Fragile Egypt

Israel/Palestine
on 51 Comments

On Monday, a day after the Egyptian army killed two dozen Christian protesters outside the radio and television building in Cairo, I went to the St. Mark’s cathedral in the northern part of the city for the funerals of four of the victims. Thousands of people were walking toward the massive modern complex. At the gates they had to pass through metal detectors, and be frisked, and produce national i.d. cards showing religion.

But most mourners did not show i.d. cards–they only held up their right hands over their heads. I thought at first it was a Christian salute. Then I understood they were baring the undersides of their wrists, which bore tattoos of crosses. And I marveled at how deeply religious identity is engrained.

Are you Christian? They asked me when I went inside. No. American, I said, afraid to say that I am Jewish. From the time I arrived in Egypt 10 days ago at the Israeli border, I have repeatedly been warned about the fear of Israeli agents meddling in Egyptian politics. And the mood at the cathedral was tense and stricken. People’s faces were swollen with grief, some were bandaged. Political chanting resounded through the jammed courtyard, led by charismatic young men horsed on other men’s shoulders. It was hard to tell the funeral from a political rally. They chanted, The people demand the fall of Tantawi, the head of the armed forces, SCAF. 

For two hours inside the cathedral complex I was treated with the greatest respect. And when people learned that I was a reporter they mobbed me. Two or three men stood at my side to translate, as one person after another came up to tell me their stories. This man had been nearly crushed by a tank, his head was crusted and yellow and distorted, ringed with stitches. A hysterical grieving widow sobbed as she called for global attention to the Christian position in Egypt. A girl showed me a photograph of what were described as .50 caliber sniper shells, discovered on the ground after the killings. A man said that 90 percent of the Christians want to emigrate. He said that Christians are persecuted, unable to get building permits. The girl with the photograph said she had been asked in school to remove her cross.

The swarm was so intense with grief and rage, so close to tilting into a mob, that I felt claustrophobic. It took a half hour to leave. Amr Moussa, the Egyptian leader who is now a candidate for president, was leaving at the same time. He had come to express his condolences to the Coptic pope. But he was spotted by the young men who were leading chants, and their rally turned into a melee. I was squeezed against a car as a pastelike mass of male anger pushed past me. Amr Moussa’s bodyguards were shoved and punched and manhandled, as they cordoned the former head of the Arab League. A bottle of Coke went flying and struck one of the bodyguards on the shoulder.

In an instant they were back in two SUVs and driving frightened from the compound.

You do not want to talk to Amr Moussa? I asked a man. “No– he is not here out of sincere feeling, only to get our vote.” Well, that is the nature of representative politics, I tried to say; politicians have hearts made of polling data.

But the feelings were too raw to say that. The first two steel coffins were now bobbing over the crowd to the sounds of chants led by the men on other men’s shoulders. Our blood will redeem you, a pastor translated for me.

A demonstration was forming in the streets to try and go to the city center. The army had declared a curfew. I walked out amid restless crowds carrying crude wooden crosses.

What does this sectarian tension say about the great Egyptian revolution? What do the killings of so many Christians by the army mean for the future of Egypt?

I just spent ten days in the country (my fourth visit), and though I have no Arabic, here are some impressionistic answers.

The revolution is alive. Its signs are everywhere in Cairo. I saw murals of the martyrs, graffiti saying “Fuck the Police” and stencils of the McDonald’s arch with the words, “SCAF Eat This”. I went to an exhibit of political cartoons at the Society of Fine Arts that make our cartoons look pale. This amazing city is bursting with a popular desire for more political freedoms. Two years ago in Tahrir our demonstration for Gaza was crushed by the police as people walked by darting us looks of sympathy. Today the square is free-speech-mad; and in days to come I will put up my snapshots of Egypt’s willed transformation, glimpses of the political imagination that has now inspired the Wall Street protesters, the Israeli tent protesters, and so many others around the world.

