EDIT: For reasons I don’t quite understand, the video won’t show up. But seriously. Go watch it here.
EDIT: For reasons I don’t quite understand, the video won’t show up. But seriously. Go watch it here.
This is what can be done when people engage their public officials in peaceful but active protest. Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Moor, a Palestinian freelance journalist, argues that Palestinians have a lot to learn from the Egyptian revolutionaries.
Global attention is rightly focused on Egypt at the moment. Weeks after Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali withdrew his proboscis and fled to Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian tyrant and American strongman Hosni Mubarak has similarly fallen. For more than two weeks now rage has seized the streets of Egyptian cities and towns. Decades of political suffocation, petty and grand corruption, economic struggle and injustice have galvanised the people. Now, they demand a total regime purge.
Yemen, Algeria and Jordan also appear ready for change either through revolution or reform. The leaders of these countries are facing mass protests over the same corruption and lack of democratic representation issues that Egypt has. In those countries too, I am optimistic that emboldened publics will force change.
Palestine is a special case, however. The race-based Israeli apartheid system and the virtual Palestinian Authority (PA) police statelet work in tandem to pummel the Palestinians into submission. The binational repression apparatus spawned by the Israelis and venal Palestinians is especially difficult to overcome. That is because while the Israelis are perpetrating what Professor Juan Cole calls the “slow genocide” of the Palestinian people, PA functionaries insulate the occupation from legitimate resistance.
The Palestine Papers provided observers with a raw view of the inner workings of the so-called peace process. It became clear that where a people’s national aspirations should have been, a pervasive rot had taken root and metastasised throughout the Palestinian body politic.
Predictably, the PA’s response to the leaks showcased Mahmoud Abbas’ gangster credentials. Shortly after the release of the documents, the PA regime’s secret police and thugs vandalised the Al Jazeera network’s offices. That embarrassingly transparent act of hooliganism turned out to be portentous of Mubarak’s own attacks against the network. Here in Cairo, the regime’s henchmen torched the network’s offices and began to attack and arrest journalists.
There are more similarities. When Palestinian youths congregated to demonstrate in solidarity with Tunisians several weeks ago they were jackbooted by Abbas’ thugs. And it happened a second time when they organised to demonstrate in solidarity with Egyptians. Likewise, Mubarak’s own baltageya (goons) massed to injure and kill peaceful protesters in one street battle that lasted 15 hours. Hundreds of demonstrators were injured and at least nine were murdered – some by snipers.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to kill Palestinians at a remarkably constant rate of one person per day in 2011. And the Israelis kill with impunity; they know that Abbas’ security forces are their subordinates. And they know that the PA exists to protect them from Palestinian resistance – an example of which was the PA’s burying of the Goldstone Report on war crimes perpetrated by Israel and Hamas during Operation Cast Lead.
The grand arc from Cairo to Tel Aviv to Ramallah – the primary propulsion force behind the despots – is American patronage. Americans provide Israel with billions of dollars every year to build settlements – money is fungible, after all. And they provide Mubarak with billions and Abbas with hundreds of millions of dollars to secure the Jewish apartheid state.
This formula guarantees that the Israelis get security, PA apparatchiks get rich and ordinary Palestinians get savaged – by everybody. It is a formula that permitted Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, to offer the Israelis the biggest “Yerushalayim in Jewish history”. It enabled Ahmed Qurei, the PA’s former prime minister, to exclaim obsequiously to Tzipi Livni, the then Israeli foreign minister, that he would “vote for [her]”. And it allowed Mahmoud Abbas to make a solidarity call to Hosni Mubarak at the outset of the Egyptian revolution. It is a formula that has enabled Israel to colonise Palestine out of existence, undermining the ostensible reason for the PA’s creation.
There are signs that the American street is awakening to the abuses marshalled by American government “aid” in the region. The revolution has ignited discussion in online chat forums and op-eds about why Americans are providing billions to a brutally despotic regime.
