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Egyptian People Power Versus the Oligarchy

By Michael Barker | Pulse Media | February 13, 2011

The ongoing insurrection in Egypt is fantastic, but the barriers standing between the people and any substantive form of democracy are formidable and will need to be overcome in the near future. As one might expect there are plenty of ‘reformers’ waiting amongst the counter-revolutionaries to undermine any forthcoming revolution, ready and willing to proudly take on the mantle of power in the name of the democracy. Leading neoconservative ideologue, Paul Wolfowitz, suggests that Hossam Badrawi, the “recently appointed head of Egypt’s government party may be emerging as an interesting and reasonable transition figure.” Acknowledging that there are many such leaders who stand between the Egyptian people and a successful revolution, this article will focus on the elites in Badrawi’s higher circles in an attempt to draw attention to just a few of the many of the powerful groups and individuals ready and willing to smash/co-opt the peoples movement under the iron heel/velvet slipper of the Oligarchy.[1]

Until recently Hossam Badrawi served on the board of governors of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP), but with the en masse resignations of many of the members of the NDP’s top executive committee, Badrawi a founding member of Arab Parliamentarians Against Corruption, became their new Secretary General. To gain an idea of Badrawi’s reformist ambitions for Egypt one might turn to look at some of his colleagues at Egypt’s International Economic Forum, a group whose “ultimate objective” is “fully integrating the Egyptian economy into the world economy on favourable terms.”

Notable elites serving alongside Badrawi on Egypt’s International Economic Forum’s executive committee include Taher Helmy, who is the founder and chair of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, a think-tank has been supported for the past two decades by the imperialist National Endowment for Democracy. In fact, the International Economic Forum’s current chairman, M. Shafik Gabr, also serves as a board member of  Helmy’s think tank, and as a member of a World Economic Forum project called the Community of West and Islam Dialogue (C-100). Next up, the treasurer of Egypt’s International Economic Forum, Shahira Magdy Zeid, just so happens to be a board member of the Mubarak Women’s International Peace Movement — which is headed (of course) by the dictators wife, Suzanne. (Likewise, Taher Helmy is a board member of Mubarak’s ‘peace’ movement.)

Egypt’s International Economic Forum boasts of a small but impressive advisory board of just five individuals, the three most significant being: the former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Robert Pelletreau; World Economic Forum president, Klaus Schwab (a devotee of Orwellian politics who counts himself as a ‘peace’ advocate because of his service on the board of governors at the Shimon Peres Center for Peace); and Frank G. Wisner, Jr. , an important imperial power broker who after serving as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt (1986-91), went on to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, where he supervised the aftermath of their recent transition from U.S.-backed dictatorship to ‘democracy.’ That the Philippines’ immensely powerful people-powered movement  could be co-opted by the U.S. governments ‘democracy promotion’ apparatus provides a stark example of what the Oligarchy has in store for Egypt; that is, if they are not thwarted by what may turn out to be a truly revolutionary movement for change.[2]

Last but not least, especially considering their advisors’ special imperial pedigree, it makes sense to briefly examine some of the members of the Egypt’s International Economic Forum’s board of trustees. We might start here with the former information secretary of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, Ali Eldin Helal (who resigned earlier this month). In addition to his central role in dispensing state propaganda, Eldin Helal was the first vice president of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (1985-7) — a group that received annual support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) between 1994 and 2005. Furthermore it is important to point out that at the same time as he worked for this human rights group he served on the council of the British-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (1983-92).[3]

Other trustees of Egypt’s International Economic Forum include Ahmed Ezz and Rachid Mohamed Rachid, who are both board members of a business orientated nonprofit called Future Generation Foundation that is headed by Mubarak’s son, Gamal; and Mona Makram-Ebeid, who is a founding member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs — an elite think tank that models itself on the imperial brains trust that is the Council on Foreign Relations.

