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Egyptian unrest and US media bias *updated*

February 5, 2011

An interesting partial interview with MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters talking about the US double standard regarding how democracy is viewed in the Arab world vs. Europe.

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Egyptian unrest and US media bias, posted with vodpod

As if to prove MJ Rosenberg’s point, the NYT ran a story yesterday focusing on what the turmoil in Egypt means for the U.S. and Israel. And while it would be silly to pretend there aren’t ramifications, there is a danger in sending the wrong message to the Egyptian people- we want to make sure that the protests continue to be about their legitimate economic and democratic interests and NOT make it about U.S. and Israel’s needs/wants. Obviously the U.S. will be discussing such things behind closed doors, but now would be a good time to let the Egyptian people know we are unconditionally on their side and that we respect their desire to choose their own leaders for their own reasons.

As I said in a post below, the events in Egypt are all the more reason for the Israelis to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians- they might find themselves less isolated in the region and less dependent on despots in the region if a two state solution were actually in the works.

From the NYT:

Obama administration officials have been on the telephone almost daily with their Israeli counterparts urging them to “please chill out,” in the words of one senior administration official, as President Obama has raced to respond to the rapidly unfolding events.

But the crisis raises many questions about how the United States will navigate its relationship with Israel — in particular the balance between encouraging the development of a democratic government in Egypt and the desire in Washington not to risk a new government’s abandoning Mr. Mubarak’s benign posture toward Israel.


Israeli government officials started out urging the Obama administration to back Mr. Mubarak, administration officials said, and were initially angry at Mr. Obama for publicly calling on the Egyptian leader to agree to a transition.

“The Israelis are saying, après Mubarak, le deluge,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator. And that, in turn, Mr. Levy said, “gets to the core of what is the American interest in this. It’s Israel. It’s not worry about whether the Egyptians are going to close down the Suez Canal, or even the narrower terror issue. It really can be distilled down to one thing, and that’s Israel.”

A White House spokesman, Tommy Vietor, said on Friday that administration officials were reassuring the Israelis that “we fully understand Israel’s security concerns, and we’re making clear that our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.”

Daniel Shapiro, a White House Middle East adviser, met on Tuesday with American Jewish leaders, and Mr. Obama talked to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Sunday.

But administration officials must also balance support for Israel against the real desire among many Egyptians — and others on the Arab street — for an end to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank. “The situation tends to highlight Israel’s strategic value to the United States as a stable and unequivocal ally in a very unstable region,” said Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington. He added: “The situation does reinforce the need for security guarantees, regarding a future Palestinian state, because we see how the current situation in the Middle East can change very rapidly.”

Supporters of Israel in the United States have been focusing on playing up the dangers they see as inherent in a democratic Egyptian government that contains, or is led by, elements of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, which opposes Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

In an e-mail on Friday to reporters and editors, Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC, the influential Jewish-American lobbying organization, suggested “questions to ask the Muslim Brotherhood & Their Allies.”

American Jewish leaders have also been voicing uneasiness about Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the atomic energy agency who is also part of the opposition to Mr. Mubarak.

Malcolm I. Hoenlein, the executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, an umbrella group, said that in his work as a nuclear watchdog, Mr. ElBaradei covered up Iran’s nuclear weapons capability in the reports issued by his agency.

“He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly,” Mr. Hoenlein said in an online interview on Sunday with Yeshiva World News. “He fronted for them, he distorted the reports.”

I’m sorry, but the behavior of the U.S. Israel Lobby is highly questionable and hypocritical. If anything, the situation in Egypt argues for rapprochement between Israel and some of her Arab neighbors but that can only happen with a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Our actions speak louder than words- we unconditionally support Israel and thus we shouldn’t have to reaffirm our commitment to their security every time we say the word “Israel.” They know we are committed to their security and as an American I find it a bit insulting that the U.S. seems to be put on the defensive about it.

42 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    February 5, 2011 4:44 pm

    I love MJ Rosenberg. He speaks truth to power.

