A series of major events has shaken a number of Arab countries recently, threatening their individual national security as well as collective Arab regional security. The most recent was the Turkish invasion into northern Syria, targeting Syria s Kurdish citizens. The invasion should come as no surprise to anyone. Ankara had been preparing for it for months in the framework of a US-Turkish understanding in accordance with which the US would withdraw its forces from border areas, leaving its allies, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), exposed and vulnerable. Then the US and Turkey would create a “safe zone” in which would be collected the remnants of the Islamic State (IS) group. The US president s subsequent statements about Washington s continued support for the Kurds could not cover up that agreement and its consequences, no matter how much verbiage was given to the need for Turkey to adhere to its obligations to keep civilians out of harm s way, not to attack the Kurds, and to take custody of some 32,000 IS prisoners and their families and to prevent them from making a terrorist comeback. Shortly before this development, Iran staged a direct drone and missile attack against Saudi oil installations. This was not the first incident of its kind. Not long before that came similar attacks against the Emirati Fujairah Port, against oil freighters in the Gulf and against Abha airport in Saudi Arabia. Houthi claims of responsibility did not exculpate Iran of using those weapons itself or by proxy. All available evidence shows that Iran was behind those attacks either directly or through the provision of money, arms and training. These incidents occurred after the US opened a door to interact with the terrorist Houthi group. Despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo s condemnation of Iranian behaviour as “a declaration of war” and despite Iran s downing of a US drone over international waters, the bottom line in the US response to Iranian actions was that they did not take place on US territory. Thirdly, after many years of negotiation and despite numerous appeals on the part of research centres and assessment teams concerning the potentially detrimental impacts of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on Sudan and Egypt, Ethiopia has once again moved to ignore Egypt s historical rights to the Nile, a transboundary watercourse. The US response to Ethiopia s attitudes was feeble and failed to appreciate Egypt s vital interests. How strikingly this contrasts with all the encourage Washington has given Israel, recently, by relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem and condoning the annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan and Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank. The foregoing developments and many others show that all regional powers bordering the Arab world — Iran, Turkey, Israel and Ethiopia — have tried in one way or another to exploit the “immune deficiency” that has afflicted the Arab region since the outbreak of the so-called Arab Spring in order to gobble up territory, expand their sway and augment their interests at the expense of Arab countries. If this tells us anything, it is that we need to thoroughly revise Arab strategies that have long been based on the existence of special relations with the US which would work to help us strike a balance with hostile regional powers, to build bridges with them or to deter their ambitions in our region. Actual practice has put paid to such thinking. Washington, under Donald Trump, is in a process of withdrawal. It is recoiling inward for fear of those “endless wars”, as Trump just put it a few days ago. The once mighty deterrent power has shrunk into a soft power that betrays its allies at every turn. Arab strategies also depended on special relations with other international powers, such as Japan, Germany, France and the UK, because of oil. But when it came to the crux, the reactions of those powers were not commensurate to the nature or magnitude of the crises. At best they made some ineffective stabs at mediating or other types of diplomatic action. But mostly, they were waiting for the US to shake itself out of its current mood as they struggled to contend with their own problems having to do with China, Brexit or the future of the EU. Lastly, our strategies were also informed by a belief that international law and UN bodies such as the General Assembly and Security Council had some special force when it came to settling disputes between the Arabs and their regional neighbours. Again, realities have proven that the force of law and these bodies carry little weight in the face of hostile powers bent on exploiting the current weakness of the international order in order to use military force for the purposes of blackmail and winning privileges and gains to which they have no right. These adverse developments are coming at time when Arab countries are working to implement radical reform programmes to set their countries and societies more firmly and dynamically on the path to progress and development. They do not need confrontations and tensions that obstruct the realisation of these goals and aspirations. Striking an appropriate balance between domestic and external challenges is not impossible once we come to the conviction that is pointless to wait for the US “Godot”. There are options available. Above all, formulating a new strategic revision should take place within an Arab framework and be based on what already exists, such as the quadripartite coalition and joint military manoeuvres, the most recent of which was the “Red Wave” joint exercises in the Red Sea. A feasible strategy must also be based on a clearer understanding of the contemporary global order in which the US is finished as the world s sole superpower, leader of globalisation and main driver of major technological developments in the world. The world has shifted to a tripartite order, headed by the US, China and Russia. The first is on its way out, the second is keeping its feet planted in the Middle East and the third is growing closer to this region s heart and has close relations with all parties. It should be stressed, here, that Russia, at present, holds the keys to the situation in the Levant and the complex weave of political and ethnic/sectarian relations that shape the Syrian crisis. Therefore, President Vladimir Putin s forthcoming visit to Saudi Arabia may offer hope for new opportunities. Perhaps the Russian proposal for a regional security conference will open the door to Arab action, especially when security and development are brought together into a single package. The details of such a concept are not the sort of thing to be bandied about in the press. They need to be studied and discussed soberly in political and diplomatic frameworks whose priorities are stability in the Middle East, preventing foreign intervention in the domestic affairs of Arab nations, the preservation of territorial unity and integrity, halting the arms race and pressing the fight against terrorism. The starting point is to condemn Turkish and Iranian military interventions in the region and to establish relations based not just on nonaggression but also on good neighbourliness, mutually beneficial exchanges, a halt to antagonistic propaganda and ceasefires on all battle fronts, whether in Yemen or in Syria. An Arab summit is needed in order to set this in motion and its main focus would be to consider how to forge a new and serious Arab strategy.
Unfettered by global condemnations and warnings, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched an invasion on a sovereign state, targeting Syria s Kurdish population in a ferocious attack. Through his “Fountains of Peace” Operation, Erdogan hopes to crush Kurdish resistance fighters, especially the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) fighters and Syrian Kurdish fighters who are members of the Syrian Democratic Army. But this is only part of Erdogan s grand plan for Syria, since he has greedy ambitions for hegemony in the region extending to Syria and northern Iraq and not ending there. The operation is a desperate attempt by Erdogan to regain the momentum of his Islamist expansionist ambitions that were reversed by the fall of the Islamist regime in Egypt in June 2013 and then the fall of some of his staunchest allies including former Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir. A pattern of anti-Islamist sentiment has grown in the region, with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates banning the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, the Libyan army led by Khalifa Haftar is closing in on liberating the capital Tripoli from the clutches of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government and its allied jihadist militants despite the military and financial support it receives from Turkey and Qatar. Erdogan has had to gamble militarily in Syria in order to try to break the cycle of defeats he has been suffering across the region. That has been made even more pressing because of domestic disgruntlement against his tyrannical rule following years of oppression and iron-fist policies. Destroying the Kurdish resistance has always been high on Erdogan s agenda, and the latest invasion of Syria by Turkey is an attempt to finalise the problem once and for all by occupying the Kurdish-populated north of the country in order to quell any possible rebellion and calls for independence emanating from the region. As a result, Erdogan is committing his latest genocide against the Kurdish population in Syria through a new operation that carries a name that has nothing to do with its true aggressive nature. It is similar to the “Olive Branch” Operation carried out by the Turkish army in 2018, which ended up in the massacre in Afrin in Syria that saw the deaths of some 500 civilians. Early Turkish army reports indicate that the invasion in its first day left over 270 Kurdish fighters killed, and indications of a massacre can be found in reports that over 40 civilians were also killed directly as a result of shelling or even murder either by Turkish forces or allied Syrian militant groups. Hevrin Khalaf, a Syrian Kurdish politician and leader of the Future of Syria Party, was killed in the bombing. This brave woman had been an advocate of democracy in Syria and had resisted the Turkish invasion. Women and children were reportedly killed and injured during the first hours of the incursion. Over 100,000 civilians have also fled northern Syria, causing a new human catastrophe in the war-torn country. Moreover, an estimated 100,000 members of the terrorist Islamic State (IS) group including women and children are held in Kurdish-controlled camps in the region. Among them are about 12,000 foreign fighters of various nationalities whose countries have refused to permit them to return home. These terrorists are now on the verge of escaping as fighting breaks out with the Turkish invaders. The Kurdish fighters have declared that they will prioritise defending their homes and territory rather than guarding the prisoners, which signals another catastrophe in the making. Should these IS fighters flee, they will likely either join their terrorist comrades in Syria and Iraq or attempt to reach Libya or Egypt in case they decide to fight on in the region. This is what Erdogan hopes to attain as he has used the services of IS to serve his vile ambitions over the past five years. Other IS members may choose to return to their European countries of residence, which would spell disaster for European security. This danger has caused European Union members to condemn the Turkish attack and demand an immediate halt to it, particularly as the fallout from this operation will be felt in European cities later on. France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway and Holland have frozen weapons exports to the Turkish regime in an attempt to force Erdogan to yield to demands to cease his military operation. Similarly, the members of the Arab League have condemned the Turkish attack on northern Syria and have vowed to issue a series of sanctions against the Turkish state even if they have not yet indicated what these will be. It goes without saying that the Arab states resolutions unfortunately leave a lot to be desired in terms of a truly decisive stance against Turkish ambitions for hegemony. Prior to Erdogan s military campaign, US President Donald Trump committed one of his worst mistakes thus far by announcing the complete withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria where they had been part of the International Coalition to fight IS. Many considered Trump s move to be a stab in the back for the Kurds, who had fought side by side with the US in combating IS and had managed through enormous sacrifices to assist in destroying its so-called caliphate. Turkey has not spared the remaining US troops in its blind shelling of the region, even as the Pentagon has announced it might retaliate if this occurs again. The United States has also declared that it is mulling over imposing sanctions against the Turkish regime if it does not cease its hostilities despite the US abandonment of the Kurdish fighters. Meanwhile, Erdogan has praised his invading troops, labelling them “Muhammadan forces” in an attempt to paint the atrocities being committed by his marauding army in religious colours. As usual, the genocidal operation has been applauded by Erdogan s Islamist allies in Qatar and by Muslim Brotherhood members and media across the region. However, Erdogan s attempts to portray himself as a leader for the Muslims or a modern form of caliph will always fall on hard ground. His expansionist ambitions have been met by realities that he appears unable to understand, namely that in the 21st century and regardless of how much force he can muster the Turkish army s capabilities remain limited in the face of regional powers including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. This is not even to mention the forces of the three global powers of the United States, Russia and China, all of which will mean that Erdogan s dreams of a new Ottoman caliphate are simply delusions. Erdogan s real concern should not be ruling over the rest of the Muslims across the world, but ruling the rest of the Turks in fact, since they are growing weary of his mad adventures. Erdogan s days as Turkey s president are numbered regardless of the draconian measures he uses to instil fear into the hearts of Turkish citizens. “Aggression unchallenged is aggression unleashed” wrote the Roman writer Phaedrus (15 BCE - 50 CE), a saying that seems to describe how the international community has treated Erdogan s repeated war crimes. Until Erdogan s aggression is met firmly, the world will need to brace itself for the next genocide to take place in Syria or elsewhere, as the Turkish president drives the region into wars that sooner or later will have global repercussions.
