Egypt is spinning out of control. But it’s not only the fault of the ruling military junta — the protesters in the street deserve plenty of blame, too.
DECEMBER 19, 2011
CAIRO — Tahrir Square smells like piss. It is no surprise. After all, people had been living there in a tent camp for weeks. Yet the stench is also fitting for Egypt’s current impasse. Egyptians — soldiers, police, activists, soccer hooligans called “ultras,” and others — have abused this ostensibly hallowed ground at various moments since Hosni Mubarak’s unexpected fall almost a year ago.
The latest affront to the revolutionary promise of Tahrir came this past weekend, just to the south of the square on Qasr al-Aini Street, where Egypt’s parliament and cabinet buildings sit. There, military police and protesters engaged in a pitched battle using rocks, glass, metal, truncheons, and Molotov cocktails. At one point, an Egyptian soldier standing on the roof of the cabinet building literally appeared to urinate on the protesters below. (The symbolism was lost on no one.)
The proximate cause of Cairo’s current spasm of violence was the military police’s ill-advised effort to clear a relatively small number of protesters from in front of the cabinet building. The clashes, however, have revealed a deeper, more profound problem afflicting Egypt. The country has retreated from the moment of empowerment and national dignity that the uprising symbolized and is now grappling with a squalid politics and the normalization of violence.
What is perhaps most disturbing is that the weekend’s battle, which left 10 dead and hundreds injured, didn’t seem to have a point. The young toughs who descended on Qasr al-Aini Street after news spread of the Army’s efforts to clear the area seemed less concerned with principle than combat. Having cut their teeth and paid for it with the loss of 45 lives in late November clashes with the police and military, these kids seemed to be looking for payback. Qasr al-Aini Street bellowed with chants of “Death to the field marshal” — a reference to Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) head Gen. Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — rather than the significantly more inspiring “Freedom! Freedom!” that echoed through the concrete canyon of Tahrir during the January uprising.
How did Egyptians get to this warped, demented, bizarro version of Tahrir Square? It is easy to blame the SCAF, as so many have, but the generals have also had a lot of help. Each of Egypt’s primary political actors — the military, revolutionary groups, Islamists, and liberals — have contributed mightily to the country’s current political impasse and economic collapse through a combination of incompetence, narcissism, and treachery. This has left a society on the edge, one in which minor traffic accidents become near riots, soldiers beat women with reckless abandon, and protesters burn the building containing some of Egypt’s historical and cultural treasures.
The military command, which handled the 18-day uprising so well, has compensated for its lack of political acumen with brutality. The combination of both suggests a military command adrift with no real grasp of the political dynamics of the society they lay claim to protect and lead. It is not clear to whom, exactly, Egypt’s generals were listening in February when they drew up plans for handing power over to civilian rule, but they have presided over a transition that has sown confusion and heightened tension — all in the name, ironically, of stability.
The sorry state of Egypt’s transition reveals a central problem with the generals’ administration of the country. They come up with ideas with the help of a domestic intelligence apparatus that is more brutal than shrewd, toss them out into the public square, gauge how people react, and adjust accordingly. This is terribly destabilizing because rather than doing what is right, they try to situate everything they do in that sweet spot of public opinion. When the fortunes of the revolutionary groups were high, the SCAF responded to their demands. Now, the officers are dialed into that mythical, great “silent majority” that they believe is opposed to the protests.
In a Dec. 19 press conference, Maj. Gen. Adel Emara sought to reinforce that point when he argued that the people on Qasr al-Aini Street did not represent the uprising that toppled Mubarak and that the protesters, not the military, had instigated the violence. Emara was correct on the first point but clearly departed from the facts on the second. The officers seem to be convinced that they have the pulse of the Egyptian people, but the problem is that if this majority is actually silent, how can the officers know what these people are thinking? Indeed, they don’t know.
The three-round parliamentary elections — a marathon process that began in November and will not end until January 2012 — represents another source of friction. The officers may have felt vindicated by the large and mostly trouble-free first round, but when they woke up to the fact that Egyptians seem to want to invest the parliament with a strong popular mandate, they had second thoughts about the wisdom of their “silent majority.” That’s why Maj. Gen. Mukhtar al-Mulla told a group of foreign journalists on Dec. 7 that despite the strong turnout, the parliament will not actually be able to “impose anything” on the Egyptian state.