    It must be very frustrating to be an Egyptian knowing that the US media is just obsessed with what all this means for Israel and the US and really hyping the Muslim threat. It’s really smacks of racism to me- we automatically assume the worst because they are Arabs but in Europe, pro-democracy movements are just GREAT!

  2. HillaryFan permalink
    February 5, 2011 5:06 pm

    He makes a good point. Obviously the US and Israel cares about what happens but it’s not more important than the Egyptian people themselves. It’s almost like we are not at all embarrassed or ashamed we backed a dictator for 30 years.

    • February 5, 2011 5:43 pm

      True. And we continue to back other ME dictators fully. Today, news also of Envoy Wisner telling the conference in Munich Mubarak must continue until September. That this is his chance at a legacy.

      Have you ever seen a repressive dictator implement real political and economic reforms and leave rule quietly? In any country? Obama and his team are very naive and/or manipulating to thwart Egypt’s drive to democracy.

      • Thain permalink
        February 5, 2011 5:51 pm

        yeah, Stacy updated one of her posts below and she parsed the administration’s language about our take on Sulieman and also Hillary’s call for what kind of people should be able to participate in upcoming elections in Egypt. I’m really nervous about this because this could backfire big time because the protesters could think by supporting Sulieman we are trying to prop up another pro-western leader. I also don’t think we have a right to try to push out the Muslim Brotherhood.

        I’m getting bummed out by all of this. I’m really disappointed in this administration. They aren’t all that much different in their foreign policy than Bush was. There are a few differences but as soon as someone on the right criticizes them they cave.

  3. David permalink
    February 5, 2011 6:38 pm

    Hi. I just saw your tweets on Twitter and have been reading all your coverage of Egypt and I am really impressed with how balanced you are. I sort of thought you might just be a cheerleader for anything the admin says but you seem to know your stuff and analyze what’s going on.

    I’ll be coming back here often!

  4. anonymous hillary supporter permalink
    February 5, 2011 6:38 pm

    Ho hum. Another anti-Semitic rant from Stacey. You should be ashamed to use Hillary’s picture on your worthless blog.

    • Thain permalink
      February 5, 2011 6:42 pm

      Ho hum, another person who diminishes the tragedy of actual anti-semitism by trying to label anyone with whom they disagree about Israel as anti-semitic.

      You should be ashamed to use such low-brow tactics and instead engage in actual debate.

      BTW, I guess you also consider MJ Rosenberg antisemitic, even though he’s Jewish, right?


    • February 5, 2011 6:46 pm

      I have no respect for people who throw around labels like “anti-Semite” or “racist” simply to try to silence people with whom they disagree. To conflate disagreement with Israeli policies as per se hostility towards Jewish people is beyond ridiculous. In so doing you end up making light of the very real and very insidious problem of ACTUAL anti-Semitism.

      Don’t be such a coward, rather than stopping by and burping up an ad-hominem attack, why don’t you make an actual argument?

    • Tovah permalink
      February 5, 2011 6:49 pm

      @ anonymous Hillary supporter – Ugh. I find your throwing around the label of antisemitism to be deeply offensive and I am saying that as a Jew. I hope you aren’t Jewish because quite frankly, I find your tactics inappropriate and embarrassing.

      • February 5, 2011 6:50 pm

        It’s a way of silencing any criticism of the Israeli govt.

        I guess anyone who disagrees with US policy about anything is Un-American or anti-American?


    • Steve permalink
      February 5, 2011 7:02 pm

      anonymous hillary supporter- I can see why you are anonymous with all your stupid trash-talking.

      I agree with Tovah, as a Jew I find using the antisemite card to be a disgrace and deeply offensive.

      Israel is a foreign country and people are allowed to disagree with their policies, just like we can disagree with any other country’s policies.

      Get over yourself.

    • Morten - Norway permalink
      February 6, 2011 7:29 am

      the spear of anti-semitism to stop legitimate political critisism. Pathetic and sad.

