Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh
By Belal Shobaki – Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network – February 22, 2016
While Israel’s efforts to link Palestinian resistance to its military occupation to global terrorism are not new, it has expanded its propaganda to address Arab as well as Western audiences. By so doing, it is clearly seeking to exploit the global aversion to movements that have drifted towards extremism and terrorism while claiming to represent Islam. “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the United Nations in 2014. Yet better than anyone else, Netanyahu and the Israeli political establishment know that Hamas and Daesh are not related, as do those Arab regimes that also tar all Islamic movements with the same brush to serve their own ends. 1
Not only are Hamas and Daesh unrelated, they are bitter enemies, and Daesh has denounced Hamas as an apostate movement. Al-Shabaka Policy Analyst Belal Shobaki discusses the major ways in which Hamas differs from Daesh including its approach to jurisprudence; the position vis-a-vis the nature of the state; and relations with other religions. He makes the case that it is especially important for the Palestinian national movement to rebut the attempts to conflate Hamas with Daesh and points out the dangers of not doing so.
Serving Short-Term Political Gain
The conflation of Hamas with Daesh ignores reality on the ground. The political environment in Palestine is defined by the occupation, whereas the political environment in the Arab countries where Daesh emerged is defined by authoritarianism and repression as well as sectarian and religious conflicts, an ideal environment for the emergence of a radical ideology motivated by indiscriminate violence.
For Israel, however, the attempt to link the two may pay off regionally and internationally. Many Arabic media outlets have no qualms about referring to this terrorist organization as an “Islamic” State although it is anything but, while many Western media outlets embrace the Israeli conflation of Hamas and Daesh without scrutiny. Arab regimes are uninterested in defending the image of Hamas. Even the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) does not seem concerned with defending Hamas’s international image given the political division between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas is considered part of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is seen as a threat to authoritarian Arab regimes, particularly in the Arab Mashreq. Thus one way for Arab regimes to fight the Muslim Brotherhood is by claiming it shares common ground or is even synonymous with Daesh, as claimed by the Egyptian regime, and then using this as a justification for excluding the Muslim Brotherhood from participating in political life.
The rapid developments of the past five years in Egypt, the country that provides the only outlet for the Palestinian Gaza Strip, has pushed Hamas into its informal tunnels economy. The official Egyptian stance after Abdel Fattah Sisi’s coup against elected president Mohammad Morsi became tougher against the Gaza Strip, with claims that Hamas was cooperating with Jihadist groups in the Sinai, the same narrative promoted by Israel and its media. However, this narrative is flawed. It is too risky for Hamas to maintain a close relationship with Sinai jihadists, on the one hand, while cracking down on individuals embracing the same ideology in Gaza, on the other. Any links Hamas has established with those groups is limited to securing the needs of the enclave besieged by Israel and Egypt. This interaction is not motivated by a shared ideological identity or shared enmity towards the Egyptian regime. Indeed, Hamas has been eager to keep communication lines open with the Egyptian regime even when accusations conflating Hamas with Sinai’s Salafi Jihadi groups were made in the media. Hamas has also repeatedly said that it is keen on rebuilding the relationship with Egypt in order to ensure the legal flow of goods, services and individuals into Gaza.
It is important to refute this narrative concerning one of the largest Palestinian political movements: Excluding moderate Islamists from political life carries the danger of pushing Palestinian society towards radicalism, in which case both Fatah and Hamas will find themselves fighting takfiri groups. The ensuing discussion will demonstrate the real differences between Hamas and Daesh as well as the very real enmity between them.
Differences in Doctrine
Hamas positions itself as a centrist Islamic movement and an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood, with a rational jurisprudential authority, whereas Daesh adopts a text-based approach that deals with Islamic texts in isolation from their historical context and refuses to interpret them in line with current developments. Hence, for Daesh and other takfiri groups in general, movements like Hamas are secular and un-Islamic, since Hamas is primarily a resistance movement against the Israeli occupation and believes in a moderate Islamic authority. Moreover, Hamas does not take Islamic texts literally; it allows for ijtihad – interpretation and use of discretion. Some scholars have categorized these movements along a horizontal line with the right representing advocates of the text and the left representing advocates of reason. 2 Using this classification, the Muslim Brotherhood can be found a good way down the left of the line, while Daesh is on the far right.
Daesh characterizes Hamas and its discourse as deviant. Hamas for its part has condemned Daesh’s threats and considered these part of a smear campaign that extends beyond Palestine. When threats from Daesh and other takfiri groups materialized into action, Hamas no longer stopped at condemnations. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a prominent Hamas leader, declared “Daesh’s threats can be felt on the ground, and we are handling the situation from a security standpoint. Whoever commits a security offense shall be dealt with in accordance with the law, and whoever wants to debate intellectually shall be debated intellectually; we take this matter seriously”.
Hamas had in fact dealt decisively with a Daesh-like group. In August 2009, Abdul Latif Musa, leader of the “Jund Ansar Allah” (Soldiers of God’s Supporters) armed group, announced the creation of the Islamic Emirate in Gaza at the Ibn Taymiyyah Mosque. The group had previously been accused of destroying cafes and other venues in the Gaza Strip, pushing the Hamas government into a confrontation. Security forces, reinforced by the al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ military wing), encircled the Ibn Taymiyyah Mosque and, when Musa’s group refused to surrender, Hamas ended the emirate project in its infancy by killing the members of the group. Hamas was criticized for its use of violence but justified its actions by arguing that the violence that could have been perpetrated by such groups would have been much worse than that used to eradicate extremism in the Gaza Strip.
Daesh’s supporters in Gaza are far fewer than Hamas’s, mainly due to the fact that these groups have not historically contributed to resisting the occupation. Some polls suggest that 24% of Palestinians think positively of jihadist movements, but this percentage is exaggerated. When some Palestinians cheer for the jihadist groups’ hostility towards the US, it is not because they believe in these groups but rather because they see the US, with its infinite support for Israel, as being playing a destructive role.
Different Stances on Statehood
Hamas and Daesh differ in their view of the modern state, in both theory and practice. As noted above, Hamas has always allowed for ijtihad or discretion, evolving its thoughts and opinions. It is thus unfair to assess Hamas’s stance on the civil state and democracy based on the early literature of the mother movement, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas maintains that it has embraced new convictions in this regard and has come to fully accept democracy and the concept of the civil state. Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood itself has evolved. Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the jurisprudential authority of the Muslim Brotherhood at large, has stated on multiple occasions, including in his book “The State in Islam”, that the concept of the religious state does not exist in Islam. According to al-Qaradawi, Islam advocates for a civil state founded on respect for the people’s Islam-based opinion, and also founded on the principle of accountability and political pluralism. Although the discussion about the relationship between Islam and democracy predates the Muslim Brotherhood, it gained clarity after the 1950s, when numerous Islamic thinkers, including al-Qaradawi, the Tunisian leader and Ennahda co-founder Rached Ghannouchi and the Algerian philosopher Malek Bennabi, affirmed that Islam and democracy were not in contradiction with each other.
At the opposite end, the movement that Daesh represents rejects democracy in its entirety and considers it an apostate system of governance. Although some jihadist groups do not denounce Islamists who take part in the democratic process as apostates, they do consider their discretion flawed. Daesh views any expression of democracy such as elections as a manifestation of apostasy and any movement or individual taking part in elections as apostates. By contrast, the Muslim Brotherhood participated in elections from its earliest days, when its founder Hassan al-Banna decided to run in the Egyptian parliamentary elections that El-Wafd Party Government sought to hold in 1942. Although al-Banna could not run because the government rejected his candidacy, the Muslim Brotherhood has served in Arab parliaments and sometimes in the executive branch.
