Obama’s Cairo speech

In March US President Barack Obama made a direct address to the Iranian people to coincide with the festival of Nowruz, a sensitive and respectful message unheard of in the previous 30 years of non-existent diplomatic relations between the two countries. Now this week sees President Obama begin a tour of the Middle East and Europe in which he will “reach out to the Muslim world” in a speech in Cairo on Thursday. But with the political landscape changing, particularly the frosty relationship between the US President  and new Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, can we expect a similarly progressive message to the wider Muslim world this time around?

In The Nation Robert Dreyfuss argues that for Obama, merely being “a repudiation of George W. Bush’s wrecking-ball approach to the Middle East” will not be enough. In order to make progress, Obama must pick apart the ““Islamofascist” ball of wax” that the ‘war on terror’ falsely suggested. To do so, says Dreyfuss, he must recognize the diverse political spectrum that currently exists across the region and approach future relations accordingly. Continue reading “Obama’s Cairo speech”

Bombing of Gaza continues

No longer in the mainstream media’s spotlight, Israel continues to bomb the Gaza border area with impunity and the tacit consent of Egyptian leaders, wounding civilians and destroying the life-line for thousands of impoverished Gazans. A report by Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa Al-Omrani:

Almost two months after the war on the Gaza Strip, the border area between the battered coastal enclave and Egypt continues to come under frequent Israeli aerial bombardment. Israeli officials say the strikes target cross-border tunnels used to smuggle weapons to Palestinian resistance factions.

“Israel is still regularly launching air strikes on the border area,” Ibrahim Mansour, political analyst and executive editor-in-chief of independent daily Al-Dustour told IPS. “Such attacks represent a violation of all international rules and agreements, including the Egypt-Israel Camp David peace agreement.”

Throughout the course of Israel’s recent assault on the Gaza Strip (Dec. 27 to Jan. 17), the border zone between Egypt and Gaza was pummelled by hundreds of Israeli air strikes. Sources in the area also say that Egyptian airspace was repeatedly violated by Israeli aircraft during the campaign.

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Egyptian Journalist jailed by Kafkaesque court

Egypt is part of the American “axis of the rightful” and is usually praised by Washington for upholding all the goodies of democracy. On 1 February 2009, Magdi Hussein, a journalist and former editor of the Al Shaab newspaper, was arrested for having crossed into Gaza. He was held up on silly charges, and then sentenced by a military tribunal to two years in jail… Obviously, Hussein’s greater crime was criticizing the Egyptian collaborationist role with Israel in the December 2008 on Gaza. Even voicing the slightest support for the Palestinians or criticism of the Mubarak dictatorship can land journalists or solidarity activists in jail. It is worth reading Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, eIntifada [http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10369.shtml article]:

Egypt is part of the American “axis of the rightful” and is usually praised by Washington for upholding all the goodies of democracy. On 1 February 2009, Magdi Hussein, a journalist and former editor of the Al Shaab newspaper, was arrested for having crossed into Gaza. He was held up on silly charges, and then sentenced by a military tribunal to two years in jail… Obviously, Hussein’s greater crime was criticizing the Egyptian collaborationist role with Israel in the December 2008 on Gaza. Even voicing the slightest support for the Palestinians or criticism of the Mubarak dictatorship can land journalists or solidarity activists in jail. It is worth reading Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani’s, Electronic Intifada article:

While in the Gaza Strip, governed by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas, Hussein witnessed the destruction wrought by Israel’s recent campaign, during which more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed, and infrastructure demolished. Hussein visited numerous bombed-out mosques and homes, as well as the badly damaged Palestinian parliament building, Gaza’s Islamic University and the al-Shifa Hospital, teeming with critically injured civilians.

Continue reading “Egyptian Journalist jailed by Kafkaesque court”

Sectarian Rabble-Rousing

Al-Ahram Weekly, the English language twin of the Arabic daily, is an Egyptian state organ. The Weekly has a broader range of opinion than the tame daily, and does often contain interesting articles. The great Palestinian thinker Azmi Bishara, for instance, can be found in the Weekly. Unfortunately, however, Egyptian regime nonsense concerning the Persian-Shia ‘threat’ is also fed into the mix. This article by Galal Nassar is a sad example. Below is my response to his piece:

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Rumbling from Gaza

The rumbling from Gaza, writes Hassan Nafaa, is the overture to something truly momentous.

The birth of the Arab system is usually associated with the creation of the Arab League (AL), in 1945. But two earlier developments paved the way for the AL’s creation. One was that Egypt, acting as the key country in the region, had a clear vision of what it wanted to do and was ready to act on that vision when regional and international circumstances were right — which is exactly what happened after the end of WWII. The other was that the conflict in Palestine had reached a point where most Arab countries recognised the danger posed by the creation of an independent Jewish state in their midst.

Reeling from the protracted fighting of World War II, Britain gave its endorsement for any scheme promoting unity among the Arabs. The endorsement, which was made public in 1943, was aimed to deter Arab countries from siding with Germany. Egypt, at the time ruled by a Wafd government led by Mustafa El-Nahhas, saw its chance. Soon it opened bilateral and multilateral consultations with Arab countries in an effort to lay down the framework of a regional political structure. The AL came into being as a result. It wasn’t a first step towards federalism as many hoped but a congregation of seven semi-independent countries willing to pass resolutions by consensus, more of a political club than a blueprint for unity.

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