Sunday, January 30, 2011

Revolution In Egypt Continues
Israel Looks On "Anxiously"

This is a screen grab from the Al Jazeerah English Live stream from the square in downtown Cairo where tens of thousands of Egyptians are calling for the resignation of Hosni Mubarek.  (8 a.m. Mountain Time-5 p.m. Cairo time - I had to download Real player and then configure it to get the Al Jazeerah live stream on my Apple).

Al Jazeerah commentators are debating what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meant when she said today the US expects a "peaceful, orderly transition". To what, isn't known. The US so far has continued to back Mubarak.

Following a familiar, often repeated pattern in uprisings in countries where the US government supports an oppressive regime, western mainstream media outlets last night and this morning began trying to discredit the uprising by headlining their stories with overblown reports of isolated looting. However, as events have rapidly unfolded this morning, the media has been forced, for the most part, to resort to reporting on the uprising itself.

As occurred in Tunisia, looting in Egypt is as likely as not to be the work of security forces and police who are trying to create a sense of panic and force people to look to the existing regime for security, says Egyptian blogger and activist Mona El Hatawy. The subscription intelligence news service Stratfor reports that "multiple" sources inside Egypt confirm that police and police auxiliaries are engaged in widespread looting especially in upscale neighborhoods, as a show of force in a territorial dispute with the army.

And as also happened in Tunisia, when business owned by friends and members of the corrupt ruling elite are targeted by protesters, what looting does take place is often against specific, carefully selected targets. As Al Jazeerah's Jackie Rowland reported today, the headquarters of a steel company that was looted is owned by a friend of Mubarek and control's Egypt's steel industry. Similarly, in 1992 when Los Angeles residents rose up after the infamous Rodney King verdict, there was not random looting, as was widely reported in the media, but specific instances of retribution against businesses owned by people outside the community that exploited the community.

This morning masses of tanks moved into Cairo, but the protesters are ignoring them. Fighter jets are said to be buzzing the square. Protesters respond by chanting louder for Mubarek to leave. Police and government security forces are said to have "disappeared."

In Alexandria, tens of thousands are in the streets and their chants are now for Mubarek to be tried and hung. There is "an absolute sense of defiance" among the people, according to the Al Jazeerah correspondent on the ground there.

Reportedly a military leader addressed the crowd in Cairo and told them the military will not go against the Egyptian people, according to an Al Jazeerah correspondent on the ground. Al Jazeerah has been closed down by the Egyptian government but is somehow managing to continue broadcasting.

Hundreds have died so far. There have been several mass prison escapes and/or liberations of political prisoners and common criminals, who have joined the protests, several media outlets report. An Aljazeerah correspondent in Gaza, Palestine, interviewed a young Gazan who had been in a Cairo prison for three after being caught in the Sinai Peninsula helping plot an attack on Israel. He said the prisoners revolted, broke out of their  cells, and were assisted by family members of Egyptian prisoners, and that 4,800 escaped. He got a ride to the border of Gaza from a member of a militant group and entered Gaza through one of the smuggling tunnel Gazans have dug to subvert the Israeli blockade of Gaza. He was interviewed while sitting with male family members, looking fit and contented. Draped around his neck was a Keffiyeh, the black and white checkered scarf that is a symbol of Palestinian identity.

Large demonstrations continue in several Middle Eastern countries following the revolution in Tunisia that forced President Ben Ali from power. It has been pointed out by many that these pro democracy demonstrations are taking place in oppressive regimes the US government has supported. Several neocon commentators have claimed the Bush administration tried to pressure Mubarek to open up opportunities for democracy in Egypt. These claims were quickly shot down. Now Secretary of State Clinton is saying the Obama administration has been trying to similarly pressure Mubarek. Below, President Obama is seen applying heavy pressure to Hosni Mubarek.

It has been pointed out that losing its ally Mubarek, and his replacement with a government less subservient to the US and Israel, could have dire consequences for Israel. It would further isolate Israel in the region Israel politically and could well result in the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel being rescinded.

I have sampled some of the media in Israel this morning, where news stories are usually followed by dozens of reader comments. Today, readers are remaining almost silent about reports on the unfolding revolution in Egypt.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered government officials not to comment on the situation in Egypt.

This from the Jerusalem post this morning:

In his first official comments on the situation in Egypt, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel is "anxiously monitoring" the anti-government protests.

"Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and security in our region," the prime minister said during the weekly cabinet meeting.

Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David Peace accords with Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978, angering many in the Arab world and effectively splitting the Arab Nationalist movement down the middle. Egypt under Hosni Mubarek has assisted in Israel's brutal, illegal, US-supported blockade of the Gaza strip by keeping the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt tightly closed, completing the encirclement of Gaza by Israel's army and navy and transforming Gaza into what many refer to as the "world's largest prison" or a "large open air prison."

Israel only allows a small list of items into Gaza, excluding building materials that would allow Gazans to rebuild their country after Israel's massive slaughter in 2008-2009 known as Operation Cast Lead. Factories, dairies, thousands of homes, schools and much of Gaza's infrastructure were destroyed during a month long onslaught during which Gazan civilians were trapped in Gaza, as Israel kept its borders sealed. Some 1,441 Gazans died, most of them women and children. After the massacre Israel was charged with war crimes in the UN's Goldstone Report.

Gazan children are said by the UN to be getting about half the minimum number of calories they need for healthy development, and Gazan hospitals report chronic shortages of even basic supplies. Shortage of fuel allowed into Gaza by Israel for power plants means Gazans get about two hours of electrical power per day.

An Egyptian government more hostile to Israel would result in Gazans being able to rebuild and engage in commerce with the outside world. The US has supported the blockade of Gaza by Israel as a means of pressuring the people to reject Hamas, the Islamist party that won Palestinian elections in 2006. The elections were supported by the Bush administration until it learned that they had been won by Hamas. Hamas is an outgrowth of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party that is banned by the Egyptian government

Hamas was able to take control of the government in Gaza, but not in the West Bank. The West Bank continues to be ruled by the Fatah party, which lacks any significant public support but which is supported by the US. Fatah, widely seen as corrupt and using their positions simply to enrich themselves privately, has continued to carry on US brokered peace talks with Israel. Recently leaked documents -- being called The Palestine Papers --  show that Fatah has privately offered a long list of important concessions to Israel over the years, demanding nothing in return. Israel has routinely rejected the concessions and instead has sped up the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem that has continued since Israel's founding in 1948.


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