Julie Webb-Pullman reports


Donors, or enablers? Cairo’s ‘Gaza Reconstruction Conference’

by Julie Webb-Pullman
Source: Middle East Monitor

Egypt is currently blocking injured Gazans leaving the Gaza Strip, and blocking the flow of reconstruction materials to Gaza

Egypt is currently blocking injured Gazans leaving the Gaza Strip, and blocking the flow of reconstruction materials to Gaza

CAIRO’S Gaza Reconstruction Conference, you ask incredulously? And well you might – after all, Egypt is currently preventing the entry of materials to complete Qatari-funded projects in Gaza addressing the destruction of previous Israeli offensives. Building of roads, housing estates and hospitals have all ground to a halt despite being underway well before the latest Israeli war crimes in Gaza – crimes which have only further increased the need. (more…)

Cairo court bans Hamas activities in Egypt

On Tuesday a Cairo court placed a temporary ban on Palestinian political party and elected government Hamas from carrying out any activities in Egypt, and ordered the confiscation of its offices.

The court action followed a complaint filed by an Egyptian lawyer, Samir Sabry, asking it to declare Hamas a terrorist organisation.

Hamas officials strongly condemned the decision as politically motivated.

“Hamas has neither activities nor official offices in Egypt, whether before, during or after the [2011 revolution],” a Hamas official said in a statement e-mailed to Ahram Online, an Egyptian news service.

“The decision targets the Palestinian people … and is consistent with goals to fight and eliminate the Palestinian resistance, against which Hamas is a bulwark,” the official added.

While the ruling is subject to appeal and to the final judgment of ousted President Morsi’s trial on charges of collaboration with the group to carry out ‘hostile acts’ in Egypt, it has caused considerable alarm throughout Gaza, already reeling under the effects of a seven-year Israeli siege further exacerbated by Egypt’s closure of both the Rafah crossing, and the tunnel lifelines.

“This decision will make the Palestinian people pay the price as it will be used to tighten the blockade on the Gaza strip,” senior Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri told the media.

Hamas said it has been the subject of an “unprecedented media and political campaign of incitement and defamation” in Egypt, and maintains the allegations against it are completely unfounded and unjustified.

After its weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday, the Palestinian Government in Gaza announced it is considering the seriousness of the court decision, and called on officials in Egypt to review the ruling, as it is tantamount to Egypt abandoning its historic role in support of the Palestinian people.

The Egyptian court might also pause to consider the implications of its Hamas ban for its international obligations, such as to Articles 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.

Hamas is a legitimate political party that democratically came to power in Palestine in 2006 through a fair, free and open electoral process endorsed as such by national and international observers. Its members and leaders have the right to hold and express their beliefs in any country signatory to the ICCPR.

Mursi the Man

In the last week much has been made of the purported failings of Mursi the President, and Mursi the politician. He tried to do too much, or did too little, he took too much power (for his party), or not enough (from the military and security services). He went too fast, or not fast enough. Some identified a failing as his lack of charisma, comparing him to “the more charismatic Khairat El-Shater” or lauding the “charismatic, chisel-jawed Sisi” – as if charisma is a substitute for principled leadership, or political legitimacy.

We need only look to the United States and to Israel to see what unprincipled leadership charisma is capable of delivering, including on electoral promises. Remember the closure of Guantanamo and the reduction of unemployment promised by US President Barack Obama, remember Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s promise to appoint former communications minister Moshe Kahlon as chairman of the Israel Lands Authority. And remember both of these leaders’ unstinting terrorism at home and abroad.

Mursi the man, by contrast, is who the majority of the Egyptian people elected in internationally-recognised free and fair elections, not for his charisma but for his humanity.

Mursi the man, unassuming, imperfect, humble, human – and Muslim.

Mursi the Muslim man, who bared his chest at his inauguration to show that he was not wearing a bullet-proof vest, to demonstrate his trust and faith in the Egyptian people. Some of whom are now betraying him, and them.

Mursi the Muslim man, who in 2005 led demonstrations supporting independence for all judges. Some of whom are now betraying him, and them.

Mursi the Muslim man, who was in and out of jail under the Mubarak regime “due to his constantly firm stance” against its repressive measures and oppressive practices. The remnants of which continue to betray their people.

Mursi the Muslim man, trying to lead his country out of 30 years of corruption and an enormous public debt, by transforming the machinery of the Mubarak dictatorship into “an executive branch that represents the people’s true will and implements their public interests,” according to Islamic principles of justice, equality, tolerance, honesty, knowledge, labour, perseverance – and forgiveness.

Mursi the Muslim man, who did not seek, but was propelled to, the presidency of Egypt – by his party and by the majority of the Egyptian people. Most of whom are still behind him.

Mursi the Muslim man – deposed and detained.

