied President Barack Obama’s pledge of $1 billion in debt forgiveness and $1b. in loan guarantees to the Egyptian authorities asserting sovereignty in northern Sinai. Presumably this means they must renew gas shipments to Israel and fight terror.

The fact that the military would rather facilitate Egypt’s economic collapse than take the unpopular step of renewing gas shipments to Israel ought to end any thought that economic interests trump political sentiments. This situation will only get worse when the Muslim Brotherhood takes over Egypt in September.…

When Mubarak was overthrown in January, the Brotherhood announced it would only contest 30% of the parliamentary seats. Last month the percentage rose to 50. In all likelihood, in September the Brotherhood will contest and win the majority of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.

When Mubarak was overthrown, the Brotherhood announced it would not run a candidate for president. And when Brotherhood Shura governing council member and Physicians Union leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh announced last month that he is running for president, the Brotherhood quickly denied that he is the movement’s candidate. But there is no reason to believe them.

According to a report Thursday in Egypt’s Al- Masry al-Youm’s English edition, the Brotherhood is playing to win. They are invoking the strategies of the movement’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, for establishing an Islamic state. His strategy had three stages: indoctrination, empowerment and implementation. Al-Masry al-Youm cites Khairat al- Shater, the Brotherhood’s “organizational architect,” as having recently asserted that the Brotherhood is currently in the second stage and moving steadily towards the third stage.

Now that we understand that they are about to implement their goal of Islamic statehood, we need to ask what it means for Egypt and the region.

On Sunday, Brotherhood Chairman Mohammed Badie gave an interview to Egyptian television that was posted on the Muslim Brotherhood’s English website iquwanweb.com. Badie’s statements indicated that the Brotherhood will end any thought of democracy in Egypt by taking control over the media. Badie said that the Brotherhood is about to launch a public news channel, “with commitment to the ethics of the society and the rules of the Islamic faith.”

He also demanded that state radio and television begin broadcasting recordings of Banna’s speeches and sermons. Finally, he complained about the anti-Brotherhood hostility of most private media organs in Egypt.

As for Israel, Badie was asked how a Brotherhood- led Egypt would react if Israel takes military action against Hamas. His response was honest enough. As he put it, “The situation will change in such a case, and the Egyptian people will have their voice heard. Any government in power will have to respect the choice of the people, whatever that is, like in any democracy.”

In other words, the peace between Israel and Egypt will die of populist causes.…

The West’s intoxication with the myth of the Arab Spring means that currently, the political winds are siding with Egypt. If Egypt were to start a war with Israel, or simply support Hamas in a war against Israel, at a minimum, Cairo would enjoy the same treatment from Europe and the US that the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government and army enjoyed in 2006. To block this possibility, the government must begin educating opinion shapers and political leaders in the West about the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood It must also call for a cut-off of US military aid to Egypt.…

With the Iranians now apparently moving from developing nuclear capabilities to developing nuclear warheads, and with the Palestinians escalating their political war and planning their next terror war against Israel, it stands to reason that nobody in the government or the IDF wants to consider the strategic implications of Egypt’s reversion from peace partner to enemy.

But Israel doesn’t get to decide what our neighbors do. We can only take the necessary steps to minimize their ability to harm us.

It’s time to get cracking.


Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, June 11, 2011


Five weeks after the fall of the Egyptian regime, Ayman Anwar Mitri’s apartment was torched. When he showed up to investigate, he was bundled inside by bearded Islamists.

Mr. Mitri is a member of the Christian Coptic minority that accounts for one-tenth of the country’s 83 million people. The Islamists accused him of having rented the apartment—by then unoccupied—to loose Muslim women.

Inside the burnt apartment, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then, one of them produced a box cutter and performed what he considered an appropriate punishment under Islam: He amputated Mr. Mitri’s right ear.

“When they were beating me, they kept saying: ‘We won’t leave any Christians in this country,’“ Mr. Mitri recalled in a recent interview, two months after the March attack. Blood dripped through a plastic tube from his unhealed wound to a plastic container. “Here, there is a war against the Copts,” he said.

His attackers, who were never arrested or prosecuted, follow the ultra-fundamentalist Salafi strain of Islam that promotes an austere, Saudi-inspired worldview. Before President Hosni Mubarak was toppled on Feb. 11, the Salafis mostly confined themselves to preaching. Since then, they’ve entered the political arena, drawing crowds and swaying government decisions. Salafi militants also have blocked roads, burned churches and killed Copts.