It’s unclear how the military will justify this position, but watch out. Such statements put it on a collision course with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has dominated the parliamentary elections. Whatever happened on Qasr al-Aini Street and Tahrir over the weekend will ultimately pale in significance to the coming struggle between the military and the Brothers, who believe that they, not the military, enjoy a popular mandate.
The revolutionaries have much to answer for as well. With all the creativity and energy that went into bringing Mubarak down and is currently going into plans to transform Egyptian society, there has also been much narcissism and revolutionary navel-gazing. The instigators of Mubarak’s fall have seemed to be more focused on burnishing their revolutionary cred on Twitter and Facebook — which are not accessible to the vast majority of Egyptians — than doing the hard work of political organizing. For months, the revolutionaries have largely spurned the political process that began after Mubarak’s ouster. After they were trounced in the March 19 constitutional referendum, many tuned out and began searching for ways to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was January 25.
But they have largely failed to do so. The 17 “Fridays of …” over the spring and summer reflected political goals less than a “I protest, therefore I am” sensibility. It culminated with a two-week sit-in at Tahrir Square that — because it brought Cairo to a halt and deteriorated into a carnival of self-congratulation rather than a serious political statement — did much damage to the revolutionaries in the eyes of sympathetic Egyptians. All through the spring and summer, while the revolutionaries were imagining themselves as a permanent revolution against the military, the hated felool (“remnants” of the old regime), or anyone who dared disagree with them, the Muslim Brothers were hard at work, taking advantage of the greatest political opportunity they have had since a schoolteacher named Hassan al-Banna founded the group in December 1928.
If the revolutionaries and their supporters are now stunned that the Islamists — both the Brotherhood and the Salafists — are set to dominate post-uprising Egypt, they must take a hard look at what they have done, or not done, over the last 11 months. Indeed, their ability to read Egyptian public sentiment is as bad as that of the military, and a good deal more myopic.
The Muslim Brothers are just about the only ones who have played post-Mubarak Egypt well. Although they did not instigate the uprising, they understood how events were unfolding and helped hasten the demise of a regime they reviled. Additionally, unlike the revolutionaries, the Brothers shrewdly put themselves in a position to prevail. It is not the revolutionaries who scare the military — it is the Brotherhood, which is capable of displacing the officers as the source of authority and legitimacy in the political system.
Now that the Brothers are poised to dominate parliament, what will be their approach to politics? So far, they have adopted a pragmatic path in an effort to persuade Egyptians and the international community that they can be good stewards of Egypt. For example, the Brothers have reached out to business leaders in Egypt and abroad to solicit their advice on managing the economy and have evinced a decidedly moderate public posture on questions related to minority rights, women, and tourism. This makes sense, given the organization’s worldview and historical political strategy, which has always been that time is on its side.
But one should not expect the Muslim Brotherhood to wait forever. Huge protests on July 8 and Nov. 18 demonstrated its political power, while at the same time heightening tensions and polarizing the public. It is hard to believe that with Egypt now within their grasp, the Brothers will settle to lead from behind and pass up the chance to realize their historical goal of ruling the country. If the Islamists cannot resist the temptation to rule and govern, they are heading for a mighty showdown with the SCAF.
The optimistic view is that Egyptians are deep in the throes of a wrenching national debate that will take many years to work out, but is nevertheless healthy. It is, however, becoming increasingly difficult to make that case. To be sure, Egypt is a cacophony of ideas, projects, initiatives, and manifestos. Yet there is no moral leadership to give the best of ideas national political meaning and content. Egypt’s would-be wise men have tried — but pro-democracy stalwart Mohamed ElBaradei could not do it during the uprising, and Essam Sharaf was not strong enough politically to withstand the competing demands of the revolutionaries, officers, and Islamists as prime minister. It remains to be seen whether other Egyptian leaders such Amr Moussa, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, or Khairat El Shater can be that person, but they are all divisive personalities who may do more to undermine social cohesion than repair it.
