Protest rally against the siege on Gaza in London

    • Wanneer
      dinsdag 27 december 2011
    • Tijd
      13:00 tot 15:00
  • Waar
    Kensington High St (Nearest tube: High Street Kensington Underground)
  • Beschrijving
    Join us to commemorate 3 Years since the beginning of the 3 week Israeli attack on the Palestinian people in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 and to protest against the ongoing violence and siege against Palestinians living in Gaza.


    Called by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, British Muslim Initiative, Friends of Al Aqsa, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Stop the War Coalition, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Palestinian Forum in Britain.

Protest against NATO attack on Pakistan – LUTON, UK

    • Wanneer
      zaterdag 17 december 2011
    • Tijd
      12:00 tot 14:30
  • Waar
    Luton Town Hall Entrance, George Street, Luton, Bedfordshire, LU1 2BQ
  • Beschrijving
    On 26 November 2011, 28 Pakistani soldiers were martyred in NATO attack.


    We will be protesting against NATO attack on Pakistan.

    Date: Saturday 17 December 2011

    Time: 12pm – 2:30pm

    Luton Town Hall
    George Street
    Luton, Bedfordshire
    LU1 2BQ
    United Kingdom

    1 minute silence for 28 Pakistan soldiers will be held at 1pm

    Please bring Pakistan flags to this protest

    Please spread the word

Yemeni forces in deadly clash with tribesmen

At least 13 people were killed, five of them civilians, during fighting in country’s second-largest city Taiz.

Demands grow for Saleh to face trial despite promises of immunity from prosecution for him and his family 

At least 13 people were killed, five of them civilians, during violent clashes between forces loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s president, and dissident tribesmen in the country’s second-largest city Taiz, medical and security officials said.

Yemen Live Blog

Witnesses said the fighting erupted before dawn on Thursday as loyalist troops tried to storm the city centre, a stronghold of armed tribesmen who have pledged support to the protest movement against Saleh’s 33-year rule.

Security officials said five Yemeni soldiers were killed in battles and medics from the city’s Al-Rawda neighbourhood told the AFP news agency eight people, including five civilians, were killed and 30 wounded.

Troop of the loyalist 33rd Brigade fired artillery rounds at several neighbourhoods of Taiz, a stronghold of the anti-government protests continuing since January, but met strong resistance, residents said.

The heavily armed tribesmen destroyed one army tank stationed near the city’s traffic police headquarters, the witnesses added.

Fierce fighting

All roads leading into the city were blocked by the fierce fighting that has left outlying districts isolated from the city centre.

The Yemeni government accuses what it says are “militias from Al-Islah,” a religious movement that is the main opposition party in parliament, of being behind the unrest and deploying in residential areas across Taiz.

For more on Yemen, visit our Spotlight page

On Tuesday, Saleh’s forces shelled several neighbourhoods of the city, killing one person and destroying dozens of homes, medics and residents said.

Violence across Yemen has left hundreds dead since the protests erupted. A UN-backed power transfer deal signed by Saleh last month has failed to halt the violence.

An opposition leader was called on to form a caretaker government on Sunday after Saleh announced a pardon for those who “committed errors during the crisis”.

The announcement that opposition chief Mohammed Basindawa, a former member of Saleh’s ruling party, would form a national unity government to rule until early elections in February, was the clearest sign yet that Saleh had accepted the deal to cede power.

The UN Security Council called on Monday for those behind killings and human rights abuses in Yemen to be “held accountable,” as demands grow for Saleh to face trial despite promises of immunity from prosecution for him and his family extended under last month’s agreement with the parliamentary opposition.

( / 01.12.2011)

Israel ‘shuts Allenby crossing to Jordan’


The Allenby crossing is the sole entry and exit point for Palestinians in the
West Bank traveling abroad and operated by the Israeli authorities.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces closed the West Bank’s Allenby crossing to Jordan on Thursday evening, witnesses told Ma’an.

The terminal, the sole entry and exit point for Palestinians in the West Bank to travel abroad, was shut down around 5 p.m. as ambulances, fire services, and Israeli police entered the closed zone, travelers said.

Crossings authorities could not be reached to comment on the unscheduled closure.

( / 01.12.2011)

The ridiculous burdens borne by Gaza medical patients


Some medical patients in Gaza must go to great lengths (literally) to receive treatment.