The twitter/facebook methods that Egyptians pioneered will never be killed. At the very moment that the army was crushing and killing Coptic demonstrators, and the state media were lying about it, the true knowledge of the atrocities was being tweeted by Egyptian social media activists, including Sandmonkey.

And as I left the cathedral alongside a crowd of demonstrators, a woman in hijab holding up the Kuran ran out to join hands with the Christians in protest of the army.

But that is the good side. The bad news is that my friends in Egypt are deeply discouraged and say things will get worse before they get better. They were inspired by the signs of Muslim-Christian cooperation during the revolution. Now a friend expresses the fear that the country will spiral into civil war. Everyone on the left says that the army is using and exacerbating sectarian tensions to solidify its authoritarian control of the society and seek to ensure that another uniformed despot will be in power for the next ten years.

Egypt’s fragility is obvious. The only evident security at the cathedral were Christian volunteers. And as the crowd of 500 demonstrators I was watching marched down the road holding up crosses, past a neighborhood with mosques in it, there were no police to be seen. A Christian friend told me later that the police are afraid; broken by the revolution, they know that they will be ignored or trampled.

There is an anarchic feeling. The society is filled with freed criminals whom the police have done nothing to put back in jail, and the civil institutions we have in America that do something to create a spirit of nonsectarian community are largely lacking in Egypt; I am told that NGOs are tightly circumscribed in their work. And no one trusts the state media. Of course the largest demos I saw were outpourings of religious feeling; but as the military dig in, religious authorities only rise as leaders in whom people have the most faith.

Outside social media, that is. And even if social media are gaining strength and confidence, they tend to represent the highly-educated. I wonder how much power they will have among the masses– all those people with their religious identity tattooed on their wrists.

What about the roles played by Israel and the U.S.? Of Israel I can only guess. The Arab spring is a great threat to Israel’s continued dominance; and it makes sense that Israel would seek to heighten sectarian strife in Egypt so that the military will clamp down and we will have the Mubarak status quo ante by a different name. Some of the Islamophobic comments I heard at the cathedral would be music to Israeli leaders’ ears: Muslims cannot live as a minority, they regard us as animals… But I can’t imagine that Israel wants an Egyptian civil war. The spillover would be too dangerous. And an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood ala Iran would spell more neighbor issues for the fortress state.

As for the U.S.—well, we should be helping Egypt in a peaceful transition toward democracy. We should be nurturing civil society, we should be encouraging those leaders like scientist Ahmed Zewail who have called for a civilian advisory council to guide the transition, we should be standing by the social media that built the revolution, we should be giving the red card to Tantawi. Will we do this? No. Because of Israel and our sole concern, a stable environment for the peace treaty, we will favor authoritarianism over democracy.

Walking back from the Cathedral, I thought about Zionism in Jewish life. The men holding their wrists up with the crosses tattooed at the cathedral—they are as dyed in the wool in their ethno-religious identity as Zionists are in theirs. As dyed in the wool as the “beards” of the Muslim Brothers. To visit Egypt is to be reminded that cultural/nationalist/religious identification is a tremendous force in human life, stronger than material impulses, and there is choice in it–those Coptics are choosing to tattoo their wrists, Jews choosing to line up behind Zionism. That is where I differ with Sarah Hawas. She believes sectarian forces are, in the end, manipulated by international capital for neocolonial interests. I don’t. I see these religious alignments as deeper than material and neocolonial forces. They reflect the human passion for meaning– channeled by our worn-out religions into exclusivist madness, the same madness Gandhi witnessed as the Raj disappeared and language riots broke out and Muslims and Hindus divided. The American empire, such as it is, has only been damaged by our attachment to Israel. Blind support for Israel led to 9/11. And it made a fool of Obama before the world in his humiliating speech at the U.N. 2 weeks ago.