Similarly, the discussion around Palestinian financial aid and authoritarianism is already beginning. Human Rights Watch issued the following statement in response to the crackdowns against protesters: “The US and the EU should suspend aid to Palestinian Authority security forces unless the Palestinian authorities take appropriate measures to end such abuses and allow Palestinians to enjoy their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.”
But the Palestinians cannot wait for the American and European publics to pressure their governments into withholding funds from the PA and Israeli apartheid. Nor are they willing to wait. On February 5, several thousand Palestinians succeeded in overcoming Abbas’ squad of thugs and protesting against the regime, and in solidarity with Egyptians. But much more needs to be done to overcome the double-stacked challenge they confront. The Palestinian people need a strategy for dismantling the colonially corrupted PA. Human Rights Watch provides a workable template for how to do that.
The parallel challenge of defeating Israeli apartheid and calling for equal rights in Palestine/Israel will become that much easier in the absence of apartheid’s insulation authority. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement can operate more efficiently against an apartheid regime that does not hide behind a native enforcement regime. The efforts of the Palestinian people must be directed at both.
This is the scene that took place in every district of every city in Egypt today. The one I saw: we started off as about 20 activists, after Friday prayers in a small mosque in the interior of the popular Cairo district of Imbaba. “The people – demand – the fall of this regime!” Again and again the call went out. We started to walk: “Your security. Your police – killed our brothers in Suez.”
The numbers grew. Every balcony was full of people: women smiling, waving, dangling babies to the tune of the chants: “Bread! Freedom! Social justice!” Old women called: “God give you victory.”
For more than an hour the protest wound through the narrow lanes. Kids ran alongside. A woman picking through garbage and loading scraps into plastic bags paused and raised her hand in a salute. By the time we wound on to a flyover to head for downtown we were easily 3,000 people.
The government had closed the internet down in the whole country at 2am. By 9am, half the mobile phones were down. By 11, not a single mobile was working. Post offices said the international lines had been taken down. This is a regime fighting for its life. And fighting for its ability to carry on looting this country. As the protesters walk through Imbaba, we note the new emergency hospital where building has been stopped because of a government decision to turn it into a luxury block of flats. The latest scandal of this kind is the Madinti project. The chant goes up: “A pound of lentils for ten pounds – a Madinti share for 50p.”
Now, as I write, the president has announced a curfew from an hour ago. And the army has started to deploy. If I were not writing this, I would still be out on the street. Every single person I know is out there; people who have never been on protests are wrapping scarves round their faces and learning that sniffing vinegar helps you get through teargas. Teargas! This is a gas that makes you feel the skin is peeling off your face. For several minutes I could not even open my eyes to see what was going on. And when I did, I saw that one of my nieces had stopped in the middle of the road, her eyes streaming. One of her shoes lost, she was holding out her arms: “I can’t, I can’t.”
“You have to. Run.” We all held arms and ran. This was on 6 October Bridge, just under the Rameses Hilton, and the air was thick with smoke. The thud of the guns was unceasing. We were trying to get to Tahrir Square, the main square of Cairo, the traditional destination of protests. But ahead of us was a wall of teargas. We ran down the slope of the bridge and straight into a line of central security soldiers. They were meant to block the way. We were three women, dishevelled, eyes streaming. We came right up to them and they made way. “Run,” they urged us, “Run!”
“How can you do this?” I reproached them, eye to eye.
“What can we do? We want to take off this uniform and join you!”
We jumped into a boat and asked the boatman to take us closer to Qasr el-Nil bridge, which would bring us near Tahrir. From the river, you could see people running across the bridges. Some young men caught the gas canisters and threw them into the river, where they burned and fizzed on the water.
