Posted by Rob Eshman
CNN just announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned. A supreme council of the Egyptian army will run the country. It’s unclear what role Mubarak’s annointed succesor, Omar Suleiman, will play in the new leadership.
CNN and al-Jazeera report that the throngs of protesters angered by Mubarak’s stubborn refusal to resign on Thursday have turned jubilant. But they still want Suleiman out as well.
So, now what?
Last night at the Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA, author and Middle East commentator Leon Wieseltier chastised the Obama administration for not getting out front of the protest and embracing the transition to democracy. But others in the audience, among them some long time Egypt experts, cautioned that the road to democracy will be challenging.
“You’ll get a few days of chaos and another strong man,” said one man who has spent time in Egypt, and has met with regime officials on numerous occasions.
The big obstacles to democracy in Egypt, he pointed out, are that there is no middle class, and the majority of people are still religious Muslims. That isn’t true in Tunisia or Turkey, he said. Mubarak has long crushed liberal opposition and civil society that might step in and form an effective counterweight to the well-organized Muslim Bortherhood.
“Politics is all about organization,” my source said. “Who can get people to the polls.” In that sense, my source said the fact that a recent poll done by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy reported that the Muslim Brotherhood would only gain a fraction of the popular vote in an election held today doesn’t mean much.
That said, the Egyptian military, which receives its funding from the United States, is open to U.S. influence, and a smart policy that maintains security while establishing a transition to a broader civil society could work. One key will be for the U.S. to be firm in its resolve to see democracy through, rather than settle for the next strongman. The Egyptian people have spoken. Mubarak finally heard them. Now we must.
12.18.13 at 12:05 pm | With the American Studies Association's boycott. . .
12.16.13 at 2:26 pm | Jewish Journal blogger, and American settler,. . .
12.16.13 at 1:23 pm | Four countries have entered movies in the Oscar. . .
12.16.13 at 9:58 am | Politifact.com's 'Lie of the Year Award'. . .
12.6.13 at 12:35 am | In June 1990, Nelson Mandela and Natan Sharansky,. . .
11.25.13 at 2:23 pm | My aversion to Hanukkah streetlights,. . .
12.16.13 at 2:26 pm | Jewish Journal blogger, and American settler,. . . (266)
10.12.09 at 4:49 pm | Is it time to claim the explorer as an MOT? (247)
4.27.11 at 3:21 pm | Just because neither the bride nor groom are. . . (238)
February 10, 2011 | 2:41 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
I’m glued to our web site, where the home page features a UStream.com embedded live video of the furious crowds in Tahrir Square. Their chants are my soundtrack while writing this. Moments ago President Hosni Mubarak gave a much-anticipated speech to address the protesters who have been demanding his resignation for the past two weeks. Instead of offering it, the president acted like the king he is, and refused to budge.
Mubarak said only that he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, and urged the young people to ignore the satellite images “marring Egypt’s image” in the world and go home.
Among the many things he doesn’t understand are that those images are SAVING Egypt’s image. It no longer looks like just another Mideast kleptocracy. It looks like a vibrant country struggling toward democracy.
Okay, the Jewish disclaimer: Things could go horribly wrong. In the words of attorney Jon Drucker, the sane response might still be “cautious pessimism.” But the images and interviews, and most of the experts, make clear that inside the bloated body of a backward dictatorship is a skinny country of freedom- and democracy-loving people just dying—literally, in some cases—to get out.
More and more Jews seem to be shedding their overwhelming fears of an Islamic radical takeover and embracing the movement—which, by the way, looked inevitable from the beginning. Yesterday a group spearheaded by rabbis and activists launched a statement of support to show Jewish support for the protesters. Entiotled, “Jewish Letter of Support for Egypt.”
[Added: One organizer, attorney Michael Feldman e-mailed me: “The letter, though it uses petition software, is not a petition. It does not advocate any course of action, even including the need for Mubarak to go. Specifically, neither I nor many of the rabbis joining undertook this to jump on board the “Mubarak must go bandwagon.” The overall point is that whatever happens and whatever our political beliefs, we should show that we care and we respect.]
The statement reads:
We the undersigned are Jews living in Israel and the United States. We are rabbis and laypeople. We do not have ties to any government. We simply come together to speak as private citizens and as Jews to voice solidarity with the many Arab citizens involved in the recent uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere.
