It’s rare to find a statement on Israel-Palestine that isn’t poisoned by political agenda, and which is seriously interested in resolving a conflict rather than – dare I say – prolonging it by the same:
We call for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Occupied Palestinian territories, and the creation of a really independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, in contiguous territory, alongside Israel.
This is of great urgency because the Israeli government continues to build settlements in the Palestinian territories, and refuses to negotiate seriously. It aims to make a genuinely independent Palestinian state impossible. This situation is a factor endangering the whole region.
There is also a religious-sectarian polarisation across the region. Secularism, equal rights for all religions and none, and the right of self-determination for all nations – including the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Israeli Jews – are an essential part of winning democracy, peace between nations, working-class unity and social advance in the Middle East.
We call on the British government, the EU and the US to withdraw the political, economic, diplomatic and military ‘aid’ they give the Israeli government until it negotiates a deal giving the Palestinians the right to a really independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.
We will work for the British and international labour movement to liaise with and help efforts in the region, including by Palestinian and Israeli activists, to fight for workers’ rights, democracy, secularism and the right of all nations to self-determination.
What I admire about the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty is that they rely on positive rather than negative principles. This is a statement for the people of Israel and Palestine rather than simply against imperialism, or Zionism, or religious sectarianism.
“That war was no tie,” Obama told veterans and their families. An Asian tiger, South Korea is also a thriving democracy that stands at the forefront of 21st century technological pioneering; that is what victory looks like on the other side of Stalin’s wall.
But the Kim dynasty got what it wanted, too – a decadent, personal theme park filled with its own living toys to sing and be poked like funny monkeys. What’s a united peninsular against that?
I think this image from the Guardian article sums the situation up rather neatly:
Scraggy, undernourished “citizens” of the DPRK sing the glory of Kim Il-Sung, the man whose presidency not even death can bring to an end. If anything can be described as symbolic of the war’s ceasefire, it is the people of North Korea – existing invisible between two very different worlds, they have been, for decades, the ignorant victims of the most clichéd oppression one might ever imagine.
Two equally flippant extremes on the recent violence in Cairo and Alexandria:
Unsurprisingly, neither standpoint is unfounded. On the one hand, we have evidence of unarmed civilians shot by passing Egyptian security forces. Then again, we have pro-Morsi supporters pouring petrol over the entrance to Cairo International airport. Both sides are large, and come both peacefully and with their violent edges. General Sisi’s call for populist rallies to legitimise his coup would, a few days later, stoke further rallies in support of the deposed president.
In any deeply divided society, populism is its greasiest but most dangerous political lubricant. Why, after all, should you bother acting democratically – or even constitutionally – if you can deafen the streets with those chanting your name? The revolution continues; though, it might be said, in two ominously different directions, under two undemocratic banners – each trying desperately to show the least care for the other side.
When in power, the Muslim Brotherhood banned any future president from being either Coptic or female (that’s 60% of the population right there). In a recent interview with Mada Masr, Freedom and Justice advisor and MB spokesman Gehad el-Haddad expressed no regret for this: to the contrary, Morsi’s biggest failing was not to go far enough:
The big mistake that the president made was not to carry the revolutionary spirit into governmental reforms…We literally allowed this coup to happen because he wasn’t as forceful as he should have been…The president made a decision early on to [rule] by the book. Many objected to his decisions, even inside the Brotherhood. He decided to respect the corrupt heritage that was left for him, and that includes a corrupt constitutional court, a corrupt judiciary, and a corrupt set of regulations and laws that are literally designed to trap anyone in office.
For “corrupt”, replace with “secular”. It leads to the same conclusion: that the dreamy air of Muslim Brotherhood HQ would have raced for a Turkish-style army coup in order to prevent them from doing the same. The free election of 2012 had already been subverted beyond recall by 3rd July when Sisi took the reigns. But that does not justify legally questionable methods to remove Morsi’s supporters from the streets, nor his unofficial, unknown detention (nor the raids – none of it).
Last year’s narrow election would realise the undemocratic realities of a majority-ruled democracy for a polarised electorate; it might be hoped that the coming election will not result from the very same failures. Without a solid constitution – guaranteeing the place of the military, basic human rights and a secular framework in which a civil bureaucracy might operate – the realities of those Egyptians who demand a peaceful and economically stable nation will never be met.
Unfortunately, whether this will emerge from a bloody dialectic between Mubarak ghouls and the vainglory of would-be theocrats only time can tell.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer – critics of “Islamization”, as they call it, as well as founders of various anti-Islam foundations – were recently banned from entering the United Kingdom. It is the conviction of the Home Office that they are much worse than those who would overthrow the very constitution of this country.
In its letter to the duo, they invoked the “Unacceptable Behaviour Policy” as justification for barring them from British territory – that is, actions of speech that might foster inter-communal division; despite the long-established tradition in which stability is almost always hostile to liberty. Consensus is democracy’s most vicious opponent – and it’s patronising and degrading for parliamentarians to be making the arguments of decent Muslims for them.
“Freedom of speech” can’t ever be absolute, legally, because many existing laws can be broken through verbal and written communication: contempt of court, plagiarism, incitement to murder and breach of confidentiality to name a few. “Hate”, though, can only ever be a thought crime – the definition and origin of all totalitarianism governance.
That Geller and Spencer are irritants incapable of separating “moderate” Muslims from their fascistic counterparts should have no bearing on whether or not they are allowed entrance into the UK.
A year ago, I suspect the blogosphere was in fits over Egypt. The army had allayed the fears of those suspecting an army takeover and two candidates were in the run for the presidency: Morsi, sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, and Ahmed Shafik as the spectre of the Mubarak government.
Religion has a habit of screwing over the political spectrum. For many secular Egyptians, a vote for progress paradoxically became a vote for radical Islam; meanwhile Shafik bled nostalgia for the very system that the elections were intended to reject. What a caricature – a revolutionary is meant to be spoiled for choice!
There was a quiet wonder, though, which seemed to skip over foreign commentary like a pebble on the sea – waiting to drop. Morsi proved to be the first real triumph for Islamism, even by the eyes of the West; Sharia nestled into the ballot station, and it did so unarmed. It won a free election. But today the paradox proved to be unraveling.
The thousands marching in Tahrir Square and outside the presidential palace tells us that last year’s polar election was not as theatrical as we might be led to believe: it was not interpreted as a choice between theocracy and militarised oligarchy, but on principles which seem both secular and moderate. The army deflected Morsi’s Islamic dreams from the law and revealed his poverty of solutions to the economic crisis.
When people found poverty they did not turn to extremist Islam, but judged it by what it delivered and found it wanting. Islamism fought the election, and won; but then it realised it had chosen to answer questions on which it had little to say. Unsurprisingly, Morsi’s popularity has plummeted from 79% last autumn to a mere 32% today.
A lingering fear does of course persist: the Egyptian army now holds more authority there than Turkey’s did under Atatürk. Protesters in Tahrir Square demand Morsi step-down; it’s not the constitution to which they are opposed. Rhetoric, though, screams revolution – worryingly fitting given a military presence forced to live up to the expectations it has set itself. (There is currently speculation that the presidential palace is being left unguarded.) 32% is a low approval rating, but one not a lot lower than David Cameron’s in the UK.
So where does the revolution lie? In the pockets of benevolent army officials, the footsteps of Cairo, or the grim calm of the ballot office?
Everyone thinks they have power but only time will tell who is able to assert it.