When Hamas decided not to participate in 1996 Palestinian Authority elections its position was based on a political and ideological stance towards the Oslo Accords. However, Hamas allowed its members to run in the elections as independents. When the circumstances changed and the 2005 Cairo Agreement became the governing framework for the PA elections instead of the Oslo Accords, Hamas decided to participate. It nominated many members in the movement and some independents to a Change and Reform list to run for the Legislative Council, winning the majority of votes.
By participating in the elections, Hamas has offered evidence that it is willing to function in a modern state and a democratic system. It has called for coalition governments inclusive of leftist and secular parties. Its government as well as its parliamentary list included women and its first government included Muslim and Christian ministers.
Daesh, on the other hand, has turned against all modern institutions in the areas under its control, refusing to recognize borders or national identity. It rules through chaotic and individual decisions. Although Daesh has been eager to use administrative terms derived from the Islamic tradition such as caliphate and shura (consultation), the essence of its governance contradicts the majority of unquestionable texts in the sources of Islamic legislation in many ways. For example, it does not abide by the conditions established in the Quran and sunna (the Prophet Mohammad’s teachings) to declare war or the protection of civilians and treatment of prisoners in wartime. Another example is its imposition of jizya (a tax that was levied on non-Muslim subjects), which is not supposed to be applied to the indigenous inhabitants even if they are non-Muslim. Moreover, it has attacked places of worship and assaulted the faithful in their homes, in clear violation of the Quran and sunna.
Daesh, to some extent, resembles hybrid regimes in the Third World that use modern and democratic vocabulary to describe their political process, even though they remain authoritarian in essence.
Polar Opposites in Treating the Other
The most significant difference between Hamas and Daesh is their position towards followers of other religions. During its formation, Hamas published a charter that used religious vocabulary to describe the conflict. Following severe criticism, Hamas effectively sidelined this Charter and no longer considers it an authoritative reference as some of its leaders have confirmed.
In his interview with The Jewish Daily Forward deputy head of the Hamas politburo Moussa Abu Marzouk confirmed that the Charter was marginal to the movement and not a source for its policies. He added that many members were talking about modifying it because several of Hamas’ present policies contradict it. Hamas’ politburo leaders abroad were not the only ones to disclaim the charter. Gaza-based Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad went even further in an interview with the Saudi Okaz newspaper in which he said the charter was subject to discussion and evaluation in opening up to the world. Sami Abu Zuhri, a young Hamas leader who was the movement’s spokesperson during the Second Intifada, urged in an interview with The Financial Times that focus be shifted away from the 1988 charter, and that Hamas be judged on the statements of its leaders.
Today, Hamas adopts the Quranic verse that reads: “Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.” This verse urges kindness and justice when dealing with people of other religions. Unlike Daesh, Hamas has applied this in practice. In addition to appointing Christian ministers to its cabinet, it has celebrated Christmas with Palestinian Christians by sending official delegations to visit during the feast. Meanwhile, Daesh has threatened the lives of those who celebrate Christmas across the world.
Some may argue that these steps are ways in which Hamas tries to beautify its authoritarian rule. However, there is little difference between Hamas’ rule and Fatah’s. The human rights violations committed by Gaza’s government cannot be considered an indication of Hamas’ resemblance to Daesh, but rather an indication of misgovernment. The political leadership of Hamas has spoken out against such practices on occasion, for example as those committed by the Ministry of the Interior under Fathi Hammad.
When some individuals were attacked by extremist groups in Gaza, Hamas and the government acted to ensure their safety and punish the aggressors, as in the case of British journalist Alan Johnston who was freed by Hamas from his radical captors and the killing of Italian solidarity activist Vittorio Arrigoni.
The movement’s position towards the Shiites is similar to that towards Christians. At a time when the Middle East is experiencing a media war between Shiites and Sunnis, Hamas refuses to denounce Shiites as apostates, and has interacted with them politically. When the relationship with Iran became strained during the Syrian crisis, the disagreement was political rather than doctrinal. Daesh, on the other hand, not only thinks of Shiites as apostates, but also all other Sunni groups that hold a different ideology, and believes they must be fought.
Even the two organizations’ treatment of the enemy differs. Hamas identifies the Israeli occupation as the enemy, while Daesh considers everyone else its enemy. Daesh has boasted of its numerous crimes against humanity in its treatment of its abductees and the civilians under its rule, including burning Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh alive. It has attempted to legitimize its inhumane conduct by distorting or misinterpreting religious texts. Hamas paid its condolences to al-Kasasbeh’s family and condemned Daesh’s actions. Contrast Daesh’s brutality with Hamas’ treatment of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit during his captivity, as even the Jerusalem Post reports.
Moving Forward in Relations with Hamas
Both Hamas and Daesh are on the list of terrorist organizations in many countries, including the member states of the European Union and the United States. However, the listing of Hamas is clearly politically motivated: Unlike Daesh, Hamas has neither targeted nor called for targeting any entity other than the Israeli occupation. Hamas was added to the list of terrorist organizations following the events of September 11, 2001, even though it had nothing to do with this terrorist attack. The political nature of the position against Hamas is underscored by the fact that the General Court of the European Union issued a decision on December 17, 2014, urging the removal of Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations. The Court argued that the order to list Hamas in 2003 was based on media reports rather than solid evidence.
In addition, many European and American dignitaries that are known for their stance against terrorist organizations worldwide have met with Hamas leaders on more than one occasion. Those include European parliamentarians and former US president Jimmy Carter, who met with Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza in 2009 and Khalid Meshaal in Cairo in 2012.
The bottom line is that Israel’s attempt to exploit a chaotic Middle East by implicating Hamas as a terrorist group linked with Daesh is baseless. Hamas is ideologically, intellectually, jurisprudentially and politically different from Daesh. Media outlets that adopt the Israeli narrative hurt their professionalism and credibility.
Palestinian movements must not allow the disagreement with Hamas to justify the accusations that harm the Palestinian cause internationally and create tensions locally. Hamas must also realize that the differences between them and Daesh do not mean that its rule of Gaza is free of abuses and human rights violations, and must therefore revisit its conduct and be more careful in its political discourse. It should move beyond the approach of having one discourse for local consumption and another for global consumption since every word uttered by any Hamas leader is marketed abroad as a message from Hamas to the world.
When the Fatah-led Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Arab regimes, especially in Egypt, do not oppose the efforts to link Hamas with Daesh – or, indeed, occasionally contribute to these efforts – they may “benefit” in the short-term by weakening Hamas as a political opponent. However, this carries the dangers of destabilizing Palestinian society in the medium and long-term. Excluding moderate Islamists could push Palestinian society towards radicalism, in which case both Fatah and Hamas will find themselves fighting takfiri groups.
- ISIS: The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Daesh is the Arabic acronym for ISIS. Some commentators use ISIL: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group itself began to use IS in 2014.
- Samir Suleiman, Islam, Demokratie und Moderene, Herzogenrath: Shaker Media, 2013, P 302. Tariq Ramadan, Muslimesin in Europa, Marburg: Medienreferat, 2001, p15.
Al-Shabaka Policy Member Belal Shobaki is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Hebron University, Palestine. He is a member of the American Political Studies Association. He has published on Political Islam and identity and is now working on a book on the Palestinian division. Shobaki is the former Editor-in-Chief of Alwaha Newspaper in Malaysia. He was also a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at An-Najah National University and the Head of the studies Unit at the Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Studies.
Like a stopped clock, even rabid neoconservatives can be right once in a while. A good case in point is a recent open letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed by such neocon luminaries as Robert Kagan, Elliott Abrams, Reuel Gerecht and Ellen Bork, calling on the Obama administration to “press the Government of Egypt to end its campaign of indiscriminate repression in order to advance a more effective strategy for countering violent extremism.”