Too many voices of reason and moderation have long been frustrated or silenced by oppression, tyranny, and corruption. These proud voices have our empathy and our respect.
We harbor deep hopes for the Egyptian people and the many citizens rising against ruthless regimes around the world. Jews have struggled against oppression for millennia. It is true that we want Egypt and Israel to continue or even strengthen their peace and cooperation. But we also feel unity by witnessing the extraordinary events of recent days. When a people cries out for freedom and democracy, we see a reflection of our own heritage.
We cannot tell the Egyptian people or world leaders how to deal with the old regime or how to bring about change. But in the meantime, we pray. We pray for the healing of any man, woman, or child injured in the recent struggles in Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere. We pray for the souls of the lives lost and for the comfort of their mourners. And we pray that peace comes not only to Egypt and to Israel, but to all of their neighbors.
May the children of Abraham, of Sarah and of Hagar, of Ishmael and of Isaac, be blessed with prosperity, light, joy, and friendship.
The signatories so far are:
Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedeck: Orthodox Social Justice
Rabbi Gerald Serotta, Shirat HaNefesh Congregation
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Director, The Shalom Center
Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Associate Professor of Religion and Women’s Studies, Temple Univeristy
Rabbi Richard N. Levy, Director of Spiritual Growth at the Hebrew Union College Los Angeles Campus
Rabbi Chaim Seidler-Feller
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Rabbi Benjie Gruber, Kibbutz Yahel
Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Ph.D., Rector, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, American Jewish University
When the protests began two weeks ago I wrote that these were of a different magnitude and type than just your average street protest—the genie was out of the bottle. Every speech, every word, out of Mubarak’s mouth will only serve to fuel the protest and anger more, except for one word: “Goodbye.”
See the protest live here:
February 5, 2011 | 3:51 pm
Posted by Ryan Torok
Supporters of the protests in Egypt rallied in Los Angeles on Saturday and Saturday, February 5 and 6, for the second consecutive weekend.
[UPDATE] Approximately 75 Egyptians, Egyptian Americans and activists, including representatives of the Society of Egyptian Americans, demonstrated outside the Egyptian consulate’s local office, calling for the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian consulate’s office is located at Wilshire Boulevard and Highland Avenue.
Watch the video below from the demonstration on Sunday, February 6.
[UPDATE] Among the demonstrators at a rally on Sunday was Sayed Badreya, an Egyptian actor who has starred in Hollywood films “Iron Man, “You Don’t Mess With the Zohan” and “Three Kings.”
“We’re not about [the] Muslim Brotherhood. We’re not about leftist or right. We’re about Egypt,” Badreya said.
Fouad Gohan, a 25-year-old who lives in Los Angeles and grew up in Egypt, attended the demonstration on Sunday. He vocalized his opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, but said that he has cousins in Cairo who support Mubarak, at least more than he does. His cousins, he said, have watched Egyptian state television, which has made them believe that Mubarak is best for Egypt and that the protests in Egypt are harmful to the country, politically and economically. They are afraid to participate in the protests, Gohan said.
Linda Krausen stood across the street and held up large handcuffs made out of Styrofoam and tin foil and signs that called for the arrest of Mubarak. Krausen said that she used the same handcuffs in a previous demonstration against Karl Rove, who was senior advisor to George W. Bush, when Rove came to Los Angeles for a speaking event.
Krausen, who lives in South Pasadena and works as a Spanish interpreter for a government agency and attends Rosh Hashanah services at Nashuva, a synagogue in Los Angeles, said that the young protestors in Egypt view religion the way she does: “I’m a Jew, and I have my religion, [but] I just want justice,” she said.
[UPDATE] Watch interviews below from the demonstration on Sunday, February 6.
On Saturday, February 5, hundreds of demonstrators, including Egyptians, Egyptian Americans and representatives of L.A.-based activist organizations, gathered outside the Federal Building in Westwood and denounced the United States alliance with President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and called for Mubarak to resign from power.
Video from the demonstration on Saturday, February 5:
Egyptians have been protesting in Cairo, Alexandria and other cities for the past 12 days, while the Obama administration has tried to facilitate a transition of power in Egypt that would have the country’s current vice president Omar Suleiman negotiating with the anti-Mubarak groups.