      The abuse of anti-semitism and the holocaust to wave support for slaughter and mass murder is the sad reality of the israeli political leaders.

      Supporters for the fascist and racist leaders in israel is worse then the support for apartheid when it existed.

      Ye hillary clinton is really a “hero” fighting as hard as possible to stop people from getting democracy after a suppressing dictator, that clinton also has called a “close personal friend”, that you have supported both military (though the weapons the us sold to egypt is second grade, compared to the top notch technology that the us tax payers are giving away to israel every year. fueling a disgusting weapons race, like always), politically and economicly.

      But there is nothing more to expect from a corrupt us regime after the changes obama made in january 2010 (nyt: the biggest blow to democracy) so that companies can now buy elections (as in the us for some reason the candidate with the most money = the winner).

      Corporatism is very very dangerous and clearly the us is the closest we get to this dangerous autocratic form of government. Its the closest we get to feudalism and it has never been good for the people only the small elite, as usual.

      israel has no right to abuse the holocaust and the jewish suffering to murder civilians. israel isnt the country for the jews, its the country for a political movement called zionism made by non-religious people.

      israeli goverment saying they are so democratic is like hitler saying “i did win the election”. Both are partially true, but it doesnt change the warcrimes done by them.

      that israel is now supporting mubarak like perez is doing is just disgusting and shows the lack of democracy israel will let the goyims have.

      can you maybe make one argument without throwing a racist card? or can you explain why the israeli goverment dont recognize the armenian genocide during ww1? havent they learned anything?

      holocaust started with the handicapped and communists and the rom people. it is not only 6 million that got murdered in concentration camps during ww2. it was 11 million +.

      But for the holocaust industry it is important to make the jewish suffering the only suffering that we should care about. Disgusting!

      israel is a imperialistic project. lets hope it never makes its horrific goals of genocide as musha dayan(spelling, i cant be arsed to check it now) said was “built into zionism” as it had to make a jewish state in a area that is populated by mainly arabs.

      anti-semitism and anti-israel is not the same thing. one is a part of a racism (and should never be called anything else then racism because the meaning of pointing out anti-semitism from racism is to make their suffering more valued, somethign that is racist in itself) and one is a political choice after the reality of murderers controlling that country.

      maybe you can tell lieberman that promoting ethnic cleansing in the un is FUCKING INAPROPRIATE and is WAY WORSE then what Ahmedinejad said when everyone got so “uphauled”.

      Let the arabs get their democracy and stop the us exploiting its resources and its people. the us is falling apart and i will be the first to applaud when it does. before that, the world cannot be safe as the terrorist states, us and israel, murders civilians over the world in mass numbers.

      if we want to be disgusted by the extermination done by hitler, then its pure hypocracy to not do the same with the us and israeli extermination and mass murders of civilians.

      only warcriminals does not make list of who they murder. hopefully we will see bush stand trial for his warcrimes and torture. But i would rather see a law in israel that forbids torture, but that is not going to happen as it is so “usefull” for the murderers in israel.

      a vote for israel, iranian regime, syrian regime, saudi regime, pakistani regime, egyption regime and so on is a vote for murderers.

  5. February 5, 2011 6:46 pm

    Yes, I think the Egyptian Freedom / Pro-Democracy Movement is about their Universal Human Rights and the Gen X and Gen Y have asked to have a 51% representation in the talks, and the movement is not about religion. I hope the quest of the youth of Egypt finds success as even us older people have tired of all the conflict and never ending wars.

    The Most AMAZING video on the internet #Egypt #jan25

    “We will not be silenced, whether you’re a Christian, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re an Atheist, you will demand your goddamn rights, and we will have our rights, one way or the other! We will never be silenced!”
    – Fight On Egypt ->/blockquote>

  6. Paul Bogdanich permalink
    February 5, 2011 6:51 pm

    “I find Israel’s constant need to have us pander and repeat over again “we love you, we really love you!” to be insulting. Maybe THEY could reaffirm their commitment to us once in a while?”