This is about devotion. Zionism is as destructive to the future of the Middle East as the Muslim Brotherhood or any other zealotry. The newspapers talk about the thousands killed in Syria or Libya, over many months now. Or the 800 killed in Egypt in 10 months of (incredibly restrained) revolution. I can’t stop thinking of the 1300 killed in a murderously efficient 19 days by Israel in Gaza. More than 1300, including 400 children, massacred in a caged ghetto smaller than Cairo. If it had happened in Egypt we would call it sectarian genocide. And all the burnt churches of Egypt are matched by blown up and burnt Palestinian mosques.

My visit to the revolution makes me despair of mass religious movements. I look to the secular and educated, and to social media, to lead our leaders.

51 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    October 12, 2011, 9:47 am

    Phil, wonderful reporting. I hope someone will translate it into Arabic and show it to the Copts, who trusted you as a reporter.

    Altho the religion is deep and real (and not manipulated INTO being, whatever manipulations it may subsequently submit to), the ARMY looks to be very much a tool of USA (and hence Israeli) pressure, asserted as usual through money to the corrupt leadership. Stability has always been easier for the USA to achieve through dictators and authoritarians.

    As to the 1300 killed in Gaza in 19 days, just remember that WAR is good, TERRORISM is bad. Got that? We assassinate (and Israel taught us the say with drones and missiles) in Yemen and Pakistan as a matter of WAR, whereas Iran (so it is alleged) arranged to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador by bomb: TERROSISM.

    It is so easy to see the difference. If we CALL it WAR (as in the new/proposed USA law to allow the arrest without trial of anyone anywhere), it IS war; but if others do it, it might be terrorism (unless that “other” is Israel).

  2. annie
    October 12, 2011, 10:12 am

    powerful journalism phil

  3. Dan Crowther
    October 12, 2011, 10:30 am

    Lets hope that the anarchic feelings spread in Egypt and here in the US and around the world. Institutions should be created through direct democracy, not the idealism of elites. Empower people, not institutions.

    Religion is about submission – and it is easier to accept when you face tyranny throughout your daily life. Mindless behavior and irrationality become a feature, not a bug, not only for religious sects, but the state as well when people are grouped, and accept being grouped based on completely arbitrary “differences.”

    But even this is changing and hopefully coming to an end. People knew right away that there were nefarious forces behind the violence against the christians – people refused to believe what they were told from institutions like the government and the press; we see the same thing happening here in the US, a total refusal to make the occupy movements “concise” for the MSM while the single greatest worry among the occupiers is about institutional co-opting of the movement.

    We shouldnt be in despair – we should be encouraging the universalist nature of all these protest movements. If Egyptians can get past this (state sponsored, cough* – cough*) violence as brothers and sisters and not as “christians” and “muslims” – we will be well on the way toward a radically different future. Rootin’ For Egypt!!!

  4. tombishop
    October 12, 2011, 10:33 am

    This is really excellent and courageous reporting!

    I agree with pabelmont that the U.S. government and the Israeli government are operating through the Egyptian military to stoke this sectarian violence. The removal of Mubarak did not change the structure of the state. While I agree that sectarianism has taken on an energy and life of its own, the underlying factor fueling the divisions is the geopolitical and economics interest of the of U.S. corporations and banks and their client, Israel.

    The instances that Philip cites of individual Muslims and Christians joining together to fight the sectarians is encouraging. This must be turned into a political movement which is the only way to advance what the Egyptian people began in their Arab Spring.

  5. jimby
    October 12, 2011, 10:36 am

    “And what rough beast,
    it’s time come round at last,
    slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

    W B Yeats. from the Second Coming

    What can save us from these barbaric tribal religions that emanate from the “holy land”?

    • annie
      October 12, 2011, 10:39 am

      what can save us from governments using them to control the masses?