What was President Donald Trump thinking when he abruptly announced that he had agreed to reverse years of US policy in Syria and withdraw American forces, clearing the way for Turkey to launch an attack on what had been loyal US allies, handing a long-sought victory to America s foes, including Iran and Russia Indeed, Trump s decision came as a shock to America s Kurdish friends in Syria, who reportedly found out about America s betrayal from a tweet. "You are leaving us to be slaughtered," a Syrian Kurd leader told a US diplomat. Americans on the ground knew it. They knew many would die. Some Green Berets there said they felt "ashamed." US allies worried that if Trump (meaning the United States) can suddenly betray its friends without warning, they could be next. The decision, made after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, caused an easy-to-foresee chain reaction of disasters so egregious, that even many of Trump s most loyal Republican backers were appalled. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has bent and broken rules and norms to defend Trump, warned that a sudden withdrawal of US forces, "would only benefit Russia, Iran and the Assad regime." Sen. Lindsay Graham called the move, "the biggest blunder of [Trump s] presidency." Rep. Liz Cheney called it a "shameful disaster." Late on Monday, Trump announced new economic sanctions against Turkey for its "destabilizing actions in northeast Syria." If nothing else, this is an acknowledgment that the removal of US troops was a grievous mistake. But that in no way excuses it; rather, it highlights how disastrously incoherent, chaotic and contradictory the policy is. Trump s Syria decision is so harmful, that it is imperative we find out what was behind it. What exactly did Trump and Erdogan say to each other on that phone call? Why did Trump agree to stand back and allow Erdogan s forces -- the Turkish army and Islamist militias -- to make their move? These are compelling questions that demand an answer. Congress should require that Trump turn over a complete transcript or recording of the call with Erdogan. In fact, we also need to find out what exactly Trump has discussed with Putin on this issue. The transcripts don t need to be released to the public. Maybe a joint committee of Congress or even a panel of judges can hear the evidence. But the steps and reasoning that led to this catastrophic self-inflicted wound on American security and standing in the world must be scrutinized. If Trump refuses, we will know he has something to hide. American presidents enjoy a great deal of latitude, particularly on foreign policy. Trump, like his predecessors, has a right to make the wrong strategic decisions. He has a right to make stupid mistakes. God knows previous US presidents have made them before. But presidents must make these decisions, even foolish ones, based on what they think is in the best interest of the United States. Trump s order to clear the way for a Turkish attack on US allies does not meet that most basic test. There is no reason to expect that America will gain absolutely anything from this costly policy reversal. It goes against every geopolitical objective of the Unites States. Trump s claim that this was a move to "end endless wars," is baseless. This force was already a low-cost mechanism for ending endless wars, for preventing new ones and for keeping existing ones from getting worse. Even if he wanted to withdraw, why do it without preparation? To be sure, President Obama made terrible mistakes in Syria, but this small force, built over the course of half a decade, achieved impressive results. The Syrian Kurds were a force multiplier. They did most of the fighting against ISIS, losing thousands of men and women warriors. (Yes, women are an integral part of the Kurdish forces that Turkey views as a terrorist organization.) America s low-cost presence was a success story, helping to bring a measure of stability to northeastern Syria, curtailing Iran s advance and blocking Tehran s efforts to build a continuous land bridge to the Mediterranean -- aimed partly at threatening Israel -- and limiting Russia s advances The chances of war between Iran and Israel are now greater. The strength of Russia is enhanced as its ally Assad recaptures more of Syria, and emerges more beholden to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah. And then there s ISIS. If Obama s withdrawal from Iraq helped bring ISIS to life, Trump s withdrawal from Syria may just bring it back from near-death. The stain will not soon wash away. America s betrayal left the Syrian Kurds -- who have been trying to develop a working democracy -- with no other choice but to get help from Assad, the Syrian dictator who slaughtered civilians using chemical weapons and starvation tactics. America has betrayed its friends before, but it was always in the face of a profound moral dilemma. A moral compromise to avoid something worse, or to gain something different. But there was no dilemma here. Why did Trump do it? The President already told us, before becoming president, that he had "a little conflict of interest" with Turkey, where he has substantial business concerns, including not one but two Trump towers. But maybe that has nothing to do with it. Maybe it was just arrogance, carelessness, hubris. Under normal circumstances, we might shake our heads at Trump s decision; call it a horrible mistake and make the best of it. But these are not normal circumstances, and this is not just any poor tactical move. This foreign policy travesty demands answers.
The People s Republic of China celebrated 1 October the 70th anniversary of its founding. President Xi Jinping presided over the celebrations that included an 80-minute military parade that displayed the new-found might of the People s Liberation Army (PLA) and the unveiling of very powerful and long-range missiles. For example, the DF-41 has a range of 15,000 kilometres, which makes it the longest-range missile in the world. Also on display was the DF -17, a nuclear-capable glider that could reach the United States. The parade showed, too, the formidable advances that China has achieved in unmanned systems and electronic warfare. The top leadership of the State and the Communist Party were assembled atop the rostrum at the “Gate of Heavenly Peace.” Among the top leadership figured two former heads of states. President Xi waved at his own portrait that was put beside a banner reading, “Carry out Xi Jinping s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.” In his remarks, President Xi referred to China s “century of humiliation” stressing that, “no force can shake the status of our great motherland, and no force can stop the Chinese people and the Chinese nation from marching forward.” As to the role of the PLA, the Chinese president emphasised that it “will serve its purpose in safeguarding the sovereignty, security and development interests of the country, and world peace”. He called on the ruling Communist Party and the country to unite and continue fighting for the realisation of what he described as the “Chinese Dream” and the nation s rejuvenation. He promised that the Chinese government would uphold the “one country, two systems” idea and it would protect the long-term stability of Hong Kong and Macau. As to Taiwan, he said that Beijing would stress the goal of “peaceful reunification” with the island state. It was interesting to see President Xi wearing a Mao suit instead of the normal dark suit. The message couldn t be clearer. It was a reaffirmation of the foundational legitimacy of the Chinese Revolution. It is interesting as well to note that President Xi, accompanied by a group of very senior Chinese officials, visited the mausoleum of the founder of the People s Republic, Mao Zedong on 1 October. It was the first time since the end of the Cultural Revolution that a Chinese head of state paid an official visit to the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong. The Chinese president wanted to make clear that the revolution still lives on, stronger than ever. In fact, the whole celebrations were meant to highlight the progress that China has achieved and the military might it has developed. The use of the expression “no force” could impede China going forward was meant as an implicit warning to any international power, or a group of like-minded powers, that would try to enter into confrontation with China to slow its resurgence on the world scene as a great power. At the forefront of these powers, the United States is first. The celebrations of the founding of the People s Republic comes amidst a host of domestic, regional and international challenges facing a rising China. Domestically, the rates of growth of the Chinese economy have stalled while the tariff war between China and the United States has started taking a toll on the economy. And no one can predict when this trade confrontation will end. It is a war of nerves between Washington and Beijing that gets more complicated by the day due to the unstable political situation in Washington in light of the impeachment inquiry that the House of Representatives with its majority of Democrats has launched. Some people believe that the weakened American president would settle for less than he aspired to in terms of a global and fair trade agreement with China. If this proves true, the big winner would be President Xi. On the domestic front, the deteriorating political situation in Hong Kong poses one of the greater challenges that President Xi has to face. It was no coincidence that the Hong Kong demonstrations took a violent turn 1 October. The issue is not Communist Party rule, but rule by China and the Chinese president. Hong Kong has started to look like a trap for President Xi. Hong Kong experienced some of the most widespread scenes of violence in many years. One student protester died of a gun shot by a policeman, the first victim since the youth demonstrations began in Hong Kong in June. The police said the shooting came in self-defence as the victim was wielding an iron bar at the policeman. Whatever the reason, with the death of the 18-year-old student, the situation has become almost explosive. The executive authority in Hong Kong invoked emergency powers to prohibit demonstrators from wearing masks. However, the students defied the order. The last time Hong Kong experienced living under emergency powers was in 1967 when the British had to deal with students demonstrating in support of the Cultural Revolution on the mainland. What an irony. Professor Ho-Fung Hung, a professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins University, commented on the massive demonstrations in Hong Kong that coincided with national celebrations on mainland China. “It is a dark turn,” he said. He believes the student movement and the conflict have “passed the point of no return, and the use of live ammunition is adding fuel to the fire”. Regionally and internationally, the United States is leading a strategy of containment against China with support from strategic partners, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, while deliberately challenging the Chinese navy in the South China Sea to uphold the principle of freedom of navigation in international waters. Will the strategy of containing China succeed in preventing the gradual and inescapable rise of China as a superpower in the second half of the 21st century? The odds are not great. Maybe it would be better for the United States to accommodate the rise of China and enter into a functional strategic cooperation with Beijing to serve their best mutual interests in North East Asia, Southern and Central Asia and the Gulf plus the Arabian Sea, and the approaches of Bab Al-Mandab at the southern entrance of the Red Sea. Such a path forward will guarantee peace and security for decades to come.