    And what “commitment” would that be?

    • February 5, 2011 6:59 pm

      Perhaps when the US requests settlement construction halt during peace negotiations in accordance with international law, they could do so? We provide huge amounts of military, economic and security assistance. We provide total diplomatic protection from any international criticism of settlement activity, the blockade, etc. Our own military leaders and members of the intelligence community have said that the failure to resolve the I-P conflict hurts long-term US security interests. As we know from the Palestine Papers, the Palestinians help up their end of the bargain from previous agreements and agreed to major concessions on everything from the right of return to land swaps.

      I just don’t think Israel has any reason to constantly require the US to publicly reaffirm our support of them- our support is constant and unconditional and thus they should stop questioning our commitment because at times it seems almost like they are trying to manipulate us. We support them and should continue to do so but the way US leaders can’t seem to say the word “Israel” without repeating “we are unshakable in our commitment to Israel’s security” etc. etc. seems a bit unfair. Haven’t we proven that with more than our words- with our deeds and isn’t that more important?

      Being allies/friends/partners is a two way street and at times the relationship seems very one-sided. I also think the way this particular Israeli govt has treated this administration is not acceptable. It almost seems like at times Israel takes all our support for granted and that’s incredibly frustrating.

    • AsherLev permalink
      February 5, 2011 8:10 pm

      Paul, as an Israeli I can tell you that we expect many things from the Americans- economic aid, military aid, diplomatic support to prevent pressure to comply with international law and security council resolutions. Aren’t relationships two way streets? Always the talk is about what the Americans owes us but not what we owe the Americans which is our most staunch ally. All my government does is criticize and refuse to do anything. Why is America so afraid of offending Israel when it gives so much? Is Israel afraid of offending America when it gives so little? Clearly not.

  7. Dean permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:02 pm

    Madam Secretary, may I point out that when you talk about a two-state solution for Palestine you are using same the unilateral, dictatorial tone for which you are criticizing the NYT et al.

    Perhaps we should the same courtesy and respect to Palestinians that we are paying lip service to the Egyptians and ask them what they want before we tell them what we want.

    Wouldn’t that make us look more like an honest broker than a client state of Israel?

    • Steve permalink
      February 5, 2011 7:05 pm

      Hey Dean, this is a private blog as it says here on the front page so Madame Secretary isn’t saying anything dictatorial.

  8. LuLu permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:08 pm

    Heheheheh. This post is flying all over twitter as we speak. Apparently most people agree with the premise.

    I can’t stand when people scream “anti-semite” as soon as they hear something they don’t like about Israel. It’s lazy and dishonest.

    I guess it makes sense why the media avoids any news coverage that could be construed as critical of Israel because can you imagine all the hate mail they would get? Annoying.

  9. Zion permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:10 pm

    MJ Rosenberg is a self hating Jew and all of you are Jew haters.

    • Tovah permalink
      February 5, 2011 7:12 pm

      Hey Stacy, I hope Micah doesn’t find out you’re an anti-semite because it could make your Shabbat dinner really awkward 😉

      • discourseincsharpminor permalink
        February 5, 2011 7:15 pm


      • February 5, 2011 7:25 pm

        Yeah, I’ll break it to her gently later tonight. Maybe I should get her some flowers so she doesn’t take it so personally? Whadda ‘ya think?

  10. discourseincsharpminor permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:34 pm

    Obviously, the road to a stable democratic process will take time, but our (US) media is so hung up on the fact that there might be islamist protesting for a change in government it’s ridiculous. Considering the protesters have numbered in the many tens of thousands, yeah, there probably are some people who from the Muslim Brotherhood, but that doesn’t make it a protest for an Islamic government any more than having Christians at the protest makes it a protest for a Christian government, or having women at the protest makes it a protest for a feminist government.