The Obama administration, which helped blow up Libya and Syria in the name of human rights, has resumed arms shipments to the military regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, which seized power from a democratically elected government in 2013. Washington’s double standard not only undercuts U.S. credibility internationally, it also jeopardizes important security interests in the region.
As the letter from the “Bipartisan Working Group on Egypt” rightly warns, “State violence — several thousand killed during street demonstrations, tens of thousands of political prisoners, hundreds of documented cases of torture or forced disappearance, sexual assault of detainees or family members, reported collective punishment of Sinai communities possibly with weapons provided through U.S. military aid — is creating more incentives for Egyptians to join militant groups.”
The letter adds, “By carrying out a campaign of repression and human rights abuses that is unprecedented in the country’s modern history, and by closing off all avenues of peaceful expression of dissent through politics, civil society, or media, Al-Sisi is stoking the very fires he says he wants to extinguish.”
Just three days before the group sent its letter to Kerry, Human Rights Watch reported that Egyptian security forces, operating with “nearly absolute impunity,” have killed hundreds of dissidents in recent months, detained more than 40,000 suspects, and “forcibly disappeared” dozens of people. University students in particular have been targeted for mystery disappearances and killings.
The government has also jailed some 18 journalists for publishing reports that conflict with government-approved messages. Its massacre of roughly 1,000 protesters in Cairo in August 2013 ranks as one of the worst single-day atrocities in the region.
Government repression is growing more, not less, severe with time. President al-Sisi recently issued an executive decree giving himself the power to fire officials at independent state institutions. The government is also fast-tracking legislation to further crack down on press freedoms, including, for example, heavy fines for contradicting official statements on terrorist attacks. Human rights organizations have termed it “a blatant violation of the constitution.” The executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information said the proposed law “turns journalists into mere conveyors of the state’s official data.”
Yet the tepid response of Kerry’s State Department is to endorse Egypt’s “fight against terrorism,” while expressing the “hope” that the final version of Egypt’s new counterterrorism law will respect “individual rights.” The New York Times rightly called the statement “laughable.”
It is, however, fully in keeping with the Obama administration’s “see-no-evil” policy toward Egypt of late. During a visit to Cairo last year, Kerry praised al-Sisi for expressing “‘a very strong sense of his commitment to human rights.” Then, in December, the United States delivered 10 Apache helicopters to support Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts. Finally, this March, the Obama administration lifted its partial freeze on military aid to Egypt, enacted in October 2013 to encourage movement toward free and fair elections in the country.
When Egypt started buying arms from France and negotiating with Russia, the administration suddenly decided that resuming its full $1.3 billion in annual military aid was “in U.S. national security interests.” That finding came despite the administration’s admission this June that “the overall trajectory for rights and democracy has been negative,” including “arbitrary and unlawful killings” and repressive new laws and executive initiatives that “undermine prospects for democratic governance.”
One factor in the administration’s calculus is its concern over rising numbers of Islamist terrorist attacks within Egypt. They include numerous guerrilla operations by the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State (Wilayat Sinai) and, more worrisome, the devastating car bombing of the Italian consulate in downtown Cairo this month. A campaign of urban terrorism could devastate the country’s economy and turn Egypt into a much greater crisis than Syria.
But as numerous human rights activists warn, Egyptian repression has become the most effective recruiting tool for anti-government extremists. The Muslim Brotherhood’s longstanding doctrine of peaceful political change has lost credibility with young activists, who refuse to submit passively to arrest and torture at the hands of state security forces.
Reflecting pressure from within its ranks, the powerful Islamic movement declared in late January, “We are at the beginning of a new phase where we summon our strength and evoke the meaning of jihad. . . [We] prepare ourselves, our wives, our sons and daughters, and whoever follows our path for relentless jihad where we ask for martyrdom.”
As one student of Egypt’s Islamists notes, “the matter has yet to be settled. Given the Brotherhood’s long history of non-violence, many members don’t find it easy to accept it now even in response to the Sisi regime’s clampdown. But the fear of losing ground is occupying the minds of Brotherhood leaders. The way many Brotherhood leaders are framing this is that if there is a war between society and the state, and if the society has taken a stance, the Muslim Brotherhood should not hinder society’s fight for freedom.”
Last year, Robert Kagan became one of the first neoconservatives to break with conservatives in Congress, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Netanyahu regime to warn about prospects for “a new Egyptian jihadist movement brought into existence by the military’s crackdown.”
“To Israel, which has never supported democracy anywhere in the Middle East except Israel, the presence of a brutal military dictatorship bent on the extermination of Islamism is not only tolerable but desirable,” Kagan wrote. But “In Egypt, U.S. interests and Israel’s perceptions of its own interests sharply diverge. If one believes that any hope for moderation in the Arab world requires finding moderate voices not only among secularists but also among Islamists, America’s current strategy in Egypt is producing the opposite result.”
Kagan’s pithy observations remain as true today as they were then. The advice that he and others in the Working Group on Egypt sent to Kerry last week—urging him to stop whitewashing Egypt’s regime and instead to pressure it to meet international human rights commitments and promote national reconciliation —is not simply humane but the wisest possible strategic counsel.
The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) expressed its surprise on Monday over the decision by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to include the bloc on the country’s list of designated terrorist organisations.
In its statement, the union urged the UAE to “reconsider its unjustified position”.
The IUMS, established in 2004 and headed by Islamic scholar Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, was among 83 movements and organisations that were labelled terrorist groups by the UAE on Saturday.
Also included in the list were the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State (ISIS), Yemen’s Shiite Houthi movement and the Egypt-based Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis militant group.
In its statement, the group said it rejects this labelling, asserting that since its establishment ten years ago, the IUMS “has promoted a moderate approach and discouraged extremism, terror and violence using cultural and educational means”.
“The IUMS has issued dozens of statements against terrorist and extremist groups,” it added.
On its website, the IUMS identifies itself as “an institution concerned with the call (Da’wah) to Islam by tongue, pen, and every contemporary legitimate medium; be it recorded, audio, or visual”.
“IUMS is not a local or a regional union, neither an Arab nor a national one, neither an eastern, nor a western union; rather, it represents all Muslims in the entire Islamic world, as well as all the Muslim [minority populations] and Islamic groups outside of the Islamic world.”
It also asserts that it “does not slant towards exaggerations and excesses, nor does it tilt towards default and negligence, but rather it adopts the centremost approach of the centremost Ummah (Islamic nation), an approach of mediation and moderation.”
The Egyptian-born Al-Qaradawi has been under fire by Egypt’s post-coup authorities for his vocal criticism of the military’s ouster – and subsequent imprisonment – of elected president Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, last year.
Egypt branded the Brotherhood a “terrorist” movement late last year following the bombing of a security headquarters in the Nile Delta.
The label was attached to the movement amid a massive crackdown on its members, supporters and leaders on the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and provinces.
Saudi Arabia also designated the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” movement in March of this year, following in Egypt’s footsteps.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia were amongst the first countries to welcome Morsi’s ouster. Both countries – along with Bahrain – withdrew their ambassadors from Doha last March, accusing Qatar of interfering in their affairs.
Many observers, however, linked the rift to Doha’s perceived support for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Yet, the three countries agreed on Sunday to return their ambassadors to the Qatari capital following a surprise Gulf summit in Saudi Arabia.
A court in Egypt has sentenced 529 supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi to death for various charges including murder, judicial sources and a defence lawyer say.
“The court has decided to sentence to death 529 defendants and 16 were acquitted,” lawyer Ahmed al-Sharif said on Monday.
He added that the ruling can be appealed.
Judicial sources say 153 of the sentenced people are in custody, but the rest are on the run.
According to judicial sources, the defendants have been charged with assaulting security forces and vandalizing public property during the violence that erupted after police stormed two protest camps set up by Morsi’s supporters in Cairo last August.