My family’s lengthy journey to seek medical treatment for my wife began in 2007 as infighting broke out between Fatah and Hamas. We joined the ranks of hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza heading for hospitals in Egypt.

My wife, who is also the mother of our four children, had to wait a month before she could receive treatment at the Nasser Institute in Cairo. On our way back to Gaza, we endured further waiting in the nearby Egyptian beach town al-Arish, hoping that we and many thousands of others who happened to be stranded in Egypt along with us would eventually be able to go back home.

We were stranded because the internal fighting was followed by the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip and an Egyptian government decision to shut down Gaza’s main gateway to the outside world, the Rafah crossing terminal.

Because my wife and I are Palestinian and have lived through occupation and repression and siege, we remained steadfast, even as we were separated from our beloved children and the rest of our family for two consecutive months. Eventually, we came back to Gaza through a small commercial Egyptian-Israeli crossing in the Naqab (Negev) desert, called al-Auja.

Four years later, we have now returned to the same hospital, the Nasser Institute in Cairo. For the past five weeks, we have been staying here, and we are expecting to stay several weeks longer.

The facilities and standard of care at this hospital are much more advanced compared to those available in Gaza. My wife is receiving the care she needs and is trying to cope with both her health condition but meanwhile suffers the agony of being away from our children.

Absurd obstacles

Though we finally accessed medical treatment, unlike other less lucky families in Gaza, the obstacles we have encountered are absurd.

In August, we had to wait at least two weeks until my wife’s MRI scan results appeared. Then we had to wait two more weeks for the doctor’s final word about her case.

It was truly ridiculous that we should have waited that long in another country’s hospital, when we could have received the results and the doctor’s advice back home in Gaza, near our beloved children and without disrupting our lives.

Why don’t we have good medical staff in Gaza, who are well-trained and highly qualified, and can practice preventative medicine?

Isn’t it ridiculous that we have to travel long distances — approximately 500 kilometers in our case — and have no choice but to stay in a different country? Isn’t it ridiculous that we are forced to be away from our loved ones, who could help comfort us if they were nearby?

Isn’t it ridiculous that Palestinian medical staff are not being sent abroad from Gaza on training courses? Isn’t it ridiculous that instead of investing in the health of its people, thePalestinian Authority has spent the millions of dollars it receives from donor countries on its repressive security forces?

Isn’t it ridiculous that due to the lack of advanced medical technology in Gaza, one has to go to another country for diagnosis, medical checkups or treatment, even if that country is our twin, Egypt?

Following one month of medical checkups and diagnoses by expert Egyptian doctors, we have finally been informed that we should come back in three months’ time for possible treatment.

Less than three months after we were last here, doctors in Gaza referred us once again to the same Cairo hospital. And now we are in Cairo, where my wife is receiving daily treatment for a tumor that is not less hated than our conditions in the occupied Gaza Strip, where Hamas’ blue uniform police regime rules, which has split from the equally useless red carpet reception, protocol-based Fatah regime in the occupied West Bank.

Bitterness at being separated from children

Having been in Egypt for the past five weeks has required me not only to be my wife’s husband but also to act as her nurse and to stand in for her parents, her brothers and sisters and her beloved children.

Throughout this period, especially when she feels very tired as a result of her treatment, I feel a great deal of bitterness because of the lack of support around us, the lack of people who could help comfort my wife, people who could help do household chores for her, people who could give her the warmth she needs. Our four children, Muhammad (5), Nadine (8), Aseel (13) and Munir (12) could help warm their mother and be warmed by her, if she was hospitalized in Gaza, not Cairo.

Isn’t it ridiculous that a daily short therapy session for a period of six weeks, obliges us to stay away from our homeland, away from our children and relatives, and away from my work?

Isn’t ridiculous that Gaza’s health system is still suffering hugely, despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority, prior to Hamas’ takeover of Gaza four years ago, received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid from international donors?

Isn’t ridiculous that both Hamas and Fatah are fighting over the Palestinian Authority, a masquerade authority that has no defined border lines, an authority that has no air or sea ports, an authority that has no genuine control over border crossings, an authority whose budget is dependent on foreign aid?

Isn’t it ridiculous that all treatment that Gazans receive at Cairo-based hospitals are being covered financially by the internationally-funded Palestinian Authority? Isn’t it ridiculous that an amount of 73 million Egyptian pounds, almost ($12 million) is still owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Nasser Hospital Institute of Cairo, alone?