      • Walid
        October 12, 2011, 11:34 am

        I’m glad for Phil having discovered that there was something more to what was happening than the fluttering flags; being in the “thick of it” one sees things differently than from observing them on a TV monitor 6,000 miles away. That story didn’t just happen but was there all the time, festering and waiting for the opportune time to erupt. But Phil has only seen the less important half of the story and he still has to discover the ongoing pulling of strings that involve the Saudis and the Turks. Phil talks about his government needing to help put Egypt back on the rails and helping it attain democracy. What Phil hasn’t yet grasped was that it was his government that did the actual derailing. When the US asked the Military Supreme Council to sanction the Muslim Brotherhood, it gave them the greenlight to start burning churches and to the military to start running over people with their vehicles. What Phil got very right and was being shy about was Israel’s involvement in the sectarian conflict. Moussa by the way, that intrigued Phil with the flying Coke bottle is America’s main agent in this mess. As outgoing head of the AL, he convinced the Arab states into going along and blessing the NATO bombing of Libya and even in joining in it. What half-decent Arab would accept to have NATO bomb another Arab country? When the actual bombing started, he half-heartedly backtracked and started asking for a ceasefire.

      • annie
        October 12, 2011, 12:29 pm

        Moussa by the way, that intrigued Phil with the flying Coke bottle is America’s main agent in this mess.

        i didn’t realize that.

      • richb
        October 12, 2011, 12:57 pm

        In addition to what Walid is saying too much was read into the tattoos. Note the comment by the Coptic Pope concerning infiltrators yesterday. If you wanted to identify yourself as Christian it’s on your ID card (by law). If you are an infiltrator you could have phony ID. On the other hand, if you are really a Christian you would have the wrist tattoo. The tattoos originated to identify orphans as Christian and not be brought up Muslim. Much of the violence is concerning “forced conversions” and the tattoos are used as proof to avoid the violence. With respect to the ID cards you are required to identify your religion and you have only three choices and cannot pick none of the above. If you don’t have the cards you don’t have rights.

        See this story for more details on the ID cards: link to guardian.co.uk

      • richb
        October 12, 2011, 1:07 pm

        To put it bluntly, in Egypt your parents have freedom of religion. You don’t.

      • Walid
        October 12, 2011, 1:20 pm

        The frontrunner had been Mohamed el-Baradei, former IAEA chief but to be elected in most Arab countries, America’s blessings are needed and el-Baradei made things difficult for the US in both Iraq on the WMD issue and later on Iran when he wouldn’t lie about what was happening there. Moussa always played along and made things relatively easy for the US by keeping a lid on the toothless AL. America does not forget its enemies or its friends, so el-Baradei will lose and Moussa will be the next President.

      • Walid
        October 12, 2011, 2:21 pm

        “what can save us from governments using them to control the masses?”

        Education, Annie, it’s the only way. 40% of Egypt’s adult population is not literate and can be easily led to water by any form of religion or cult. The incidence of FGM there is said to be in the 90% range.

  6. Richard Witty
    October 12, 2011, 11:54 am

    Great writing except for your comments on Israel, really all of them.

    Israel needs order that is willing to not make war on Israel, period. If that came from mature democracy, wonderful. If that came from reactionary Islam, wonderful (sort of).

    Many in Israeli military/intelligence have adopted a divide strategy for deflecting animosity, but more prefer peacable stability and security resulting from desparation.

    Zionism is not tattoo’d. It is the desire for self-governance. I know you share the desire for self-governance, but maybe geographically defined Jewish is not your primary identity. For others it is the primary political component.

    It deserves affirmation so that it may mature further.

    What is happening in Egypt occurs after every revolution oriented to the opposition of a dictator. Now is the struggle time for the basis of the new Egyptian identity. The Egyptian military was the dominant institution in Egypt, and was appreciated for not disrupting the mass rallies in the spring.

    Have civilian elections occurred? When are they scheduled? Will the military be a department of the government, or the government a department of the military?

    • DBG
      October 12, 2011, 12:25 pm

      I think Phil gets it, but he has to appease his crowd @ Mondoweiss ©. This is an anti-Israel blog first and foremost and he knows he needs to appease the mob.

      • annie
        October 12, 2011, 12:30 pm

        yawn

      • Cliff
        October 12, 2011, 12:48 pm

        It is the desire for self-governance.