    As for our worry for Israel, we should remember that Israel has one of the world’s well-equipped militaries as well as one of the world’s most effective spy networks and if they see whatever new government may arise from this as a threat, they’ll do what they have to in order to maintain their nation’s safety. They have both a first and second strike capability and if they sense a threat, they can take care of themselves. We in the US always talk about Israel as if it is utterly defenseless and perpetually on the verge of being overrun when that is actually far from true.

  11. anonymous hillary supporter permalink
    February 5, 2011 7:34 pm

    No bigger Jew hater than a Jew who self-loathes. I’m a Jew, a proud one, and the world loves a Jew who speaks against Israel. I stand by my belief that to be anti-Israel is the equivalent of being anti-Semitic. How many of you self-loathers voted for Obama, knowing of his previous allegiances especially his mentor, Rev. Wright. Spewing hatred for the Jews for years with church bulletins written by Hamas. Oh yes, Obama never heard or saw anytthing of the kind. Play nicely, and when Israel and the US is attacked by the extremists (find me a moderate), you still won’t wake up.

    • February 5, 2011 7:45 pm

      Actually, I totally support Israel but I disagree with many of the Likud policies. To claim that disagreeing with some Israeli policies is equal to antisemitism strikes me as really disingenuous and as quite a few people have said here, it actually has the effect of minimizing real anti-Semitism. It also is a very transparent effort to silence all debate about the topic, which to me is unamerican.

      I actually think that people who refuse to question anything Israel does, irrespective of who is Prime Minister and irrespective of the policies in question, are not truly pro-Israel except in the most superficial of ways. Unquestioning loyalty to anything can be irresponsible and dangerous and it is in itself a form of extremism under certain circumstances. As an American I would never expect any citizen to unquestioningly agree with every US policy even if we/they believe it violates basic US values or it endangers our short or long term security.

      Sometimes friends [or allies] have to speak difficult truths to each other. It may not always be easy but that’s not an excuse not to do it.

      I have to say, I find the whole “self-hating Jew” thing to be offensive, demeaning and lazy.

      Basically, you seem extremely intolerant. That’s your right of course…

    • Steve permalink
      February 5, 2011 8:49 pm

      The self-hating Jew nonsense is a lame way for some Jews to try to guilt other Jews into not criticizing Israeli policies with which they disagree. It’s pathetic. It’s because of people like this that we are unfairly accused of having dual loyalty and putting the interests of a foreign govt above that of our own country. If anything, the knee jerk defenders of bad Israeli policies can actually play a role in increasing anti-Israel or anti-Jewish sentiment. Nice work.

  12. tiffy permalink
    February 5, 2011 10:05 pm

    People always take side for what they believe. Some people are pro-Israel and some pro-Palestine. The US media is always on the Israeli side, and Aljazeera is for Palestinian. Nobody is really neutral. Like this crisis in Egypt, depending who you listen, you will end up with different assessmemt. I am afraid however the media whether it’s US or Arab, only tells half truth.

  13. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    February 6, 2011 3:04 am

    When Mubarek steps down (he will, sooner or later) and who ultimately replaces him seems almost beside the point. There is a tsunami sweeping across northern Africa, headed straight for Israel and Palestine. And when the tsunami hits their borders, who do you think will look like the oppressor, digging in stubbornly to preserve land and power, and who will look like the oppressed, with homes bull-dozed and basic civil rights denied? I hope Palestinians seize the moment to organize mass — but peaceful — protests for statehood. Israel may have the military might but let them just try to use it on peaceful protestors with the world watching. They won’t be able to wave it away like the flotilla incident. I think there has been a massive shift in momentum in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and if Israel is lucky, it will end with their accepting the very generous terms offered by the PA several years ago. And that’s IF Palestinians still agree to those terms. But Israel has to start by lifting its head out of the sand.

