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The Mubarak (re)turn

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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.

More deaths in Egypt yesterday – 50 and counting. Some call it a massacre. Is there another word for it?

This prompted Essam el-Erian of the Muslim Brotherhood to demand the reversal of the ‘fascist coup government.’

Meanwhile there was a spirited debate on yesterday’s Democracy Now – when is a coup a coup and what kind of coup means what kind of future.

Everyone is spinning everything. Can the spinning be controlled if the streets become uncontrollable?

Everybody in Egypt is under tremendous strain, including the pundits on all sides. Meanwhile the New York Times reports the election roadmap: there will be amendments to the constitution, then parliamentary elections will be held in February, which will set the stage for Presidential elections in the future. When the Presidential elections will be held is unknown. The Guardian reports the same scenario.

That is, if the country doesn’t slip into civil war.

How likely is civil war? We know that there is no going back. President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood will not be returning to power. What’s up ahead is unknown. Is it possible that the Egyptian army will lose control?

Right now the Presidential election seems a long way off. One can only imagine what might happen during the interim, especially after the coup and the violence yesterday.

Of course, American aid and coordination with Israel is unaffected. The crackdown on the press continues. How are issues to be debated for the upcoming elections if the press is muzzled and dissenters of all stripes are monitored, beaten and jailed? How can Egypt hold together if the press is unmuzzled and dissenters on all sides are allowed to roam free?

Deutsche Welle, Reuter AlertNet and LinkTV report that women are being assaulted and gang raped – as a political tool? For some this might seem ancillary to the debate about the future of Egypt. Perhaps. Or is assault and rape being used as a political weapon of choice to help shape the future?

The Egyptian police are revising their history. They now contend that the Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the killings in the days before Mubarak’s ouster. The police were innocent. Their point of view: Doesn’t the now deposed traitorous government and the violence of the Muslim Brotherhood prove their innocence?

Egypt is spiraling out of control and only an ever expanding martial law can contain the violence that the army, too, is partaking in and in some case may be instigating. Is there an alternative to ever expanding military control?

Will Egyptian progressives and their supporters continue to justify the army’s expanding powers? Having initially sided with the military, they may have little choice.

A deal will be struck. That deal will be with the Mubarak holdovers in the army, judiciary, moneyed elites and elsewhere that never went away and have now reasserted their power. How future oriented does that sound?

Revolutions hide continuities in tradition, culture and power – for a while. They appear in different guises – for a while. Sometimes they reappear – and remain.

The reality is that the post-Mubarak era is looking more like the pre-Mubarak era that crystallized in the Mubarak era. Whether in the post-Mubarak Mubarak-like era there will be less repression and more freedom is yet to be seen. So far – not so good.

Under martial law, on the brink of civil war, the Presidential elections are a horizon that seems suspended in the distance. How much blood will be shed in the interim and what that bloodshed will mean for the future of Egypt is the great unknown.

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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14 Responses

  1. Stephen Shenfield on July 9, 2013, 10:32 am

    What does “pre-Mubarak era” refer to? Sadat? Nasser? King Farouk? Egypt under the British, the Ottomans, the ancient Romans? The pharaohs? Which of these looks to you like the present situation and in what respects?

    • Citizen on July 9, 2013, 11:19 am

      @ Stephen Shenfield
      I wondered the same thing upon reading the article.

    • W.Jones on July 9, 2013, 9:47 pm

      I assume he means Sadat, but you ask a good question.

  2. Citizen on July 9, 2013, 11:17 am

    “Of course, American aid and coordination with Israel is unaffected.”
    Israel has been all over the WH phones, urging the US not to suspend aid to Egypt, required under US statutory law in case of coup on an elected government–because Israel is afraid if Egypt does not get it’s US aid, there’s no reason why Egypt will continue kissing Israel as it’s done for over 3 decades:

    Israel is #1, Egypt #2 recipient of US aid, in both cases mostly Military aid, although all aid to Israel is fungible.

  3. gamal on July 9, 2013, 1:14 pm

    a short course

    who is the army?

    “He is a professional soldier,” says an Israeli security official who has known him, “He is a real Egyptian patriot”

    and what is it doing, fighting the good fight?