The result of all this is Tahrir’s Frankenstein monster where there is no leadership, no moral force, no common cause, and no sense of decency. Egyptians are in trouble, and there is not much anyone can do to help them. After these spasms of violence you often hear from Egyptians, “This is not Egypt.” It is time for them to prove it.
Majlis Speaker: Islamic Awakening, reflection of Palestinians resistance - Ali Larijani said that Islamic Awaking in the region is a reflection of the Palestinian nation’s resistance. Larijani noted the effects of the Palestinian nation’s resistance are seen inside the region, and the Islamic Awaking is the reflection of resistance of Iranian nation at the time of the victory of the Islamic Revolution and Palestinian resistance as well. Larijani stressed Iran’s support for Palestinians, pointing out that resistance is the only way for Palestinians to realize their rights and a path for Zionist regime’s retreat. Larijani referred to the presence of two members of Ismail Haniyeh’s Cabinet who were freed from Zionist regime jails and were in the Iranian Majlis and said, “The main reason the Zionist regime has freed more Palestinians is that Palestinian resistance has continued on its course and never showed any sign of compromise.” More photos
Foreign Minister defends foreign policy – Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi responded to cumulative criticism targeting Iran’s foreign policy by certain quarters in Iran and said that diplomatic relations are not based on sentiments, but on international conventions. He defended the official position of Iran regarding the storming of the British embassy in Tehran and said that the action of Iranian students cannot be justified, as Iran is bound by international regulations. “We managed to prevent a greater crisis through the appropriate actions of the Foreign Ministry [...] How can we explain entering a foreign embassy which is regarded sovereign soil of that country? We cannot sever diplomatic relations because we have conflicts with a country. Did the Prophet (Muhammad) not engage in dialogues with the polytheists and hypocrites of his time?”
Deputy Foreign Minister: Iran supports Syrian President’s decision to start implementing the Arab League plan – Hossein Amir Abdollahian said that Tehran suggested it was not entirely happy with the pressure Arab states had brought on Damascus “Iran’s official stance regarding Syria and the Arab League plan is that we would approve and accept whatever Bashar al-Assad deems as acceptable.” He added that the Arab League plan “contains many of the points Iran was also looking at,” even if not all concerns were addressed. Ahmadinejad said that “Certain regional countries carry out acts which Iran considers to be more like a joke […] Some regional countries, which have never held elections, have come together and passed resolutions against another country saying ‘Why don’t you hold an election’?” He said that Saudi intervention in Bahrain was a strategic mistake, adding that the only solution to the problem is responding to the Bahraini people’s desire for democracy. He did not give response to IRNA’s question about the outcome of Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi’s negotiations with Saudi leaders in Riyadh and said that the question must be posed to the Intelligence Minister. Read on
Former foreign minister: Turkey should revise its Syrian policy – Manouchehr Mottaki, criticized the Turkish stance on Syria and recommended that the Turkish authorities revise their policy. Mottaki also urged the Syrian government to focus on reforms and rejected the possibility of Iranian military intervention in Syria.
Kayhan editorial: “How Iran won the game” – The article reads, “It is still too early to end the discussion surrounding the American UAV that Iran captured. As it pertains to the Americans, the discussion is continuing at ever-greater intensity. Anonymous sources constantly being interviewed in the media are all saying the same thing, “The US fails to realize the blow that it has suffered.” This article attempts to provide a more comprehensive look at this issue, and examine its impact on the strategic conflict between Iran and the US under the currently extremely sensitive circumstances. For the Americans to fully understand how this plane was taken over, they must look at the composite of events in a broader perspective and review all of the scenarios. Perhaps they will realize the full magnitude of the incident.
The Americans must first reexamine all of their assessments regarding Iran’s capabilities in electronic and cyber warfare – The incident, in and of itself, shows how little the Americans know about their most sensitive battle arena with Iran. The capture of the UAV proves how far ahead Iran is and how much more advanced it is than the Americans, whereas the Americans think that Iran has stopped and is waiting for them.
The “inconceivable scale of the radius of Iran’s intelligence” – The most important question Americans are asking themselves is not “How did Iran take control of the drone,” but how Iran spotted this drone. That is the question they must work very hard to answer, and one they may never solve. See Fars News Agency cartoon
U.S. basket of alternatives against Iran completely empty – For some time, the US has established intelligence operations as a permanent strategy against Iran, at least since the June 2009 elections. One of the most important messages from the capture of the drone is that just as the West’s soft actions against Iran have lost their power, the time needed for semi-tough actions against Iran has expired. From a strategic perspective, the basket of U.S. options against Iran is now empty.