    • Steve permalink
      February 6, 2011 7:48 am

      I wish that were true Carolyn but I think that there is nothing Israel can’t do to the Palestinians that would even raise an eyebrow in this country. In January alone the IDF killed 15 unarmed Palestinians- some were peaceful protesters, some were farmers just farming their land. Many peaceful protesters face a daily barrage of rubber bullets, tear gas etc. simply because they are gathering by the hundreds to protest the bulldozing of their villages. Jewish human right activist Jonathan Pollak was imprisoned for riding a bike through Tel Aviv wearing an anti-Occupation t-shirt. The man known as the Palestinian Gandhi is being held in prison by Israel although his sentence ended (he was protesting the bulldozing of his village). What has the response of the State Dept. or WH been? Nada.

      During the protests in Cairo some protesters threw rocks and torched things, not only in self-defense at times but out of frustration. The administration initially urged “restraint on both sides” but public opinion eventually turned against the regime. Sometimes Palestinians- usually children and teens, throw rocks in response to the tear gas and rubber bullets and what do we call them? Violent protesters.

      You see, we have a total double standard. Israel could kill 5,000 Palestinians tomorrow and the administration, Congress and the media would find a way to spin so as to make the IDF and the Israeli govt the victims. Over 200 infants and children died in Cast Lead. Israel used chemical weapons and targeted schools, UN facilities, aid organizations and schools and what did the US administration, Congress and the Jewish community do? Label one of the world’s most respected international judges, Judge Goldstone of the Goldstone Report, a self-hating Jew and claim that the whole report was evidence of anti-Israel bias. No justice for any of the dead. They don’t have the same human rights as any other people on earth for no other reason than they had the misfortune to be born in the Occupied Territories.

      So, I fear that if there were a Palestinian uprising either against Israel, Hamas or the PA, they would be squashed like bugs and we would either ignore it or make excuses for it.

  14. Carolyn-Rodham permalink
    February 6, 2011 10:06 am

    Maybe I’m being naive, but I think timing — and theatre — is everything. Imagine massive peaceful gatherings on the scale of what we’re witnessing in Tahrir Square but by 250,000 Arabs in Jerusalem, marching towards AlAqsa Mosque? Even the US media couldn’t avoid making it a front page story. It would be all over the Internet. For Israel to respond with military force would be a world public relations disaster. Would they begin expelling journalists? It would only solidify the image of Israel as the faux democratic oppressor. Would they simply ignore it? What if the protesters squatted and refused to leave? Here in the US, the North ignored the Civil Rights movement for years after Brown v. Board of Ed until television — a new technology at that time — streamed images of peaceful protesters being set upon by hoses and attack dogs. Martin Luther King knew exactly what he was doing and the images had their desired effect. They awakened a slumbering North (and the Kennedy administration) and set in motion the series of events that culminated in the 1964
    Civil Rights Act.

    • February 6, 2011 10:58 am

      How are all the Palestinians going to get through all the checkpoints, fences and “security” barriers? Palestinians don’t have freedom of movement like the Egyptians do. This of course is one of the many violations of international law. Not only has the “security barrier” de facto annexed 46% more Palestinian land it has created bantustans where Palestinians have to wait for hours to get through checkpoints and sometimes they are simply denied entry or exit based on the security needs of Israel. Palestinians have died trying to get from point A to point B to get to hospitals, etc.

      Small protests take place in Arab villages before they are destroyed, but the IDF moves in quickly and once again, it’s not like Cairo- entry into and out of the area is totally controlled by the IDF.

      The only place protests of any size could take place is in Ramallah or Gaza but that would get ZERO attention and again, even then they wouldn’t get that large because you can’t move from one area to the other. Also, the PA and Hamas have tried to beat down any protests against THEIR leadership in the aftermath of the Egyptian uprising.

      • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
        February 6, 2011 11:53 am

        I thought there were over 250,000 Arabs LIVING IN Jerusalem with blue cards. Whether they would mobilize to protest for an independent Palestinian state is another matter.

