The myth of the Egyptian revolution’s US- and Israel-friendliness

You’ve all read in Western – I use this term as a shorthand for « European and North American » – mainstream media how nice the Egyptian revolution was as neither the US nor Israel were at its core. This has always made me laugh – pretending that the popular protest movement would somehow be positively inclined – or indifferent – towards the US and Israel – well, you’d have never to have spoken to a protester to believe that. The youth movement that triggered the Egyptian revolution has its roots in the protest movement against Operation Defensive Shield and the Jenin bloodbath in 2002 as well as the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 – when students, islamists, leftists and liberals coalesced in grassroots protests.

Well, I don’t really know how these talking heads are going to try to gloss over this:

Revolution Youth Coalition refuses to meet Clinton

Ahram Online , Tuesday 15 Mar 2011
The January 25 Revolution Youth Coalition has announced it refuses to meet Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, during her visit to Egypt. The Coalition stated that the US administration was a vital supporter and ally of the ousted Mubarak regime.

The coalition, made up of six youth groups, said it did not welcome Clinton’s visit to Egypt and demanded that the US administration make a formal apology to Egypt’s people for its foreign policy towards the country in the past decades. They added that “the Egyptian people are the masters of their own land and destiny and will only accept equal relations of friendship and respect between the people of Egypt and the people of America.”   

The coalition’s declaration added that “the US administration took Egypt’s revolution lightly and supported the old regime while Egyptian blood was being spilled.” It also condemned past American policies towards Egypt and demanded that they be reformulated to achieve a balance between the interests of the Egyptian and American people. 

Clinton’s tour of the Middle East, which starts today in Egypt before taking her to Tunis, is the first cabinet-level visit to the region by the Obama administration since the revolutions in both countries.

And it takes an Egyptian newspaper to notice the unescapable:

Mubarak’s close relationship with Israel drew scorn from Tahrir protesters. Chants encouraging Mubarak to resign in Tahrir Square were frequently tailed with, “Tell him in Hebrew, maybe he doesn’t speak Arabic.”

Don’t tell Thomas Friedman, who surely must have written the stupidest column ever to have been published in the New York Times (Sarah Carr’s satire is quite good as well): he’s convinced the Egyptian revolution was caused by admiration for Obama and Israel…

After the spirit of Tahrir, now the spirit of Kattameya Heights

Satire is often difficult. The following piece is taken from the Egyptian Daily News, but would not be out of place on satirical website Koshary:

One thousand turn out to Support Ahmed Shafiq

By   Ethar El-Katatny /Special to Daily News Egypt
March 5, 2011, 1:34 am
HELWAN, Egypt: Inside the gated compound of Katameya Heights, where ex- Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq lives, around 1,000 people gathered to express their gratitude and support for him.

Chanting “We love you Shafiq” and “Shafiq for president,” the supporters, also residents of the upscale Katameya Heights and nearby compounds, were vehement in their assertion that the protesters in Tahrir do not represent them.

There are lots of us here who didn’t even want Shafiq for prime minister,” says Aghraid Amin, a marketing manager at NGO Misr El-Kheir. “But they came because they are incensed that the opinion of those in Tahrir is forced upon all of us. We don’t want a dictatorship from Tahrir. Where is the democracy?

A microphone went around and Shafiq listened to supporters expressing their opinion for over an hour, asking him for everything from starting a political party to running for president.

The people in Tahrir are louder than us,” screamed one protestor, holding up a sign saying ‘Egypt is not just Tahrir.’ “But they don’t represent us all,” she said.

Dressed in a woolen vest, Shafiq handed her an apple juice from those being handed out: “I thank you for coming and for lifting my head up high,” he said, as he accepted flowers from supporters.

In response to those who asked him to start collecting signatures to form a political party, Shafiq refused to elaborate.

There is no way I will be using this day to benefit politically. It’s not about Tahrir or not Tahrir. Egypt is one. What the majority wants should happen. I have relatives in Tahrir. Egypt now is about freedom of speech.”

After an hour of listening to people’s demands, Shafiq headed home.

Standing next to a parked car, Sayed Abdel-ba’y, a 42-year-old driver, told Daily News Egypt: “The people here are the elite of Egypt. But even so, I’m with them now. I was in Tahrir, but over the past 10 days I stopped supporting the demands. Shafiq is a good person and we should have given him a chance.”

For those not really familiar with Egypt: Kattameya Heights is a very select compound on the outskirts of Cairo, where the last prime minister appointed by former president Hosni Moubarak, general Ahmed Shafiq, lives. I think Moubarak’s elder son Alaa also used to live there, but I am not certain. And that Ahmed Shafiq should be so popular in Kattameya Heights is hardly surprising: that compound is among the string of luxury communities surrounding Cairo, built during the last 10 to 15 years, and benefiting businessmen and real estate ventures standing close to Moubarak and his clan. And Ahmed Shafiq was a régime insider: air force chief of staff 1991-96 and then air force commander 1996-2002, he was minister for civil aviation from 2002 till Moubarak appointed him prime minister on January 31 this year. The infamous State security police, mainly responsible for the repression under Moubarak’s reign, clearly felt they had lost a friend when he resigned this Thursday, March 3 – they set about to put their archives on fire in various cities around Egypt – Alexandria and Cairo (Nasr city, 6th of October and Dokki), only to be partly prevented by protesters and the military (see Zeinobia’s coverage here).

This speculative bubble (see also this interesting article in Swiss Le Temps) is thus also a political bubble: invited yesterday at Seasons’ country club in the Gerana compound along Alexandria Desert Road, a friend and I joked how far that place was from the spirit of Tahrir. Maybe Koshary weren’t wrong after all:  

In an admirable effort to end class segregation in Egypt, residential compounds in El Sheikh Zayed City have united their borders and declared themselves an independent nation. The name of the new country on the western outskirts of Cairo is yet to be announced, though rumours suggest the contending names are Eliteland, Etiquettestan, and the more descriptive République des Villas et Piscines.

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