The military-backed government has launched a deadly crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood supporters after the army ousted Morsi in July last year, with hundreds of people killed and thousands arrested.
According to a report released by the Associated Press earlier this month, Egypt’s military-backed government has jailed nearly 16,000 people since Morsi’s removal. About 3,000 Muslim Brotherhood members are among those who have been put behind bars.
Earlier this year, the Egyptian military overthrew the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi. Much has happened since the initial violent crackdown on Morsi’s supporters. The Muslim Brotherhood, which has been around some 80 years, has been labeled a “terrorist organization” by the Egyptian government, and now even bloggers who speak out against the military are being jailed.
Plenty of neocons cheered the military coup from the sidelines when it occurred. With all of their flap about the US “bringing democracy to the world,” this apparently was a case where a coup was necessary.
Now that 6 months has passed, and the Egyptian military continues to flex its iron fist, let’s not forget the neocons who cheered them into power:
John Bolton on July 3: “we needed the military to stop the Muslim Brotherhood, and I think this coup was the right thing.”
Jonathan Tobin on Aug. 8: “There is more to democracy than voting, and any solution that risks giving Morsi another chance to consolidate power would be a disaster for Egypt and the United States. Washington must be prepared to stick with the military no matter what happens in the streets of Cairo.”
Michael Rubin on Aug. 16: “So long as the Muslim Brotherhood seeks to turn back the clock, impose its hateful and intolerant ideology upon Egyptians of all religiosities and religions, and refuses to abide by the pathway to transitional elections, and so long as it continues to fight in the streets, then it should suffer the consequences of its actions. And if those consequences result in exponentially higher Brotherhood casualties than army casualties, then so be it. That is the truest path to peace.”
Peter Wehner on Aug. 20: “So from the perspective of American national security and morality, having the Muslim Brotherhood in power is considerably worse than having the Egyptian military in power.”
Remember the rule: If the winner of a foreign election is someone that the U.S. government approves of: “Democracy = Good”. However, if the U.S. government does not approve of the winner: “Roll in the tanks!”
GAZA CITY – Hamas are a vital component of the Palestinian nationalist struggle and should not abandon their ideology, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Monday.
The statement from the leftist group was in response to a recent call by the PLO for Hamas to dissociate itself from the Muslim Brotherhood.
“We are not calling on Hamas or other forces to abandon their ideological roots, but we ask everyone to give priority to the interests of the Palestinian people when they build relations with the surrounding Arab and Islamic world,” the PFLP said.
On Saturday, Jamal Muheisin, a Fatah representative in the PLO executive committee, said Hamas should detach itself from the Brotherhood, warning of political, economic, and security consequences if Hamas remained “subordinate” to “this banned terrorist group.”
A representative of the Arab Liberation Front said that Hamas has always prioritized the Muslim Brotherhood’s interests over the interests of the Palestinian people, while Ahmad Majdalani of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front said Hamas was viewed as a terrorist organization by many countries including the United States due to its affiliation with the Brotherhood.
PFLP official Rabah Muhanna was one of many faction leaders who also called upon Hamas to sever relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Gaza government spokeswoman Isra Almodallal told Ma’an last week that while Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood may share ideology, they should not be seen as one and the same movement.
“We are in completely different circumstances,” Almodallal said. “We don’t want people to think Hamas is the same as the Muslim Brotherhood.”
“We don’t want Egypt to punish us the way the Muslim Brotherhood is punished in Egypt.”
Almodallal added that Hamas agreed that “at this particular time” it is best to remain neutral in the affairs of other Arab countries.
- PLO Urges Hamas To Sever Ties With Muslim Brotherhood (eurasiareview.com)
Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered deposed President Mohammed Mursi and 34 other Islamists to stand trial on charges including conspiring with foreign organizations to commit terrorist acts in Egypt and divulging military secrets to a foreign state.
In a statement, the prosecutor said that Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood had committed acts of violence and terrorism in Egypt and prepared a “terrorist plan.”
The charge sheet called it “the biggest case of conspiracy in the history of Egypt”. It accused the Brotherhood of carrying out attacks on security forces in North Sinai after he was deposed on July 3.
It said the Brotherhood had hatched a plan dating back to 2005 that would send “elements” to the Gaza Strip for military training.
The trial appears to stem from an investigation into prison breaks during a 2011 uprising against strongman Hosni Mubarak, when Mursi and other Islamist prisoners escaped.
Prosecutors have alleged the jailbreaks were carried out by Palestinian and Lebanese groups, who had members imprisoned under Mubarak.
Mursi is already standing trial for inciting violence during protests outside the presidential palace a year ago when he was still in office. He was ousted in July by the army following mass protests against his rule.
The Egyptian authorities have launched a fierce crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since Mursi was removed from power, killing hundreds of his supporters during protests and arresting thousands more.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
In an unprecedented article published in Al Shorouk newspaper on 19 October, the prominent Egyptian-American academic, Amr Hamzawy, berated Egypt’s left-wingers and liberals for their support of the 3 July coup. He said that ever since the coup at the beginning of July, democrats in Egypt have had time to sort the wheat from the chaff.
The article pointed out that the liberals and left-wingers who backed the military intervention, “isolated” the elected president and suspended the Constitution, which displayed an incredible lack of commitment to democratic principles. Communists, socialists, Nasserists and Arab nationalists have all shown us that they are unwilling to make political compromises. By agreeing to take part in the de facto government imposed by the military with total indifference to democratic legitimacy, such political groups pushed their ideologies into a long, dark tunnel. The fact that they not only keep quiet about the repression and state killings but also take part tells us all we need to know about such people; they have stripped themselves of all moral and political credibility.
On the media campaigns, the author said they had succeeded in influencing people and this probably contributed to how the Muslim Brotherhood and their religious allies were portrayed; as being irrational politically whilst being caught up in acts of violence and incitement. In turn, this pushed liberal and left-wing principles towards neo-fascism under which the return of repressive practices reminiscent of the security state became acceptable to the general public. It also prompted the use of phrases such as “war on terror,” “the security solution is the only solution,” “the need to exclude the religious right-wing,” and “human rights, civil peace, and transitional justice are luxuries Egypt cannot afford while facing terrorism,” and so on.
Such involvement in the repressive state apparatus has made it clear that democratic movements in Egypt cannot count on the left-wing and liberal politicians to help them regain the rights and freedoms that people fought and died for in the January 25 Revolution. If anyone was in any doubt about this, the rush by these politicians to back the coup leader, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, as president should have confirmed it. They are indifferent to the deception being practiced on the people of Egypt; the concepts of justice and accountability are being replaced by their demands that the state should act “decisively,” as if promoting bloodshed and killing is the way to end bloodshed and killing in society and restore democracy.
They also act as if stability is achieved when the state uses force and violence rather than justice and the law. These dark voices control the public arena and insist on silence or vocal support; no dissent is allowed as Egyptian politics joins the ranks of the fascist elites of the past. Contemporary norms around the world, ironically in the Western countries which have condoned the coup, promote negotiation, tolerance and respect in order to build civil society and democracy. Egypt today indulges in violence and “security solutions” while promoting hatred and exclusion.
Hamzawy noted that new initiatives have already borne fruit, such as the “No to Military Trials for Civilians” group. Self-criticism is leading to the rebuilding of links between rights and freedoms, elections and referendums, legislative and executive institutions subject to responsibility and accountability, as well as between those in the security forces who are neutral and stick to the rule of the law and citizens whose dignity is preserved and who can participate in the management of public affairs.
Since 3 July, the pro-democracy movement’s acknowledgment of the need to distance itself from the parties and movements that failed the 2013 exam has been matched by the economic, financial and media elites’ lack of commitment to the principles and values of democracy. Out of pure self-interest, the latter have restored a repressive regime against the interests of the people of Egypt.