        • February 6, 2011 12:35 pm

          Good point. I don’t really know what is stopping the domino effect from reaching the Palestinians or even other Arabs in the region. There have been smaller protests in Syria, Jordan, Algeria, Yemen but nothing like we’ve seen in Egypt. Is the situation fundamentally different than Egypt and Tunisia? Are they afraid? Or do they think that if they had an uprising the West would turn a blind eye because it would be Israel they might be protesting as opposed to an Arab dictator? Are the Palestinians too divided amongst themselves, having been triangulated between support for the PA, Fatah and Hamas? I honestly don’t know. Also, perhaps Palestinians fear that unlike in Egypt, Israel would feel justified in using the military to suppress any uprising- after all, it wouldn’t be the first time the army has used force against civilians. If that were the case could the Palestinians depend on the West, and in particular the US, to demand Israel restrain its military? If I were Palestinian I would not rely on the US for anything when it comes to reigning in Israel.

          I sort of feel like the Palestinian situation right now is a bit of disaster waiting to happen in terms of growing anger and resentment, particularly given the failure of this last round of negotiations. I think in each previous instance of failed peace negotiations there has been violence. Not good.

  15. Steve permalink
    February 6, 2011 12:44 pm

    I love the fact that this post was re-tweeted 70 times! You go! I see that Nick Kristoff was one of the first to re-tweet.

    Speaking of Kristoff, I saw in your news roundup you included his commentary today- it’s really excellent. I’m glad he’s speaking out about how the media is obsessively focused on the Islam angle despite what’s actually happening out on the streets. I saw video on YouTube of Muslims and Coptic Christians holding hands and chanting together and saying that “we are all one Egypt.”

    I really think the whole Muslim Brotherhood angle is being over-hyped. Ironically they’ve achieved mythological status because of Mubarak’s outlawing them for the past three decades!

    I’ve never been to Egypt despite living in Israel for 5 years. I really wish I had gone. Stacy, you were over there for both work and pleasure, right? I thought you mentioned something about that. Did it seem like a repressive society?

    • February 6, 2011 1:05 pm

      Yeah, this post got a lot of traffic last night.

      I agree, Kristoff’s column was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

      I’ve been to Egypt for both work and pleasure- I loved it there. I wouldn’t say it was repressive but there was a strong police/military presence. Like a lot of moderate Arab countries they have imported certain aspects of Western society but at the same time it’s a bit like going back in time in some areas. The gap between how the rich live vs. how the poor live is unbelievable. Children who are orphaned beg on the streets- they are everywhere- and the poorer areas are exactly what you’d expect in an impoverished area of the the third world. Wealthy families have children as servants, which I found really, really uncomfortable because that was the case with the family I was staying with. I didn’t feel any anti-Western sentiment and of course, tourism is huge there so they have a financial interest in making as many people as possible welcome.

      There is a very conservative element of society- I wouldn’t call it fundamentalist but you can definitely sense it. One of the times I was there it was during Ramadan and people are VERY observant. It’s a secular society but religion is very important to them, no doubt about it. I did notice that Egyptians are very proud of being Egyptian and proud of their history (they should be) and they see themselves as very different from those in other Arab countries- in some areas I would say some of them look down on other Arabs culturally. They love to talk politics and the folks I was staying with made clear they can’t stand Saudi Arabia, they support continued peace with Israel but the plight of the Palestinians is like a wound that never heals and they think Syrians and the Lebanese are nuts- I’m not sure why. There were pictures of Mubarak everywhere on billboards and the general sense I got was that people were tired of looking at him.

  16. February 6, 2011 2:09 pm

    Interesting- Fatah has been breaking up pro-democracy protests in Ramallah.

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      February 6, 2011 6:48 pm

      1000 in Ramallah — good start. Now let’s see 10000 in East Jerusalem and then maybe someone other than the Palestine Monitor will take notice. Interestingly, the protesters did not mention a word about Israel, probably wisely for the moment.

      • February 6, 2011 6:54 pm

        I think the Palestine Papers have really pissed them off and they are mad at the PA right now. I don’t think the revelation of all the concessions the PA was willing to make went over too well nor the fact that the US allegedly won’t allow democratic elections. The Papers have weakened an already weak PA leadership.

  17. February 16, 2013 2:52 pm

    Mj rules.


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