الأربعاء، فبراير 18، 2009

Ayman Nour is Released

Release of Ayman Nour

Sparks Hope of Political Reform

Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Ayman Nour was released today around 6pm where he just walked into his home at Zamalek, Cairo, unexpectedly. A media frenzy broke out and in a few minutes, his home was packed with reporters from local and international news agencies.

His release came as a result from the Egyptian Attorney General, on medical grounds! Nour was first arrested on 29th January 2005, 90 days after El Ghad Party was given legal status in October 2004. Ayman Nour was released on 12th March 2005 and he ran against Mubarak un Egypt's first multi-candidate presidential election Egypt witnessed where he came first runner up after Mubarak.

Nour was then re-arrested on 5th December 2005 - merely 90 days (again) after his participation in Presidential Elections, sentenced to 5 years in Jail on 25th December 2005. Appeal was turned down in May 2006.

Upon his release on Wed 18th Feb 2009, Ayman Nour announced that he seeks no revenge, that he is more persistent than ever on pursuing the cause of reform and that he will focus his efforts to rebuild El Ghad party to advance the cause of reform, liberty and democracy in Egypt. Nour announced that he seeks no position in El Ghad Party other than the honorary position as Leader of the Party, and that he will be in charge of membership committee under the current president of the Party, Ehab El Kholy, elected by the General Assembly in march 2007. State Commissioners Court issued a ruling on 7th Feb 2009 acknowledging El Kholy as president. General Assembly held on 30 Dec 2005 had elected Nagui El Ghatrifi as president and Ayman Nour, who was in jail at the time, as leader of the Party. General Assembly of March 2007 then elected Kholy as president.

El Ghad announced in a press release that it shall strive to create a national dialogue with opposition leaders to reach some consensus on an Agenda of Reform such that the outcome of such dialogue must be some sort of a meaningful political process built on the priniciples of pluralism, real democracy and freedom.

We hope that this may be the start of a new era in Egypt's political scene, where a new social contract can be drafted through a package of comprehensive reform.

الخميس، فبراير 12، 2009

Post Realism - 6

So pro-Israel that it hurts

By Daniel Levy

The new (2006) John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt study of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" (Note: Now a Book published in Britain as no US publisher would take the risk. Incidentally, the Publisher is Jewish.) should serve as a wake-up call, on both sides of the ocean. The most obvious and eye-catching reflection is the fact that it is authored by two respected academics and carries the imprimatur of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The tone of the report is harsh. It is jarring for a self-critical Israeli, too. It lacks finesse and nuance when it looks at the alphabet soup of the American-Jewish organizational world and how the Lobby interacts with both the Israeli establishment and the wider right-wing echo chamber.

It sometimes takes AIPAC omnipotence too much at face value and disregards key moments - such as the Bush senior/Baker loan guarantees episode and Clinton's showdown with Netanyahu over the Wye River Agreement. The study largely ignores AIPAC run-ins with more dovish Israeli administrations, most notably when it undermined Yitzhak Rabin, and how excessive hawkishness is often out of step with mainstream American Jewish opinion, turning many, especially young American Jews, away from taking any interest in Israel.

Yet their case is a potent one: that identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained via the impact of the Lobby in Washington, and in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by virtue of Israel being a vital strategic asset or having a uniquely compelling moral case for support (beyond, as the authors point out, the right to exist, which is anyway not in jeopardy). The study is at its most devastating when it describes how the Lobby "stifles debate by intimidation" and at its most current when it details how America's interests (and ultimately Israel's, too) are ill-served by following the Lobby's agenda.

The bottom line might read as follows: that defending the occupation has done to the American pro-Israel community what living as an occupier has done to Israel - muddied both its moral compass and its rational self-interest compass.

The context in which the report is published makes of it more than passing academic interest. Similar themes keep recurring in influential books, including recently, "The Assassin's Gate," "God's Politics," and "Against All Enemies." In popular culture, "Paradise Now" and "Munich" attracted notable critical acclaim. In Congress, the AIPAC-supported Lantos/Ros-Lehtinen bill, which places unprecedented restrictions on aid to and contacts with the Palestinians, is stalled. Moderate American organizations such as the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v'Shalom - each with their own policy nuances - have led opposition to the bill and Quartet envoy Wolfensohn has seemed to caution against it. In court, two former senior AIPAC officials face criminal charges.