Tamer Ali, an organizer of the Los Angeles rally, estimated that 500 people attended on Saturday. Much of the organizing beforehand was done on Facebook, with AnswerLA, SocialistWorker and the Party for Socialism and Liberation endorsing the demonstration. People representing the AnswerLA coaliation, SocialistWorker and Party for Socialiam and Liberation turned out for the rally.
The demonstration began at 11:30 a.m., and many carried signs that said, “End U.S. Aid to Mubark Regime” and “Stand With the Egyptian People,” waved Egyptians flags and stood on the sidewalk facing Wilshire Boulevard, cheering whenever cars driving by honked.
Blase Bonpane, KPFK radio host and activist, addressed the crowd on Saturday and called for the need of a greater distinction between peaceful demonstrators in Egypt and others who are inciting violence.
Watch the video below of Bonpane speaking to the demonstrators on Saturday, February 5.
Mohamad Kolkela, one of the rally organizers, said that he wouldn’t oppose Suleiman leading negotiations in Egypt if there is a guarantee that he won’t run for president.
Los Angeles Police Department officials were at the scene on Saturday, but Ali and LAPD officers worked together on keeping the demonstration calm. Demonstrations last weekend also took place at the Federal Building and outside the Egyptian consulate’s local office.
February 4, 2011 | 4:29 pm
Posted by JewishJournal
Does the Superbowl make you horny?
The rows of cheerleaders with their massive, throbbing fake pom poms. The vats of urine-flavored Bud Light. The thick, cheesy dips and snot-colored guac. All those fit men in very tight pants.
It doesn’t get us hot at all, but evidently we’re in the minority. The Superbowl, as GodBlogger Brad Greenberg writes, means Super Porn. Authorities expect the that many of the 100,000 fans who will converge on Dallas to attend the Superbowl this Sunday will go looking for sex. And they fear that many of them will turn to prostitutes ferried in through America’s massive, throbbing sex trafficking trade.
According to one source, traffickers will transport some 12,000 children to the Dallas area to slake the sexual appetites of football fans. (A great movie on this is Holly, whose star is in our photo.) Newsweek magazine reported this week that in 2009, Tampa, FL, which hosted the Superbowl that year, was the site of a major sex trafficking ring. Texas, they say, is second only to California when it comes to sex trafficking.
Traffickers worldwide earn $7 billion to $10 billion each year, according to a 2003 State Department report (“Trafficking in Persons Report”), thereby making human trafficking one of the three largest criminal enterprises, together with drug and arms dealing.
In fiscal year 2003, the U.S. government spent about $91 million on international anti-trafficking programs, according to a 2004 Department of Justice Report.
Traffickers sell slaves to Europe, Israel and, increasingly, to North America. In the United States, human trafficking is a growing problem. In 1999, a report issued by the CIA estimated that 50,000 people are trafficked into the United States a year. But in 2004, when the Department of Justice put that number at between 14,000 and 17,000 a year.
Church groups in Dallas have joined forces with authorities to beat back trafficking. According to The Baptist Press News:
The Dallas-Fort Worth region competes even with Las Vegas as one of the major hotbeds of sexual slavery, especially during large events like the Super Bowl, Frugé said. However, he is not without hope for the young girls enslaved by sex trafficking.
“In Fort Worth, we have a huge opportunity to make an impact right now,” Frugé said. He and his wife Katie have joined several other Southwestern students to form a grassroots advocacy group called Lose the Chains.
During a recent chapel service at the seminary, the group challenged students to inform their churches of the plight of these enslaved girls, and to help congregations see what they can do to break the chains of the sex trade. In a message on their website, www.losethechains.com, the group calls church members to watch for the signs of sex slavery in their communities.
“Pimps have a lot of tactics, one of which is to rent homes in your neighborhood, turning them into brothels,” according to the website, designed by David Wallace, a student in the College at Southwestern.
“They’re most vulnerable in our neighborhoods because hundreds of thousands of church members live in these same neighborhoods. Pimps aren’t expecting Christians to have an eye out for them.”
Christians can call 911, Frugé noted, if they spot signs of sex slavery in their neighborhoods.
Presumably, non-Christians can call 911 too. And they can urge local newspapers and web sites to refuse massage, escort and stripper ads that are linked to human trafficking. (Unfortunately, many of the country’s most progressive papers dirty themselves with these ads).
