Friday, February 04, 2011

"No One Knows"

Arlene Kushner

.how things will turn out in Egypt.

Violence in Tahir Square in Cairo increased overnight, with casualties mounting up. The crowd has insisted it will see Mubarak gone today.

In addition, the Obama administration is in communication with members of the Egyptian regime in order to encourage them to push out Mubarak.

But Mubarak refuses to go. He says that while the Americans talk about bringing in various factions to start the process of reformulating the electoral system to allow for greater participation, they don't understand that his leaving would bring chaos.

"You don't understand the Egyptian culture."


And this leads me to a very pertinent observation. It is absolutely and unequivocally the case that Obama does not understand the culture.

For Muslim Arab culture is very strong on issues of honor. Being shamed, the ultimate horror, is unbearable to someone within that culture.

Yet Obama shamed Mubarak with public denunciations and insistence that he must step down. No matter what other issues are at play now, the president has effectively backed Mubarak into a corner, so that leaving is not an option. It seems to me that pressure would have to be very extreme from within his own regime, or some other factor would have to intervene, before he would consider walking away.


Interestingly, no European leaders have gone as far as Obama has in their demands. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it would be "gratuitous and arrogant" to call for Mubarak's resignation.

Mubarak might be right that chaos would ensue were he to leave, but this is considerably less certain. There are some who believe civil war would be the result. But others, with clear heads, say that he should leave, and allow the remainder of his regime, with the support of the army, to carry on.


Mubarak is only a figurehead at this point. For all intents and purposes Vice President Omar Suleiman is running the country. He is a tough experienced military man.

It is a bit unsettling, that he has invited the Brotherhood to participate in dialogue (which they decline to do as long as Mubarak is in office). It could be that this is merely a gesture he feels obliged to make at this time.

The point has been made that a large part of what the protestors had demanded has already been acknowledged: That Mubarak will step down in September, and that laws will be adjusted to allow for greater participation in the election.

But rebels in the street claim that this is insufficient. They want a full turnover immediately. There are complaints that for the new electoral rules to be enacted, the parliament has to stay in place -- while they want to see it immediately disbanded.

What those who demand this want is the way of chaos.


It seems obvious to me that the Brotherhood is fomenting this discontent and these demands. Chaos accrues to their benefit.

Genuine democratic reformers (and some minority of the crowd consists of these) would be content to see the progress that has been made, pack up and go home, and watch for more democratic procedures to be put in place.

And so perhaps Mubarak is correct. Were he to step down, the crowd would be told by the radical fomenters that this is a great win, and no time to stop -- they must now push for the complete collapse of the regime.

Ben Hartman, in a piece in the JPost, quotes Egyptian attorney who said, “Egyptian people are like the camel, we are patient, patient, but when we lose control we are very dangerous.”


And yet...very credible analysts are betting on the army.

Hartman, in another article in the JPost today, commented that, "'s great to have history and the media on your side, but it's better to have bullets." His piece on the role of the media is quite thoughtful.

And I'm reading that the IDF, which has daily contact with the Egyptian military, has confidence in its ability to handle matters.


As the events are monitored, it is important to remember that the Brotherhood does not believe it has to assume control all at once, even if that control is its ultimate goal. It is willing to play within the system, appearing to be reasonably moderate by cooperating with others.

Yet, even with its current "moderate" guise, there are Brotherhood leaders who have made statements in the last couple of days voicing opposition to Zionism and the peace treaty with Israel.


Shabbat is coming -- for which I thank Heaven.

Let me end on an upbeat note with this piece by David Suissa (for which I thank Gordon P.):

"...Think of the ridiculous amount of media ink and diplomatic attention that has been poured onto the Israel-Palestinian conflict over the years, while much of the Arab world was suffering and smoldering, and tell me this is not criminal negligence. Do you ever recall seeing a UN resolution or an international conference in support of Middle Eastern Arabs not named Palestinians?

"Of course, now that the Arab volcano has finally erupted, all those chronic Israel bashers have suddenly discovered a new cause: Freedom for the poor oppressed Arabs of the Middle East!

"Imagine if, instead of putting Israel under their critical and hypocritical microscope, the world's Israel bashers had taken Israel's imperfect democratic experiment and said to the Arab world: Why don't you try to emulate the Jews?

"Why don't you give equal rights to your women and gays, just like Israel does?

"Why don't you give your people the same freedom of speech and freedom to vote that Israel does? And offer them the economic opportunities they would get in Israel? Why don't you treat your Jewish and Christian citizens the same way Israel treats its Arab and Christian citizens?

"Why don't you study how Israel has struggled to balance religion with democracy -- a very difficult but not insurmountable task?

"Why don't you teach your people that Jews are not the sons of dogs but a noble, ancient people with a 3,000-year connection to the land of Israel?

"Yes, imagine if Israel bashers had spent a fraction of their energy fighting the lies of Arab dictators and defending the rights of millions of oppressed Arabs. Imagine if President Obama had taken one percent of the time he has harped on Jewish settlements to defend the democratic rights of Egyptian Arabs -- which he is suddenly doing now that the volcano has erupted.

"Maybe it's just easier to beat up on a free and open society like Israel.

"Well, now that the cesspool of human oppression in the Arab world has been opened for all to see, how bad is Israel's democracy looking? Don't you wish the Arab world had a modicum of Israel's civil society? Would you still be worrying about 'stability in the Middle East?'

"...I've never felt more proud of being a supporter of the Jewish state."


© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.

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