Arab states have been through the toughest time of all. For the first time since their establishment, many of those states have been shattered by corruption, political differences, and foreign intervention, not to mention terrorism. The only institution that would have been capable of tackling such difficult files, which is the Arab League, is practically lost and became inactive, to say the least. It has been rather hard for any of the Arab states to singlehandedly solve any of the region s multiple issues,nor could the Arab League. Currently, we have several bleeding nations and Yemen comes at the top of them. The story of the Yemeni conflict has turned into a timebomb that could at any time explode at the doorsteps of the Gulf of Aden. In Libya, the issue is bigger than securing the unity of the Libyan territoriesandmaintaining the country s oil wealth.It s rather containing the impact of terrorism which has been threatening the neighbouring states with a clear international collusion. Despite the fact that countries such as Iraq and Syria have degraded the terror threat since the spectre of terrorism has retreated, the two countries have been struggling to get through the rehabilitation process which calls for Arab support, if not intervention. There are various regional and international powers that have been looking forward for the collapse of Damascus and Baghdad to create a new order that achieves their interests.Thus, Arab support would have been of great value for the two states. The dilemma of the Arab League which has been paralysed due to internal Arab conflicts has been a headache to its secretary-general, Ahmed Abul-Gheit. He explained to the present writer that the aggravation of internal conflicts among Arab states has side-tracked the League s role, benefiting some regional powers such as Turkey and Iran, and super powers such as the United States and Russia, in addition to Israel. The latter has been getting greedier and more voracious to control Arab territories as has been the case in the occupied West Bank, the Golan Heights and Jerusalem. We are currently facing a grave risk that calls for a strong and unified Arab stand. All parties have been paying dearly for the deterioration of the inter-Arab ties and regional polarisation has been high on the agenda of most Arab states. In most cases, Arab countries are looking forward to a foreign ally instead of calling on its natural Arab allies. The gap has been increasingly wide and the roads took each and every one of us to a different direction. Thus,it became easy to devour Arab lands. We are unable to see the path to saving their countries: Arab cooperation. Several Arab states have been paying hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain their security and pile up the most expensive weapons. If those billions were invested in the region s economy instead of war or to enhance trade exchange among Arab states, it would have created a strong bloc of an Arab nation. If those billions were used to develop industries, the banking system or to make better use of our natural resources, we would have been in no need to pile up all the machinery of the West to protect us from our neighbours. If we invested in strengthening our institutions like the Arab League, the Maghreb Union and the Gulf Cooperation Council, we would have been able to overcome the internal difficulties and differences that made the three institutions no more than a toothless lion. The Arab League would have played the role of the honest broker, capable of settling the Arab nation s problems and giving no room for the intervention of foreign parties that play to their interests. The super powers have been working to promote the ongoing conflict in the region to get the most out of its resources. The president of the United States, Donald Trump, has not moved a finger against Iran which shot down a US drone, saying almost nothing but vicious rhetoric that kept the Iranian threat all over the place. The silent and sometimes blindfolded presence of the US in this region has encouraged Tehran to enhance its operations in a number of Arab states. Turkey has also been extending its influence in Libya in support of some terrorist groups there, which is very much the same situation in Damascus where the Turkish support of terrorist groups in Adlib has become obvious. In Iraq, both Turkey and Iran are playing a leading role. What has been going on in Iraq is echoed in Yemen, but Arabs have not learned the lessons yet. The best possible and cheapest yet effective solution to the Arabs dilemma is to go back to their natural allies; to their Arab neighbours, to try to find out solutions to their problems. They should become a unified bloc politically, economically and socially. They should try to get rid of the US, the Russian, the Turkish and the Iranian umbrella in favour of their own. Only then will Arab states become a regional power that is hard to defeat and harder to fight.
Did you know that one out of five Egyptians is a girl below the age of 17? Today, the country comprises around 19 million girls and this number is expected to grow to 21 million Egyptian girls by 2030. Why does this matter? Because in Egypt, girls are more vulnerable to illiteracy, more likely than their brothers to never attend school, to leave school early, or to skip school. And that matters for the future of Egypt. Egypt has successfully prioritized gender equality within its Sustainable Development Strategy 2030 and the National Women Empowerment Strategy is paving the way for a more equitable society. There are some clear positive trends in terms of reducing inequalities between boys and girls, such as the educational attainment levels for males and females in the 15-19-year-old age group, which are much closer than they used to be for older generations. In fact, for the 15 to 19 age group, the proportion of girls who had completed secondary education in 2015 was higher than that of boys (10.7% and 9.2%, respectively).
The 74th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations opened Tuesday, 24 September, amidst rising tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf. Two dates preceded the inauguration of this session that would have an impact on future developments in these two regions. On 14 September, Saudi oil installations came under direct attack in a brazen escalation of an already tense security situation in the Gulf. On 17 September, Israel held its second general election in less than six months — a first in the history of the Hebrew state — that saw the Blue and White Party garnering 34 seats while the Likud gained 32. It was political gridlock at a time when the world is awaiting the announcement by the White House of its “Deal of the Century” to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Once, former President Hosni Mubarak said “I do not like working amid pressure”, in response to calls for demonstrations that began to increase in 2005 and the emergence of the Kefaya (Enough) movement in the streets in reaction to increased prices, increased unemployment, rigged elections, and efforts to amend the constitution to start implementing the succession agenda. Three decades earlier, on January 17 and 18, 1977 specifically, Sadat backed away from the government s decisions to raise prices, as he saw a reduction of Arab support and increased American pressure to attract him to negotiations with Israel. President Mubarak s regime couldn t escape from the abyss, while President Sadat managed to pass the crisis peacefully and temporarily, until his regime fell because of arrest campaigns on September 5, 1981, which was criticized by both opponents and supporters, including his wife Jehan Sadat. People are the source of legitimacy, and one of the major disasters that toppled other leaders in Latin America, Asia, Africa and elsewhere was simply that leaders assumed that their legitimacy was found in foreign capital. Of course vanity alongside the above was also one of the most important factors that toppled some of these systems. To sum up, politics is the art of the possible, knowing when to put pressure and when to back down, bargain, negotiate, leave something in exchange for giving an alternative, and so on. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in his political approach pointed out that the poor endured a lot for their country and for the implementation of the economic reform program, and sometimes he even pointed out that this endurance was also for his sake. He praised this endurance a lot. Therefore, the president acted intelligently when he realized that the people are the source of legitimacy, and that satisfying those who bear a lot to pass the economic crisis is a must. All this was behind the reduction in fuel prices and some food commodities. External pressures were some of the constraints disregarded when prices decreased. Amid the war on terror and attempts by some countries to blockade Egypt economically in the hope of a fictitious return to the Muslim Brotherhood s activities, reducing the prices of some goods was a commendable deed. The internal criticism by government supporters on the decision to cut prices, because of the timing, was not right at all. The price cuts came after two weeks of calls to demonstrate and take to the streets because of dissatisfaction with rising poverty, prices and more. But all of this is countered by the fact that people are the source of legitimacy, and statesmanship requires passing crises at the moment of their eruption, like extinguishing a fire with a large amount of water. Justifying the price cuts with the reason that a committee from the Petroleum Ministry discussed the pricing of fuel and found it necessary to reduce it, and the explanation that the foreign currency exchange rate decreased against the Egyptian pound was a major reason for lowering prices, had not been received positively. Honesty and satisfying those who are the source of the legitimacy of any political system ,the people, is not degrading or discouraging, but is actually one of the secrets to the survival of political systems, keeping it young and strong. The political leadership s awareness of the movements on the street, both in realizing what delights them, as well as responding in a timely manner, will constitute as long as it exists a significant weight on its side in front of its source of legitimacy.