    “First, a contradiction lies at the heart of Ikhwan discourse, at the heart of all vulgar “analysis” of recent Egyptian politics in fact. The military’s actions in 2013 are the same as they were in 2011, and that is because they follow from the same motivation. Sisi’s supposed recognition of the legitimacy of the protestors’ demands and ultimatum to Morsi on 1 July 2013 was essentially identical to Tantawi’s recognition and ultimatum to Mubarak on 31 January 2011. In both instances, the military protected its vast material interests by sacrificing the class wielding political power. Either 25 January 2011 was a revolution, and now so too are these political machinations, or 25 January 2011 was a coup, and now so too is this. It is rhetorical drivel to contend that in 2011 the military helped execute a revolution, but now is committing a coup. It is the extension of this contradiction that produces such paradoxical realities as reactionary Islamists, and they are always reactionary, claiming to be revolutionary while supposedly progressive liberals desire a military coup.”

  4. gingershot on July 9, 2013, 3:32 pm

    The Neocons and Israel are successfully setting the region on fire this summertime – even though their prize of hoaxing the US into an attack on Iran has eluded them so far

    The Deep State in Egypt – the Egyptian military/in cahoots with the US and Israeli Lobby have successfully pulled off their Arab Spring counter-revolution to return Egypt to their controllable/bribe-able puppet state
    The clearest report on Egypt I’ve yet seen is this by Eric Margolis

    The Syrians have been torn apart – thanks to the Neocon/Saudi/Israeli support of the phony rebellion – and now there are more ‘mysterious explosions’ taking place in arms depots in Syria.

    ‘When the Middle East burns the Palestinians are forgotten’ – so the favorite Israeli saying goes – Israel and her Lobby are revelling in this right now – and it has big thumbs in both conflicts.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were not a Israeli/Neocon angle on Turkey as well but have seen no evidence of this yet. Pretty good timing of the revolts in Turkey to derail Erdogan’s previously planned visit to Gaza late June.

    • ivri on July 9, 2013, 6:05 pm

      Gingershot: I see you don`t believe in chance or luck – “masterminding” and “execution of plans” is what things are all about. What happened in Turkey was indeed a boon for Israel, given his Gaza-visit plan and beyond, but if it had any hand in it (which is a sheer impossibility) Erdogan would have made sure that it will be central news. So he had to resort instead to blaming “the Jewish diaspora” for the extensive support the protesters received in US newspapers and also by some politicians (which also depicted him personally very unfavorably).

    • just on July 9, 2013, 7:22 pm

      I’m going to have to agree with you, gingershot.

      El Baradei was shoved aside by the military. I am sorry about that– the region loses and the Egyptian people lose, in my opinion. Israel’s government “wins”.

      Thank you, Marc.

  5. gamal on July 9, 2013, 5:33 pm

    and read the comments, the armies brutality is genuinely shocking, as we are no better than Syrians, perhaps we are all going to share the same fate. And Ethiopia is going to dam the Nile, America has us on a tight Scaf leash. There are an amazing range of reactions to the latest developments pointing to the utter confusion we all now find ourselves in, the general population, the masses are being excluded from the political arena via the re-militarization (securitization) of Egyptian processes of state, some of us are not buying the war of Islamists and the Army, people are very scared, the American Mamluks seem to be carrying the day.

  6. Taxi on July 10, 2013, 6:50 am

    A people’s revolt backed by their army. It’s not a “coup” even by your standard dictionary definition. It’s a people’s revolt backed by their army. It’s as simple as that. And worth repeating a third time: it’s a people’s revolt backed by their army.

    The Egyptian army would not have been able to give Morsi an ultimatum if 33 million Egyptians had not ALREADY taken to the streets of their cities demanding his resignation/removal.

    Coup d’etat:
    The sudden overthrow of a government by a usually small group of persons in or previously in positions of authority.

    1. To attempt to overthrow the authority of the state; rebel.
    2. An uprising, especially against state authority; a rebellion.
    2. An act of protest or rejection.

    Why the hell is everyone going into a tailspin tryna define the obvious?

    The Egyptian army taking advantage of this people’s REVOLT to preserve itself during the tumult, well, is a natural given. Where’s the news there?! My god I’ve seen a thousand headlines critiquing and ‘conspiracing away’ something rotten the mega event of 33 million Egyptians demonstrating! And like Mr. Ellis’s article above, the denouement of their analysis has been oh so vague and open-ended.

    Look folks, a revolt occurred and now the losers are reacting. Soon enough, they’ll stop reacting and the new political direction will go into second, third, fourth gear, respectively.

    I’m sure things won’t be perfect for Egypt tomorrow, but there will definitely be gradual improvements in the political and social arenas.