“Implementation of reactions” against the latest U.S. pressures – What is more important than anything is that the capture of the UAV is not an isolated incident, but the start of the middle- to long-term destructive ramifications for U.S. security and interests. The incident launches a process that can be called ‘implementation of responses’ to the latest U.S. pressures that are gradually becoming more exposed to the price they must pay for their anti-Iranian measures.
Iran reserves the right to implement ‘legal countermeasures’ on U.S. soil – Another important point is that this illegal action and breach of Iranian airspace has essentially allowed Iran to commit a legal countermeasure. According to international law, Iran is now permitted to implement any countermeasure against any American target it wants. The massive US presence around Iran provides Iran with critical opportunities.
Head of the Majlis’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee criticizes deployment of NATO missile shield in Turkey – Alaeddin Boroujerdi met with the Turkish ambassador to Tehran. He said, “We should not allow enemies (by deploying the Missile Defense Shield in Turkey) to disturb the process of development of friendly relations between the two countries.” He further stated that Iranian and Turkish officials should continue to emphasize brotherly relations between the two countries.
Majlis member accused Azerbaijan of sheltering “anti-revolutionary” groups -Nader Ghazipur said that representatives of Iran’s Azerbaijan province, including Ardabil, Tabriz and Orumiyeh, have prepared a draft project, according to which the Majlis will revise the Turkmanchay contract signed in 1828 between czarist Russia and Iran if it is proven that Azerbaijan is sheltering such groups. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was expected to attend the Majllis session on December 19 to discuss Azerbaijan’s “anti-Iran” moves with the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee.
Mohammad Khaza’i: U.S. Military bases in Afghanistan are centers of espionage activity – Mohammad Khaza’i, Iranian ambassador to the UN said that the recent developments are “clear” evidence that U.S. military bases in Afghanistan have turned into operation centers for “espionage activities” against Iran and other neighboring states. He expressed Tehran’s concern over the long-term presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and the threat of their covert operations against regional countries. Khaza’i added that although he hopes this intrusion will be the last act of spy craft over Iran (video), it’s certainly not the first — and he sent a letter to UN leadership detailing the Islamic Republic’s objections. Press TV said many analysts believe the “U.S. intelligence war on Iran has recently taken a new turn.” Full text of his speech
Senior military advisor to Supreme Leader: Iran credits Hassan Moghadam “the father of Iran’s missile program” for its long-range ballistic missile program – In a memorial service for the senior IRGC officer killed in the explosion at the IRGC base several weeks ago, Hassan Tehrani Moghadam, Senior Military Aide to the Supreme Leader (and former IRGC commander) General Yahya Rahim Safavi said that “Iran’s owes its long-range ballistic missiles to Moghadam.” Calling Moghadam “the father of Iran’s missiles,” Safavi emphasized that he was also part of a team that is continuing the development of Iran’s missile industry even after his death. Safavi added that his name would be revered throughout history, claiming that “the force of our deterrence against the major enemies, such as the US and the Zionists, is our ballistic capabilities and Moghadam was the most important figure in creating this deterrence.” Safavi praised the Islam-seeking spirit of Arab women in their uprisings against the West-affiliated regimes and said they have been inspired by Iranian women. “The uprisings of Arab women in Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and recently Saudi Arabia were inspired by the spirit and morale shown by Islamic Iranian women and the mothers of martyrs.” He also reiterated that the Iranian nation serves as a role model for the other Muslim countries as far as freedom and independence are concerned, and that is why the Western countries are exerting pressure on Tehran… the West is pressuring Iran in a bid to stop the spread of its revolutionary spirit to the other countries.