The way forward for the pro-democracy movement, according to the author, is to learn from the lessons of the past couple of years. The future will be difficult, but their success will depend on how well they can re-boot themselves based on this invaluable, if painful, experience.
- Egypt Aid: Elections versus Democracy (nationalinterest.org)
“If one thing has become clear in the wake of last week’s military coup d’état against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, it’s that democracy promotion is not a core principle of neoconservatism,” writes the astute commentator Jim Lobe. Lobe points out that a few neocons (he cites only Robert Kagan) did stick with the pro-democracy position but “[a]n apparent preponderance of neocons, such as Daniel Pipes, the contributors to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board and Commentary’s Contentions’ blog,” tended to sympathize with the coup.
Even Kagan’s support for democracy was far less than an endorsement of Morsi’s right to govern, which he labeled “majoritarian” rather than democratic. Kagan wrote: “He ruled not so much as a dictator but as a majoritarian, which often amounted to the same thing. With a majority in parliament and a large national following, and with no experience whatsoever in the give-and-take of democratic governance, Morsi failed in the elementary task of creating a system of compromise, inclusiveness, and checks and balances.” (“Time to break out of a rut in Egypt,” “Washington Post,” July 5, 2013
It should be pointed out that if democracy required compromise, inclusiveness, and checks and balances, it is hard to believe that many countries conventionally regarded as democracies would pass the test. Certainly, Israel, as a self-styled Jewish State, would not. (The Founding Fathers of the United States in creating the Constitution took steps to try to prevent the liberty of individuals from being oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority” —democracy itself being negative term—but this has not been the case in all modern democracies.)
Instead of a military coup, Kagan held that a better approach would have been to leave Morsi in office but to rely on international pressure to compel his government to change its policies. Kagan contended that Morsi “deserved to be placed under sustained domestic and international pressure, especially by the United States, the leading provider of aid to Egypt. He deserved to have the United States not only suspend its bilateral aid to Egypt but also block any IMF agreement until he entered into a meaningful, substantive dialogue with his political opponents, including on amending the flawed constitution he rammed through in December as well as electoral law. He ought to have been ostracized and isolated by the international democratic community.” In short, Kagan advocated the use of international pressure to essentially prevent the democratically-elected Morsi government from enacting measures in line with its election mandate–and the fact of the matter is that in all of the elections Islamist parties won a significant majority of the overall vote–and force it to attune its actions to the demands of the “international democratic community,” that is, the Western nations aligned with the United States. (None of the previous statements should be considered an endorsement of Morsi’s policies but only a recognition that his government was far more attuned to the democratic process than has been the military junta, with its dissolution of a democratically-elected parliament, arbitrary rule, mass arrests, and killing of protestors against which the neocons would react with scathing moral outrage if committed by Assad or the Islamic Republic of Iran.)
It should be pointed out that while few, if any, neocons actually sought a restoration of the democratically-elected Morsi government, there were different degrees of sympathy for the coup. Max Boot, for example, viewed the coup largely in pragmatic terms, as opposed to democratic ideals. The danger was that the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood might cause them to turn to violence. “On the other hand,” Boot wrote, “if the military didn’t step in, there would have been a danger that the Brotherhood would never be dislodged from power,” which would seem to have been in his mind the greater danger even if the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties commanded the great majority of votes. (“America’s Egypt Policy After Morsi,” Contentions, Commentary, July 5, 2013,
More affirmative on the coup was Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute: “I never thought I would celebrate a coup, but the Egyptian military’s move against President Muhammad Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime is something the White House, State Department, and all Western liberals should celebrate.” Rubin put something of a positive spin on the military’s goals: “The military isn’t seizing power for itself — but rather seeking a technocratic body to ensure that all Egyptian communities have input in the new constitution, a consultative process that Morsi rhetorically embraced but upon which he subsequently turned his back.” (“What Obama should learn from Egypt’s coup,” July 3, 2013, http://www.aei-ideas.org/2013/07/what-obama-should-learn-from-egypts-coup/)
A similar interpretation was offered by Jonathan S. Tobin in his Contentions Blog for “Commentary Magazine” (July 7, 2013, http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2013/07/07/obamas-second-chance-on-egypt-coup/): “[T]he coup wasn’t so much a putsch as it was a last ditch effort to save the country from drifting into a Brotherhood dictatorship that could not be undone by democratic means.” Tobin continues: “[R]ather than setting deadlines or delivering ultimatums to the interim government that has replaced Morsi and his crew, the United States should be demonstrating that it will do whatever it can to help the military snuff out the threat of Islamist violence and then to proceed to replace Morsi with a more competent government.” This “more competent government,” however, did not mean democracy. “In the absence of a consensus about democratic values,” Tobin wrote, “democracy is impossible and that is the case in Egypt right now.”
David Brooks likewise wrote on July 4 in his piece “Defense of the Coup” in the “New York Times”: “Promoting elections is generally a good thing . . . . But elections are not a good thing when they lead to the elevation of people whose substantive beliefs fall outside the democratic orbit. It’s necessary to investigate the core of a party’s beliefs, not just accept anybody who happens to emerge from a democratic process.” But Brooks shows little optimism about democracy in Egypt, holding that the “military coup may merely bring Egypt back to where it was: a bloated and dysfunctional superstate controlled by a self-serving military elite. But at least radical Islam, the main threat to global peace, has been partially discredited and removed from office.” And contrary to the neocons’ nation-building: “It’s not that Egypt doesn’t have a recipe for a democratic transition. It seems to lack even the basic mental ingredients.”http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/05/opinion/brooks-defending-the-coup.html?_r=0)
While many commentators have portrayed the neocons as naïve adherents of universal democracy, which would make it appear that their positive presentation of the Egyptian coup, or at least failure to strongly criticize it, constituted a complete reversal in their thinking, in actuality, they never adhered to the fundamental tenets of democracy without significant qualifications. As I pointed out in “The Transparent Cabal” (which devotes an entire chapter specifically to this issue), the idea of instant democracy would seem to have been simply a propaganda ploy to generate public support for war. When writing at length on exporting democracy to the Middle East, the neocons generally argued that it was first necessary for the United States to “educate” the inhabitants of the Middle Eastern states in the principles of democracy before actually implementing it. For instance, in September 2002, Norman Podhoretz, one of the godfathers of neoconservatism, acknowledged that the people of the Middle East might, if given a free democratic choice, pick anti-American, anti-Israeli leaders and policies. But he held that “there is a policy that can head it off,” provided “that we then have the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated parties. This is what we did directly and unapologetically in Germany and Japan after winning World War II.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 215). Similarly, in the book, “An End to Evil: How to Win the War” (2004), David Frum and Richard Perle asserted that establishing democracy must take a back seat when it conflicted with fighting Islamic radicals: “In the Middle East, democratization does not mean calling immediate elections and then living with whatever happens next.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 216)
Max Boot, in the “Weekly Standard” in October 2001, argued “The Case for Empire.” “Afghanistan and other troubled lands today,” Boot intoned, “cry out for the sort of enlightened foreign administration once provided by self-confident Englishmen in jodhpurs and pith helmets.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” pp. 216-217) David Wurmser supported the restoration of the Hashemites and the traditional ruling families in Iraq as a bulwark against modern totalitarianism “I’m not a big fan of democracy per se,” exclaimed Wurmser in an October 2007 interview. “I’m a fan of freedom and one has to remember the difference. Freedom must precede democracy by a long, long time.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 218) Paul Wolfowitz was enraged by the Turkish military’s failure to sufficiently pressure the Turkish government to participate in the war on Iraq. “I think for whatever reason, they did not play the strong leadership role that we would have expected,” Wolfowitz complained. Presumably, Wolfowitz would have preferred a Turkish military coup over the democratic repudiation of American policy goals. (“Transparent Cabal,” p. 219)
Regarding Israel itself, it would seem that if democracy were the neoconservatives’ watchword, they would work to eliminate Israel’s undemocratic control over the Palestinians on the West Bank and try to make the country itself more inclusive—and not a state explicitly privileging Jews over non-Jews. The neoconservatives would either promote a one-state democratic solution for what had once been the British Palestine Mandate (Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank) or else demand that Israel allow the Palestinians to have a fully sovereign, viable state on all of the West Bank and Gaza. Instead of taking anything approaching such a pro-democracy stance, however, the neoconservatives have done just the opposite, backing the Israeli Likudnik Right, which takes an especially hostile position toward the Palestinians with its fundamental goal being the maintenance of the exclusivist Jewish nature of the state of Israel and its control of the occupied territories.