Here it is interesting to point out that a particularly influential member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs is Naguib Sawiris, the eldest son of Orascom-empire patriarch, Onsi Sawiris. Naguib Sawiris presently serves on the international advisory committee to the New York Stock Exchange board of directors, and is a recent board member of the ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ nonprofit, Foundation for the Future. In fact, Sawiris was linked to this group in 2007, during the time at which the romantic partner of Paul Wolfowitz, Shaha Riza (a former NED-scholar herself) managed this highly profitable neoconservative enterprise (for a critique of this group, see “The Foundation for the Future: What FOIA Documents Reveal,” pdf).[4]

Finally, another significant member of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs is Mamdouh Salim, who is a member of the Arab Organization for Human Rights (see later), and is the vice president of the Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development’s board of trustees. This latter group provides a connection to another important group that has received funding from the NED, the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies; this is because Ayat M. Abul-Futtouh acted as the program manager for the Forum of Dialogue and Partnership for Development from 2001 until 2003, before she moved on to become the managing director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Abul-Futtouh also happens to be a founder and a steering committee member of the Network for Democrats in the Arab World, and in 2006 she was invited to give a talk at Paul Wolfowitz’s current nominal home, the American Enterprise Institute; this talk was later published in 2008 the Institutes’s book Dissent and Reform in the Arab World: Empowering Democrats.

The current chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center’s board of trustees is Nobel Peace Prize nominee and Arab Organization for Human Rights founder, Saad Eddin Ibrahim. Although widely celebrated as a leading Egyptian pro-democracy activist, Ibrahim maintains intimate connections to U.S. neoconservatives and a wide variety of ‘democracy promoting’ organizations connected to the work of the NED (for a critical examination of his background, see “The Violence of Nonviolence”). Recently Ibrahim even joined the advisory board of a neoconservative group called Cyberdissidents.org, whose web site says they are “dedicated to supporting human liberty by promoting the voices of online dissidents.” Founded in 2008 this project is headed by their cofounder, David Keyes, who previously served as coordinator for democracy programs under the right-wing Zionist Natan Sharansky while based at the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies.

Retaining the theme on ‘democracy’ obsessed neoconservatives, it is significant that Sherif Mansour, the former program manager for the Ibn Khaldoun Center for Development Studies, is a current program officer for Middle East and North Africa at the neoconservative outfit, Freedom House. He is the coeditor with Maria Stephan of the book Civilian Resistance in the Middle East (Routledge, 2009).[5] Based at Freedom House, Mansour runs the New Generation program which advocates for political reform in Egypt and North Africa. Needless to say such ‘peace’ activists do not want the popular insurrection in Egypt to escalate to become a successful revolution that dismantles Egypt’s brutal state apparatus and creates a vibrant people-powered democracy. This helps explain why conservative commentators based in the United States are now asking: “Will Venezuela Be the Next Egypt?” The answer to that ridiculous question is a definitive no!

Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in the UK. His other articles can be accessed here.

Notes

[1] This is a reference to the Jack London’s 1907 book The Iron Heel. In a forthcoming article titled “The Velvet Slipper and the Military-Peace Nonprofit Complex,”I elaborate on what I refer to as the velvet slipper approach to manipulating social movements — an approach currently in vogue among leading neoconservatives.

[2] For further details, see Kim Scipes, KMU: Building Genuine Trade Unionism in the Philippines, 1980-1994 (New Day Publishers, 1996); and William I. Robinson, Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge University Press, 1996), Chapter 3.

[3] Incidentally, elite ‘peace’-broker Peter Ackerman joined the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London as a visiting scholar, undertaking research which led him to co-authoring a book with Christopher Kruegler (the president of the controversial NED-funded Albert Einstein Institution) called Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of People Power in the Twentieth Century (Praeger, 1994). Ackerman is a current board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the founding chair and primary funder of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, and former chair of the neoconservative Freedom House.

[4] One might add that Naguib’s brother, Nassef Onsi Sawiris, is a board member of the cement behemoth, Lafarge, where he alongside numerous high-rolling members of the ruling class.

[5] It is noteworthy that Maria Stephan worked on this book while based at Peter Ackerman’s ‘democracy promoting’ International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. (See footnote #3)

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | 1 Comment

Germans protest nuclear waste transport

Press TV – February 13, 2011

Thousands of anti-nuclear activists protest along the route of a nuclear waste train in Germany, demanding an end to the transportation of radioactive waste.

Various anti-nuclear protests took place across Germany on Sunday. In Greifswald, 1,500 citizens marched through the streets peacefully, in disagreement with the continued nuclear waste transports taking place where they live.

The protests come ahead of the transport of waste from a nuclear plant in Karlsruhe to Lubmin in the north of Germany, scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.

“Tons of waste containing highly radioactive substances is transferred to a temporary storage unit which is not safe,” Deputy Head of the Local Union Office Annett Beitz told Press TV.

Protesters say there are no contingency plans to stop likely accidents from happening during the transport.

