A man wound yesterday in clashes in Cairo
“YOU CAN’T HAVE A COUP D’ÉTAT WITHOUT AN ÉTAT”
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach four articles connected to the ongoing change of government / coup / anti-Islamic revolution in Egypt.
In the first article, Roger Boyes writes in The Times of London about how “the Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy.” He says “What is happening in Egypt marks the death of an idea: that greater political choice and free speech could swiftly transform the Middle East. That turns out to have been a Western mirage in the desert. None of the European points of reference, from the uprisings of 1848 to the toppling of communism in 1989, really applied to the modern Arab world, not to the teeming urban poor of Cairo, nor the frustrated medical students of Bahrain nor the warlords of Libya. We wanted a different outcome. We wanted dictatorship to be replaced by democracy. Instead it was replaced by the escalating collapse of nation states… Here’s the rub: you can’t have a coup d’état without an état. And there just isn’t much of a state structure left, not in Egypt, not in Libya, not in Syria.”
In the second piece, Fraser Nelson writes in the (London) Daily Telegraph that “It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most.” (Tom Gross: And I would add, among other things: a free press, and tolerance and respect for minorities.)
In the third piece, the Washington Post reports that IkhwanOnline, the official website of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, posted an article on Thursday asserting that the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is secretly Jewish.
The website also stated that Mohamed ElBaradei (the relatively moderate former nuclear negotiator who some think should now be appointed Egyptian prime minister) was also a secret friend of the Jews because ElBaradei had refused to participate in a conference that denied the Holocaust.
(Tom Gross adds: Millions of Egyptians routinely engage in conspiracy theories – often anti-Semitic and anti-American. Western diplomats expressed astonishment at the outright anti-Semitism former president Morsi expressed last year in private meetings with them. If they were aware of Morsi’s long record of making anti-Semitic statements, they would not have been surprised.)
In the fourth piece, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes that Hamas stands to be the major loser in the popular revolt in Egypt against the Muslim Brotherhood. (Hamas is ideologically part of the Muslim Brotherhood.)
-- Tom Gross
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1. “The Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy” (By Roger Boyes, The Times of London, July 2, 2013)
2. “It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most” (By Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph (London), July 5, 2013)
4. “Muslim Brotherhood site says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish” (By Max Fisher, Washington Post, July 5, 2013)
4. “Hamas, First Victim of Egypt Revolt” (By Daoud Kuttab, Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse, July 3, 2013)
THE ESCALATING COLLAPSE OF NATION STATES IN THE MIDEAST
The Arab Spring unleashed disorder, not democracy
By Roger Boyes
The Times (of London)
July 2, 2013
The Arab Spring has failed. Angry crowds ransacked the offices of Egypt’s democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi, this week just as they once forced their way into the marble palaces of the region’s dictators. The mob set the place on fire and if there had been a statue of the president they would surely have toppled it.
What is happening in Egypt is not just part of a global revolt against austerity or a protest against the yawning gulf between rich and poor. It marks the death of an idea: that greater political choice and free speech could swiftly transform the Middle East. That turns out to have been a Western mirage in the desert. None of the European points of reference, from the uprisings of 1848 to the toppling of communism in 1989, really applied to the modern Arab world, not to the teeming urban poor of Cairo, nor the frustrated medical students of Bahrain nor the warlords of Libya.
We wanted a different outcome. We wanted dictatorship to be replaced by democracy. Instead it was replaced by the escalating collapse of nation states. In the squares and streets of Cairo we can watch this tumbling-down in real time. There are plenty of men with weapons in the mob; guns have been flooding in from the Libyan surplus stockpiles and amateur armourers make improvised ones, called fards, that fire birdshot. These were fired at President Morsi’s HQ this week. Because the police are all but invisible, because there has been a twelvefold increase in armed robberies since the 2011 “Spring”, because the murder rate has increased 300 per cent, the small arms market is booming.
In all other respects, though, the economy is shrivelling. One quarter of the population are struggling to live below the very low Egyptian poverty line. Unemployment has soared. To keep fuel and food subsidies — and thus head off further unrest — President Morsi has dipped into foreign reserves, which have plunged from $36 billion before the Spring to $13 billion last March.
You could put this down to Mr Morsi’s incompetence, or at least to the failure of his Muslim Brotherhood to reinvent itself as a governing class. More charitably, you could blame the huge corruption and wastefulness of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. But it is a more general malaise. The Egyptians were rightly proud that they (like the Tunisians before them) were able to unseat their dictator themselves rather than by a Western invasion in the manner of Saddam Hussein.