We scrambled on shore under Qasr el-Nil bridge and joined the massive protest that had broken the security cordon and was heading to Tahrir. I cannot tell how many thousands were there. People were handing out tissues to soak in vinegar for your nose, Pepsi to bathe your eyes. Water to drink. People were helping others who were hurt. The way ahead of us was invisible behind the smoke – except for bursts of flame. The great hotels had darkened their ground floors and locked their doors. The guns thudded continuously and there was a new rattling sound. The people would pause and then a great cry would go up and they would press on. We sang the national anthem.
Once, a long time ago, my then young son, watching a young man run to help an old man who had dropped a bag in the middle of the street, said: “The thing about Egypt is that everyone is very individual, but also part of a great co-operative project.” Today, we are doing what we do best, and what this regime has tried to destroy: we have come together, as individuals, in a great co-operative effort to reclaim our country.
Please tell President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to condemn the dictatorial Mubarak regime of Egypt by sending them this letter from Amnesty USA.
With tens of thousands of Egyptians taking to the street Friday in defiance of a curfew, I am writing to encourage the Obama Administration to make a strong stand in favor of the rights of the Egyptian people and to use its influence with Egypt’s President Mubarak to prevent further bloodshed. You should further ensure that no American-made weapons are turned against demonstrators.
Amnesty International believes protesters must have the right to organize protests and demonstrate free from intimidation, violence, and the threat of detention and prosecution. To date, however, their efforts have been met with violent reprisals by security forces, leading to at least 10 deaths and countless injuries.
I object also to the continued detention of more than 1200 protestors and urge that the administration press that the Egyptian government move quickly to either release them or charge them with recognizably criminal offenses. Amnesty International fears that these detainees are at risk for torture or ill-treatment and urge that they have immediate access to family members, legal advice and if necessary medical care. A number of detained protesters have told Amnesty International that they were beaten up during arrest and in detention at the Central Security camps, and denied adequate medical care.
Anything less than a strong message in support of the rights of the Egyptian people will break faith with those who put their lives on the line to stand up for those rights. This is not the time to speak behind the scenes. Please give a public statement of support for the protestors and call upon the Egyptian government to rein in its security forces.
Go here to fill out the form and email our government. More on our reluctance to support the democratic movement in Egypt later.
Please tune in to Al Jazeera’s live coverage of the protests in Egypt here.
It’s just… wow.
I’ve not done anything on Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, etc., but I’ll be writing about these revolutions soon.
Just… gah. From Free Press:
The Federal Communications Commission announced its decision, by a vote of 4-1, to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal, one of the largest media mergers in history. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn, Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert McDowell voted for the merger, while Commissioner Michael Copps dissented.Tuesday’s vote will allow Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and residential broadband provider, to take control of NBC Universal, a major content provider and the owner of national English- and Spanish-language broadcast networks, more than two dozen local TV stations, numerous cable news and entertainment channels, and movie studios. With the FCC’s blessing, Comcast-NBC will now control one in every five television viewing hours.
I can’t stress how monumentally devastating this is for our democratic process. If Comcast controls one in ever five television viewing hours, that means they will be controlling a fifth of all of the information we receive through the TV. Now, maybe we are informed enough to generally avoid corporate media, but a great majority of the country is not. That means that a great majority of the country will be getting the information Comcast wants them to get.
It boils down to our definition of democracy. Thomas Jefferson believed that the “only security of all is in a free press.” He explained that a free press enables the public to keep the government in check, that “the force of public opinion cannot be resisted when permitted freely to be expressed.” Free information, he said, “is necessary to keep the waters pure.”
Now, I’m of the opinion that media conglomeration is inherently dangerous to democracy. We trust the smiling faces we see on the screen. And when there is trust, when there is perceived, mutual loyalty, it’s hard for us to question the things those faces say. Without creative, critical thought and debate, even amongst our own “sides,” we are easily manipulated. And suddenly we have no control.
We believe what the people at the top want us to believe, and we don’t have a clue.