Iran’s Defense Minister launched 20 science and defense projects; first airport for private training purposes – In a ceremony at Malek Ashtar University of Technology, Iranian Defense Minister Vahidi launched 20 key defense and scientific projects. These projects are being carried out in nanotechnology, microelectronic, optic, laser, missile and naval fields. Vahidi said, “One of the projects is the design and construction of a high-frequency electronic part named David Salitani, which will pave the way for the production of Salitani transistors in Iran.” Vahidi explained that the transistor would enable Iran to produce very fast electronic circuits for large capacity telecommunications which cannot be tapped by anyone. He mentioned “Another system – a machine which generates electricity and heat concurrently, while using only one energy source like natural gas or oil.” Vahidi pointed out that the system has very high and unrivalled efficiency rate of 80% of energy production, while the figure stands at approximately 30% to 35% in power plants. Defense Minister Vahidi inaugurated the first airport for private training purposes in the new city of Golbahar in Mashhad (Khorasan Razavi Province). Construction of the airport cost about USD 2.8 million.
Japan to continue importing Iranian oil – In a report titled, “Another U.S. Failure,” Mehr News Agency is reporting that in a meeting between the Japanese Foreign Minister and U.S. Secretary of State, the Japanese official clarified that his country would not stop importing oil from Iran. According to U.S. government statistics, Iran’s major customers are China, India, Japan and South Korea. Over the past six months, Japan has imported 543,000 barrels of crude oil a day.
Ten committees to neutralize impact of sanctions set up – The newspaper Khorasan is reporting a senior government economic official as stating that ten sub-committees meet regularly, on a daily basis, to actively review ways of neutralizing the impact of Western sanctions against Iran. The official added that information about committee measures has not been released to the public in order to prevent the enemy from gathering intelligence about the measures Iran is adopting to counter the sanctions.
Iranian Oil Minister: “Many OPEC member nations interested in adopting Iranian economic subsidy reform model” – Speaking at a ceremony marking the first anniversary of Iran’s subsidy reform, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Ghasemi claims that many OPEC member nations have contacted him and expressed their interest in adopting Iran’s successful economic reform model. Ahmadinejad said addressing a gathering on the occasion of the first anniversary of the implementation of the Subsidy Reform Plan that “Many countries are asking Iran to help them with the management of their economies.”
Iran negotiating with Qatar Airways on domestic flights - Minister of Roads and Urban Construction, Ali Nikzad, said negotiations are underway with Qatar Airlines to use its capacity in Iran’s domestic flights. The Qatari airline is already carrying out 21 flights from Doha to a number of destinations inside Iran. He added that Iran is now to further use the airline’s capacities in domestic flights under the supervision of the Iranian airlines. He also noted that air transportation accounted for 9% of total transport of passengers in Iran. He said the Qatari airplanes will only provide 1-1.5% of the total Iranian passenger transportation once the two countries come to an agreement on the issue. The Minister stressed that the Iranian airlines are trying to carry out their mission in the best possible way and with maximum security despite sanctions.
Iran suspends trade ties with UAE “until further notice” – Minister of Industry, Mining and Commerce, Mehdi Ghazanfari, has suspended all trade with the United Arab Emirates until further notice. The decision was made in the wake of the anti-Iran positions of the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, all registrations of orders related to UAE have been frozen by the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran.
Surprising and sharp increase in dollar exchange rate – The decision by Iran’s Central Bank to stop the sale of foreign currencies has resulted in what is being referred to by Iranian media as an earthquake in Iran’s foreign currency market, with the dollar exchange rate rising overnight to USD 1 = 1500 Tomans, up from USD 1 = 1400 Tomans the previous day.
Teacher arrested – Former student activist from Shiraz University and current junior high school teacher, Ruhollah Ghasemi, was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry in Shiraz, where she was arrested. No information about his condition and reason for his arrest is available. While studying at the university, Ghasemi was summoned and questioned several times.
Political activist summoned to court – Political activist Fatemeh Arab Sorkhi and daughter of Feyzollah Arab Sorkhi, a senior member of the Mojahedin of Islamic Revolution who has been imprisoned since the post-election events, was summoned to court. Fatemeh was arrested last year and released on bail two weeks later. She is accused of ‘”interfering with elections.”
Another accident in Iran – this time in Isfahan oil refinery – On Tuesday afternoon, there was an accident that nearly caused an explosion at the oil refinery in Isfahan. According to official reports, water leakage from generators caused electricity and the electricity reserves in the refinery to shut down. The entire refinery complex filled with heavy smoke, and there was concern that any spark would result in an explosion. To prevent an explosion, all activity in the refinery was stopped and all mobile cell phones shut off. Reports claim one person injured and heavy air pollution in Isfahan due to smoke.