        Zionism is not benign. Zionism is colonialism, racism, apartheid and war. Zionism is a destabilizing logic that seeks to create a Jewish majority through ethnic cleansing. Past, present and foreseeable future.

        Thinking otherwise just makes you a Zionist. So carry on. You aren’t surprising anyone here.

      • DBG
        October 12, 2011, 1:02 pm

        yawn….

      • DBG
        October 12, 2011, 1:04 pm

        Cliff, you know this post was about Egypt right?

      • richb
        October 12, 2011, 1:17 pm

        Of course Zionism is not benign. There is persecution against Messianic Jews and there have been — as has been documented by the U.S. State Department — violence against them including bombs and church burnings. Careful readers should see a trend. Theocracy is humanity’s single dumbest idea. My theocracy is no better than your theocracy. The best protection of religious liberty is a secular democracy. It’s the right answer in the U.S. and Egypt and Israel.

      • Cliff
        October 12, 2011, 3:10 pm

        Yea?

        Dick:

        Great writing except for your comments on Israel, really all of them.

        […]Zionism is not tattoo’d. It is the desire for self-governance. I know you share the desire for self-governance, but maybe geographically defined Jewish is not your primary identity. For others it is the primary political component.

        DBG:

        I think Phil gets it, but he has to appease his crowd @ Mondoweiss ©. This is an anti-Israel blog first and foremost and he knows he needs to appease the mob.

    • Dan Crowther
      October 12, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Witty says:
      Israel needs order that is willing to not make war on Israel, period. If that came from mature democracy, wonderful. If that came from reactionary Islam, wonderful (sort of).

      Translation: I dont give a shit about Egyptians, and if they all have to be rounded up into cages so as not to “make war on Israel” – that is fine with me.
      The only way to have any peace with Israel is to do exactly what they say.

  7. VR
    October 12, 2011, 12:37 pm

    This is an example of why I am so specific on what counts as a revolution, and wrote a three part definition on the basis of such. Involved in the three part series I elaborated on the standing army, specifically with Egypt in mind, it is brief and not exhaustive but to the point –

    “The military, whether it is propped up by foreign capital or not, whether our loved ones are in its ranks or not, is never designed to listen to nor obey the voice of the people. All military should subordinate itself to the will of the people, and if they refuse they are nothing but the servants of the system which the people wish to do away with. Whether the force of the military is applied either domestically or in foreign war it is not by the will of the people, and it does nothing to protect you but is designed for the will and enrichment of the few. If you say to me that any institution of force, military or police, will not allow the people to do what they want to do – then I say they are controlled by other than the will of the people. If you tell me that the people would like to do thus and so collectively but cannot because of contrary force, than that force is not standing by the will of the people.

    The army should be told to stand down to the will of the people, the generals should be dismissed who are propping up anything but the will of the people. They should be told in no uncertain terms that they will join the ranks of the people, and this because they have been isolated and cloistered, educated to follow orders, and they need to determine who’s orders they are going to obey. The rank and file should be encouraged to break the ranks and not be involved in the suppression of the people, or they will face the people in full force on what has been turned into a field of battle.

    There is no revolutionary thrust which historically never faced the prospect clash with the system of the status quo supporting the few, as opposed to that which is the will of the people. Anyone who told you or implied that this can solely be a peaceful process is either deceived, or they have been infiltrated by the design of the few – because they told you that you can chant and march your way peacefully to liberation, but if this is all you do it will never be substantive change because you will leave the heart of the system intact. This suspicion, which I posted in my last post is correct, it is prescient – ”

    BEATING THE NEOLIBERAL BEAST GLOBALLY

    (2/19/11)

  8. Edward Q
    October 12, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I think in the Middle East religious identity has traditionally substituted for national identity; the different sectarian communities have historically been able to coexist. In modern times xenophobia seems to be developing.

  9. Kathleen
    October 12, 2011, 1:41 pm

    “I wonder how much power they will have among the masses– all those people with their religious identity tattooed on their wrists.”

    frozen in their minds and spirits

    So so sad the harm done as a result of religious or cultural prejudices that people have stemming from cultivated fear and hatred. When so called religious folks are threatened by others religious beliefs demonstrates a shallow faith.