The speaker for the Environment Protection Charity told Press TV that containers had a forty-year guaranty and that it was not yet known what would happen afterwards. Health hazards like contamination could happen if anything leaks out into underwater currents.

“It’s a big problem because many people actually are not aware of all these dangers because normally you cannot read about these in the newspapers, or anywhere… So this is very important for us to tell the people and tell them about all these dangers,” Nadia Tegtmeyer of the Anti-Nuclear Alliance told Press TV.

Despite the protests, the government has voted in favor of maintaining nuclear power plants for another 10 to 15 years. This move has been heavily criticized by the opposition.

Activists told Press TV that the movement was gaining momentum in the country and that they plan to hinder all types of atomic waste transports from running smoothly. Road and railway blocks are scheduled to take place during the next transport on Tuesday night.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Nuclear Power, Solidarity and Activism | Comments Off on Germans protest nuclear waste transport

Israeli commander refuses to allow murder victim funeral

Ma’an – 13/02/2011

JERUSALEM  — Israeli authorities told the family of murder victim Husam Rweidi that his body would not be returned unless they agreed to a set of conditions, relatives said.

Husam Rweidi, 24, was stabbed to death Friday by a mob of Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem’s city center.

The victim’s cousin Firas Baydoun said Israeli authorities stipulated that his burial must take place at midnight, and that a maximum of 10 mourners could attend the funeral.

Baydoun told Ma’an that Rweidi’s body was being kept in the mortuary of Israel’s Greenberg National Institute of Forensic Medicine in Tel Aviv.

An Israeli central commander said the family could not take Rweidi’s body to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for funeral prayers and Islamic rituals, Baydoun said.

“The body must be carried to the Al-Rahma cemetery directly,” the commander told the family.

Rweidi’s father refused the demands, and the Israeli commander eventually agreed that the funeral could be held at 8 p.m. But the commander insisted the body must not be taken to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The family is considering taking on legal council to challenge the conditions, and to ensure Rweidi is given a decent funeral, Baydoun said.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | 2 Comments

Hamas lawmaker sentenced without charge, trial

Ma’an – 13/02/2011

RAMALLAH — An Israeli military court sentenced on Sunday Hamas lawmaker Mohammad Jamal An-Natsha to six months of administrative detention.

An-Natsha, 53, was sentenced without trial and without charge at the Ofer military court after spending two weeks in the Etzion detention center. He was given the maximum term for administrative detention.

The official was detained on January 31 from his home in the West Bank city of Hebron five months after his release from an Israeli prison. Party members indicated that he spent nine years in Israeli prison, six of them in solitary confinement, and another five years in the PA preventative security prisons.

An-Natsha was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council from prison. He has a wife and three sons.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said An-Natsha was rearrested “because he’s a Hamas activist,” but did not elaborate.

Administrative detention — detainment without trial or charge — is regularly handed down to Palestinians seized in the West Bank and is often prolonged without hearing or appeal.

Under the provision, individuals can be held for a period of up to six months without charge. The term is indefinitely renewable.

According to Israel rights group B’Tselem, Israel’s use of administrative detention “blatantly violates” internationally-recognized restrictions on its use.

“It is carried out under the thick cover of privilege, which denies detainees the possibility of mounting a proper defense. Over the years, Israel has administratively detained thousands of Palestinian for prolonged periods of time, without prosecuting them, without informing them of the charges against them, and without allowing them or their attorneys to study the evidence,” the rights group says.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | Comments Off on Hamas lawmaker sentenced without charge, trial

Following Visit, UNHCHR Criticises Israel for International Law Violations

By Tania Kepler for the Alternative Information Center | 13 February 2011

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, who just completed a six-day visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, strongly criticized Israel for its treatment of Palestinians and violations of international law.

“All state actions in support of the establishment and maintenance of the settlements, including incentives to create them and the establishment of infrastructure to support them, are illegal under international law,” Pillay said at a press conference on Jerusalem Friday (11/2) marking the end of her visit.

“I have been struck by the complacency with which the entirely-avoidable predicament of Palestinians affected by the wall and settlements is treated by Israeli authorities with whom I have discussed these issues,” Pillay said.

“They tend to be brushed aside as if they are minor matters. They are not. They are clear-cut violations of human rights on a very large scale,” she said.

During her visit Pillay called for a halt on all settlement-related activities in East Jerusalem, as well as home evictions, demolitions, displacements and the cancellation of residency permits on a discriminatory basis.