Reformists continue to deliberate over participation in upcoming Majlis elections -
Mohammad Khatami: “All signs show that we cannot participate in the elections” – Discussing the elections, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said, “We expected that conditions would arise that would allow all streams to participate in the elections. At this moment, this is not a boycott of the elections, I expressed my opinions on this matter in the past and I expected that all opinions and streams would be allowed to participate. I believe that all signs at this moment show that we cannot participate in the elections, because participation would mean nothing.
Green Path of Hope Coordination Council: the elections are illegal and participation counters the interests of people and country – A third statement issued by the reformist Green Path of Hope Coordination Council on the upcoming Majlis elections stated that the Majlis elections were not legal or justified. Participation in this show known as the elections counters the interests of the Iranian public and country.
Pro-Ahmadinejad website filtered – Kianpress, which introduced itself as the news website of the Islamic government’s supporters, was filtered. The news website’s staff used to work for Dowlat-e Ma news website. After Dowlat-e Ma was filtered, they continued their activity in Kianpress.
No story dominated the headlines in 2010 as much as that of the “whistleblower” organization Wiki-Leaks and its supposed revelations concerning US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and American foreign policy more generally. WikiLeaks has been billed as an organization dedicated to publishing confidential or classified documents and exposing “secrets” of all sorts. In keeping with this mission, the original publisher of the WikiLeaks website was called the “Sunshine Press.” Ironically, however, WikiLeaks’ own internal structure and history remain shrouded in darkness.
The media frenzy surrounding the site’s alleged “founder” Julian Assange has done nothing to alleviate the mystery. Indeed, it has likely obscured the history of the site even more. The nearly universal identification of Assange as the site’s founder is itself a case in point. In earlier WikiLeaks publications, he was identified merely as an “investigative editor.”
WikiLeaks might be controversial in the West, but it had a powerful effect on Mideast countries where news and information have been systematically repressed for decades.
One might have hoped that a book by former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg would help to bring clarity to the subject. While Assange became the international media star, Domscheit-Berg was long the “European face” of WikiLeaks, giving numerous interviews to the media in his native Germany, as well as to English-language venues. When he still represented WikiLeaks, Domscheit-Berg went by the name “Daniel Schmitt.”
In late September 2010, Wired.com published a purported transcript of a testy online chat between Assange and Domscheit-Berg, which culminated in Assange announcing Domscheit-Berg’s suspension, “effective immediately.” Domscheit-Berg says that he resigned shortly thereafter.
In the public imagination, the highly theatrical development made him the leading WikiLeaks dissident. “You are not anyones [sic] king or god,” Domscheit-Berg is famously supposed to have written, in challenging Assange’s autocratic style, “you behave like some kind of emporer [sic] or slave trader.” Barely eight weeks after his resignation, it was announced that Domscheit-Berg was writing a book about his time at WikiLeaks. The book was published two months later in German and English—and several other languages to boot.
But anyone looking for critical insight into WikiLeaks from Domscheit-Berg’s Inside WikiLeaks will be disappointed. The “tell all” book, as it has been breathlessly described, in fact tells very little of substance and virtually nothing that is verifiable. In light of the incredible speed with which the book and its multiple translations were brought out, it is obvious that it was designed to ride the wave of WikiLeaks mania, which reached its latest—and perhaps last—high point when the site began to release classified US diplomatic cables in December 2010.
Far from providing anything like the exposé suggested by the title, the book appears to have been written for Julian Assange fans. Domscheit-Berg himself comes across as a starry-eyed Assange groupie or even, in the most cloying passages, a forlorn lover.
“We talked for hours,” Domscheit-Berg writes about his first meeting with Assange, “then we would simply sit side by side, saying nothing.” The meeting took place at the 2007 congress of the Chaos Computer Club, a German-based “hackers association” that served as an incubator for Wiki-Leaks. “On the one hand, I found Julian unbearable,” Domscheit-Berg continues in what counts as a “critical” passage, “and, on the other, unbelievably special and lovable.”