  10. Kathleen
    October 12, 2011, 1:45 pm

    “And an Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood ala Iran would spell more neighbor issues for the fortress state.”

    I have read that this is a cultivated myth. Surprised you jumped on that band wagon. I have also read that the Muslim Brotherhood supports El Baradei who I know would not be supporting Iran having any controls in Egypt.

    • Walid
      October 12, 2011, 2:38 pm

      Kathleen, the Brotherhood got off el-Baradei’s bus about 3 months ago when it got on the American-Israeli one. El- Baradei has been keeping a low profile since then especially in light of repeated physical attacks on him and his supporters and a massive press campaign disparaging his lack of familiarity with Egyptian issues. Al-Ahram shows him running behind Moussa despite a FB poll that gave him a 25% popularity rating against Moussa’s 13% because most of the people of voting age don’t know what FB or a computer are about. El-Baradei has been extremely harsh of the military and complains that most of the governors have not yet been fired. Not a good way of making friends and getting elected.

  11. Kathleen
    October 12, 2011, 1:50 pm

    “Walking back from the Cathedral, I thought about Zionism in Jewish life. The men holding their wrists up with the crosses tattooed at the cathedral—they are as dyed in the wool in their ethno-religious identity as Zionists are in theirs. As dyed in the wool as the “beards” of the Muslim Brothers. To visit Egypt is to be reminded that cultural/nationalist/religious identification is a tremendous force in human life, stronger than material impulses, and there is choice in it–those Coptics are choosing to tattoo their wrists, Jews choosing to line up behind Zionism.”

    Similarities and huge differences. Have the Coptics or the Muslim brotherhood chased groups of people off their land, killed some of them while terrifying others, built walls separating individuals from their lands, cut down orchards, removed people from their own homes and then demanded that these same people that they have seriously abused recognize that these crimes are approved by them. There are some huge differences

    • Walid
      October 12, 2011, 2:46 pm

      “Have the Coptics or the Muslim brotherhood chased groups of people off their land, killed some of them while terrifying others, built walls separating individuals from their lands, cut down orchards, removed people from their own homes and then demanded that these same people that they have seriously abused recognize that these crimes are approved by them. ”

      The Copts, no; the Brothers, yes, but it’s OK as they are now America’s pets and the US asked that they have a word in the new government that will be formed.

  12. Philip Munger
    October 12, 2011, 1:51 pm

    Are you Christian? They asked me when I went inside. No. American, I said, afraid to say that I am Jewish. From the time I arrived in Egypt 10 days ago at the Israeli border, I have repeatedly been warned about the fear of Israeli agents meddling in Egyptian politics.

    — If Phil W. is arrested in Egypt as an Israeli agent, will the Zioclaque @ DailyKos allow me to write a diary about it there?

    Seriously, this is a powerful essay. Although differing in stylistic approach and descriptive narrative from Max Blumenthal’s set of summer 2011 interviews with young Jewish Turkish citizens, both authors show a reality so at odds with the American myth of what it is like to live in the eastern Mediterranean, as to be deserving to be part of a major collection of such accounts.

    Be safe, Mr. Weiss.

  13. Kathleen
    October 12, 2011, 1:52 pm

    “She believes sectarian forces are, in the end, manipulated by international capital for neocolonial interests. I don’t. I see these religious alignments as deeper than material and neocolonial forces. They reflect the human passion for meaning– channeled by our worn-out religions into exclusivist madness, the same madness Gandhi witnessed as the Raj disappeared and language riots broke out and Muslims and Hindus divided. ”

    Why not both?

  14. radii
    October 12, 2011, 2:48 pm

    in war and geopolitics “facts on the ground” matter most and it is a fact that the Egyptian people greatly suspect israeli meddling within their politics – and this fear doesn’t develop out of thin air but through their experience

  15. Keith
    October 12, 2011, 2:52 pm

    PHIL- “Walking back from the Cathedral, I thought about Zionism in Jewish life.”