For what? For being democratically elected by the people of Egypt? What greater disincentive could there be for future presidential hopefuls… if indeed there were to be another free and fair electoral process now that Egyptian democracy has been so ignominiously usurped.

For failing to do in one year what no leader anywhere or any time has ever achieved – a 12-month complete turnaround of a decades-old corrupt and embedded system?

For dealing fairly and openly with another democratically-elected – and Islamic – political party, Hamas? The rumoured charges pending against him strongly suggest this.

For opening the Rafah border to his brothers and sisters in the besieged Gaza Strip to enable a breath of life to enter, and the foul stench of Zionist oppression to escape and turn the stomach of the world? The quick closure of the Rafah crossing, and the barely-restrained glee of the Israeli administration, equally strongly suggest this.

Mursi the Muslim man stands guilty of two things – being elected president of Egypt, and being principled.

The first was not by his choice.

The second is what it is to be a Muslim, and a man.

How should he plead?

Guilty, with honour.


06 December 2012

The world was sympathetic when Egyptians took to the streets in January 2011 demanding the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s dictatorship, and its replacement with democracy, and a new constitution.

We supported them as they stayed there until Mubarak was gone.

We mourned their dead, and sympathised with the wounded who fell in the so-called ‘revolution.’

We continued to support them through the following year-and-a-bit until they held open, free and fair elections, and democratically elected a new President.

Egyptians said they wanted democracy, and we supported them in their struggle for it, and for its machinery – elections, majority rule, governance by the elected representatives, a new constitution.

Why, then, do the ‘losers’ of the elections refuse to accept or live with its results?

Why then, are they trying to impose the views of this minority on the constituent assembly, the government, and the country itself?

Why, then, are THEY trying to govern from the streets, with violence, destruction of private property, blocking public passage, instead of leaving it to the legitimately-elected representative government to do, within its legitimate powers?

Why, then, do they refuse to behave democratically, and vote in the referendum on the proposed constitution?

This time, the cries from the barricades do not ring true in the ears of the world. And its people are fast losing both patience – and sympathy – with the Egyptian ‘opposition.’

One of the protesters’ complaints is that the judiciary has had its powers to kick out the President curtailed.

In precisely which country does the judiciary have the power to do this? The US? Certainly not – it can impeach the President, but the Senate – not the judiciary – must then hold a trial, and only following a conviction can the President be ousted.

In most other democratic countries the judiciary cannot remove the President or Prime Minister – they can only be removed by:
a) the people, in elections,
b) a vote of no confidence in the parliament, or
c) loss of mandate within their own political party.

If the Egyptian ‘opposition’ is genuine in its desire for democracy, then it will do as numerous countries have done to Prime Ministers and Presidents they no longer want – vote them out in the next elections, or hold a no-confidence vote.

The latter move has ousted leaders in the following 46 countries:
Prime Ministers: Australia, Canada, Cook Islands, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sweden, Turkey, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vanuatu, Yugoslavia
Presidents: French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, United States of America.

Of course, that relies on the Egyptian ‘opposition’ actually being committed to democracy…

Many commentators have criticised President Morsi for (legitimately) extending his powers to pre-empt yet another (illegitimate) assault on the aims of the revolution by corrupt remnants of the Mubarak regime. Others have compared Morsi with Mubarak.

Both – whether deliberately or otherwise – fail to acknowledge, or appreciate the implications of, the context in which Morsi extended his powers.

Elements of the former regime, particularly the Judicial Council, have been consistently trying to get rid of the Morsi government. As Thomas R. Eddlem wrote in The New American, “The parliament had been elected in January 2012, but was dissolved by the military after the June Supreme Judicial Council decision claiming the elections were invalid. The November 7 decree followed similar rulings by the same court in July and September upholding the dissolution of the parliamentary Assembly.”

Was extending his powers a power-grab by Morsi, or the pre-empting of yet another one by others, aided and abetted by remnants of the old regime?

The comparisons with Mubarak also do not bear up under scrutiny – Mubarak abused his powers for some 30 years, accompanied by blatant repression, particularly of political opponents. Morsi, by contrast, has not abused any of his powers, either old or new.

In fact, he has sought dialogue and co-operation with the ‘opposition’ and unlike Mubarak, he has not used violence and repression against protesters – unfortunately, they seem to be doing that to themselves without any help from state forces.

This month Egyptians must decide on more than just a new constitution – they must also decide whether they want mob rule from the streets, which is what demands for Morsi’s departure amount to.

At the risk of repeating myself, if Egyptians genuinely want democracy, they should accept its outcomes, and work with the government elected by the majority for the good of all Egyptians.

Failure to do so risks forgoing international support from anyone other than those with an agenda to destabilise this fledgling democracy, and crush the people of Egypt – and beyond.