Writing about the period when things allegedly started to go bad between them, following the famous chatroom spat, Domscheit-Berg describes desperately waiting for a word from Assange that would make it all right again. “I always hoped that I would see something on the screen the next time that I looked at it. A message from Julian to me. I carried my laptop with me wherever I went: into the kitchen, the living room, even to the bathtub. . . . And because I had been waiting so long for a message,” he continues, “my imagination began to dream them up out of the blue. ‘Hey Daniel, I have to talk to you. I’ve been thinking. Maybe I misunderstood things. Let’s talk about the future of WL. Maybe we should meet and clear up the misunderstandings. Hey, you know we really had a great time together . . . ’”
Only those interested in Assange’s sartorial preferences, his dance style—“He’d spread his arms and gallop across the dance floor, taking huge steps”—or his alleged mild mistreatment of Domscheit-Berg’s cat will be fascinated by Inside WikiLeaks. Those expecting more substantial fare will be bored.
Domscheit-Berg does nothing to puncture the Assange myth. On the contrary, he builds it up, repeatedly referring to his tarnished idol’s supposed intellectual brilliance and technical expertise. Anyone who has suffered through the dime-store Nietzschean ramblings on Assange’s pompously titled “IQ” blog will have trouble regarding Assange as an intellectual heavyweight.
Assange’s prima facie more plausible claim to technical or scientific expertise is equally dubious. Dom-scheit-Berg variously suggests that Assange modeled himself on the British mathematician Alan Turing—“one of the leading minds of the twentieth century”—or the “trained mathematician and philosopher” Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The notion that Assange is himself a trained mathematician—or in some variants, a trained physicist— is a standard element of the myth that has been repeated ad nauseam in press accounts of his life.
In fact, Assange only did undergraduate studies and he did not even complete his undergraduate degree, abandoning his studies in 2005, at the age of thirty-four, after having enrolled at the University of Melbourne three years earlier. Among other subjects, he took some courses in mathematics. In response to an inquiry from the present author, Professor Peter Taylor, the chair of the University of Melbourne mathematics department, revealed that in most of those courses Assange received merely a “pass” grade: roughly equivalent to a C grade in the American system and the lowest grade one can receive at the university without failing. Analogous inquiries regarding Assange’s physics “career” at Melbourne were referred to and quashed by the university’s media office.
Moreover, Domscheit-Berg’s book partakes of exactly the same simplistic anti-American worldview that is Assange’s stock-in-trade and has become the signature view of Wiki-Leaks. The only difference is that while the anti-Americanism of Assange and WikiLeaks is strident and proselytizing, that of the seeming ingénu Domscheit-Berg is assumed—part of the scenery, so to say. So much so that when he describes a business trip to Russia, he feels compelled to remark, “You can say what you like about many people’s number-one enemy, the United States, but in Moscow the situation was also acute.”
In describing the same trip, incidentally, Domscheit-Berg also writes, “Because I was the only non-Russian—that is, the only one there who could be trusted—I quickly got charged with doing all sorts of things.” The book contains similarly gratuitous and derogatory remarks concerning Italians. Such ethnic slurs provide a disturbing counterpoint to the tone of chirpy political correctness that the narrative otherwise adopts. So too does Domscheit-Berg’s seemingly approving citation of the defiant words written on a sign held up by WikiLeaks supporters at a protest against the Church of Scientology: “SUE WL, YOU FAGGOTS!” (Wiki-Leaks had previously published internal documents of the Scientology organization.)
It is striking that when Domscheit-Berg touches upon the publication by WikiLeaks of classified American material, it is treated as axiomatic that the material reveals wrong-doing. Thus, for instance, he notes that “in November 2007, the handbooks from Guantánamo Bay, the ‘Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures,’ appeared on WikiLeaks.” “They revealed that the United States was violating internees’ human rights and the Geneva Conventions” is Domscheit-Berg’s apodictic judgment. Readers find out nothing more about the contents of the document in question.
Domscheit-Berg’s treatment of the famous “Collateral Murder” video, which WikiLeaks posted on the web in April 2010, is similarly terse and categorical. “On April 5, ‘Collateral Murder’ went online,” Domscheit-Berg writes. “It is shot from the gun turret of a military helicopter and shows American soldiers killing Iraqi civilians. Two Reuters journalists also died in the gunfire. . . . Outrage was the response around the world . . . outrage, and a more realistic picture of what was supposedly a ‘clean’ war.”