Our subject is climate change. It is not one we are particularly fond of but the mainstream media is obsessed with it, inundating us with headlines and articles, so here we go again to examine the issue one more time. The United Nations held a climate change conference in New York, which was attended by, among others, a 16-year-old Swedish teenager, Greta Thurnberg, who hypnotised the world by her articulate, highly emotional diatribe on the state of our planet. “How dare you,” she reprimanded her elders for allowing such disregard for the Earth s health. Something must be done to save it, warning her listeners, “We will be watching you.” Was she able to convert you by her eloquence and conviction? Her thesis is that members of this and previous generations have been sinfully negligent in their use of greenhouse gases, endangering her future and her generation. While her listeners were aghast, the media was buzzing with glee. How influential was the voice of a girl so young. We watched her over and over as she called for her generation to strike against such a crime. Millions of students around the world, from Austria to Tanzania, swarmed the streets of their cities, calling for action against greenhouse gases. The very inactive, suddenly became active. Who can move four million kids, usually stuck to their smart phones to heed such a call or even care about it? Only a leader can do that. Obviously, she is one. Her dramatic delivery came naturally as she is the daughter of an opera singer mother, an actor father and grandfather. She has been an activist since age eight. She would stand in front of the Swedish parliament with signs calling for climate control. More often than not she would be joined by her schoolmates. Would you call this a normal behaviour by a teenager? Critics descended upon her calling her “a nuisance with a simplistic approach and unscientific attacks”. Australian denier Andrew Bolt said “she was freakishly influential for a girl so young with so many mental disorders.” Even Emmanuel Macron, a climate advocate, ascribed that “such radical positions antagonise society.” While her fear is understandable, she does not know what solutions to put forward, nor do most scientists. Cut, decrease, limit, diminish, cry the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, finally finding an issue which may lead to success. Some 200 scientists were gathered a few, or none are climatologists supporting the consensus on anthropogenic climate change, caused by human activities. Greenhouse gases emitted by humans alter the Earth s energy balance and its climate. Hundreds of atmospheric scientists worldwide, beg to differ. They have a variety of reasons, none include greenhouse gases. A consensus of 25 scientists believe the projections are likely to be inaccurate due to the inaccuracy of current global climate modelling. All the models are wrong. More than 38 scientists believe that the observed warming is more likely to be attributable to natural causes than to human activities. Then there are those who argue that the cause of global warming is unknown, what courage to admit that they do not know. Nobel laureate of 1998 Kary Miller is one among many who ascribe to the possibility that rising temperatures could be natural or man-made. Others believe that the effects will be few and negative. Our limited space does not permit the listing of these august scientists, far superior to UN random picks. We cannot fail to mention 10 recently deceased scientists who all stood against mainstream scientific assessment of global warming, among them New Zealand s renowned meteorologist and professor of atmospheric science August “Augie” Avir (1940- 2016). The UN issued a 12-year ultimatum on climate change, a misleading statement, ringing once again their alarm bells, before the world as we know it is lost. Environmental Scepticism is the belief that claims by environmentalist scientists are false or exaggerated. However, we must not dismiss their findings altogether but demand further discussion and more proof than the existing evidence. The popularity of scepticism was enhanced by Bjorn Lomborg s 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Lomborg approached environmental claims from a statistical and economic standpoint were overstated. However, countries like China, the US, India, 10 of them are feebly trying to reduce greenhouse gases, just in case it is not science fiction as Amitar Gosh claimed in 2016. Richard Millar of Oxford University in his article on the Carbon Brief website writes, “We have a little more breathing space than previously thought”, and the Natural Geoscience publication wrote, “Fear of global warming is exaggerated.” Even The Times front page admitted the world is warming slower than predicted. Media coverage was a clear spin in what they were trying to put across. Mainstream scientists had a vested interest in alarm. Remember Obama s solar energy factories that shutdown at a loss of $50 billion. Many more such investments have not come to fruition. Carbon Capture, a book by Howard Herzog states that “the best way to remove carbon dioxide from the air is not to release it into the air in the first place.” It is not even funny. What Natalie Nahowald wrote, “It is monumental but not impossible,” sounds better. We must first find the tools before we can actually put them to use. Can we? Not only we can but according to non-sceptics, we must. “Nature goes her own way, and all that to us seems an exception is really according to order.” Goethe, Johann Wolfgang (1749-1842)
It still dominates large sectors inside and outside the country: a fear and perhaps panic about the issue of demonstrations. These feelings confirm that we have not yet been able to co-exist with demonstrations or consider them to be a normal occurrence that impact all societies. Jordan witnessed for months the famous Fourth Circle sit-ins protesting high prices and the lifting of subsidies on some goods. Those protests did not bring down the regime. The Jordanian state dealt with the sit-ins in a way that caused them to seem normal, without resorting to hysteria about conspiracies and treason. In one of my visits to Morocco last year, I saw a demonstration in front of the parliament in which tens of thousands took part in Hirak al-Rif (The Rif Movement). They chanted slogans that criticized the king–an uncommon event in the Moroccan political system. However, the authorities deliberately sanctioned the protest, because they had a more important message: Yes, I will tolerate demonstrations, even if some of their slogans exaggerate. In fact, there are many examples of dealing with demonstrations as such in Arab (not European) countries. There are “good” paths for expressing feelings of anger, rejection or unrest. These paths are distinct from incitement, vandalism and demolition. In other words, there is someone inside these regimes who considers engaging opponents a necessity and moves them towards reformist, rather than revolutionary, goals. There are those who say that Egypt is targeted and that there is incitement against it from outside its borders. This is partly true, because inflammatory speeches have indeed been made outside the country s borders. But it is also certain that there is a natural, internal source inside the oldest democracies rejecting some or many of its policies and wanting to protest and perhaps demonstrate. So shall we push that source toward other instigators on the same side? People have the right to object to demonstrations in a country that suffers from many economic problems and needs to consolidate values of work and production. However, those same people must have the integrity to reject the demonstrations of supporters and opponents, and not sanction some and ban others. We should not panic because of a demonstration. Nor should we treat every demonstration as part of a conspiracy. The day must come when we distinguish between the mass of people, which includes supporters and opponents, that refuses to demonstrate and a minority that may see a solution in protest. If we open the door for people to express what is inside of them, the vast majority of them will not go for extremist options and inflammatory messages from across borders, because they will find a place for themselves in the political system–a much different scenario than abounding calls for sabotage and instigation, which have no place anywhere.
Egypt s modern history has never been a walk in the park for many people, and it has unfortunately been marred by various invasions, wars, periods of ebb and flow, and times of recession. However, the Egyptian people have withstood the test of time for millennia and have kept the natural borders of the oldest state in the world intact while maintaining their unique civilisation. This story of determination and endurance is the story of the modern Egyptians. The years following the 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013 Revolutions in Egypt, with the latter ending in the ousting of Islamist rule, have not been easy, and they have been perhaps the hardest the nation has faced since the end of the Egyptian-Israeli wars and the signing of the Camp David Peace Treaty in the late 1970s. In fact, many Egyptians believe that the current existential war facing Egypt is much more ferocious than the wars of the 20th century. The Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organisation and its affiliates such as the Islamic State (IS) group and Al-Qaeda dreamed of ruling the country for over eight decades and managed to stay in power for only one year, however, and its dream of establishing a dynasty or a caliphate that would last for five centuries, according to its rhetoric, was thwarted by the Egyptian army in June 2013. Today, the organisation is acting like an injured animal and fighting a ferocious war against Egypt while operating from abroad. The Brotherhood has made a pact with the devil in the shape of the Turkish and Qatari regimes, which have provided it with huge financial, political and media resources along with arms for its militias. As a result, Egypt faces the most ferocious terrorist wave in its history, but thanks to the dedicated sacrifices of its patriotic armed forces and police the country has managed to repel this wave and turn the tide of battle. However, Egyptian heroes still fall every day, the last time being on 27 September, when four Egyptian army officers and soldiers were killed and 10 others were injured in an attack on one of the security checkpoints in North Sinai. Such sacrifices have not been in vain, as the Egyptian army continues to pound terrorist hideouts across the county and has managed to kill 118 terrorists in Sinai, the Western Desert and near the southern borders with Sudan in the recent period. The Egyptian army has made sure that all who get involved in acts of aggression against the country will be punished severely, and operations continue to uproot the remnants of the Brotherhood terrorist group and its allies. On the political front, Turkish President Recep Tayyib Erdogan has attempted to rally the international community against Egypt by claiming that an investigation must be conducted into the death of his ally, the ousted former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, who died in prison. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has responded with strongly worded statements against the Turkish regime since the beginning of the crisis in June 2013. It has exposed the barbaric activities of that regime, which has imprisoned 75,000 political prisoners in terrible conditions amidst the threat of torture in Turkish prisons. The ministry has reminded the world of the war crimes committed by the Turkish regime in both Syria and Iraq against Kurdish populations, with these still ongoing today. The Egyptian state is caught up in a cold war with the Turkish regime, and relations between the two countries will not mend as long as Erdogan remains in power. On the domestic front, Egypt faces an unprecedented media campaign orchestrated by a treacherous contractor operating from Spain and backed by Muslim Brotherhood and other turncoats. It is the most ludicrous attempt yet by these elements to whip up dissatisfaction with the government led by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, propagated for weeks by the terrorist-backing Aljazeera TV network and the Turkish Anadolu News Agency. Much to the dismay of these organisations, the Egyptian nation has stood firm against calls for chaos coming from abroad. Meanwhile, the diplomatic conflict with Ethiopia is ongoing as the Ethiopian government has been refusing demands for negotiation over the flow of the Nile River after the completion of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam that threatens the water supply to Egypt. As Egypt acquires 95 per cent of its water needs from the Nile, any tampering with the Nile s flow will affect the livelihood of over 100 million Egyptians. This means that Egypt cannot sit idly by, and that it must place all options on the table to prevent a catastrophe that could affect its water resources as a result of the Ethiopian government s lack of proper appreciation of the gravity of the situation for Egypt. During his speech to the UN General Assembly in New York delivered in September, President Al-Sisi stressed that Egypt would not allow the Dam to be operational without the proper steps being taken by Ethiopia to ensure that Egypt s share of Nile water is untouched. Egypt is thus facing an existential war from various sources, and it has been fighting gallantly to preserve its interests and force its enemies to revise their strategies. The question is how far patriotic Egyptians will be willing to go in order to guarantee Egypt s future. The answer is simple: they will go as far as is necessary, no matter how great the costs. The outcome will be, as it has been over millennia of history, that Egypt will prevail.