As Jim Lobe correctly points out, it is not democracy but rather “protecting Israeli security and preserving its military superiority over any and all possible regional challenges” that is “a core neoconservative tenet.” Thus, the neocons used democracy as an argument to justify the elimination of the anti-Israel Saddam regime. And the neocons saw the elimination of Saddam as the key to the elimination of Israel’s other Middle Eastern enemies. They currently support democracy as an ideological weapon in the effort to bring down the Assad regime and the Islamic Republic of Iran. To repeat, the obvious common denominator among these three targeted countries is that they have been enemies of Israel.
The Egyptian military, in contrast, has been quite close to Israel (about as close as possible given the views of the Egyptian populace), whereas the Muslim Brotherhood, like other Islamic groups, has expressed hostility toward Israel, even though Morsi had not taken a hostile position toward the Jewish state. The fact of the matter is that neocons took a tepid approach to the 2011 revolution against Mubarak, though most retained their pro-democracy credentials at that time by expressing the hope that he would be replaced by liberal democratic secularists, and expressed the fear of a possible Muslim Brotherhood takeover. (See Sniegoski, “Neocons’ Tepid Reaction to the Egyptian Democratic Revolution,” February 4, 2011, http://mycatbirdseat.com/2011/02/neocons%E2%80%99-tepid-reaction-to-the-egyptian-democratic-revolution/) Since that fear actually materialized, it was not really out of character for the neocons to support the military coup.
While there were definite harbingers for the current neocon support for the overthrow of a democratic government, however, what does seem to be novel is the tendency on the part of some neocons to openly express the view that democracy was not possible at the present time, at least when applied to Egypt. This was hardly a new idea among the Israeli Right where, as pointed out in “The Transparent Cabal,” it was held that most Middle Eastern countries were too divided to be held together by anything other than the force of authoritarian and dictatorial rulers. Oded Yinon in his 1982 article, “A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties” (translated and edited by Israel Shahak in a booklet entitled, “The Zionist Plan for the Middle East”) recommended that Israel exploit this internal divisiveness by military measures in order to enhance its national security. War that would topple an existing authoritarian regime would render a country fragmented into a mosaic of diverse ethnic and sectarian groupings warring among each other. If applied on a broad scale, the strategy would lead to a Middle East of powerless mini-statelets totally incapable of confronting Israeli power. (“Transparent Cabal,” p. 50)
Lebanon, then facing divisive chaos, was Yinon’s model for the entire Middle East. He wrote: “Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab world including Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula and is already following that track. The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short-term target.” (Quoted in “Transparent Cabal,” p. 51)
The eminent Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, who is a right-wing Zionist and one of the foremost intellectual gurus for the neoconservatives, echoed Yinon in an article in the September 1992 issue of “Foreign Affairs” titled “Rethinking the Middle East.” He wrote of a development he called “Lebanonization.” “Most of the states of the Middle East—Egypt is an obvious exception—are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process,” he contended. “If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity. . . . The state then disintegrates—as happened in Lebanon—into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.” (Note that Lewis held that Egypt, which some neocons have emphasized lacks any domestic consensus, was an “obvious exception” to this problem.)
David Wurmser, in a much longer follow-up document to the noted “A Clean Break” study, entitled “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant,” emphasized the fragile nature of the Middle Eastern Baathist dictatorships in Iraq and Syria, and how the West and Israel should act in such an environment. (“A Clean Break,” which included Wurmser and other neocons among its authors, described how Israel could enhance its regional security by toppling enemy regimes.) (“Transparent Cabal,” pp. 94-95)
While some neocons now maintain that Egypt lacked the necessary national consensus for viable democracy, they still take a pro-democracy stance toward Syria and Iran, as they had earlier taken toward Saddam’s Iraq. But as the neocons’ own expert on the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, indicated, these countries would tend to be less hospitable to democracy than Egypt. Why would neocons take a position contrary to that of their own expert? One can only repeat what was said earlier: an obvious difference would be that these countries are enemies of Israel—the fragmentation of these enemies would advance the security interests of Israel. In contrast, the replacement of the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood with military rule would improve Israeli-Egyptian relations; therefore, it is necessary to portray the role of democratic voting in Egypt in a negative light—that is, it would lead to chaos. Thus, it is not so much that the neocons are naïve democratic ideologues, but rather that they use ideas as weapons to advance the interests of Israel, as those interests are perceived through the lens of the Likudnik viewpoint. In summary, the current positions taken by the neocons confirm what I, Jim Lobe, and a few others have pointed out in the past.
An arrest order has been issued for ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi over suspected links to Hamas. State media reports the Muslim Brotherhood leader has already been questioned and confronted with the evidence.
Morsi has been detained for 15 days and will be subjected to questioning over suspicions Hamas helped orchestrate his escape from prison in 2011, reported Reuters, citing Mena state media. Morsi has allegedly already been “confronted with the evidence.” During the uprisings that overthrew former President Hosni Mubarak two years ago there were a number of attacks on police stations that led to the escape of Islamists and political inmates.
The accusations set against Morsi also include killing officers and prisoners and kidnapping soldiers.
The ousted president has been held in an unknown location since he was removed from office on July 3 by the military.
The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned Morsi’s detention as “ridiculous” and a “return to the Mubarak regime.”
The UN has urged the Egyptian military to free Morsi along with other Brotherhood leaders “without delay.” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls “on the interim authorities to ensure law and order along with guaranteeing the safety and security of all Egyptians.”
Egypt is preparing for another day of violent protests as Morsi’s followers and the military opposition have both planned mass rallies.
The two groups are at loggerheads over the future of the Arab world’s most populous country. A military official told Reuters that the army has given the Muslim Brotherhood until Saturday to join the so-called “road map” to new elections.
The Brotherhood fears a military led crackdown on the political party that won the Egyptian elections last summer.
“We are continuing our protests on the streets. In fact we believe that more people will realize what this regime really represents – a return of the old state of Mubarak, with brute force,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said.
In some of the worst violence since the unrest began in Egypt, 50 Morsi supporters were gunned down at a Cairo barracks on July 8 by security forces.
The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia will give Egypt money in the wake of its political and economic crisis. The UAE will provide Cairo with $1 billion and lend it a further $2 billion, while Saudi Arabia will give Egypt a $5 billion aid package.
The UAE loan would be in the form of a $2 billion interest free deposit in Egypt’s central bank, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi will also to give Egypt $1 billion.
The UAE delegation to Cairo included the Gulf country’s national security adviser, foreign minister and energy minister. The visit was to “show full support to the people of Egypt – political support, economic support,” Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told Reuters.
The UAE was one of the first countries to congratulate Egypt following the army’s decision to oust the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi.