That brief satisfaction has now given way to fury that the State can no longer meet expectations of security or prosperity — and a gathering sense that the Islamists are actually afraid to govern, or to accept the consequences of leadership. Thus Mr Morsi eagerly accepted $4 billion from Qatar and Saudi Arabia this year because it was easier to be in hock to Arab oil-producers than to swallow the conditions of an IMF rescue package.
Across the region the State is only just functioning. In Libya the Gaddafi-enforced consensus among tribes has given way to outright rivalry. In Syria few still believe that Bashar Assad will be able to rescue even the shell of the state that he inherited from his father. Rather, the to-and-fro of the fighting, seemingly random to Western outsiders, seems to reflect Assad’s determination to establish a secure Alawite enclave connected through a land corridor to Hezbollah-controlled areas of northern Lebanon.
Much blood has still to flow but the Syrian outcome may well be two dysfunctional states, one controlled by Assad or by Alawite generals who have displaced him, and the other by a Western-backed rebel administration.
Nobody in the region is getting what he or she wants. Minorities feel threatened. Women are more marginalised than before the Spring. Justice is as corrupt. In Egypt official courts have virtually withdrawn from the Sinai, replaced by Sharia justice. And according to some estimates 80 per cent of the secret police were previously employed by Mr Mubarak.
Is that what the West wants? Probably not, but nobody is really asking us: two years after the Arab Spring, the West is even more helpless than it was. The Army may soon become a pivotal force in Egypt again.
Yesterday it gave the Government of President Morsi 48 hours to satisfy the (unspecified) demands of the people, otherwise it would take over the reins. The military high command says that the swirling crowds have now become a matter of national security (code for a putsch that would probably throw its weight behind a transitional government of technocrats until parliamentary elections later in the year).
So the West’s dilemma is more or less the same as it was two years ago: do we accept a military takeover that brings a semblance of stability to a strategically important country? Or do we speak out for a democratic process that is in part the product of our imaginations? My bet is that, in our funk, we will accept the Army as the least-worst option and pretend to believe its self-portrayal as the guardian of the people.
But here’s the rub: you can’t have a coup d’état without an état. And there just isn’t much of a state structure left, not in Egypt, not in Libya, not in Syria.
IT IS CAPITALISM, NOT DEMOCRACY, THAT THE ARAB WORLD NEEDS MOST
It is capitalism, not democracy, that the Arab world needs most
Property rights for aid: this could be the most effective anti-poverty strategy in history
By Fraser Nelson
Daily Telegraph (London)
July 5, 2013
To watch events in Egypt is like seeing a videotape of the Arab Spring being played backwards. The ballot box has been kicked away, the constitution torn up, the military has announced the name of a puppet president – and crowds assemble in Tahrir Square to go wild with joy. The Saudi Arabian monarchy, which was so nervous two years ago, has telegrammed its congratulations to Cairo’s generals. To the delight of autocrats everywhere, Egypt’s brief experiment with democracy seems to have ended in embarrassing failure.
Normally, Western leaders would be lining up to deplore a coup d’etat, but yesterday even William Hague seemed lost for words. As a rule of thumb, he says, Britain prefers civilian rule. But when asked to condemn the Cairo coup, he declined. The Arab world’s Twitter accounts, once full of revolutionary optimism, have turned into a depository of despair. “Egypt has taught me that democracy is a lie and an elected president is a myth,” wrote Ahmed al-Husseini, a Sunni preacher from Bahrain. “No parliament, no elections, no ballot boxes. All lies.”
He has a point. Egypt’s election turned out to be like an Irish EU referendum: voters could give any answer they liked, as long as it was the right one. The army didn’t like how things were going, so it has asked voters to choose again. While the West was celebrating Egypt joining the comity of democratic nations, Egyptians themselves were sliding into an economic abyss, with terrifying shortages of fuel, food and security. Sectarian violence has been thrown into the mix, with persecution of the Coptic Christians followed by Sunni v Shia strife. The murder rate trebled. Things were falling apart, which is why the generals were welcomed back.
But the Arab Spring was a demand for freedom, not necessarily democracy – and the distinction between the two is crucial. Take, for example, the case of Mohammed Bouazizi, who started this chain of events by burning himself alive on a Tunisian street market two years ago. As his family attest, he had no interest in politics. The freedom he wanted was the right to buy and sell, and to build his business without having to pay bribes to the police or fear having his goods confiscated at random. If he was a martyr to anything, it was to capitalism.