The 74th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations opened Tuesday, 24 September, amidst rising tensions in the Middle East and the Gulf. Two dates preceded the inauguration of this session that would have an impact on future developments in these two regions. On 14 September, Saudi oil installations came under direct attack in a brazen escalation of an already tense security situation in the Gulf. On 17 September, Israel held its second general election in less than six months — a first in the history of the Hebrew state — that saw the Blue and White Party garnering 34 seats while the Likud gained 32. It was political gridlock at a time when the world is awaiting the announcement by the White House of its “Deal of the Century” to reach a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Compared to last year, the two regions were still mired in conflicts without any political solution on the horizon. This year and one day before the start of the 74th Session, the UN secretary general announced the good and encouraging news that the Syrian government and other Syrian stakeholders in Syria had finally agreed on the establishment of the Constitutional Commission that would be tasked with supervising the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 of December 2015. In this respect, the foreign ministers of the Small Group on Syria (Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and the United States) met 26 September and welcomed the establishment of the said commission. They reaffirmed that there can be no military solution to the conflict in Syria — only a political one. They expressed their support for the efforts of the secretary general s special envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen, to implement UNSC Resolution 2254. Otherwise, things have remained the same, save in Libya where a dangerous military stalemate has persisted since April. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (the E3) released a statement in New York in which the three powers blamed Iran for the attacks of 14 September in Saudi Arabia. The United States already singled out Iran. It vowed to continue its strategy of maximum pressure against Tehran till the day Iran ceases what the US administration has called “its destabilising behaviour” that threatens the Middle East, as well as freedom of navigation in the Gulf and global energy supplies. The US administration even turned down a peace proposal by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani before the General Assembly convened. These positions vis-à-vis Iran went hand-in-hand with the deployment of more American forces to the Gulf and the deployment of additional American-made Patriot anti-missile systems to provide deterrence against Iran and defend Saudi Arabia against further attacks. In this regard, US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met on the sidelines of the 74th Session with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and highlighted the importance of regional coordination to confront challenges in the region, including Iran. In parallel, the ongoing war in Yemen was one of the questions that galvanised the attention of the world body. After four years of destruction and mayhem that have caused one of the worst humanitarian disasters after World War II, United Nations efforts have yet to bear fruit. Yemen has become a quagmire for all sides in the war. No one side has the military capacity to impose its will on the battlefield. The key to the peaceful resolution of the conflict lies probably outside Yemen itself. If the Americans, the Saudis and the Iranians could agree, at least, in principle, as a first step, on a modus vivendi in the Gulf and in Arabia, the chances are that this war could come to an end. However, the political will to reach this understanding has not materialised yet. The Yemen donors met in New York to review the level of funding necessary to continue providing humanitarian assistance to the Yemeni people. The situation in Libya, which has worsened since the 73rd General Assembly, was the subject of intense discussions and figured prominently in the remarks of some heads of state who delivered remarks before the General Assembly. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, for instance, reaffirmed Egypt s support for the efforts of Ghassan Salame, the UN special envoy to Libya, and criticised regional intervention in Libya. He said that the Security Council had approved in a special meeting in September 2017 a plan for a political solution in Libya. He stressed that Egypt had adhered to this plan while insisting on the need to fight terrorism and terrorist groups within Libya. The US administration has insisted that all actors in the Libyan conflict should respect the arms embargo in Libya and warned that terrorism, sooner or later, will end up being exported beyond Libyan borders. It has renewed its call for a ceasefire, stressing that the only way forward is the implementation of the UN plan for the reunification of Libyan state institutions. American officials welcomed the meeting that Germany will host in a very short time in an attempt to push Libyan leaders to sincerely implement the UN plan for Libya. Needless to say, Arab countries, including Egypt, have stressed the importance of reaching peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, emphasising that peace between the two sides would unlock opportunities for regional cooperation across the Middle East. The Egyptian president was more emphatic in this regard when he made a clear and an unambiguous linkage between the establishment of an independent Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and the creation of what he termed as a “security and an economic system” in the Middle East. It is interesting to note, in this context, that this is the first time that Egypt has made such a linkage. On the other hand, and as far as Egypt is concerned, the 74th General Assembly saw the Egyptian president bring up differences between Ethiopia and Egypt concerning the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. He stressed — and emphatically at that — that Nile waters for Egypt are a question of “survival” and a matter of right. The internationalisation of the Egyptian-Ethiopian water crisis has added another sensitive question before the UN General Assembly, in addition to the host of complex conflicts above. How Middle Eastern allies of Egypt will deal with it is another question. It is difficult to predict how the Middle East will look one year from now when the next ordinary session of the UN General Assembly convenes. Judging from the meetings that took place in New York in the last two weeks and the positions expressed, we should entertain a guarded optimism that, maybe, the political will necessary among great and regional powers to carry out UN resolutions pertaining to regional conflicts will grow stronger and irreversible, so that peace and security becomes the norm across the region.
As I have previously stated, the announcement of the Yellow Kingdom took advantage of the dispute between Egypt and Sudan, because each country has its own maps of its borders with the other. The area of Bir Tawil is located outside the maps adopted by each country because of a dispute over the sovereignty of the straight line 22 degrees north of the equator that Egypt claims and the winding administrative line that Sudan considers to mark its sovereignty. The dispute between the two countries is therefore the root of this situation. We do not know the situation s exact origins or motives, or who stands behind it. We do not know the limits of its development. What can be said is that if the dispute between the two countries is the reason for the rise of this issue, the solution could be to amend the causes of that dispute. What can stop the situation s potential development into a crisis is the two countries collaboration to prevent this from happening. This requires that the two countries find a way to stop exploiting such loopholes resulting from the persistence of the Halayeb problem. Egypt claims it possesses documents and historical references proving that Halayib belongs to Egypt, and Sudan has the same conviction. The dispute has turned into a cause of national dignity, prompting internal and foreign parties to defend their positions on the disagreements between the two countries. I see what happened as an incentive for us to tackle outstanding issues and end the causes of disagreement. The issue of the Kingdom of Yellow the Mountain is a warning that these outstanding issues should be addressed. Both Egypt and Sudan face threats. Any harm to either country will have an impact on the other. All of this is taking place in a risky region on both sides. The situation in Sudan has changed following the December Revolution and the overthrow of the Islamic Front regime, which had heavily damaged relations with Egypt and greatly offended Sudan and its people. I think that the most important challenge now is to adopt a new approach in managing relations between the two countries. I do not know if I am being too imaginative when I suggest that the officials of the two countries sit together to put an end to the Halayeb crisis and design a new starting point for relations and strategy between the two countries. For decades, we have lived with slow, reluctant and partial responses. We now have an opportunity to move into an era of action and initiative, and to manage our affairs rather than simply spurring reactions. Solving the problems between Egypt and Sudan should begin with Halayeb and Shalatin, which are a tension point taken advantage of by anyone who wants to spoil the relations between the two countries. If this happens, we will have to thank those who raised the issue of the Kingdom of the Yellow Mountain.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, discrimination by colour, religion and race is still rampant in the world today and more so for obvious reasons in countries inhabited by multiple ethnicities. It is also anticipated that xenophobia and racial discrimination will continue to rise in the coming years. At the same time, millions of people still head to the United States in the hope of realising the American Dream of a decent life, abundant opportunities and equal treatment. But upon their arrival, that American Dream may become an “American pipe dream” for many as racism and discrimination sour their highly anticipated new life. The idea of the American Dream involves the ideals of democracy, human rights, liberty, opportunity and equality in which freedom includes the opportunity to pursue prosperity and success. But do all Americans get the same opportunities and treatment that allow them to fulfill that dream? Though immigrants to the US used to suffer the backlash of racism at the hands of some, the majority of US citizens maintained a welcoming attitude towards their fellow Americans and those who had recently set foot on American soil. Today, as harsh speech becomes more prevalent, courtesy and empathy towards others has often gone out of the window. Hence, by virtue of their birth or colour, some are intentionally undermining fellow US citizens through denigrating language and offensive behaviour. In an episode considered the first of its kind, US President Donald Trump recently called on four women members of the US Congress of non-white origin to “go back and try to fix the crime-infested, corrupt places [they] originally came from before telling the US government how to handle its problems.” Three of these four Congresswomen were born in the US. Prior to this episode, Trump had also referred to an “invasion” of the US coming from its southern border and condemned Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and Syrian refugees as “snakes.” The US House of Representatives immediately condemned Trump s comments, but the damage was done, leaving the door wide open for his white supremacist followers to verbally assault non-white immigrants in an unabashed manner. Today, white supremacy and the notions and behaviour that come with it have even reached the US mainstream. In an incident that has been described as one of the most racist moments in recent American history, the crowds that had gathered to hear Trump speak at one of his rallies chanted “send her back, send her back, send her back” about Ilhan Omar, a Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota who wears the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, and who soon afterwards saw an increase in threats to her life. It was as though the crowd had been given free rein or carte blanche to say what it pleased. A Sudanese writer commented on the phrase “send her back” in the US newspaper USA Today, saying that it had reminded her of what she had gone through when she had arrived in the US as a six-year-old. She said that her family had travelled from Sudan to California “in pursuit of the American Dream,” but still she did not feel welcome. She also said that “being a black, Muslim woman with roots in East Africa, I quickly learned that the American Dream was a myth, only reserved for a special class of people, one who did not look anything like me.” Incidents against non-white Americans have now become more pervasive. One piece of footage on the Internet has a white man screaming at a black woman, “if you consider yourself an African-American, go back to Africa.” She screams back at him, “you brought us over!” Another woman shouts back, “you go back to Europe!” Other footage shows a white man in the US yell at a Jew, “go to Auschwitz,” the Nazi camp where many Jews were imprisoned and exterminated during the Second World War. On social media in the US, photographs of white supremacists vowing to “make America white again” are going viral. Such verbal examples are numerous and frequent. But when bigotry and intolerance become the threshold for physical carnage, it is undoubtedly a disaster at another level altogether. The attack on a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, that killed 20 innocent shoppers and injured dozens of others and the shooting in Dayton, Ohio, that killed nine people were both ethnically motivated. In a statement released soon after these attacks that took place earlier this year, a group of UN experts denounced the incidents and encouraged the United States “to address such violence without delay as a matter of white supremacy and racism,” adding that any refusal to take “immediate and direct action to prevent further similar acts of domestic terrorism renders those individuals complicit in the violence that follows.” Non-white sentiments towards these events are summed up in the following poignant tweet, which has been abbreviated for brevity: “Was the killer Muslim? Then we ban travel. Was the killer Hispanic? Then we build a wall. Was the killer black? Then we build more prisons and a stronger police force. Was the killer White? Thoughts and prayers and more guns in hope to stop the bad guys with guns.” Though exaggerated, this tweet speaks to the sentiments of many in the US. The fact that Muslim woman Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, who is of Palestinian origin and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of Puerto Rican descent succeeded in becoming US Congresswomen is a phenomenal success, and it denotes how it is still possible to achieve the American Dream. But the fact that they are still met with so much animosity is also an affirmation that racism still persists in the US today and that it will possibly get worse in the near future. The land that promises the American Dream should provide a sociocultural climate that embraces all ethnicities, shuns xenophobia and acts as a safe haven for immigrants that take the security and opportunities of the US as a given.