Not yet a tipping point, but certainly time for a debate. Sadly, if predictably, response to the Harvard study has been characterized by a combination of the shrill and the smug. Avoidance of candid discussion might make good sense to the Lobby, but it is unlikely to either advance Israeli interests or the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Some talking points for this coming debate can already be suggested:

First, efforts to collapse the Israeli and neoconservative agendas into one have been a terrible mistake - and it is far from obvious which is the tail and which is the dog in this act of wagging. Iraqi turmoil and an Al-Qaida foothold there, growing Iranian regional leverage and the strengthening of Hamas in the PA are just a partial scorecard of the recent policy successes of AIPAC/neocon collaboration.

Second, Israel would do well to distance itself from our so-called "friends" on the Christian evangelical right. When one considers their support for Israel's own extremists, the celebration of our Prime Minister's physical demise as a "punishment from God" and their belief in our eventual conversion - or slaughter - then this is exposed as an alliance of sickening irresponsibility.

Third, Israel must not be party to the bullying tactics used to silence policy debate in the U.S. and the McCarthyite policing of academia by set-ups like Daniel Pipes' Campus Watch. If nothing else, it is deeply un-Jewish. It would in fact serve Israel if the open and critical debate that takes place over here were exported over there.

Fourth, the Lobby even denies Israel a luxury that so many other countries benefit from: of having the excuse of external encouragement to do things that are domestically tricky but nationally necessary (remember Central Eastern European economic and democratic reform to gain EU entry in contrast with Israel's self-destructive settlement policy for continued U.S. aid).

Visible signs of Israel and the Lobby not being on the same page are mounting. For Israel, the Gaza withdrawal and future West Bank evacuations are acts of strategic national importance, for the Lobby an occasion for confusion and shuffling of feet. For Israel, the Hamas PLC election victory throws up complex and difficult challenges; for the Lobby it's a public relations homerun and occasion for legislative muscle-flexing.

In the words of the simplistic Harvard study authors, "the Lobby's influence has been bad for Israel ... has discouraged Israel from seizing opportunities ... that would have saved Israeli lives and shrunk the ranks of Palestinian extremists ... using American power to achieve a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help advance the broader goals of fighting extremism and promoting democracy in the Middle East." And please, this is not about appeasement, it's about smart, if difficult, policy choices that also address Israeli needs and security.

In short, if Israel is indeed entering a new era of national sanity and de-occupation, then the role of the Lobby in U.S.-Israel relations will have to be rethought, and either reformed from within or challenged from without.

Daniel Levy was an advisor in the Prime Minister's Office, a member of the official Israeli negotiating team at the Oslo B and Taba talks and the lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative.



John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt: The Israel Lobby,
London Review of
, 23 March, 2006. Available at:

Available at Amazon:


الجمعة، فبراير 06، 2009

The Age of Judgment (1) ... o o o o

An Ordinary Egyptian

I am an ordinary person.

I look at our old photos and I realize that the sinful world in which you now think that I am living, existed all along when we were little.

You and I.

We lived in this world peacefully and comfortably. You never thought it was sinful.

We co-existed.

You had your own ways and I had mine.

Neither of us thought the other had to change.

Neither of us used loud speakers to insult the other and label him as Kafer.

At the time when I was a child ... Egypt was full of people like me. Like us. Like you and me, at the time. Egypt, surprise surprise, was full of Egyptians ... Ordinary Egyptians ...

Then one day you decided you could not take it here. You decided you wanted to have more. So, you left. You found a job somewhere in the Gulf.

I did not stand in your way.

In fact, I wished you well.

I said that each of us had a role to play.

I stayed behind. Trying to make a living and plant a few more trees.

Years went by. How did they go by? They just went by and I kept on trying.

Then one day you came back.

You looked different.

Your wife looked different.

Your kids looked different from mine.

I felt a little strange, but I honestly did not mind.

But then you started to mind how I looked.

How my wife was dressed ... "safera" unlike yours.
But, brother, when we were little, you never thought that our mother was a whore because she did not cover her hair.

Now you mind how my kids play joyfully, sing, listen to music, whistle and smile casually at everyone in our little village.

Then, one day, after a long debate, you called me Kafer.

And you threatened me with hell and suffering.

Kafer, you said.

Misguided. Min Al Daleen.

My dear brother. Let me tell you this.

It is not my fault that you have gone all nuts and think that there are demons inside your own bathroom.

It has nothing to do with me that you now believe that music is the voice of Satan.

It is not my fault that you see evil where I see beauty.

That you see hell where I see heavens.

You were not like that.

We were not raised to be like that.

I am not like that.

Thank God I am not like that.

Now my brother. Either you mind your own business and let me live my life the way I do.

Or you get the hell out of my sight and go find your own paradise on earth elsewehere.

I am not asking you to change.
I am just asking you to stop asking me to change.

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