Mubarak steps down: Lessons for Palestine?

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.

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Filed under Activism, Human Rights, War and Peace

Don’t You Want To Stay At Guantanamo Bay?

In need of a tropical spring break destination? Tired of the relentless gray skies, slushy brown snow on the side of the streets and the biting chill of the wind? Well, you’re in luck because, boy, do I have the getaway for you!

If the Bahamas is too commonplace for your family vacation, consider visiting sunny Guantanamo Bay! A steely paradise in the middle of the Caribbean, Guantanamo Bay (or Gitmo, as it’s fondly known as to its slender, tanned residents) combines the steamy climate of the region with all of the penal charms of a private prison.

While busy families certainly can book short stays, vacationers are encouraged to sojourn indefinitely to better appreciate the resort’s unique sights and sounds.

Call 1-800-GTMO-BAY to embark on the holiday of a lifetime!

Our facilities are completely safe and non-lethal.

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Filed under Civil Liberties

CIA Official: Obama Was Briefed On Egyptian Instability Last Year

Stephanie O’Sullivan, the nominee for principal deputy director of national intelligence and current associate deputy director of the CIA, told the Senate Thursday that the intelligence community warned President Obama about Egypt’s political and socioeconomic instability late last year.

“We warned of instability but not exactly where it would come from,” O’Sullivan said. “That happened at the end of last year.”

Senators Saxby Chambliss and Ron Wyden pushed her a bit, asking for specifics. O’Sullivan explained that her involvement was only indirect, and that her duties required “a more general understanding of what was going on.”

Sen. Wyden apparently wasn’t placated (good). From Talking Points Memo:

“You were told yesterday I was going to ask this question,” he insisted.

“Not in this detail,” she responded.

“I think it’s unfortunate we’re not getting more specifics considering you were put on notice,” he said.

Sen. Chambliss then asked for a follow-up, a detailed write-up on all of the President’s briefings on Egypt. “As part of our oversight duty we need to make sure we’re evaluating the quality of information that’s getting to the No. 1 customer, which is the President,” he said.

Ms. O’Sullivan’s nomination is expected to be approved.

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Filed under US Politics

So, apparently there are categories of rape.

Well, this happened. In what can only be described as pandering to the Old White Man lobby, the GOP has decided that rape is, well, too broad a term. But apparently women didn’t like that and fought back. And so the “forcible rape” wording of the Hyde Amendment disappeared.

Mother Jones describes what made Chris Smith, the representative who decided that date rape and incest and statutory rape aren’t rape-y enough to be called rape, retract his wording.

The GOP effort to rewrite the meaning of rape incited a Twitter campaign of protest (using the hashtag #dearjohn). Editorial pages and columnists protested. Progressive groups initiated a crusade to kill the bill. And The Daily Show, of course, got in the act (around 9:15) too. MoveOn.org launched a petition against the bill, saying Smith’s legislation would “set women’s rights back by decades…As far too many women know, bruises and broken bones do not define rape—a lack of consent does.” EMILY’s List, issued its own petition, declaring war on the bill and one of its most prominent proponents: Speaker of the House John Boehner. Its website, BoehnersAmerica.org, urged “Boehner and his cronies to stop using rape victims as political pawns.” The group said, “it was known from the beginning that Boehner and his boys would fight to take away women’s freedoms whenever possible.”

Smith’s bill did unsettle some GOPers. Differentiating between types of rape, Politico reports, befuddled Republican aides. “Such a removal would be a good idea, since last I checked, rape by definition is non-consensual,” one GOP aide says.

Well, I’m glad they’re on the same page as us when it comes to the definition of rape.

Maybe when a man slips a drug into a woman’s drink, and she can’t control her body when they have sex, that doesn’t seem violent. But you tell that to a woman who has been impregnated by a man who took advantage of her. You tell her that what she experienced was not rape but rather “rape-ish,” to quote the Daily Sho

And the thing is, this legislation will still disenfranchise women if it goes through, even if the word “forcible” isn’t attached to it. It will still make it even harder for lower-income women and women of minorities to get safe abortions. Maybe Chris Smith doesn’t have to worry about affording an abortion, but that doesn’t mean the problem doesn’t exist.

Also, just an administrative note: I’ll be blogging for Alan Colme’s website, Liberaland. If you want to support this awkward little kid, you can read my first article here.

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Filed under Civil Liberties, Women's Rights

Jamie Kilstein on Conan

One of my favorite progressives in the entire world, Jamie Kilstein, was on Conan last night and pretty much brought the house down.

Watch this, and then go listen to Citizen Radio, the progressive podcast that he does with his wife, Allison Kilkenny.

I wish I could present the video here, but alas WordPress is like my mother: mostly lovable, but on occasion vindictive as hell.

Here’s what Coco had to say about Jamie:

In addition to being a comedian, Jamie Kilstein is the co-host of the incredibly awesome radio show Citizen Radio. You can tell that he is one smart guy: Obama, technology, terrorism, changing the world! For one little comic to tackle such big topics is pretty cool. My favorite part of his set was the joke about technology and Japan… he has a GREAT point. I can’t just RE-TYPE it down here in the little blog area though! You gotta watch it!

Also, it was Jamie Kilstein’s first time on TV! Conan loves introducing new comedians to the world, and he seemed very pleased to present Jamie’s debut tonight. Way to go Jamie, you killed it.

 

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Filed under Fun Shit, Media

Cornel West on Craig Ferguson

So, for Black History Month, I would like to talk about being black in America. But that’s, well, fucking stupid because I’m a privileged white girl. So here’s Cornel West, talking to Craig Ferguson on last night’s Late Late Show. It was a really spectacular conversation, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Dr. West, on courage, wealth disparity, black history and an orgasm machine.

 

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Filed under Human Rights, Media

Guardian: Eyewitness account from activist

Ahdaf Soueif:

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 policekilled 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.

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Filed under Activism, Guest Bloggers, Human Rights, War and Peace