Isn’t that ridiculous when that $12 million could have been invested in improving our Palestinian health system? Isn’t it ridiculous that the situation in Gaza has forced thousands of Palestinian patients and their families out of Gaza, to bear mountains on their shoulders — burdens that be carried by nobody? These are the questions that occupy my mind as I wait in the hallways of the Nasser Institute Hospital.

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

( / 01.12.2011)

Egypt announces second delay to poll results

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt announced a second delay Thursday for results of its first election vote since its February revolution ousting former president Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s election commission chief Abdel Moez Ibrahim said a large turnout in the first phase of multi-stage parliamentary elections — forecast as high as 70 percent — meant the publication of results had to be pushed back another day to Friday.

“The counting of votes is still going on in a number of districts because of the large number of voters who took part in these elections,” he was quoted as saying by the official MENA news agency.

The results are expected to show the Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist movement banned for decades by Mubarak, as the dominant force after it said its party had taken at least 40 percent of the vote in preliminary counting.

The battle for second place had been seen as between secular liberals and hardline Islamists who follow the strict Salafi brand of Islam, but local media indicated the latter were poised to prevail with more than 20 percent.

“Al-Nur, the surprise of the moment,” headlined the independent Al-Shorouq daily on Thursday, referring to the main party of the Salafists, whose members follow a strict form of Islam dominant in Saudi Arabia.

Analysts warn against reading too much into only the first part of a parliamentary election, but the results will reveal the political trends in a country that has not had a free vote in 60 years.

Only a third of constituencies voted on Monday and Tuesday in the election for a new lower house of parliament. The rest of the country will follow next month and in January.

The prospect of an Islamist-dominated parliament raises fears among liberals about civil liberties and religious freedom in a country with the Middle East’s largest Christian minority, and tolerance of multi-party democracy.

Osama Mohammed, a liberal 31-year-old with a job at a multinational company, took part in the demonstrations in iconic Tahrir Square that led to the toppling of Mubarak’s regime in February.

“It’s shocking,” he told AFP. “We always knew and expected the Muslim Brotherhood to win because they have been working on the ground with the people for years. But the Salafis were practically unknown to most of the public.”

The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party says it strives for a “civil state, defined as a non-military non-religious state … that respects human rights” according to its political program.

Leaders have repeatedly stressed their commitment to multi-party democracy and inclusiveness, and pledged to ensure freedoms.

The group has been officially banned since the 1950s, but it counts hundreds of thousands of members and is known for its vast network of social and religious outreach programs, as well as its stand against corruption.

“The Brotherhood beats the drums of victory,” headlined the independent daily Al-Shorouq on Thursday.

The hardline Al-Nur was initially part of the Democratic Alliance coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood, but they split to form their Islamic Alliance, which calls for a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Pictures of their candidates, clearly identifiable by their long beards, were highly visible around polling stations this week and they actively campaigned in conservative rural areas outside the capital.

Al-Nur spokesman Mohammed Nour told AFP they had been subjected to “a campaign of fearmongering and slander,” but he stresses that the party wants democracy that recognizes that “sovereignty comes from God.”

On the eight-million-strong Coptic Christian community, he said: “Touching one hair on a Copt’s head violates our program.”

Hassan Nafaa, a professor of political science at the University of Cairo, was quoted by Al-Shorouq newspaper as saying that an Islamist-dominated parliament was a danger.

“We don’t want to replace Mubarak with a theocratic and authoritarian regime,” he said.

Last week, 43 people were killed and more than 3,000 injured in violent protests against the interim military regime that took power after the fall of Mubarak.

Pro-democracy activists accuse it of trying to consolidate its influence and many fear the military will prove unwilling to fully hand over power to the new civilian leaders.

It remains unclear how the new parliament will function and how much power it will be given by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Mubarak’s long-time defense minister.

Observers say Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous nation and its cultural heartland, faces a long, highly complex and uncertain transition to democracy.

( / 01.12.2011)

UN General Assembly Adopts 6 Resolutions on Palestine, Middle East

NEW YORK, December 1, 2011 (WAFA) – UN General Assembly adopted, by six recorded votes, resolutions on both the “Question of Palestine” and on the wider “Situation in the Middle East,” according to a press release issued by UNISPAL on Wednesday.