If you suspect a girl, boy, man or woman is the victim of human trafficking, immediately call 1(888)-KEY-2-FREEDOM or 1(888)-539-2373. That’s the number for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking.
As for actually finding sex in Dallas, we do want to help you. Our suggestions:
1. Ask someone. Who knows, maybe they’re as drunk, horny and excited as you. Maybe they’re even MARRIED to you. That would really be hot.
2. Go to the Ghost Bar. It’s a known singles happy hunting ground. http://www.sneakysunday.com/dallas/bars-clubs/best-singles-scene-bar-club/
3. Buy a big fake Superbowl ring and a nice suit.
4. If you absolutely can’t find a nice woman (or, if that’s your thing, guy) to make mad, passionate, Bud Light-fueled love to, go the hotel On Demand “Adult Entertainment” route. There’s even Jewish porn—who knew?. Whatever your race, faith, gender or preference, it’s much, much better than supporting human trafficking.
February 4, 2011 | 3:30 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Everyone seems to have an opinion on what role the Moslem Brotherhood will have in a new Egyptian government. Some people even know what they’re talk about.
I wrote this week in my column that it is the fear of the Moslem Brotherhood that keeps Jews—unwisely, I believe—from embracing the courageous people in the streets of Cairo. I don’t expect the Moslem Brotherhood to turn into the Temple Sisterhood, but every expert I’ve read and every Egyptian I’ve spoken to has confirmed that it is unlikely for this revolution to turn Egypt into a radical Islamic Brotherhood-controlled state.
On Tuesday, the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University hosted a discussion with Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Egypt and Israel, and the S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle Eastern Policy Studies at the Woodrow Wilson School, titled “Egypt in Turmoil.” Kurtzer has known Hosni Mubarak for over 30 years, and has deep experience with all facets of Egyptian society.
The lecture and Q and A was about an hour, but he did focus in on the Muslim Brotherhood at about the 13 minute mark.
Given how fluid the situation in Cairo is, Kurtzer only half-joked that, “The shelf life of analyis is about an hour.” Still, here are some highlights:
Mubarak is a “status quo leader. A perfect day for Mubarak is a day in which nothing happens.”
While Mubarak was “the embodiment of Egyptian stability,” he “oversaw transformational change in Egypt. You almost didn’t see it happening.” This change includes massive improvement in the economy, rebuilding Egypt’s infrastructure, a transformation of the military from Soviet arms and tactics to American arms and tactics, and securing the peace with Israel. “There was never a significant violation of the treaty,” Kurtzer said—reminding his audience that in the instability that followed Sadat’s assination, many forces and voices in Egyptian society wanted to scrap the peace with Israel.
Still, Egypt can’t produce enough jobs to satisfy its labor force. About 650,000 Egyptians enter the labor force every year and can’t find work.
The unrest hinges on the role of the Egyptian army, which, “is two armies.”
“There are the conscripts who show solidartity with people, and the army of officer corps, the embodiment of Egyptian legitimacy.”
And now, the main obsession of the West (especially Israel and the Jews I know), the Moslem Brotherhood:
“The Moslem Brotherhood since its founding in 1928 has one single goal, 25 and that is to transform Egypt into an Islamic state, and once that’s achieved it’s goal is to transform the Middle East into a pan-Arabist Islamic state…. It is flexible in tactics. ... for large periods in its history it has eschewed violence. The Brotherhood has tactical flexibility, but that doesnt change their goals one iota. That doesn’t mean necesaarily that they need to be kept out of the halls of power. It doesn’t mean they need to be hunted down. But that does mean there needs to be great caution in simplistic analysis in how the Muslim Brotherhood will act with respect to power. And the question of whether or not this movement will try to hijack a political movement for its own purposes will be kept squarely in mind. This is on the minds of the Egyptian military.One can be sure that the role of the Muslim Brotherhood will be circumscribed [by the military].”
Watch Video Here:
February 3, 2011 | 12:41 pm
Posted by Rob Eshman
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he is “fed up” with being president and would leave now.
But, in a just-completed 30 minute interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, the octogenarian autocrat said he fears his departure would throw his country into chaos.