“The UAE stands by Egypt and its people at this stage and trusts the choices of its people. Egypt’s security and stability are the basis of Arab security,” WAM quoted UAE National Security Advisor Sheikh Hazza bin Zayad as saying.
The UAE’s foreign minister also stated that the Egyptian army proved that it was a “strong shield” and “protector,” which guarantees that the country embraced all the components of the people.
Saudi Arabia also approved a $5 billion aid package to Egypt Tuesday, comprising of a $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy products, and $1 billion in cash, Saudi finance minister Ibrahim Alassaf said. […]
Multi-billion-dollar aid from Saudi Arabia and the UAE is another sign that these two countries had a hand in the military coup which took place in Egypt, believes RT’s contributing analyst in London, Afshin Rattansi.
“We now realize it is much more a Saudi-backed military coup. And as for this General al-Sisi person, who is a former military attaché in Saudi Arabia, he is Saudi’s man… Saudi Arabia, they’ve taken over the largest country in the Arab world,” Rattansi said.
He also described the current interim leaders of Egypt – President Mansour and Prime Minister Beblawi, as “puppets of Saudi Arabia”, who will be ousted at once if they attempt to criticize Saudi Arabia or the UAE. … Full article
The road that has been taken in Egypt is a dangerous one. A military coup has taken place in Egypt while millions of Egyptians have cheered it on with little thought about what is replacing the Muslim Brotherhood and the ramifications it will have for their society. Many people in cheering crowds have treated the Egyptian military’s coup like it was some sort of democratic act. Little do many of them remember who the generals of the Egyptian military work for. Those who are ideologically opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood have also cheered the military takeover without realizing that the military takeover ultimately serves imperialist behaviour. The cheering crowds have not considered the negative precedent that has been set.
Egypt was never cleansed of corrupt figures by the Muslim Brotherhood, which instead joined them. Key figures in Egypt, like Al-Azhar’s Grand Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb (who was appointed by Mubarak), criticized the Muslim Brotherhood when Mubark was in power, then denounced Mubarak and supported the Muslim Brotherhood when it gained power, and then denounced the Muslim Brotherhood when the military removed it from power. The disgraced Muslim Brotherhood has actually been replaced by a far worse assembly. These figures, whatever they call themselves, have only served power and never democracy. The military’s replacements for the Muslim Brotherhood – be it the new interim president or the leaders of the military junta—were either working with or serving the Muslim Brotherhood and, even before them, Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
The Undemocratic Egyptian Full Circle
Unlike the protests, the military takeover in Egypt is a blow to democracy. Despite the incompetence and hypocrisy of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, it was democratically elected into power. While the rights of all citizens to demonstrate and protest should be protected and structured mechanisms should securely be put into place in all state systems for removing any unpopular government, democratically-elected governments should not be toppled by military coups. Unless a democratically-elected government is killing its own people arbitrarily and acting outside the law, there is no legitimate excuse for removing it from power by means of military force. There is nothing wrong with the act of protesting, but there is something wrong when a military coup is initiated by a corrupt military force that works in the services of Washington and Tel Aviv.
Things have come full circle in Cairo. The military oversight over the government in Cairo is exactly the position that Egypt’s corrupt military leaders wanted to have since the Egyptian elections in 2012 that brought the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party into power. Since then there has been a power struggle between the Egyptian military and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Expecting to win the 2012 elections, at first the Egyptian military fielded one of its generals and a former Mubarak cabinet minister (and the last prime minister to serve under Mubarak), Ahmed Shafik, for the position of Egyptian president. If not a Mubarak loyalist per se, Shafik was a supporter of the old regime’s political establishment that gave him and the military privileged powers. When Ahmed Shafik lost there was a delay in recognizing Morsi as the president-elect, because the military was considering rejecting the election results and instead announcing a military coup.
The High Council of the Armed Forces, which led Egypt’s military, realized that a military coup after the 2012 elections would not fare too well with the Egyptian people and could lead to an all-out rebellion against the Egyptian military’s leadership. It was unlikely that many of the lower ranking soldiers and commissioned officers would have continued to follow the orders of the Egyptian military’s corrupt upper echelons if such a coup took place. Thus, plans for a coup were aborted. Egyptian military leaders instead decided to try subordinating Egypt’s civilian government by dissolving the Egyptian Parliament and imposing a constitution that they themselves wrote to guarantee military control. Their military constitution subordinated the president’s office and Egypt’s civilian government to military management. Morsi would wait and then reinstate the Egyptian Parliament in July 2012 and then nullify the military’s constitution that limited the powers of the presidency and civilian government after he worked with the US and Qatar to pacify Hamas. Next, Morsi would order Marshall Tantawi, the head of the Egyptian military, and General Anan, the second most power general in the Egyptian military, into resigning- neither one was a friend of democracy or justice.
Was Morsi’s Administration Really a Muslim Brotherhood Government?
Before it was ousted, the Muslim Brotherhood faced serious structural constraints in Egypt and it made many wrong decisions. Since its electoral victory there was an ongoing power struggle in Egypt and its Freedom and Justice Party clumsily attempted to consolidate its political control over Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s attempts to consolidate power meant that it has had to live with and work with a vast array of state institutions and bodies filled with its opponents, corrupt figures, and old regime loyalists. The Freedom and Justice Party tried to slowly purge the Egyptian state of Mubarak loyalists and old regime figures, but Morsi was forced to also work with them simultaneously. This made the foundations of his government even weaker.
The situation for the Muslim Brotherhood in 2012 was actually similar to the one Hamas faced in 2006 after its electoral victories in the Palestinian elections. Just as Hamas was forced by the US and its allies to accept Fatah ministers in key positions in the Palestinian government that it formed, the Muslim Brotherhood was forced to do the same unless it wanted the state to collapse and to be internationally isolated. The main difference between the two situations is that the Muslim Brotherhood seemed all too eager to comply with the US and work with segments of the old regime that would not challenge it. Perhaps this happened because the Muslim Brotherhood feared a military takeover. Regardless of what the reasons were, the Muslim Brotherhood knowingly shared the table of governance with counter-revolutionaries and criminals.
In part, Morsi’s cabinet would offer a means of continuation to the old regime. Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, Morsi’s top diplomat, was a cabinet minister under Marshal Tantawi and served in key positions as Mubarak’s ambassador to the United States and Saudi Arabia. Morsi’s cabinet would only have a few members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party whereas the ministerial portfolios for the key positions of the Interior Ministry, Defence Ministry, and the Suez Canal Authority would be given to Mubarak appointees from Egypt’s military and police apparatus. Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi, Mubarak’s head of Military Intelligence who has worked closely with the US and Israel, would be promoted as the head of the Egyptian military and as Egypt’s new defence minister by Morsi. It would ironically, but not surprisingly, be Al-Sisi that would order Morsi’s arrest and ouster after extensive consultations with his American counterpart, Charles Hagel, on July 3, 2013.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the Obama Administration: An Alliance of Convenience?
As a result of the Muslim Brotherhood’s collaboration with the US and Israel, large components of the protests in Egypt against Morsi were resoundingly anti-American and anti-Israeli. This has to do with the role that the Obama Administration has played in Egypt and the regional alliance it has formed with the Muslim Brotherhood. In part, it also has to do with the fact that Morsi’s opponents – even the ones that are collaborating with the US and Israel themselves – have capitalized on anti-American and anti-Israeli sentiments by portraying Morsi as a US and Israeli puppet. In reality, both the United States and Muslim Brotherhood have tried to manipulate one another for their own gains. The Muslim Brotherhood has tried to use the Obama Administration to ascend to power whereas the Obama Administration has used the Muslim Brotherhood in America’s war against Syria and to slowly nudge the Hamas government in Gaza away from the orbit of Iran and its allies in the Resistance Bloc. Both wittingly and unwittingly, the Muslim Brotherhood in broader terms has, as an organization, helped the US, Israel, and the Arab petro-sheikhdoms try to regionally align the chessboard in a sectarian project that seeks to get Sunnis and Shias to fight one another.
