Sunday, February 06, 2011

Egypt, Israel and Palestine

PIAG's Dispatch for February reports on Israeli reaction to the pro-democracy uprising in Egypt, and on concerns from Palestinians and US liberals about the new government that might come to power.

Israelis are concerned that in calling for Mubarak to preside over an orderly transition, the US has abandoned its staunch ally in the Middle East. An opinion piece by Aviad Pohoryles entitled "A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam" accused Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing "a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks." Who is advising them, he asked, "to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president ... an almost lone voice of sanity in the Middle East? The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations ... is painfully naive."

While the small and tentative concessions offered by the Mubarak regime might signal progress to some, Palestinians and their allies have serious concerns that the new Vice President, Omar Suleiman, has been a willing accomplice in the repression of the Palestinians. According to secret documents leaked to Al Jazeera -- the Palestine Papers -- the Mubarak regime, with Suleiman as its point person, has played a key role in dividing Palestinian factions, pressing the Palestinians for unprecedented concessions during the recent peace process, and sealing the Egyptian border during the Gaza War, trapping 450,000 Palestinians and resulting in the death of 1500, most of them civilians.

As the Muslim Brotherhood emerges as one of the leaders working to resolve the standoff in Tahrir Square, some Americans who support the Egyptian people's uprising have expressed concern that free and fair elections could result in a fundamentalist religious state, much like Iran after the uprising against the Shah in 1979. Juan Cole, a Middle East historian at the University of Michigan, explains why this analogy is incorrect. Although the Muslim Brotherhood developed a terrorist wing in the 1940s, that faction was quashed by both the government and the Muslim Brotherhood itself. In addition, secular opposition groups in Egypt are strong, and all favor human rights and parliamentary democracy.

PIAG urges readers to take *one* action this week to support the courageous demonstrators in Tahrir Square or to advise the Obama administration to take a stronger stance against the dictatorship. A talking point: Every day the U.S. buys nearly $3 million worth of armaments from U.S. companies to aid Mubarak's police state. Tear gas canisters thrown at Egyptian demonstrators last week read, "Made the U.S.A." Is this the way to "keep the peace" in the Middle East?