On Monday, 7 February, the Jerusalem Municipal Planning and Construction Committee approved a plan for 13 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the East Jerusalem neighborhood Sheikh Jarrah.

The settler housing units will be built in two buildings, and will require the demolition of several Palestinian residences, leaving even more Sheikh Jarrah families homeless.

“East Jerusalem is being steadily drained of its Palestinian inhabitants, in clear-cut defiance of Security Council resolutions,” Pillay remarked during her visit.

“It’s only when you hear the testimonies that you begin to understand the true horror of the policies which are stifling their social, cultural and economic prospects and crippling their morale,” she said.

French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero also spoke out against building plans in East Jerusalem.

“The plans violate international law,” Valero said after the announcement of the new Sheikh Jarrah complex. “The settlements must end, in the West Bank as well as east Jerusalem.”

A U.S. State Department official also denounced Israel’s continued construction in East Jerusalem, saying Israeli actions “in Sheikh Jarrah and previously in Beit Orot, work against efforts to resume direct negotiations and contradict the logic of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the parties on the status of Jerusalem.”

In closing her visit, Pillay said, “The politics of conflict, peace and security are constantly leading to the downgrading, or setting aside, of the importance of binding international human rights and humanitarian law,” which she described as “not negotiable.”

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | 1 Comment

Israeli forces shoot 3 Gaza workers

Ma’an – 13/02/2011

GAZA CITY — Israeli forces shot and injured three Palestinian workers Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip, medics said.

A 19-year-old man was moderately injured, a Gaza medical spokesman said.

Earlier, Marhan Tanboura, 24, and Ashour Shukheidim, 29, were shot in the leg, medics said.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers fired at Palestinians who approached the border and did not heed orders to stop. Forces identified hitting two men in the lower body, she said.

The men were collecting rubble from evacuated settlements near the Gaza border to sell as cement aggregates, medics said.

Cement is in demand to rebuild thousands of homes destroyed in Israel’s last offensive on the coastal enclave. Under Israel’s siege policy, most construction materials are banned from the Gaza Strip.

Israel declared a buffer zone along the border zone inside Gaza, which reaches deep into the coastal enclave, and Israeli forces regularly shoot at Palestinians who enter the area. Defense for Children International has reported that teenagers have been shot as far as 800 meters from the border.

But, with unemployment standing at 45.4 percent in the Strip according to a UN estimate, workers continue to risk entering the exclusion zone.

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | 1 Comment

MUBARAK’S GONE, BUT… SO WHAT? THE ARMY’S NOW RUNNING THINGS AND ALL THE EGYPTIANS HAVE ARE PROMISES.

By Damian Lataan | February 13, 2011

Two weeks ago, shortly after the protests in Egypt started, the Israelis allowed some 800 Egyptian soldiers into the Sinai. They went to Sharm el-Sheik down on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea where the Israelis said they may be based. While the Israelis had allowed Egyptian police and security into the Sinai, this is the first time in thirty years that a contingent of the Egyptian army had been allowed in.

Two weeks later, Mubarak is ousted from power and he leaves Cairo and heads off, not overseas into exile as one might expect of a ruthless dictator ousted by popular revolution, but to Sharm el-Sheik – where the 800 Egyptian troops are now based.

While Mubarak has handed over power to the chiefs of the army ostensibly to oversee the transition to a democratic civilian government, one cannot blame the Egyptian people being more that bit wary of what is actually going on and maintaining their vigil in Tahrir Square.

The simple reality is this; apart from getting Mubarak to step down, nothing at all has really changed for the Egyptian people. They are no better off today in terms of having power for themselves than they were the before Mubarak left. All the people have are promises. Nothing else.

Before the protests, Mubarak the military man ran things. Now military men that worked for Mubarak – and are now, it seems, protecting him at his retreat at Sharm el-Sheik – are running things.

Given that Egyptian troops went to the Sinai right at the beginning of the protests and long before Mubarak left Cairo himself to go to the Sinai, one has to wonder if there was some collusion going on between the Israelis and the Egyptian government whereby the aging Mubarak at the first signs of serious discontent among the people would be eased out into comfortable retirement to live out his days at Sharm el-Sheik.

If that was the case, one then needs to ask; what were the contingency plans for the transition of power from the militarist president to the military and, far more importantly, what are the military’s plans for the future?

February 13, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | 1 Comment