The texts addressed issues including the illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, the work of the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights and the stymied progress of the Syrian track of the Middle East peace process.

As in previous sessions, the Assembly adopted, by 167 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States) with 4 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Tonga), a broad-based resolution on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine.

By its terms, the Assembly stressed the detrimental impact of Israeli settlement policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, on efforts to advance the peace process. It also recognized “tangible” gains made under the Palestinian state-building programme and stressed the need for sustained and active international involvement to support a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

By the terms of a related text, adopted by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 53 abstentions, the Assembly affirmed its support for the Middle East peace process and requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to continue its efforts to promote the realization of their right to self-determination.

The Assembly also took action on two resolutions dealing with activities of the United Nations Secretariat, noting its support for the Division for Palestinian Rights and for the Department of Public Information’s special information programme on the question of Palestine.
It adopted the first text by a recorded vote of 114 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, United States) with 54 abstentions and the second by 168 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, Tonga).

Turning to the more comprehensive issue of the situation in the Middle East, the Assembly adopted two resolutions. The first, which focused on Jerusalem, was adopted by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 5 abstentions (Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Panama, Tonga). By its terms, the Assembly reiterated that any Israeli actions to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the city would be deemed illegal and therefore null and void. It also called upon Israel to immediately cease all such illegal and unilateral measures.

By the second text — focused on the Syrian Golan and adopted by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 53 abstentions — the Assembly expressed its grave concern over the halt in the Syrian track of the peace process.

The text declared that Israel had failed so far to comply with Security Council resolution 497 (1981), and that its decision of 14 December 1981 to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void, with no validity. It further called on Israel to rescind that decision.

Taking up the six draft resolutions before it, the Assembly first adopted the text on the Committee on the exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (document A/66/L.15) by a recorded vote of 115 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 53 abstentions.

The Assembly then adopted the draft resolution on the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat (document A/66/L.16) by a recorded vote of 114 in favour to 9 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, United States), with 54 abstentions.

By a recorded vote of 168 in favour to 8 against (Australia, Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 3 abstentions (Cameroon, Honduras, Tonga) the Assembly adopted the text on the special information programme on the question of Palestine of the Department of Public Information of the Secretariat (document A/66/L.17).

The Assembly then adopted the draft on the peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (document A/66/L.18) by a recorded vote of 167 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 4 abstentions (Australia, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Tonga).

While accepting the principle that the Assembly may look into the practices of individual States, only six had been adopted this year, four of which focused on severe human rights abuses, in contrast to the 17 annual resolutions against Israel, he said, reiterating the call for all Member States to re-evaluate what would actually contribute to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Success would only be achieved if the parties were encouraged to sit down, listen to each other and understand each other’s hopes and fears, he emphasized. Those supporting a Palestinian State should do everything possible to support the parties’ efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace.

Ultimately, it was the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side, and who must reach agreement on the issues dividing them, he said, stressing that peace depended on compromise by people who needed to live together long after the speeches had ended and the votes had been tallied.

The Assembly then adopted the text on Jerusalem (document A/66/L.19) by a recorded vote of 164 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 5 abstentions (Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Haiti, Panama, Tonga).

Taking up the final draft before it, on the Syrian Golan (document A/66/L.20), the Assembly adopted it by a recorded vote of 119 in favour to 7 against (Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, United States), with 53 abstentions.

( / 01.12.2011)

Al-Aqsa foundation warns of Jewish plan to build synagogues under Magariba Gate

An illustration of the Israeli plan

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– Al-Aqsa foundation for endowment and heritage said Zionist religious parties renewed a plan to build synagogues under Al-Magariba Gate in the area adjacent to the Aqsa Mosque.

This Israeli plan poses a real threat to the Aqsa Mosque as it will expose Al-Nabi (Prophet) Gate which is located beneath Al-Magariba Gate and leads to the Mosque’s underground areas, the foundation warned in a press release.

It added such Israeli construction would affect the structure of Al-Buraq wall (described falsely as wailing wall by Jews) and would lead to the demolition of historical Islamic and Arab antiquities and monuments.

This plan is part of a comprehensive Zionist scheme to Judaize the whole area of Al-Buraq wall above and under ground as Al-Aqsa foundation had warned earlier.