The FCC released a statement, suggesting “that granting the application, with certain conditions and contingent upon enforceable commitments, is in the public interest.” Because it’s in the public interest to allow a corporation to monopolize, to kill media diversity and competition, and limits our choices as consumers of media. Yeah, that makes a lot of fucking sense.
President and CEO of Free Press Josh Silver argued that the decision to allow this merger “represents a failure of the agency to live up to its own public interest mandate,” in addition to ignoring the President’s promise to “promote media diversity” and “prevent excessive media concentration.”
But the approval of this merger represents yet another failure of the Obama administration to live up to the president’s promises to protect against media consolidation and ensure access to a broad range of diverse sources of news and information. Apparently, such promises aren’t worth much in the face of Comcast’s army of lobbyists, PR shops and generous campaign contributions.
The dissenting voice of the FCC decision, Commissioner Michael Copps, expressed concern that “the public interest requires more — much more — than it is receiving.”
And what’s next? The Internet.
Back in December, Senator Al Franken penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post, calling net neutrality “the most important free speech issue of our time.” I’m going to share most of it here because he did a great job taking a complicated issue and making it easy to understand.
As a source of innovation, an engine of our economy, and a forum for our political discourse, the Internet can only work if it’s a truly level playing field. Small businesses should have the same ability to reach customers as powerful corporations. A blogger should have the same ability to find an audience as a media conglomerate.
This principle is called “net neutrality” — and it’s under attack. Internet service giants like Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged access to the Internet for corporations who can afford to pay for it.
The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don’t do that at all. They’re worse than nothing.
Well, that’s decidedly troubling.
For many Americans — particularly those who live in rural areas — the future of the Internet lies in mobile services. But the draft Order would effectively permit Internet providers to block lawful content, applications, and devices on mobile Internet connections.
Mobile networks like AT&T and Verizon Wireless would be able to shut off your access to content or applications for any reason. For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn’t nearly as good. Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area).
That’s right. This really isn’t just a progressive issue. This is a democratic issue. Republicans like Ron Paul are for net neutrality, but they make up a small percentage of congressional Republicans. And honestly, a lot of “moderate” Democrats are sketchy on net neutrality as well, so it’s not a partisan thing. It’s a principle thing, and either you’ve got principle or you haven’t.
The FCC has never before explicitly allowed discrimination on the Internet — but the draft Order takes a step backwards, merely stating that so-called “paid prioritization” (the creation of a “fast lane” for big corporations who can afford to pay for it) is cause for concern.It sure is — but that’s exactly why the FCC should ban it. Instead, the draft Order would have the effect of actually relaxing restrictions on this kind of discrimination.
And that’s how we know that maybe, just maybe, the federal agency created to protect our airwaves might be bought. If there is any doubt left…
Here’s what’s most troubling of all. Chairman Genachowski and President Obama — who nominated him — have argued convincingly that they support net neutrality.
But grassroots supporters of net neutrality are beginning to wonder if we’ve been had. Instead of proposing regulations that would truly protect net neutrality, reports indicate that Chairman Genachowski has been calling the CEOs of major Internet corporations seeking their public endorsement of this draft proposal, which would destroy it.
After all, just look at Comcast — this Internet monolith has reportedly imposed a new, recurring fee on Level 3 Communications, the company slated to be the primary online delivery provider for Netflix. That’s the same Netflix that represents Comcast’s biggest competition in video services.
Imagine if Comcast customers couldn’t watch Netflix, but were limited only to Comcast’s Video On Demand service. Imagine if a cable news network could get its website to load faster on your computer than your favorite local political blog. Imagine if big corporations with their own agenda could decide who wins or loses online. The Internet as we know it would cease to exist.
When we lose net neutrality, we lose our last haven for free speech. For progressives and for the poor and disenfranchised peoples of this world, that is a devastating prospect.
1. “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.”
2. “We shall overcome.”
3. “I have a dream.”
4. “Why I Am Opposed to the Vietnam War.”
5. “Nonviolence is the Most Powerful Weapon.”