The Salafi vigilantes who brutalized Mr. Mitri later ignited a bigger controversy that is still playing out here in Qena, an upper Nile governorate of three million people—almost one-third of them Copts. In April, Egypt’s new government appointed a Christian to be Qena’s new governor, replacing another Christian who had held the post under Mr. Mubarak. The Salafis responded by demanding a Muslim governor and organizing mass protests, showcasing the movement’s new political influence.

The crisis in Qena, still not fully resolved, raises questions about what kind of Egypt will emerge from the post-revolutionary chaos—and whether its revolution will adhere to the ideals of democracy and equality that inspired it.…

Until recently, fears of an Islamist takeover in Egypt centered on the Muslim Brotherhood, a much better known organization that’s trying to project a new image of moderation. While many liberal Egyptians remain deeply suspicious of the Brothers’ true intentions, the Brotherhood now says it accepts Copts—the Middle East’s largest religious minority—in all government positions, with the possible exception of president.

By contrast, many Salafis believe it is forbidden by Islam for Christians to exercise political power over Muslims in any capacity, such as governors, mayors or ministers. “If the Christian is efficient, he could be a deputy or an adviser,” says prominent Salafi cleric Abdelmoneim Shehat.

Unlike the Brothers, the Salafis long refused to participate in elections and dismissed democracy as un-Islamic—a view held by their spiritual guides in Saudi Arabia. Numbering in the millions around the Arab world, Salafis seek to emulate the ways of the “salaf,” the Prophet Muhammad’s seventh-century companions, and usually reject later theological, social and political innovations as heresy. Osama bin Laden belonged to the jihadi current of Salafism that’s trying to overthrow Arab regimes. Many other Salafis, including Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi religious establishment, and until recently, key Egyptian clerics, hold that obeying political rulers is mandatory in Islam.

After the revolution, however, many Egyptian Salafis decided that the shortest way to the Islamic state they desire is through the ballot box. They joined the Brotherhood in backing conservative constitutional amendments that passed in a March referendum. Salafi leaders say they are likely to coordinate with the Brotherhood to field a slate of Islamist candidates for parliamentary elections planned for September.

“We’ve found out after the revolution that the Salafis and the Brotherhood have the same concerns,” says Safwat Hegazy, a popular Saudi-trained TV preacher who belonged to the Brotherhood in his youth and has emerged as one of Egypt’s most influential Salafi voices.…

In Qena, a leafy city that prides itself on being named Egypt’s cleanest, the Salafi militants who attacked Mr. Mitri and radicalized the protests against the Coptic governor were led by a young man named al-Hosseini Kamal. He had been incarcerated under Mr. Mubarak on suspicion of terrorist activities and, like thousands of such detainees, was set free after the revolution.

According to Mr. Mitri and witnesses cited in the police report, it was Mr. Kamal who cut off Mr. Mitri’s ear, after first slicing his arm and neck.… In days after the amputation, the Salafi militants threatened to kill Mr. Mitri’s siblings and to kidnap his children if he pressed charges, Mr. Mitri and his relatives say. Police refused to help, he says. Scared, he changed his initial testimony to say he didn’t know who attacked him.

Instead of prosecution, Egyptian authorities pushed for a “reconciliation” between Mr. Mitri and his attackers. At the reconciliation ceremony, a beaming Mr. Kamal shook hands with the local military commander and other notables.

The ear amputation was a “mistake” and “the young people didn’t mean it,” says Qureishi Salama, imam of one of Qena’s largest mosques and a leader of the budding Salafi movement in Qena. Asked about the concerns of Christians, he responds, without elaborating: “Only those Christians who did something wrong should be fearful.…”


Barry Rubin
Rubin Reports, Friday, June 3, 2011


1. How Egypt is the New Iran

To put it simply, what has happened in Egypt is not just the undoing of the “Mubarak regime” but the undoing of the “Sadat regime,” that is, repealing the revolution Anwar al-Sadat made in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Sadat changed Egypt’s course from a radical state trying to destabilize other Arab countries, destroy Israel, and oppose U.S. interests. He deemphasized spreading revolution, made peace with Israel, and allied Egypt with the United States.

Now, with help from President Barack Obama, those processes have been undone. Egypt will return to the pre-Sadat era to support radical forces, try to wipe Israel off the map, and oppose U.S. interests.

According to a recent poll, 65 percent of Egyptians said they supported the revolution because of economic reasons; only 19 percent cited lack of democracy. Eighty percent of Egyptians say they believe their economic situation will improve in the next year. But it won’t. Foreign investment won’t risk sending money to Egypt; tourists won’t risk going.