All this has been established by Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist who travelled to Egypt to investigate the causes of the Arab Spring. His team of researchers found that Bouazizi had inspired 60 similar cases of self-immolation, including five in Egypt, almost all of which had been overlooked by the press. The narrative of a 1989-style revolution in hope of regime change seemed so compelling to foreigners that there was little appetite for further explanation. But de Soto’s team tracked down those who survived their suicide attempts, and the bereaved families. Time and again, they found the same story: this was a protest for the basic freedom to own and acquire ras el mel, or capital.
Bouazizi killed himself after police confiscated all his fruit and a pair of second-hand electronic scales. This was all he had. He was a gifted trader; he had hoped to save enough money to buy a car and grow his business. On the face of it, losing some fruit and a £100 pair of scales seems like an odd basis for suicide. But having made enemies of the police, Bouazizi realised he would not be allowed to trade again. His family say he felt his life had ended and that, if he died for any cause, it should be that the poor should be able to buy and sell.
For most of the developing world, no such right exists. In theory, everyone is protected by law. But in practice, the process of acquiring a legal licence is so riddled with bribery and bureaucracy that only a small minority can afford to go through with it. To de Soto, this explains much of world poverty. Step out of the door of the Nile Hilton, he says, and you are not leaving behind the world of internet, ice machines and antibiotics. The poor have access to all of these things if they really want it. What you are leaving behind is the world of legally enforceable transactions of property rights. These traders do not really break the law – the law breaks them.
Take Fadoua Laroui, a Moroccan mother, whose suicide was filmed. She explained her reasons before setting herself alight. “I am going to immolate myself,” she said. “I am doing this to protest against hogra and economic exclusion.” Hogra means contempt towards small traders, the contempt which Bouazizi was shown by the police. A similar story was told by the survivors, and the relatives of the deceased. As Bouazizi’s brother explained to de Soto: “People like Mohammed are concerned with doing business. They don’t understand anything about politics.”
Technically, the law covers everyone. But under Hosni Mubarak, for example, opening a small bakery in Cairo took more than 500 days of bureaucracy. To open a business in Egypt means dealing with 29 government agencies. The same story is true throughout the region: the average Arab needs to present four dozen documents and endure two years of red tape to become the legal owner of land or business. If you don’t have the time or money for this, you are condemned to life in the black market: no matter how good you are, you will never trade your way out of poverty. Arabs are so angry about this that they are burning themselves alive.
William Hague said yesterday that Egyptians want the freedom to express their views and choose their governments. Stability, he said, “comes from democratic institutions”. Yet there has been depressingly little evidence of this stability in democratic Egypt – as the Saudis are gleefully pointing out. This sets a terrible example to other fledgling democracies: that if things get tough, the army can eject the government and start again. Whoever follows Mohammed Morsi as president will know that, in effect, he serves at the pleasure of the military.
A few weeks ago, de Soto told the US Congress that the West has fundamentally misread the Arab Spring and is missing a massive opportunity. Bouazizi, and the five Egyptians who self-immolated, spoke for 380 million Arabs who lack property rights or any legal protection. This applies to Britain: if we were to become champions of these people, and demand the extension of property rights in return for our foreign aid, it could be the most effective anti-poverty strategy ever devised. And it might make us millions of new friends in the Arab world.
This is not a new idea, but the revival of an old one. As Margaret Thatcher once put it, “being democratic is not enough – a majority cannot turn what is wrong into right”. Freedom, she said, depends on the strength of the institutions: law and order, a free press, the police and an army that serves the government rather than supervises it. History is proving her right – in Russia, Afghanistan, Iraq and now in Egypt. The façade of democracy can be horribly deceptive; it is the strength of institutions that decides if nations rise or fall.
MANSOUR “IS AN AMERICAN AND ISRAELI AGENT”
Muslim Brotherhood site says Egypt’s new president is secretly Jewish
By Max Fisher
July 5, 2013
IkhwanOnline, the official Web site of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, posted an article on Thursday asserting that the country’s new interim president, Adly Mansour, is secretly Jewish. The article, since taken offline, suggested that Mansour was part of an American and Israeli conspiracy to install Mohamed ElBaradei, a former U.N. official and Egyptian opposition figure, as president.
Mansour, the supreme justice of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, was sworn in as interim president on Thursday after the military announced that President Mohamed Morsi was no longer in charge. Morsi was a close ally of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has held large demonstrations protesting his ouster. That the Muslim Brotherhood would be suspicious of Mansour, and of the military that toppled Morsi to install him, is not surprising.