Israel’s channel two reported Tuesday evening that rabbi Shamuel Rabinovich, the chief of the wailing wall legacy fund, prepared a plan to expand prayer areas for Jewish women in the wall square.

“We have an intention to build an underground floor below the wailing wall square surrounded by walls on all sides, and we are now at the stage of submitting a request in this regard to the competent authorities for approval,” the channel quoted Rabinovich as saying.

The channel noted that this rabbi sent in the last days several letters to Israeli political and security leaders urging them to remove Al-Magariba Gate bridge.

( / 01.12.2011)

Egypt’s 12,001 missing votes

How can Egypt’s elections be described as free and non-violent when the country has so many political prisoners?

The activists who returned to Tahrir Square last week have a variety of views on the elections 

Cairo, Egypt – 12,001. That is the minimum number of Egyptians who aren’t able to vote in parliamentary elections that began this week because they are prisoners of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Which begs the question: How can these elections be described as free and non-violent when so many Egyptians remain political prisoners of the country’s military junta?

The majority of the Egyptian and the interational media are characterising the voting as peaceful and relatively fair. Winners, especially the Islamist parties (at least of the time of writing), are celebrating their victories and losers are generally urging supporters to work with the process.

But many activists, who worked the hardest since January to bring real democracy to Egypt, have been left asking: What does this election mean when thousands are jailed merely for opposing those in power (or, for many, merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time)? What do these elections mean when one of the country’s well-known bloggers, Alaa Abdel Fattah, can be held for weeks on charges surrounding his reporting of the military’s massacre of Coptic protesters in October, when voters are threatened with 500 Egyptian pound fines if they don’t vote, and when the military uses massive amounts of tear-gas, and even bullets on pro-democracy protesters whenever it feels its position threatened?

Activists not of one mind

Aida Seif ad-Dawla, a long-time human rights campaigner, summed up the view of the human rights community the morning after voting when she asked with an exasperated tone: “What about the 12,000? What about the martyrs? Even the attacks of yesterday after voting ended, which the media is downplaying when 88 people were hurt. It’s clear there can be no free elections under military rule.”

Certainly, the SCAF and those parties who stand the greatest chance of achieving core goals through the election, such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), have a vested interest in convincing Egyptians and the world that the election is legitimate and heralds the beginning of a viable transition to democracy. For the activists who returned to Tahrir last week the question is not one of legitimacy, but of whether participating in or boycotting the electoral process offers the best strategy for wresting control from SCAF and the remnants of Egypt’s old regime.

For many leading activists, like well-known blogger Hossam El Hamalawy, the elections are little more than a farce, or “theatre,” that will only serve to strengthen the position of the old guard, albeit with some new faces.

In an interview at Al Jazeera’s Cairo bureau, El Hamalawy said: “This contest will be decided in the streets, not at the ballot box.”

Yet this view is not shared by all of the progressive opposition. Even Alaa Abdel Fattah’s wife, Manal Hassan, has boycotted the elections. Hassan supports the Revolution Continues coalition because it is the only group that is promoting a programme that includes issues such as a higher minimum wage and reforming the Interior Ministry. However, preliminary results show the coalition has not won a single seat so far, even in Cairo.

This doesn’t mean Hassan has any illusions about the coming months. In a conversation we had, as the second day of voting closed, Hassan, who is expecting the birth of the couple’s first child any day now, explained: “SCAF isn’t just trying to slow the process of democratisation down, it’s trying to reverse all the gains” won since February.

“I’m not sure the other parties understand this. Instead of demanding a full transfer of power they agree to a basic minimum of demands and making deals involving small games,” Hassan added.

While the main liberal parties may be playing small games, the larger contest concerns whether the backroom deals many commentators assume have been struck between the military and Islamist forces will be reinforced or challenged by the voting results, and the strength of the Tahrir occupiers who refuse to cede ground to the state for fear that leaving the Meidan too soon will enable the continuation of the still corrupt and violent old system.

There have been many accusations of voting irregularities. In Nasr City in Cairo, illegal politicking at polling stations was widespread, although it is hard to tell how different the outcome would have been without it. What is clear is that the Brotherhood and Salafi parties took few chances during the voting, despite their comfortable position going into the vote.

According to lawyer and activist, Yasser Shoukry, who has closely monitored the voting procedures, the violations by the parties go way beyond merely handing out flyers too close to polling booths.

