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Investigating Egypt’s massacre

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This post is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

It’s more than two weeks now, the cabinet has been named and an election roadmap has been published.  Still Egypt remains on the brink – of something.  What that something is unknown.  Even the experts are stumped.  For its part the Muslim Brotherhood is playing hard to get. 

The Egyptian military has to make some decisions and soon.  These decisions will determine the immediate future of the political process and have long range effects as well. 

What to do with ousted President Morsi – release him in Egypt, release him outside Egypt, place him on trial in an Egyptian court?

Is the military ready to clear Cairo Square?  Protestors have been there for weeks now.  It’s doubtful that the square can be cleared without violence and without thousands joining those already there.

Few have commented on the shift in Egypt in relation to public protests.  It’s a long political road between Tahrir Square and Cairo Square.  Nonetheless, both squares are now in historical proximity.  If the Muslim Brotherhood is banned – a decision that has to be made soon – will Cairo Square become politically irrelevant or emerge in another political light?

Meanwhile the Guardian has published a chronicle of the killings outside the Republican Guards’ club last week.  The report is detailed, hour by hour, with interviews and video.  The brutality is obvious.  Here’s how the Guardian sums up their findings after telling the story of what happened to three of the protesters:

All three were victims of Egypt’s bloodiest state-led massacre since the fall of Hosni Mubarak, in which, according to official figures, at least 51 people were killed by Egyptian security forces and at least 435 injured. Two policemen and one soldier were also killed with 42 injured. The military has said that the assault on the protesters was provoked by a terrorist attack. At about 4 am, according to the army’s account, 15 armed motorcyclists approached the Republican Guards’ club compound. The army said that the motorcyclists fired shots, that people attempted to break into the compound, and that the soldiers then had no choice but to defend their property.

However, a week-long investigation – including interviews with 31 witnesses, local people and medics, as well as analysis of video evidence – found no evidence of the motorcyclist attack and points to a very different narrative, in which the security forces launched a co-ordinated assault on a group of largely peaceful and unarmed civilians. 

The report doesn’t bode well for the authorities or for the progressives who have attached themselves to Egyptian state power.  The next days will show whether the brutality increases or some political compromise is reached.  Has the military and its civilian façade reached the point of no return?  If it has there’s more instability ahead for Egypt. 

Can the army enforce stability in the face of millions of opposition supporters?  Repression works – sometimes.  It can also fail.  Then what?

Meanwhile, predictably, John Kerry appears to have failed again to jump-start Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.  Though discussed in their web edition, The New York Times didn’t even see fit to analyze Kerry’s latest failure in print.  Since it’s Kerry’s sixth visit to the region since he became Secretary of State, the Times may be staging its own protest.  Kerry seems more and more irrelevant and since President Obama has already declared himself a lame duck on Israel/Palestine, the Times may be bestowing the same status on the ineffectual Kerry.

The Guardian [link] and Haaretz [link] carried their analyses.  Both articles are pro forma, lack energy and a sense of urgency.  In general they report what everyone else is reporting.  There wasn’t enough on the table for Palestinians to bite at a further delay on solving the issues that aren’t going to be resolved anyway.  Since delay is what’s really on the table why waste the effort to dignify the delay by sitting around posturing with each other and the world press.

Underreported was the Israeli demand that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state as a starting point for negotiations.  Israel equates this with the Palestinian insistence that the starting point for negotiations be a full Israeli withdrawal to its 1967 borders – minus those pesky land swaps, of course.  Are these demands equivalent?  Since Palestinians know they aren’t really negotiating a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, does Israel likewise understand that Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state isn’t happening either?

What might happen in Egypt.  What isn’t happening in Israel/Palestine.  Cut from the same political cloth?

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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3 Responses

  1. bilal a
    bilal a
    July 19, 2013, 7:15 pm

    Gehad El-Haddad @gelhadda has the best MB reporting.

    No reported sexual assaults at the MB rallies it seems, whereas Tahrir, populated by deep state funded thugs and criminals, is dangerous The thugs are being unleashed on Rabba:

    “Jama ‘a al-Islamiya condemned plans to break up the peaceful protest in Rabea al-Adaweya Square by what it termed “paid thugs” who calim to speak for the residents of the neighborhood.

    The group said that those plans are being coordinated by security authorities, calling on the latter to protect the people or else allow the group to do so itself, according to a statement the group issued on Thursday.

    “We denounce all assaults on the peaceful marches organised by opponents of the military coup. Those attacks are led by paid thugs who are protected by the armored vehicles of the police,” the statement read.”
    What happened to the 33 million anti morsi protestors?

    • gamal
      July 20, 2013, 11:52 am

      Rabia Al-Adawiyyah, from Basra originally, not to be confused with Rabia al Shamsiyya, was the first person, and a woman at that, to teach something called “Sufism”.

      she was very good on hope and fear, concluding that they were unnecessary and harmful if one wished to live the good life. she said:

      “O my Lord,
      Whatever you have apportioned to me of worldly things
      Give it all to my enemies.
      And whatever you have apportioned to me
      in the world to come,
      Give that to my friends.
      For you are sufficient for me.”


      “The source of my suffering and loneliness
      is deep in my heart.
      This is a disease no doctor can cure.
      Only Union with the Friend can cure it.”

      and most famously

      “One day Rabia was seen running with fire in one hand and water in the other. They asked her why she was doing this and where she was going. She replied, “I am running to light a fire in Heaven and to pour water on the flames of Hell, so that both veils to the Face disappear forever.”

  2. Citizen
    July 19, 2013, 7:28 pm

    “Underreported was the Israeli demand that Palestinians accept Israel as a Jewish state as a starting point for negotiations.”

    Very true. The US mainstream news reports only the demand of the Palestinians that Israeli settlements stop as a precondition to negotiations.

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