    Hopefully, you also think about imperialism in American life.

    “The twitter/facebook methods that Egyptians pioneered will never be killed.”

    Careful that you don’t put too many eggs in that corporate controlled basket, particularly when the basket is tethered to Wall Street and empire.

    “As for the U.S.—well, we should be helping Egypt in a peaceful transition toward democracy.”

    Democracy? You mean like we have here? Ritual voting and the illusion of democracy? You would do well to at least somewhat temper your romanticism with a smidgeon of cold rationality.

    • VR
      October 12, 2011, 5:56 pm

      I think you are barking up the wrong tree Keith, they just want to make believe that everything has to do with Zionism here while they play the Star Spangled Banner. Not everyone here, but when you are physically comfortable and snug in your delusions nothing wakes you up until it is all gone.

      • Antidote
        October 12, 2011, 6:40 pm

        “snug in your delusions”

        Indeed. It’s getting pretty crazy around here. Here’s a good antidote that should open a few eyes among both the neocon Churchill or liberal Wilson, FDR and Truman worshippers. And those who like to play the Nazi trump card

        link to scribd.com

  16. wondering jew
    October 12, 2011, 3:20 pm

    I appreciate Phil’s on the scene reporting, but I would feel comforted if he would take into account realistic reporting on the general tendencies of the counterrevolution described by Hussein Agha and Robert Malley in the Sept. 29, 2011 edition of the New York Review of Books.

    • Cliff
      October 12, 2011, 4:09 pm

      You appreciate that Phil is in Egypt but you think he’s not realistically reporting! How generous of you.

  17. MHughes976
    October 12, 2011, 5:09 pm

    Phil seems to have a real journalist’s instinct for being in the right place. Our good fortune, but he must be running some personal risks.

  18. DICKERSON3870
    October 12, 2011, 8:51 pm

    RE: “Zionism is as destructive to the future of the Middle East as the Muslim Brotherhood or any other zealotry.” ~ Weiss

    NOTE: The CIA and The Muslim Brotherhood: How the CIA Set The Stage for September 11 (Martin A. Lee – Razor Magazine 2004)

    (excerpts) The CIA often works in mysterious ways – and so it was with this little-known cloak-and-dagger caper that set the stage for extensive collaboration between US intelligence and Islamic extremists. The genesis of this ill-starred alliance dates back to Egypt in the mid-1950s, when the CIA made discrete overtures to the Muslim Brotherhood, the influential Sunni fundamentalist movement that fostered Islamic militancy throughout the Middle East. What started as a quiet American flirtation with political Islam became a Cold War love affair on the sly – an affair that would turn out disastrously for the United States. Nearly all of today’s radical Islamic groups, including al-Qaeda, trace their lineage to the Brotherhood…
    …For many years, the American espionage establishment had operated on the assumption that Islam was inherently anti-communist and therefore could be harnessed to facilitate US objectives. American officials viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as “a secret weapon” in the shadow war against the Soviet Union and it’s Arab allies, according to Robert Baer, a retired CIA case officer who was right in the thick of things in the Middle East and Central Asia during his 21 year career as a spy. In Sleeping with the Devil, a book he wrote after quitting the CIA Baer explains how the United States “made common cause with the Brothers” and used them “to do our dirty work in Yemen, Afghanistan and plenty of other places”.
    This covert relationship; unraveled when the Cold War ended, whereupon an Islamic Frankenstein named Osama bin Laden lurched into existence…

    SOURCE – link to ce399fascism.wordpress.com

    P.S. SPEAKING OF THE CIA, MEET MY NEW “DROP DEAD GORGEOUS” ICON/AVATAR! Are those “Bette Davis eyes” (VIDEO-03:38), or are they the cold, calculating eyes of a sociopath (or perhaps even a psychopath)?
    “RAYMOND DAVIS: GUNS, CARS, AND BAGELS”link to newyorker.com

  19. tombishop
    October 12, 2011, 9:30 pm

    The realization is growing in Israel that the only solution out of the sectarian conflict is a democratic, secular state where everyone has equal rights regardless of religion or national origin.

    link to haaretz.com

  20. Saleema
    October 12, 2011, 9:32 pm

    Phil,

    Wonderful reporting.
    But, you write, “As for the U.S.—well, we should be helping Egypt in a peaceful transition toward democracy.”