Still, the IkhwanOnline article suggests that some elements of the Muslim Brotherhood may be indulging in conspiracy theories that ignore their own role in public outrage about Morsi’s rule and may be promoting the anti-Semitic ideas that engendered so much international skepticism of their rule. There is no indication that there is any truth to the article.
The article cited as its source the purported Facebook page of an al-Jazeera Arabic broadcaster, although it’s not clear whether the Facebook page is real. The article claims that Mansour is “considered to be a Seventh Day Adventist, which is a Jewish sect” (in fact, Seventh Day Adventism is considered part of Protestant Christianity). It further claims that Mansour tried to convert to Christianity but was rebuffed by the Coptic pope, a major Egyptian religious figure, who supposedly refused to baptize him.
The article goes on to connect Mansour’s appointment as president to a global conspiracy involving the United States, Israel and Mohamed ElBaradei. According to a translation by the site MBInEnglish, which is run by Cairo-based journalists and dedicated to translating Brotherhood-penned articles into English, the article claimed that ElBaradei had refused to participate in a conference that denied the Holocaust. This, it says, was “a token gesture offered to the Jews by ElBaradei so that he can become President of the Republic in the fake elections that the military will guard and whose results they will falsify in their interests. All with the approval of America, Israel and the Arabs, of course.”
The article has since been removed, suggesting perhaps that someone in the Brotherhood had acknowledged the potential for criticism. It would be wrong to conclude from just this one article that the Muslim Brotherhood was retreating back into some of its worst habits: conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, the insistence that no disagreement could be legitimate. But now that the group has been forced from power, this is a very real risk — not just for the group and its chances of regaining power, but for an Egyptian political system that is dangerously divided.
HAMAS, FIRST VICTIM OF EGYPT REVOLT
Hamas, First Victim of Egypt Revolt
By Daoud Kuttab
Al-Monitor Palestine Pulse
July 3, 2013
Hamas stands to be the major loser in the latest popular revolt in Egypt, which pits millions of Egyptians against now deposed President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Islamic Resistance Movement, known for its Arabic acronym Hamas, a year ago welcomed Morsi’s election. Both Hamas and Morsi ideologically belong to the same Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, although there is no organizational link between the two groups. In fact, contrary to conventional thinking, Hamas and the Morsi administration have had a rocky relationship despite their ideological closeness. Many Egyptians accuse Hamas of responsibility for the killing of 16 of its soldiers in August 2012 near the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt’s government-controlled al-Ahram observed as late as April that Egyptian support for Hamas was declining.
Reports that some 7,000 Hamas militants were in Egypt to support the Brotherhood circulated in the media despite persistent denials by Egyptian as well as Hamas spokesmen. Like Hezbollah, Hamas is accused in Egyptian courts of engineering the jailbreak of several senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Morsi, in 2011.
Egyptians also believe that Hamas members have been the key source of instability in Sinai. In April, Egyptian soldiers and officers were abducted there, and Hamas was accused of involvement. Although Hamas denies the allegations, they persist, putting Hamas officials on the defensive.
When opponents of the Morsi regime announced mass protests demanding Morsi’s resignation, anti-Hamas sentiment escalated with rumors that Hamas militants would be infiltrating from Gaza to help keep Morsi in power. The rumors caused the Egyptian government to ratchet-up its efforts to close the Rafah tunnels between Gaza and Egypt to control the movement of people and to put the rumors to rest.
Despite these efforts, the rumors implicating Hamas in propping up the Morsi regime continued to circulate, prompting additional Egyptian attempts to close the tunnels and restrict movement, a process that is causing severe shortages in the blockaded Gaza Strip.
Whatever the truth regarding Hamas’ involvement or lack thereof, perceptions in the streets and squares of Egypt put the Hamas movement in the same corner with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Because of this, now that Morsi has fallen, one of the first groups to pay the price will be Hamas.
This comes at the worse possible time for the Islamist movement, which recently lost its base in Syria and financial support from Iran as a result of its decision to oppose former ally and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and join the rebels in trying to bring him down.
Even friendly Qatar might discontinue its political and financial support of Hamas. The change in leadership in Doha, with the transfer of power to Prince Tamim, is said to be the result of a yet undeclared policy to moderate Qatar’s foreign policy. When the pro-Qatari Islamist ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi traveled to Egypt this week, he went out of his way to point out that he had not been deported from Qatar.
The fate of Morsi and Hamas have been linked, and the coming days will determine the fate, for years to come, of the Palestinian Islamist organization that has held the Gaza Strip under its sole control since 2007, refusing every opportunity for reconciliation or elections.