The decision to refer a number of presidential and construction company employees to trial is an example of the decisions taken by the political leadership to fight corruption wherever and whoever is responsible. The decision is part of a systematic and comprehensive process to eradicate corruption. For the past four decades corruption has been digging its roots so deeply in this society to become the mainstream and a major challenge because those involved have created endless circles of protection and a ceiling that one would hardly be able to penetrate. This mafia created a pillar of power of its own that stands still and challenges the government. When President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi took over, corruption was hindering the process of production and development. A well-designed strong and systematic strata of corrupted fellows pervaded, along with detached administrative and legal advisors that help them evade the law. As ordinary people felt helpless, bribery and cronyism became part and parcel of our day-to-day life. Circumventing legal procedures and rules spread like social spyware, hardly raising an eyebrow. People felt that fighting corruption is not only "mission impossible," but suicidal because of the protective power attached to the corrupted. Those gangs created the image that whoever dares to stand against them will be the loser. Therefore, more and more people either kept their distance from such gangs, or found their way to join the party of the corrupt, by offering services, looking for a tiny slice of the large cake. The question here is whether to take a share of a decaying edifice that is everyone s heritage, or work hard to reconstruct this ailing house and protect it from decadence. Fighting corruption was not an easy task since it had become the mainstream. Recognising the challenge, a well-planned system was put in place by the political leadership. The first phase of this plan targeted minimising the scale of corruption and opening the door to those willing to return to fair rules and make amends by adjusting their status, especially those who laid their hands on the state s properties. The government showed its willingness that whoever is ready to adjust but cannot return the property should pay for it. The purpose here was to help those who had not yet become an integral part of the corrupted mafia. The target was reforming the behaviour of those who were tempted to make mistakes at a time when it was easy and possible. Reconciliation in such cases is difficult, but beneficial. It is easier to punish than change negative behaviour into a positive attitude that entails good citizenship. Hundreds of cases were closed when trespassers on the state s properties all over the country made amends and paid the price for the land illegally acquired; thus the gang of the corrupt lost a wide base of people who sided with the government in its long and hard attempt to fight corruption. Many tend to believe that corruption is limited to bribery, embezzlement or seizure of public monies. But such crimes are like the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, corruption has many complicated facets that developed technologically over the years, and thus became more and more difficult to investigate. Money laundering, tax and customs evasion, and electronic crimes have become more sophisticated processes one could hardly trace. Therefore, the National Academy to Fight Corruption was established two years ago. The main purpose of this academy is to train cadres capable of tracing such crimes, tightening their grip on the culprits and then referring them to trial. Fighting corruption is not an easy task and should depend on a well-developed administrative system that has also been part of the government plan over the past few years. A modern administrative system, difficult for hackers, designed with precision and efficiency to be more difficult for the corrupt to manipulate. President El-Sisi has always stressed the need to fight corruption as one of his main goals. He said that he will fight the corrupt wherever they are, and such an attitude gave a boost to government regulators who have been working round the clock investigating and probing government officials as well as members the corrupt mafia to uproot them throughout the country.
Over the past few weeks, the Arab world has witnessed several transformations within its domestic politics. Various states within the Arab world are subject to a new set of challenges that match the new regional political context. Quick analysis of the situation reveals political tensions in Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan. New political disturbances require a transformation in the role of each state. The legacy of 2011 regarding political unrest is being changed significantly. There is a very close connection between the political context and the activities of collective action. The public does not mobilise itself due to a single mobilisation initiative or a random call for taking to the street (in political sociology terms). At this juncture we have to notice that the rules and rather dynamics of collective action have changed a lot since 2011. Protracted conflicts like Syria, for example, are based more on the course of the confrontation in military action than collective mobilisation. The longevity of the conflict and the intervention of multiple international and regional powers have changed the rules of collective action in zones of conflict in the Arab world, including Syria. Since the change in dynamics, Syria has been following a pattern other than the one it witnessed in 2011. The year 2011 witnessed an ascent of collective action. However, the ongoing conflict made the regular pattern of collective action more dependent on the use of force, meaning that political formations are not necessarily effective like they used to be. Libya, on the other hand, witnesses a completely different pattern of conflict. A separation, both political and geographical, between the East and the West has been taking place in Libya since 2014. The Libyan south remains an unanswerable question, but the international community is still primarily concerned with the East-West struggle and its implications. There is definitely lots of criticism on the role of the UN in the Libyan interior. Several promises have been made and timed without actual fulfilment. Tensions in North Africa made the Neighbouring Countries mechanism less effective within the Libyan file. The roles of Russia, the United States and EU are expected to increase and escalate within the Libyan conflict in light of a turning away from regional powers and alliances. Egypt is indeed a major and an integral counterpart within that scene. In comparison to other cases in the Arab Spring, Egypt is rather stable and is quite rid of the political contentions it witnessed since 2011. The pattern of collective action in Egypt underwent significant changes. There was in 2004 till 2011 an ascending order that witnessed various movements that rest on collective action who were trying to exist within the public sphere, starting with the National Campaign to support the Palestinian Intifada, all the way to the “We are all Khaled Said” movement. Collective action and the formation of non-institutional movements are no operating in the same manner. Tunisia is a unique model within the socio-political changes in the Arab world. Unlike many other places in the Arab world, Tunisia has a politically influential civil society that is a counterpart with the state in Tunisian politics. The recent elections following the death of President Essebsi saw unconventional candidates win who will go through another electoral round. Expelling the Islamist stream from the picture demonstrates the strength of Tunisian civil society and its influence on shaping public opinion. While Tunisia witnessed an ascending order in collective action before 2011, the last elections prove that a change within the pattern has taken place. This means that political parties and civil society in Tunisia have instilled themselves as actors in an institutional political process, which reduces the random influence of the street on decision making in favour of the state s mechanisms. Both Algeria and Sudan are still in interim phases that do not necessarily promise timed or concrete results. Collective action in the two countries, or contentious politics in other terms, are at a peak. Transitional entities are being formed in both scenes equally, but without much of a long-term vision. Both states are an integral part in a regional equation of national security and a matrix of international interests in Africa. The outcome of the transformations they are witnessing will certainly have implications on the Arab world as a whole, specifically concerning security. An overall analysis of this scene proves that there is a state of transformation within collective action and political tension within the Arab world. One of those transformations is the change in patterns of collective action, which suddenly became easier to realise in comparison to 2011. The role of social media was for sure one of the influential tools in this regard. There is also an important shift in the acting political and social forces in the Arab world. It is true that every case has its own context, but there is also a similar pattern being repeated all over the zones of conflict or political tension in the Arab world. The Arab world is seeing various challenges and several transformations. The mode of collective action is one of the main changes within a rapidly evolving political scene. In the end, it comes down to the quality of cohesion within each polity. Zones of conflict will have to negotiate future courses of action with new alliances of regional and international powers. Meanwhile, the Arab world will have to revise its relations with different actors in Europe according to the wave of political change taking place there as well. With all these givens taken into account, it is likely we will witness a change in regional and international politics in the Middle East and North Africa over the coming year.
In 1939, the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Peace. According to historians, Erik Brandt, a member in the Swedish parliament, wanted to mock the world s failure to confront Nazism. Thus, the MP sent a letter to the Nobel Committee nominating Hitler. What s more ironic was that the committee accepted the nomination. However, the MP withdrew his nomination after confirming it was a mockery. Hitler s nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize shouldn t be considered a mere joke. As for the committee, it formally accepted the nomination and accredited the praise included in the MP s letter that Hitler was a "man of peace and a savior of humanity." Hitler s nomination and the withdrawal of the nomination increased the Nazi leader s mystery and contradictions. Hitler suffered from chronic swelling of the abdomen and used to take 28 different medicines to treat it. He also suffered from a bloated sense of self and megalomania. This leader who was vegetarian for many years of his life and issued a law prohibiting animal abuse, attacked countries and peoples, races and religions, causing the death of millions. The man suffered from ailurophobia (irrational fear of cats), yet he didn t dread the number of his victims. The leader who was the first to launch a campaign against smoking in modern history, used far greater weapons both on the battlefield and in concentration camps. In 2007, a distinguished play was staged in London titled "Dr Freud Will See You Now, Mrs Hitler," by two British playwrights, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran. The play belongs to the alternate history genre, which is a new literary genre where historical stories are rewritten based on the question “What if?" The play goes on in imagining the alternative path this historical period might have taken if matters took a different course. As a boy, Adolf Hitler suffered from a psychological crisis due to the violent behaviour his customs officer father displayed towards him, and for other family reasons. When the child entered the stage of psychological disturbance, the district doctor suggested that his mother, Klara, should take him to a psychiatric clinic for children opened recently by the well-renowned psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in Vienna. The father refused and the boy Adolf Hitler didn t go to Dr Freud for treatment. The story of Hitler s psychological illness as a boy and the suggestion of going to Dr Freud s clinic is a historical fact. The play starts from this factual point and then diverges to an alternate history where the boy went with his mother to the clinic. The play revolves around whether Dr Freud would be capable of saving this young patient, and humanity with him. The play led many to reread Hitler from a psychological perspective and apply this approach on other leaders generally, and raised the question of what would be the state of mankind if several leaders across history were psychologically treated. One of history s ironies is that Adolf Hitler met Freud in Vienna s cafés before World War I. Hitler was 24 at the time, miserable and looking for work. Josef Stalin and Leon Trotsky were fugitive revolutionaries hiding away from Tsarist Russia in Vienna while the Yugoslav leader Josip Tito also used to work at the time in the Daimler car manufacturing factory there. All of them used to frequent the same cafés in central Vienna, according to Charles Emerson s book “1913: In Search of the World before the Great War.” He narrates the coincidences that led Hitler and Stalin to be in the same café, as well as Hitler and Freud, without the latter having a chance to treat the young Hitler and save the world. Thus, Hitler escaped Dr Freud twice, and humanity lost an opportunity for security and peace. The ironies were extended to the Nobel Peace Prize from Hitler to Mussolini and Stalin, where the trio were nominated for the prize, while the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi didn t receive the prize albeit being nominated five times. Afterwards the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres; a trio — according to several historians — that were war criminals. Many signed calls to strip Henry Kissinger and Shimon Peres of the prize, but to no avail. The prestigious prize became banal when it was given to ordinary or substandard people. In 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and few months later the Soviet Union no longer existed. In 2009, US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize and after a short time peace began to collapse all over the Islamic and Arab worlds. I ve pointed out previously, in an article titled "A Girl Playing with the Nobel Prize" within my book Grand Egypt, the shock of the Yemeni Tawakkol Karman s winning the Nobel Peace Prize. One Norwegian newspaper wrote angrily: “The Nobel Peace Prize Committee ought to recruit members from professional and international backgrounds, rather than retired members of parliament.” Tawakkol Karman, who couldn t develop a vision for her family or her village, was chosen as a member in the “UN committee for drawing a vision for the world.” Karman, who didn t write an article, research paper or give a lecture, was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine to be among the 100 Top Global Thinkers. If an intellectually humble person such as Tawakkol Karman was the best intellectual among the top 100 intellectuals worldwide, then what about the intellectual level of the other 99? Tawakkol Karman responded to my book and said: “Moslemany is standing in the wrong side of history." The fact is that the Nobel Prize is standing in the wrong side of history, and as for some of its laureates, their fame will wither one day as they return to their natural positions outside history.