When Arab governments can’t provide cheap bread they turn to cheaper hatred and foreign adventures. The only question is the relative proportion of radical nationalism and Islamism there will be in that mix. The mass media will discover this in September. Yet it is obvious in June.

Egypt’s transformation will be for today what Iran’s meant for the last thirty years. Inasmuch as U.S. influence had an effect, Jimmy Carter’s incompetence helped give us Islamist Iran, Barack Obama’s incompetence and ideology helped give us radical (perhaps Islamist) Egypt.


2. Egyptian “Moderate” Leader: We Don’t Want to Fight Israel; We Just Have To.

And what about the Facebook kid moderates? One of their main leaders, Ahmed Maher, gave a talk at MIT on April 29. He said, according to the translation:

“We do not want to have any problems or war with anyone. But there are things we cannot ignore. There are people beside [neighboring} us being oppressed and killed. And they have been treated very harshly, Palestine. We cannot remain silent about something like this.”

In fact, though, the translation was wrong. He used the word “ibada,” which doesn’t mean “oppressed and killed” it means “genocide.”

This mistranslation softens the point and the extreme hatred even Egyptian “moderates” have toward Israel. But let’s leave that aside to consider what Maher’s saying: “We don’t want conflict or war with our neighbors BUT there’s genocide next door and so…if you believe genocide is being committed next door one must act, right? If the United States went to war to “protect” Libyans; how can Egypt not do so to save fellow Arabs and Muslims from being murdered a few miles away?

Thirty years after the Egypt-Israel peace treaty; eighteen years after Israel agreed to the Palestinian Authority ruling almost all West Bank/Gaza Palestinians;  and six years after Israel withdrew from all of the Gaza Strip, the basic Egyptian moderate’s view of Israel has not changed one bit.…

Why should Israel’s giving up all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem have any more effect than Israel leaving the Sinai Penninsula, the Gaza Strip, southern Lebanon, and the populated portions of the West Bank? And how can anyone dare assert that doing so would end the conflict without even having the decency to deal with these facts?…


3. So Who Are the Good Guys in Egypt?

A star is born and her name is Yasmine el-Rashidi. She’s written an E-book on Egypt’s revolution. Her article is featured in the New York Review of Books. El-Rashidi is good at describing conditions in Egypt. Her article begins:

“On a recent afternoon…in a busy downtown Cairo street, armed men exchanged gunfire, threw rocks and Molotov cocktails, and freely wielded knives in broad daylight. The two-hour fight, which began as an attempt by some shop-owners to extort the customers of others, left 89 wounded and many stores destroyed. In the new Egypt, incidents like this are becoming commonplace. On many nights I go to bed to the sound of gunfire.…”

“Even more worrying, it seems increasingly clear that a variety of groups have been encouraging the violence.…There have been a series of attacks on Copts, and the perpetrators seem to include hardline Islamists (often referred to as Salafis), remnants of the former regime, and even, indirectly, some elements of the military now in charge, who have allowed these attacks to play out—all groups that in some way have an interest in disrupting a smooth transition to a freely elected civil government and democratic state.”

The second paragraph is a typical view hinting at a conspiracy rather than facing the reality that Muslim militants have long hated Christians and that preachers and key Islamic texts incite that violence. If any Arabs are facing “ibada” it isn’t the Palestinians, it’s the Christians of Egypt, and also the Gaza Strip, Iraq, Pakistan, and several other places.

At any rate, el-Rashid shows she’s sophisticated by not blaming Zionist and American agents. Many or most Egyptians will do so. Indeed, in one of the first talk-backs to her article an Arab reader says this instability is being promoted by the United States, Israel, and the Gulf states (i.e. Saudi Arabia).

So who are the good guys? El Rashid proposes a candidate: the Muslim Brotherhood. Of course, it genuinely does want a smooth transition to an elected government since they’re the ones who’ll be elected. In her long article, El-Rashid only mentions the Muslim Brotherhood to praise it as being moderate and a force advocating tolerance.

Yet the Brotherhood is allied with the “radicals.” The two groups work together and their differences are merely tactical, not strategic. What’s emerging in many places as the new line among Western media and experts: Al-Qaida, Salafi extremists, bad! Hamas, Syrian regime, Muslim Brotherhood, good!

We’re already hearing that theme regarding the Gaza Strip and as a rationale for opposing a revolution in Syria. Perhaps that’s what they’ll tell us after the Brotherhood emerges as the most powerful bloc in Egypt.

(Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs [GLORIA] Center,and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs [MERIA] Journal.)