“The polling officials at their computers are writing instructions literally on flyers for the Freedom and Justice Party and handing it to largely illiterate people, who see the crocodile symbol on the paper as they walk into the voting both and have no clue that it represents only one of many choices they have. Others are threatened with fines and encouraged with kilos of rice and similar enticements to cast their vote for one of the religious parties.”

Class war in the making?

“People haven’t had time to understand the system enough,” Shoukry explained to me while we walked around his neighbourhood, dodging the piles of garbage every 10 meters or so, a result of the decision to privatise garbage collection.

“People feel they have no choice but to vote for the Brotherhood, but I have gone up to them and said, ‘Okay guys, you might win the elections, but we will win the revolution, because you will never be able to govern like this, with this level of corruption.’ Just look over there,” Shoukry continued, pointing to a large Brotherhood funded school across the street from his sister’s coffee house.

The large complex is located in the back of the a smaller public school.

“You can’t imagine the envy with which the public school kids look at the private school Brotherhood kids who, are much richer than them? It’s a class war in the making,” Shoukry said.

This dynamic points to one of the key problems that the elections and the emerging system is not really set up to address: the gross inequalities and poverty that has increasingly defined Egypt since Anwar Sadat’s “opening” to the West reversed the significant redistribution in wealth that occurred under Nasser.

While the Brotherhood might wind up with the most seats in Parliament, the reality is that Egypt faces a host of seemingly insurmountable problems and if a Brotherhood led alliance cannot tackle them successfully there is little reason to believe that votes will remain loyal the second time around.

“The Brotherhood were always victims and suffered a lot under Mubarak,” another activist added, “so people will give them this chance. But if they don’t bring serious economic development and full political reforms, beginning with the immediate release of the 12,000 political detainees, than the new government will be shown to be toothless, or worse, a replay of the old regime.”

Tahrir dynamics 

On Wednesday, Al-Masry Al-Youm, an Egyptian daily newspaper, reported that “only in Tahrir are the elections not centre stage.” But Tahrir has a habit of anticipating realities that erupt with a vengeance soon thereafter. Back in February the diehard Tahriris refused to leave the Meidan after Mubarak was toppled, declaring that the revolution was not finished as long as the military remained in power. They urged their fellow citizens not to go back to their normal lives until that much larger battle had been won. They were eventually cleaned out of the square, only to return in the coming months several times as the reality of the SCAF’s rule began to take shape.

Indeed, if the new parliament is able to wrest power from the SCAF in the coming months it will be thanks in large measure to the sacrifices of the Tahriris who faced tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and kidnappings in the last ten days to ensure real democracy was on everyone’s mind during the voting.


Even older activists who didn’t participate in last week’s battles are worried about the eclipse of Tahrir in Egyptian politics. One of the country’s most well-known activist judges, Zakaria Abdel Aziz, came into the Square around midnight one evening and declared that in the wake of the latest attacks, “If 500,000 people aren’t in Tahrir, it has no meaning.”

If the Islamist parties do as well as the early results indicate, their withdrawal from the Square and willingness to work with the SCAF might well prove to have been sound from a purely political perspective. With Egypt’s political system so endemically corrupt and the Brotherhood and Salafis viewed even by many religious Egyptians as increasingly aligned with the military/economic elite and the remnants of the Mubarak regime, a failure to bring significant changes in the short term could lead to an erosion of support among the millions of Egyptians who voted for them.

For the revolutionary activists who are shaping up to be perhaps the biggest losers in the turn to electoral politics, two potential scenarios are emerging which worry them more than the actual vote tally. In the first, the newly empowered political forces align with their former oppressors in order to cement their political power while preserving the existing economic order (and especially the military’s role within it). In the second, the Brotherhood demands a real and rapid transfer of power from SCAF to a Parliament it controls, and used its position to attempt to shape a Constitution that enshrines and preserves its power rather than challenge the patrimonial structure of Egyptian politics and society more broadly to replace the Mubarak era New Democratic Party/military elites as the centre of power.

The preliminary results do not bode well for an Egyptian political universe no longer controlled by a conservative wealthy elite. The winners so far – the Freedom and Justice Party, the Salafi Nour Party, and the billionaire Naguib Sawiris’s Egyptian Bloc – were precisely those who had unlimited campaign funds, while the grass roots revolutionary parties seem to have done poorly.