I’ve just left the presidential palace in Cairo where I met for about 30 minutes with president Mubarak. He told me that he is troubled by the violence we have seen in Tahrir Square over the last few days but that his government is not responsible for it. Instead, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party here in Egypt.
He said he’s fed up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot, he says, for fear that the country would sink into chaos.
The obvious comeback question here for Amanpour would be, “Have you looked outside your windows lately?”
It’s Mubarak’s refusal to leave immediately, along with his decision to unleash government sponsored “pro-Mubarak” thugs, that has turned a jubilant non violent throng into a civil war, as our reporter on the ground in Cairo makes clear in this report:
In Cairo, the talk is no longer of food, jobs or even bread—things the protestors were demanding on the early days of the demonstrations. It is now about the need to topple the Egyptian President, the former army commander who has for three decades suppressed the people and rendered the masses incapable of putting food on their tables, despite claims to the contrary by Mubarak’s son, Gamal, who heads the influential Policies Committee in the ruling party and his coterie of western-educated economists.
President Obama and the Western allies need to take advantage of Mubarak’s stated desire and help him figure out a face-saving exit plan.
In the meantime, Egypt’s neighbor Israel needs to do a 180 on its response to the uprising and actually embrace the masses. The best advice on this comes from Israel’s smartest statesman, Shlomo Avineri, writing in Haaretz. He calls on PM Netanyahu to direct his next speech not to the West, but to the Egyptians:
Despite the existing uncertainty, the prime minister of Israel must address the Egyptian people in a directly, saying something to this effect:
“I turn to you, the Egyptian people, as the prime minister of Israel, who was democratically elected. For the past 32 years peace has prevailed between our two states, following the historic visit of your late president Anwar Sadat in Jerusalem and his speech in the Knesset. After years of wars the border between us is now peaceful. The leaders of Egypt and Israel chose the course of peace and made difficult concessions to ensure both nations a possibility of properity, economic development and a dignified existence. This peace of the brave is a strategic and ideological interest of both nations and we are committed to honor it, preserve it and develop it.
“The Israeli people, some 20 percent of which are Arab, want the Egyptian people’s good and will respect any decision regarding Egypt’s internal regime. That is your decision and we have no intention of interfering with your sovereign right to shape it. We hope that as peace was preserved in the past 30 years, the historic achievements it entails will be preserved in the future as well.
“Regrettably we haven’t reached an agreement with our Palestinian neighbors yet. As I said in my speech at Bar-Ilan University, Israel in my leadership is committed to the solution of two states for two peoples. I have called on the chairman of the Palestinian Authority to open negotiations over all the controversial issues immediately and without preconditions. To our regret, even the president of the United States failed to bring the two sides to the negotiation table.
“At this time it is more important than ever to solve the conflict and I repeat my call to the Palestinian Authority and its leaders to open immediate negotiations on all the issues. Opening such talks and reaching an agreement - which in my opinion and the opinion of the Palestinian Authority chairman can be achieved in a relatively short period - will contribute to the region’s stability and to the peace of all the nations and states. We have difficult points of disagreement, but we are ready to deal with them sincerely and preserving both nations’ legitimate rights and interests. We hope the Egyptian people and government support these efforts and encourage the Palestinian Authority to open negotiations.
“I would like to promise you that Israel is interested in good neighborly relations, based on mutual recognition and mutual respect of all the states and sees in peace with Egypt - the largest, leading Arab state - a cornerstone for the entire region’s prosperity and development.”
Avinieri admits the current chaos doesn’t guarantee such a speech will work, but you can be sure standing by a defeated and hated dictator isn’t a recipe for success either.
February 1, 2011 | 1:28 pm
Posted by Jeffrey Hensiek
The debate is out: When is National Hug a Jew Day?
- The “Official Hug a Jew Day” event page on Facebook claims it is the first Monday of Feb. The event, which had more than 11,000 attendees last year, currently has over 3,000 participating this time around.
- Urban Dictionary seems to think it is Feb. 1.
- Other date suggestions included: Feb. 2 from National Hug a Jew Day, May 13 by Hug A Jew Day, and Nov. 13 according to the Jewish Chronicle.
When do you think it should be? Comment below!
Whatever the date, whether you are a Jew or non-Jew, make sure you get out there and celebrate Hug a Jew Day.