    The Egyptian army is sticking by the Camp David agreement cuz they’re not ready to break it. But they will break it once Egypt has a new safety net/patron. With all the unsavory activities that the Egyptian army is associated with regarding it’s relationship with israel, at least they’ve drawn a boundary that they’ve publicly declared they would never cross: help give isreal power over the destiny of the Egyptian people. Unlike 98% of our congressmen and senators selling the American people, lock, stock and barrel, to isreal – and on a daily basis – have been doing so for decades.

    Take a chill pill all you cynics out there – sit back and watch and learn how amazing the Egyptian PEOPLE really are.

    • Citizen on July 10, 2013, 2:38 pm

      @ Taxi
      You might be right. I think partly to account for the difference is that the Egyptian Street is wise to Israel, no matter what the Egyptian government does, or says for outside consumption, but the US Street is not. That’s normal growing up in the Middle East, but not in Omaha. More than any, I blame the US mainstream media, and then, the US Congress and WH. Regarding the Israel priority, Dick and Jane have not a clue. All they know is Anne Frank. Most never even had a Jewish acquaintance.

    • SQ Debris on July 10, 2013, 9:53 pm

      Taxi’s exuberance for the amazing people of Egypt is very nice. But his/her/its Calibanesque credulity regarding the aims of that country’s military clique is laughable. There is obvious popular discontent with Morsi’s performance in the office he was elected to by a majority of Egyptian voters. However that discontent was a pretext for the army to resume what it had been doing for the three previous decades – muzzling, imprisoning, and murdering people affiliated with the Brotherhood. The discontent and the coup are two very divisible phenomena. Particularly disingenuous in taxi’s post is the cherry picking from the free online dictionary. Here’s a definition from the same source that taxi drove right past:
      b. A sudden appropriation of leadership or power; a takeover.

      • Taxi on July 11, 2013, 5:00 am

        And how “nice” that you find me “nice” about the “nice” Egyptians. Yes you hate the Egyptian army with a vengeance and think that Egyptians, who managed to overthrow two rotten leaders inside of two years, are no more than just “nice”. Man! Would it choke you to just say congratz and hope it works out?!

        You wanna focus on cussing out the army and I wanna focus on the AMAZING feat that the Egyptian PEOPLE managed to achieve. Show me another people who managed their herculean feat in modern times and I will eat my shorts. Credit where credit is due mister angry. I didn’t bother breaking down the army thang, first for lack of personal time yesterday, and second, because in the tailspin to define what just happened in Egypt, people like you were forgetting to carry with them the positive that came out of this and I felt it necessary to address the misguided imbalance. People like you got ants in their pants and became fixated on the army’s so-called “coup”, drowning out the FACT that the Egyptian people themselves made a choice too and got what they wanted – and that IS AMAZING – whether you like it or not!

        I suppose you would have liked the MB to slaughter the civilian protestors last week with the Egyptian army just looking on? Sure seems that way. Clearly you would have rather that a bloodbath and a civil war broke out, impacted by dire poverty and rationed gas and grain, than the army’s interference and ultimatum to Morsi? Sure seems that way too.

        You got no idea of how realpolitik and high politics are played in times of acute crisis – otherwise you’d be able to see the whole picture without seeing so much red. Worse, hallucinating that I would be a supporter of acts of brutality by any army towards any law-abidding citizen of any country.

        So touching your defense of the Egyptian moslem brotherhood. And how “particularly disingenuous” of you to neglect to mention their brutal zealotry. So romantic to see you strip down and jump head first into their cushy bed. You must really believe that the mideast would be more successful if all its governments were moslem zealots. WELL IT AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN BUSTER!

        “Here’s a definition from the same source that taxi drove right past:
        b. A sudden appropriation of leadership or power; a takeover.”

        Define “sudden” mister smartypants. Cuz what happned in Egypt last week didn’t just happen ‘suddenly’, like with the ouster of Mobarak. It’s been a long time coming, two years in the making, and clearly you didn’t have your finger constantly on the Egypt pulse to know this – you just jumped on the ‘it’s a coup, it’s a coup’ bandwagon cuz you hate the Egyptian army and especially its treatment of the moslem brotherhood.

        “But his/her/its Calibanesque credulity regarding the aims of that country’s military clique is laughable.”

        LOL dude/dudette/dude-it, this is probably the worse use of “Calibanesque” in a sentence I’ve ever seen.

        Parsing the definitions of ‘revolt’ and ‘coup’ further, like it or not, SQ Debris, I still maintain that what happened last week in Egypt was

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