On Tuesday night, around 1AM, less than 1,000 Tahrir defenders wandered the Meidan armed with sticks or nursed wounds sustained in repelling attacks, while an artist sat in the “Revolution Artists Union” right next to one of the main field clinics, painting the trunk of a tree with the caption “Tree of Tahrir” written above it.

The symbolism was both obvious and poignant: As Egypt moves from revolution to politics, the lessons and spirit of Tahrir will have to be rooted in the country’s evolving political psyche. Not surprisingly, hardly anyone in Tahrir had much faith in the likely winners of the election adopting that spirit, as they have, for all Egyptians.

“Even the cops and Baltigiyya [thugs], after all are not inherently bad, but are the product of an oppressive and sick system,” as one activist put it.

Ibrahim El Houdaiby, political analyst and former Brotherhood youth member, said it best: “The continued detention of 12,000 civilians is a crime and the revolution is not over. But protest and voting are two parallel paths that can work in synergy, as happened in Chile and Brazil. The key is not next year, but the next five years.”

For Houdaiby, if all goes well the longer term will witness the ascent of a new political class “stemming from local politics and other social incubators, more attached to people and more capable of representing their will and aspirations.”

Whether they actually have the power to translate those aspiration into policies that bring greater freedom and development is, of course, the question that neither Houdaiby nor any other commentator can answer. But with Islamist parties seemingly gaining the majority the parliamentary vote thus fart at the time of writing, it is a question a lot of people are sure to be asking come morning.

The Brotherhood and its electoral allies could well surprise skeptics and focus both on removing the army from political power while drafting a constitution that ensures basic civil and political rights for all Egyptians and encourages a fair and sustainable restructuring of the economy. The first test will be the how far the election winners will go to free their 12,000 fellow citizens who have been not merely disenfranchised, but literally removed from the country’s political life.

If in the coming weeks there is no move to demand their release, then there is a good chance that the fears of those who sacrificed the most for the revolution that began on January 25 will be realised, and the new system will in fact be little more than a retread of the old one. But if the newly elected parliamentarians demand freedom for Alaa Abdel Fattah and the other far less known prisoners, the tree of freedom planted in Tahrir might just have a chance of taking root in the coming years.

( / 01.12.2011)

Abbas ‘offers border proposal to Quartet’

TEL AVIV, Israel (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas recently provided representatives of the Middle East Quartet with a new proposal on the borders of a future Palestinian state, Israeli media reported Thursday.

The proposal included the border and security arrangements that Israel would be provided in a peace agreement, according to the report in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

In turn, the Quartet has demanded that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu provide a counter-proposal, something Netanyahu has refused to do, Haaretz reported.

Israel believes any counterproposal should be presented in direct negotiations with the Palestinians, but the PLO called off talks over a year ago amid Israel’s refusal to halt settlement construction.

Abbas met Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital for talks about the peace process, and the president stressed his support for negotiations, state media reported, quoting a statement.

Abbas told Livni that “the option of peace and negotiations was the only way to achieve the two-state solution based on the 1967 borders with the resolution of final status issues including Jerusalem, refugees, borders, settlements and security,” the statement said.

The Kadima party said Livni urged Abbas to return to talks.

“Do not let Hamas impose its agenda by forming a joint government,” the statement quoted her telling Abbas. “With them you have no chance for peace.”

“Now, before forming a government with Hamas, in the face of the changes in the region and instead of unilateral moves at the UN, it is necessary to open negotiations before it is too late and I call on you to do it before it is too late.”

“The Middle East is changing and the deadlock serves the extremists who exploit the dispute on the streets of the Arab world. We need to act now in partnership against the extremist Islamic forces.”

The statement from Abbas’ office said he assured Livni that the next Palestinian government, to be formed ahead of elections within a year as called for by the unity deal with Hamas, would be a moderate one.

The government will be composed “of technocrats and independents and… will accept previously signed agreements, the principles of two states, be committed to peace and will renounce violence,” he told Livni.

Abbas also repeated his insistence that negotiations must be based on the “obligations” of both sides under the Road Map, a 2003 framework for negotiations to reach a peace deal, the statement said.

“The president stressed the obligations of both sides to implement what is required of them under the first phase of the Road Map, including a halt to settlement construction and accepting the 1967 borders as the basis for talks.”

( / 01.12.2011)