When President Donald Trump admitted this weekend that in a July phone conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky he did, in fact, raise "corruption" accusations against his 2020 political rival Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden -- he effectively turned up the volume on calls for his own impeachment. "We don t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine," Trump told reporters in describing the call. (There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.) And Monday, sources told CNN that White House officials are considering releasing a transcript of Trump s call with Zelensky. Now House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Adam Schiff, normally reticent about impeachment, says that if a whistleblower complaint that was revealed last week shows Trump tying military aid to Ukraine to Ukraine probing the Bidens, "we may very well have crossed the Rubicon" on impeachment. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke of "a grave new chapter in lawlessness." Trump s administration has already intervened to keep secret the whistleblower complaint that appears to be related to Ukraine -- thereby blocking the normal process that would inform Congress of the controversy. And in doing so, he has aligned himself more closely with the tragic example of Richard Nixon, who resigned as Congress accused him of high crimes and misdemeanors. Trump made his regard for Nixon plain to me when, during a 2014 stroll around his office, he paused to pick up a framed letter. The note, signed in blue by the disgraced former President, urged Trump to go into politics. Trump told me he admired Nixon because he was such a good judge of talent. In my time with Trump, as I gathered research for a biography of him, he criticized Obama, both Presidents Bush, as well as Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, but he never said a bad word about Tricky Dick who, it must be said, spent a troubling amount of time on the dark side of politics. Nixon s "dirty tricksters," among them longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone -- who faces trial in November on charges of lying to Congress and obstructing justice -- worked with a level of creative malevolence that a manipulator like Trump would surely admire. But it was Nixon s hubris, combined with his lies, that proved his undoing. In Trump we hear echoes. Our current President s lies and misstatements are legion. The current Washington Post count exceeds 12,000. His hubris was on display during the 2016 campaign when he said he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone" and not lose any votes. In office Trump has lived by the same heedless attitude, axing aides -- often for insufficient loyalty -- at a furious rate and turning the federal government into a Trump Tower on the Potomac, where one man rules by his gut instinct. Of course, the chaos and subsequent ineptitude of the Trump regime separates him from Nixon, whose team was generally effective in administering the government. Nixon s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and his opening of relations with China, for example, were accomplished because he had deep experience in government. But one of the impeachment articles that brought down Richard Nixon -- perhaps the most important one -- cited his refusal to release tapes of conversations that he had secretly recorded in the Oval Office. First revealed by White House aide Alexander Butterfield, the tapes proved Nixon s involvement in the Watergate cover-up and made it impossible for him to deny the truth. Here the comparison with Trump becomes, for the moment, a question mark, since we don t know exactly how the discussion of the Bidens was framed in the phone conversation between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. And now the President seems to be saying he wants to release a transcript of the call. At first glance this openness suggests a real break from the Nixon stonewalling model, but a glance through recent history suggests Trump may just be more adept than Nixon when it comes to doublespeak. In his comments Sunday about the transcript, Trump said, "We ll make a determination about how to release it, releasing it, saying what we said." A casual listener would hear in Trump s words a desire to make the call transcript public. But that s not what he said. In fact, he noted any release would be "saying what we said," which leaves lots of room for editing. Trump also added that releasing the contents of the call would pose challenges to foreign leaders and that intelligence officials may block him from coming clean. Sunday, both his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and his Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, were dispatched to the morning talk shows to caution against the release: "I think it would be highly inappropriate to release a transcript of a call between two world leaders," said Mnuchin. We have heard this sort of thing before. Trump said he wanted to release his tax returns, as every president has for decades, but that his lawyers wouldn t let him. The same thing happened during the Mueller investigation, when Trump repeatedly said he wanted to sit for the special counsel s questions, but then he followed a strategy that prevented the meeting from ever happening. Take all the evidence into account and it s easy to see that, like Nixon, Trump s ignoble impulses -- his obfuscation, his self-dealing -- represent a threat to the country and to his own presidency. The difference is a matter of style. Trump is Nixon, but with far more chutzpah and far less respect for the nation s institutions. He represents a dangerous variation on a tragic type.
Donald Trump has every reason to be concerned about taking on former Vice President Joe Biden in the 2020 election, especially given that a Fox News poll released this week found him trailing Biden by a whopping 14 points if the election were held now. But Trump s greatest threat may in fact come from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who leads Trump by six points in the poll. Per a CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll released Saturday, Warren has for the first time taken the lead among likely caucusgoers in that key first primary state, climbing seven points since June. And Warren appears poised to rise further if other Democrats drop out or falter in the race, given that the poll finds she s the top second choice among all other Democratic candidates. Twenty percent would choose Warren as a second choice while Biden and Bernie Sanders are each only the second choice of 10%. Biden still currently leads Warren in the Real Clear Politics average of polls on a national level by a little over ten points. But Warren has been slowly building support in a way that may not only lead her to win the nomination, but to win the White House come 2020. Why? It s simple: Warren is increasingly exciting people about her candidacy. This is backed by a new NBC/WSJ poll released Sunday which finds that among all the 2020 Democratic candidates, she is now the top-tier candidate who the largest amount of registered voters (17%) are "enthusiastic" about. While that number has grown from just 8 percent in March, the percentage of voters who are enthusiastic about Trump has remained the same at 26%. Biden, however, has seen the opposite trend. In March, 17% of voters were enthusiastic about him, but now the former VP has slipped to 12%. That s not good. Enthusiasm should only be growing the more people see a candidate in debates and on the campaign trail. True, enthusiasm is an intangible factor that can come and go, often quickly. But it s enthusiasm that inspires people to not just vote, but to get friends to vote. It s that passion that animates people to knock on doors for a candidate, make phone calls, give money and attend events. In fact, just this past week, we saw an example of Warren enthusiasm on display when she held a rally in New York City and some 20,000 people reportedly attended. The massive crowd clearly unnerved Trump, who loves to brag that he draws the largest audiences. When asked about the rally by reporters, Trump did his best to downplay it, saying, "No. 1, she didn t have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there." Biden still currently leads Warren in the Real Clear Politics average of polls on a national level by a little over ten points. But Warren has been slowly building support in a way that may not only lead her to win the nomination, but to win the White House come 2020. Why? It s simple: Warren is increasingly exciting people about her candidacy. This is backed by a new NBC/WSJ poll released Sunday which finds that among all the 2020 Democratic candidates, she is now the top-tier candidate who the largest amount of registered voters (17%) are "enthusiastic" about. While that number has grown from just 8 percent in March, the percentage of voters who are enthusiastic about Trump has remained the same at 26%. Biden, however, has seen the opposite trend. In March, 17% of voters were enthusiastic about him, but now the former VP has slipped to 12%. That s not good. Enthusiasm should only be growing the more people see a candidate in debates and on the campaign trail. True, enthusiasm is an intangible factor that can come and go, often quickly. But it s enthusiasm that inspires people to not just vote, but to get friends to vote. It s that passion that animates people to knock on doors for a candidate, make phone calls, give money and attend events. In fact, just this past week, we saw an example of Warren enthusiasm on display when she held a rally in New York City and some 20,000 people reportedly attended. The massive crowd clearly unnerved Trump, who loves to brag that he draws the largest audiences. When asked about the rally by reporters, Trump did his best to downplay it, saying, "No. 1, she didn t have 20,000 people and No. 2, I think anybody would get a good crowd there." In contrast, Biden s first response to reporters on the issue was understandably more defensive: "Not one single credible outlet has given credibility to these assertions. Not one single one," adding, "So I have no comment other than the president should start to be president." Later that night Biden put out a more forceful statement saying if the allegations are true, it is "clear-cut corruption." However, as someone who speaks to the progressives nightly on my SiriusXM radio show, I can tell you firsthand that Warren s words and sentiment line up perfectly with the frustration many rank and file Democrats have with the Democrats in Congress on this issue. Between now and the 2020 election a great deal can change. But if Warren and Biden continue along their current trajectory, Trump should fear Warren as much, if not more, than Biden.