    I think the US, and us, should stay out and mind our business. The rest of the world is as smart as us, if not smarter, they will figure out what works for them and how. We have no business guiding anyone toward any democracy. We are figuring that our for ourselves daily in this country and we still haven’t got it.

  21. jon s
    October 13, 2011, 5:45 am

    Phil starts off with a fascinating report, first -class journalism , but then feels obliged to tack on an attack on Zionism, which is glaringly out of context.
    Phil observes, quite correctly, :”cultural/nationalist/religious identification is a tremendous force in human life, stronger than material impulses…They reflect the human passion for meaning…”
    That being the case, how can Phil expect Jews not to identify with their own national movement, and reject Zionism? Zionism was a legitimate and admirable expression of Jews seeking liberation from discrimination and persecution.

    • Shmuel
      October 13, 2011, 6:19 am

      That being the case, how can Phil expect Jews not to identify with their own national movement, and reject Zionism?

      Recognising the impulse is not the same as accepting all of its manifestations.

      Zionism was a legitimate and admirable expression of Jews seeking liberation from discrimination and persecution.

      That is, at best, a very partial description of Zionism – obviously not the part that Phil takes issue with.

    • Potsherd2
      October 13, 2011, 6:41 am

      Maybe Zionism WAS once a legitimate expression of Jews seeking liberation from discrimination and persecution, but that changed forever when they attempted to achieve it on someone else’s land and subjected the rightful inhabitants to discrimination and persecution.

    • Chaos4700
      October 13, 2011, 8:44 am

      expect Jews not to identify with their own national movement

      I thought Phil is an American citizen. What do you think his nationality is, then?

  22. rachelgolem
    October 13, 2011, 11:57 pm

    Can someone explain to me how when millions of Egyptians and Syrians start killing each other in civil wars that may never end, how will this hurt Israel?

    Are Americans and Europeans really going to blame “Zionists” for it?

    Is this proof that Israel is a bankrupt culture?

    • annie
      October 14, 2011, 12:47 am

      hurt israel? this would be a wet dream for israel.

      • Walid
        October 14, 2011, 2:08 am

        When Egyptians and Syrians are killing each other, they don’t have Israel on their mind. And there’s no easier way to do it for Israel than to set fire to the very volatile ever-present sectarian fuse. Look at the long term mess Israel created with its killing of Hariri and a few other Lebanese politicians.

        Americans and Europeans cannot blame the Zionists for what’s happening in Egypt because they’re in on it. They’re the ones that gave the Muslim Brotherhood air cover over Libya and they’re the ones that made the Egyptian military accept the Brotherhood in controlling Egypt. They’re also helping the Brotherhood in Syria try to overthrow the regime. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Israel someday joining up with Hamas to blow Fateh away.

      • jon s
        October 15, 2011, 1:07 pm

        All evidence shows that Hariri was assassinated by Hizbullah.

  23. Stogumber
    October 15, 2011, 12:22 pm

    Being a Christian, I’m somewhat sad about Phil’s description with regard to “male anger” in and around the Cathedral. And the formula “our blood will redeem you” is rather perplexing from a theological point of view. But I hopefully think that the demonstrants were not apt to kill but rather to suffer.
    As for the value of secularism or education I’m ambivalent. There has always been an undercurrent of pacifism in Christianity. It came to the surface with the Bohemian Brothers and Anabaptists which weren’t educated, at least in a modern sense. So my question is rather: in what ways was the peaceful spirit revived at that time and in what way could it be revived in Egyptian Christianity?

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