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.
The Guardian reports that 38 Morsi supporters are dead with many more wounded after demonstrations turned violent in the early hours this morning. The hospitals are overwhelmed with the dead and the wounded. Those on the ground believe the death toll is likely to increase.
Meanwhile the New York Times reports that the accusations leveled by the governing powers in Egypt against former President Morsi could carry the death penalty. The combination of mass demonstrations and the military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood is recipe for more and more violence in the coming days.
Whoever is advising the military should know where this is leading. Where are the civilian leaders in the new government? Don’t they see that their blind support for the military is driving Egypt into a dark alley?
There’s no turning back now. The violence will accelerate. The military’s gamble is that they can force the Muslim Brotherhood to their knees. So far, it isn’t working.
The US response is tepid and contradictory. On the one hand, the US doesn’t want to seem anti-Muslim, hence the holding back on shipping F-16’s announced yesterday. But the bulk of US aid to Egypt’s military is untouched and the rumblings in Congress about American law, coups and aid won’t get very far. For all practical purposes the US is all in with the Egyptian military.
Why shouldn’t America be all in? Obama’s iron fist, Susan Rice, was on the phone reading Morsi his political last rites. Did she realize the coup might also mean his ultimate personal death?
Imagine Morsi being tried in an Egyptian court and condemned to death. Imagine the death watch and the execution. Imagine Morsi’s hanging being televised like the hanging of Saddam Hussein.
The Hamas link that the military is applying to Morsi’s prison break is important. The Egyptian military has placed Hamas and Gaza front and center from the beginning as the locus of Morsi – and the Muslim Brotherhood’s – betrayal of Egypt’s national security.
To characterize support for Palestinians as treasonous behavior is upping the ante. It’s a Middle East game changer. If the Palestinians are seen as outside the bounds of national security or, more, as threats to national security, Palestine will fall off the priority list for Arab governments. As well, Palestinian populations within the Arab world, already suspect, will come under renewed scrutiny.
This is already happening and dovetails with John Kerry’s Washington negotiations scheduled to begin next week. On Kerry’s last trip to the Middle East he avoided Israel and met with Palestinian leadership in Jordan. This was curious. Why meet with Palestinian leadership in Amman rather than in Ramallah?
As Nicola Nasser points out in Al Ahram, Kerry’s tactics were calculated. With the help of the Arab League, the Palestinians are being boxed in:
A new tactic by US Secretary of State John Kerry is causing a split within the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) ranks regarding further talks with Israel. Kerry is apparently using the Arab League’s Follow-Up Committee on the Arab Peace Initiative (FCAPI) to bully the Palestinians into accepting new ground rules for the talks to which they had objected in the past.
In his sixth tour of the region as secretary of state, Kerry did something unusual. Instead of visiting Israel, as he always does, he left it out of his itinerary, deciding instead to hold most of the talks in the Jordanian capital Amman. While there, he conferred with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as well as members of the FCAPI. As the talks progressed, it became clear that Kerry was no longer focusing on Israel, the country that has torpedoed all previous attempts at peace, but on the PLO. His aim is to get the latter to offer more concessions than any they have accepted in the past.
In order to do this, Kerry wanted to get the FCAPI to accept these concessions on behalf of the Palestinians, a new tactic that may or may not be working but that so far has succeeded in causing divisions and widespread consternation in Palestinian circles. The tactic is not totally new, for it resonates with the manner in which US diplomats have used the Arab League to justify foreign intervention for the sake of regime change in countries such as Iraq and Libya in the past.
Nasser doesn’t mention how Syria fits in his analysis. Even so, he raises the question as to whether Egypt’s unfolding “revolution” is yet another example of regime change.
The debate in Washington was whether a coup is a coup when national security is at stake. Perhaps the debate should have been about whether a revolution is really regime change.
If Morsi goes to trial, the Palestinians will be on trial, too. Or will that trial begin in Washington next week?