Egypt s social media activists have become so prominent over the past decade or so that some consider them to be alternative or new-wave politicians within a political set of circumstances that has even led other more traditional politicians to create social media accounts to be closer to them and their followers. Some of these activists have garnered massive amounts of popularity and followings that cannot be easily ignored. Regardless of their political affiliations and tendencies, many have managed to set up their own cult followings, with this being as far as things have gone in the case of Egypt for better or for worse. Such political activism became rampant following the 25 January Revolution that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. Social media activists then became aware of their own importance, and they turned into chief sources of news for many international news agencies in Egypt, which surprisingly dropped all sorts of journalistic traditions and published what they read or received on social media instead, often without proper verification or due diligence. In other words, whatever was written as a post on the Twitter or Facebook account of an activist could somehow become a verified truth that found its way to major global publications within an hour or so. That behaviour was responsible for destroying the long-standing credibility of major publications such as the US newspapers the New York Times and the Washington Post in Egypt, and other publications often followed suit. The Muslim Brotherhood leadership was well aware of the influence of such activists, and it managed to either install or lure a number of them to serve its purposes. They helped to spread the group s propaganda and false news after January 2011, needed to win over readers and present the Brotherhood as a viable political solution to the country s problems. These activists then efficiently helped catapult the Brotherhood to power in the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections. But lies cannot last forever, and sooner rather than later the majority of Egyptians found out the pervasive lies that the Brotherhood had used these activists to spread. They then shunned both, leading to the 30 June Revolution. Shocked by the aftermath of the revolution, the same activists who had earlier preached democracy and freedom against the clutches of “dictatorship” decided to continue on their path, ignoring the facts on the ground and not realising that they had been a tool in the hands of the Islamists. Their freedom calls were exposed as a façade to bring Islamist rule to the country, even if this meant going against the national interests and attacking the national armed forces. A dilemma was broached that Egyptian citizens have been living through ever since, and it is one that has continued even after the 30 June Revolution ousted the Islamist tyrant Mohamed Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood rule. The activists who had preached freedom and democracy after 2011 could not cope with the reality of politics, and so they became self-centred and self-righteous while the rest of the nation was in their view wrong. Some chose to stay in the country and become tools of negativity and rumour, or they left the country and became the same such tools from abroad, only this time with even more vicious attitudes. Some of them went on to post videos online filled with fabrications about alleged abuses, while others used their accounts to distract readers from any tangible development in the country. Others still went straight ahead in tying their fate to the Brotherhood terrorist group by moving to Turkey and Qatar and there continuing their activities. Only a few of these 25 January activists took the time to realise that they were actually going against the best interests of their nation. The majority became an angry mob on social media. Hardly any of them grasped the basics of democracy and freedom, which entail listening to others opinions and their countering views. The irony also was that they were adopting the ideals of a group that believes in following a single ruler, or “caliph,” as part of its so-called “caliphate”. Accordingly, there was little difference between the “liberal” or “leftist” activists and those who were Muslim Brotherhood members, because all of them were parroting the same lies and spreading similar confusion among the public. Many of the current followers of these pseudo-freedom fighters are still appealing to some of the younger generation of social media users who were too young to witness the incidents of the 25 January Revolution and the chaos that followed it firsthand. The social media activists soon became a social sub-group that spread rumours and negativity and even used the vilest language against their detractors or any voices opposing their ideas. Ironically, they became the very “dictators” that they claimed to loath and said that they had fought against all their lives. Recently, some of these activists have been displaying signs of mental instability or substance abuse in the videos they have been posting on YouTube. While they still maintain some following, they have largely become a source of ridicule even to their once-loyal fans, who especially when they enter into feuds against one another accuse each other of betraying their so-called “cause”. These social media or keyboard warriors may still have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, in some cases, following their twisted posts. However, that has never encouraged them to adopt the sense of responsibility that an activist should have when addressing the wider population. Instead, the opposite has happened, and the massive numbers of followers they have got has put the false idea in their heads that they are the righteous ones and anyone opposing them is entirely wrong. Instead of becoming the next generation of politicians in Egypt that can secure a true democratic life for the country in the future, these social media activists have opted to be nuisances by adopting childish behaviour at times of great stress and challenge. While there is no denying that some of these activists once had good intentions, when the time came they chose their false popularity and personal glory above anything else. They ignored the fact that almost all of them are only as good as the time during which their social media accounts exist, and without them they will be forgotten in a matter of days since they have provided no real or lasting contributions to the country. Freedom through fascism against others has become the hidden motto of a large number of social media activists in Egypt. Despite the fact that the country s conditions are far from perfect, with an uphill battle still going on towards solving its economic and social challenges, it would be a grave mistake not to acknowledge that there has been massive development in all facets of life over recent years, even as it may take years and possibly decades for the country to reach its full potential. However, denying any progress and intentionally belittling any development that is taking place regardless of how large it is, remains a sign of a lack of responsibility and of belonging to the very country whose best interests these activists claim to have most at heart.
Before a single vote is cast in Israel s second national election this year, two disturbing facts are clear: the outcome will be as muddled as it was after the April contest, and whoever wins, despite the permanent state of denial in which Western liberals find themselves, Israel/Palestine has become one state — an Apartheid state. Following April s election, unable to form a governing coalition of 61 Knesset members, Netanyahu called for a new election, hoping to improve his prospects. During the past five months, he pulled out all the stops. He bombed three countries: Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He announced that if he wins this new contest, he will annex the Jordan Valley in addition to settlements and outposts spread throughout the West Bank. He accelerated his incitement against the Palestinian citizens of Israel, including a statement that “the Arabs are trying to steal the election” and an incendiary Facebook post claiming that “The Arabs want to annihilate us all — women, children and men.” While Netanyahu denied personal responsibility for the post, most commentators dismissed the denial. And he coerced members of his own party to pledge support for his immunity from prosecution on the multiple corruption charges he is currently facing. Even with all of this, polls are showing that Netanyahu and his coalition partners will fare no better than they did in April. In fact, it appears that neither Netanyahu s coalition nor the main opposition to his continued rule have moved beyond the numbers they had in April. The only significant growth appears to be among the ultra-religious and the right-wing secular nationalists. While Netanyahu might like to bring them both into his government, thus giving him in excess of a majority, the secular nationalists are ideologically opposed to the ultra-religious and will not join a government that includes them. At the same time, some of the opposition might be inclined to join a government with Netanyahu s Likud Party, but at a steep price; namely, that he step down as head of the coalition. Since he is desperate to remain in power to avoid prosecution and humiliation, it is unlikely he will accept. This is precisely why he insisted that his party members pledge loyalty before the election. Pre-election polls demonstrate that the main opposition coalition, Blue and White, will also have difficulty assembling 61 Knesset seats. An additional problem facing Blue and White s chances of forming a government is that even the most optimistic tallies of their Knesset counts include the 10-11 seats that will go to the Joint List of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. The leaders of Blue and White have said that they will not form a government dependent on Joint List members and, for their part, the Joint List leaders have said they will only join a governing coalition that agrees to guarantee equality for the Arab citizens of Israel and agrees to end the occupation of Palestinian lands — demands Blue and White leaders have rejected. As a result, we are back to where we started with an election yielding no outcome other than confusion and rancor. What s also clear is that regardless of who wins — if, in fact, anyone does — there will be no change in the reality faced by Palestinians. There will be no end of the occupation and no two-state solution. Israeli politics has moved so far to the right that it is hard to understand how or why the US media continues to refer to Netanyahu s opposition as a “centre-left” coalition. Whatever the “left” means in this formulation, it most certainly doesn t mean anything related to Palestinians, peace and human rights. Like Netanyahu, Blue and White maintains that the annexation of Jerusalem and the other Palestinian lands around the city will remain. They have claimed that they too support extending Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and settlements in the West Bank. Maybe the one area where they differ from Netanyahu is in their charge that he has coddled Hamas in Gaza. The Blue and White leader has called, instead, for a major military operation to end Islamist rule in the Strip. Blue and White has also rejected Palestinian citizens of Israel demands to cancel the notorious “Jewish Nation State” law, which maintains that Jews have exclusive rights to national self-determination in “the Land of Israel” and denies full rights to Arab citizens of the state. This being the case, the hope to which liberals have clung that in the post-Netanyahu era Israel will be different is, at best, an illusion. The only change one might see in a Blue and White-led Israel is an easing of the hold the Orthodox Rabbinate have over aspects of social and religious life in the country. But as far as ending the occupation and meeting minimum Palestinian requirements for an independent state, neither Netanyahu nor the Blue and White have any interest in moving towards that goal. This is the Israel that Netanyahu and the Likud have built. Since the late 1970s when they first came to power, the Likud embarked on a settlement programme that, in their words, would make a Palestinian state an impossibility. After Oslo, they incited against the agreement, the Labour Party that signed it, and the Palestinians. Their efforts led to anti-peace legislation passed by the Republican-led US Congress, the assassination of prime minister Rabin, and the 1996 election of Netanyahu on a platform of ending the peace process. During all this time, liberal voices were largely silent as Israel built new settlements, roads and infrastructure, seizing Palestinian land and violating their fundamental rights. While, for Palestinians, Oslo was to have led to separation and two states, this was never embraced by liberals until 2001, when Clinton suggested such an outcome in his “parameters for peace”. Even now, when liberal voices are raised in defence of a two-state solution, the reason they give is not the brutality of the occupation and its violation of Palestinian rights. Rather, it is because they say they want to preserve Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. The reality is that Israel never was nor can it ever be both Jewish and democratic. Nor was it intended to be. In the beginning of the state, following the 1948 expulsion of Arabs, creating what Ben Gurion called “the double miracle” a state with “more land and less Arabs”, Israel believed it could continue with an Arab minority that would be exploited, managed and repressed. This state of affairs continued until after 1967 when Israel occupied more land, but with it came a larger number of Arabs. For the first 25 years following the 1967 War, liberals were silent in the face of the brutality of the Israeli occupation. During this time, as Israel dug deep roots into the territories, no effective voices were raised in opposition to prevailing practices. Now it s too late: the hole Israel dug is too deep. With 650,000 Israeli settlers living in the occupied lands and a network of Jewish-only roads and infrastructure connecting them and dividing the Palestinian lands into isolated pockets, and with no one willing or able to take the steps to roll back this reality, we have one state. And it is an Apartheid state since the majority of those living between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea are Palestinian Arabs. Given this, the liberal lament over the “potential demise of the two-state solution” isn t a laughable illusion. It s irritating, because it was their silence and inaction that allowed it to happen and even now their concern is misdirected. They remain more concerned with preserving the Jewish character of Israel than with the decades of suffering of the Palestinians. Not only was their inaction responsible for Israeli practices, their silence created Israeli impunity. Both Netanyahu and Blue and White know that they can claim sovereignty over large parts of the West Bank, continue to strangle Gaza, expand settlements in the West Bank and “Greater Jerusalem” and nothing will happen. It is for these reasons that this new Israeli election will decide nothing — not for Israel, nor for the Palestinians.
President Sisi affirmed in a meeting with a group of Egyptian scientists that the system of values and ethics in the society is the first ruler of the behavior of citizens and plays an important role in development. Dr. Mohamed Ghoneim, a member of the Council of Egyptian Scholars, stated that the members of the Council offered President Abdel Fattah El Sisi the establishment of a committee for development of ethics