Because of the Freedom and Justice Party’s power struggle against the Egyptian military and the remnants of the old regime, the Muslim Brotherhood turned to the United States for support and broke all its promises. Some can describe this as making a deal with the “Devil.” At the level of foreign policy, the Muslim Brotherhood did not do the things it said it would. It did not end the Israeli siege on the people of Gaza, it did not cut ties with Israel, and it did not restore ties with the Iranians. Its cooperation with the US allowed Washington to play the different sides inside Egypt against one another and to hedge the Obama Administration’s bets.
The Muslim Brotherhood miscalculated in its political calculus. Morsi himself proved not only to be untrustworthy, but also foolish. Washington has always favoured the Egyptian military over the Muslim Brotherhood. Like most Arab militaries, the Egyptian military has been used as an internal police force that has oppressed and suppressed its own people. Unlike the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian military gives far greater guarantees about the protection of US interests in Egypt, Israel’s security, and US sway over the strategically and commercially important Suez Canal. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood had its own agenda and it seemed unlikely that it would continue to play a subordinate role to the United States and Washington was aware of this.
Revolution or Counter-Revolution?
Indeed a dangerous precedent has been set. The events in Egypt can be used in line with the same type of standard that allowed the Turkish military to subordinate democracy in Turkey for decades whenever it did not like a civilian government. The Egyptian military has taken the opportunity to suspend the constitution. It can now oversee the entire political process in Egypt, essentially with de facto veto powers. The military coup not only runs counter to the principles of democracy and is an undemocratic act, but it also marks a return to power by the old regime. Egypt’s old regime, it should be pointed out, has fundamentally always been a military regime controlled by a circle of generals and admirals that operate in collaboration with a few civilian figures in key sectors.
Things have really gone full circle in Egypt. The judiciary in Egypt is being aligned with the military or old regime again. Mubarak’s attorney-general, Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, who was removed from power in November 2012 has been reinstated. The Egyptian Parliament has been dissolved again by the leaders of the High Council of the Armed Forces. President Morsi and many members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been rounded up and arrested by the military and police as enemies of the peace.
Adli (Adly) Al-Mansour, the Mubarak appointed judge that President Morsi was legally forced to appoint as the head of the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, has now been appointed interim president by the High Council of the Armed Forces. Al-Mansour is merely a civilian figure head for a military junta. It is also worth noting that the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court, like much of the Mubarak appointees in the Egyptian judiciary, has collaborated with the Egyptian military against the Muslim Brotherhood and tried to dissolve the Egyptian Parliament.
Mohammed Al-Baradei (El-Baradei / ElBaradei), a former Egyptian diplomat and the former director-general of the politically manipulated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been offered the post of interim prime minister of Egypt by the military. He had returned to Egypt during the start of the so-called Arab Spring to run for office with the support of the International Crisis Group, which is an organization that is linked to US foreign policy interests and tied to the Carnegie Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Al-Baradei himself has been delighted every time that the Egyptian military has announced a coup; he supported a military takeover in 2011 and, to his benefit, he has supported it in 2013. Where he could not secure a position for himself through the ballot box, he has been offered a government position undemocratically through the military in 2013.
Many of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters are emphasizing that an unfair media war was waged against them. The Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, Al Jazeera’s Egyptian branch which has worked as a mouth piece for the Muslim Brotherhood, has been taken off the air by the Egyptian military. This, along with the ouster of Morsi, is a sign that Qatar’s regional interests are being rolled back too. It seems Saudi Arabia, which quickly congratulated Adli Al-Mansour, is delighted, which explains why the Saudi-supported Nour Party in Egypt betrayed the Muslim Brotherhood. Other media linked to the Muslim Brotherhood or supportive of it have also been censored and attacked. Much of the privately owned media in Egypt was already anti-Muslim Brotherhood. Like Gran Mufti Ahmed Al-Tayeb, many of these media outlets were supportive of Mubarak’s dictatorship when he was in power, but only changed their tune when he was out of power. The point, however, should not be lost that media censorship against pro-Muslim Brotherhood media outlets does not equate to democratic practice whatsoever.
The figures that have supported the military coup, in the name of democracy, are themselves no friends of democracy either. Many of these opportunists were Mubarak lackeys. For example, the so-called Egyptian opposition leader Amr Moussa was highly favoured by Hosni Mubarak and served as his foreign minister for many years. Not once did Moussa ever bother or dare to question Mubarak or his dictatorship, even when Moussa became the secretary-general of the morally bankrupt and useless Arab League.
The Egyptian Coma Will Backfire on the US Empire
Despite the media reports and commentaries, the Muslim Brotherhood was never fully in charge of Egypt or its government. It always had to share power with segments of the old regime or “Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s men.” Key players in different branches of government and state bodies from the old regime stayed in their places. Even President Morsi’s cabinet had members of the old regime. The discussions on Sharia law were predominately manipulated by the Muslim Brotherhood’s opponents primarily for outside consumption by predominantly non-Muslim countries and to rally Egypt’s Christians and socialist currents against Morsi. As for the economic problems that Egypt faced, they were the mixed result of the legacy of the old regime, the greed of Egypt’s elites and military leaders, the global economic crisis, and the predatory capitalism that the United States and European Union have impaired Egypt with. Those that blamed Morsi for Egypt’s economic problems and unemployment did so wrongly or opportunistically. His administration’s incompetence did not help the situation, but they did not create it either. Morsi was manning a sinking ship that had been economically ravaged in 2011 by foreign states and local and foreign lenders, speculators, investors, and corporations.
There was an undeniable constant effort to sabotage the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule, but this does not excuse the incompetence and corruption of the Muslim Brotherhood. Their attempts at gaining international respectability by going to events such as the Clinton Global Initiative hosted by the Clinton Foundation have only helped their decline. Their hesitation at restoring ties with Iran and their antagonism towards Syria, Hezbollah, and their Palestinian allies only managed to reduce their list of friends and supporters. All too willingly the Muslim Brotherhood seemed to let itself be used by the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar to pacify Hamas in an attempt to de-link the Palestinians in Gaza from the Resistance Bloc. It continued the siege against Gaza and continued to destroy the tunnels used to smuggle daily supplies by the Palestinians. Perhaps it was afraid or had very little say in the matter, but it allowed Egypt’s military, security, and intelligence apparatuses to continue collaborating with Israel. Under the Muslim Brotherhood’s watch Palestinians were disappearing in Egypt and reappearing in Israeli prisons. Morsi’s government also abandoned the amnesty it had given to the Jamahiriya supporters from Libya that took refuge in Egypt.
The United States and Israel have always wanted Egypt to look inward in a pathetic state of paralysis. Washington has always tried to keep Egypt as a dependent state that would fall apart politically and economy without US assistance. It has allowed the situation in Egypt to degenerate as a means of neutralizing the Egyptians by keeping them divided and exhausted. The US, however, will be haunted by the coup against Morsi. Washington will dearly feel the repercussions of what has happened in Egypt. Morsi’s fall sends a negative message to all of America’s allies. Everyone in the Arab World, corrupt and just alike, is more aware than ever that an alliance with Washington or Tel Aviv will not protect them. Instead they are noticing that those that are aligned with the Iranians and the Russians are the ones that are standing.
An empire that cannot guarantee the security of its satraps is one that will eventually find many of its minions turning their backs on it or betraying it. Just as America’s regime change project in Syria is failing, its time in the Middle East is drawing to an end. Those who gambled on Washington’s success, like the Saudi royals, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, will find themselves on the losing side of the Middle East’s regional equation.