Domscheit-Berg claims to sympathize with critics who at the time pointed to the manipulative editing of the raw footage and the obviously judgmental, rather than descriptive, title. (See, for instance, my April 29, 2001 article for the Weekly Standard online, “The Strange Career of Wiki-leaks.”) But he makes no mention of the fact that the actual target of the American attack was a group of insurgents whose weapons are clearly visible in the complete footage. The two Reuters journalists were, in effect, embedded with the armed combatants. One other individual was killed when he attempted to come to the aid of wounded combatants in a van. Two children in the van were wounded.
Domscheit-Berg’s tendentious and condemnatory treatment of the American helicopter attack in Iraq stands in sharp contrast to the kid-glove treatment that he reserves for the so-called Kunduz massacre, a German-ordered aerial attack that occurred in September 2009 in the vicinity of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. As the German government has tacitly acknowledged, dozens of civilians were killed in the attack. In December 2009, WikiLeaks published a German army field report on the incident. Domscheit-Berg only mentions the report in order to praise the site’s cooperation with the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit.
“We gave them the field report about the bombing of two hijacked tanker trucks in Kunduz a couple of hours before we posted them [sic] on WL,” Domscheit-Berg writes, “At the time, the report about possible mistakes by German colonel Georg Klein was already in the possession of a handful of well-connected German newspapers and magazines.” Note the dainty allusion to “possible mistakes”—not “murder”—committed by the German military. There is in fact no mention whatsoever of the civilians killed in the attack. It is as if the only casualties were the trucks.
Similarly, whereas Domscheit-Berg broods over American anti-leak prosecutions and the alleged threat to freedom of speech that they constitute, he makes no mention of the far more draconian application of anti-leak laws in his homeland. In recent years, German journalists have been regularly made the target of criminal investigations under the ominous heading of “Aiding and Abetting in the Betrayal of State Secrets” (Beihilfe zum Geheimnisverrat).
Shortly after the publication of the Kunduz field report, in December 2009, the original WikiLeaks website went offline. Up to that time, the site had been a platform for the publication of confidential or censored material of all sorts from a wide variety of countries and sources. It had no obvious political agenda and it was for all intents and purposes user-edited—hence, the “wiki” designation. The heart of the site was the so-called Secure Submission Form, which was supposed to allow users to upload material without risk of revealing their identities.
When the site returned in 2010, the archive of previously posted documents was missing. Henceforth, WikiLeaks would serve essentially as just a conduit for the leaking of classified American government materials. WikiLeaks had, in effect, metamorphosed into just AmericanLeaks. From the sheer mass of the materials in question, moreover, it is obvious that they were not made available to WikiLeaks via the online uploader.
By April 2010, IT-savvy observers had noticed that the security of the so-called Secure Submission Form had, in any case, been compromised. Just how uninterested WikiLeaks was in preserving a secure online environment for submissions was, then, made unmistakably clear in June, when the site neglected to renew its SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is a basic form of online security certification that can be purchased for under $100 per year. Users attempting to communicate with a website that lacks a valid SSL certificate will typically receive a warning from their browsers not to do so.
Just why did the WikiLeaks website go offline in December 2009? And why did it then return in such a radically altered form, sharing virtually nothing in common with its previous incarnation but a logo and a now misleading name?
Domscheit-Berg provides no even minimally credible explanation for this remarkable transformation. Regarding the virtually exclusive focus on the United States, for example, he feebly invokes the “language barrier,” noting that “none of us spoke Hebrew or Korean”—an odd excuse for someone who is, after all, himself German.
In defiance of all the available evidence, moreover, Domscheit-Berg asserts that the submissions system had in fact been improved during the site’s hiatus. He even sings the praises of an anonymous WikiLeaks employee, nicknamed “The Architect,” who is supposed to have pulled off this and other programming feats. Given that the submissions system played no role whatsoever in the leaks featured on the relaunched site and, above all, given the embarrassing lapsing of the SSL certificate, the entire narrative on this point reads like a fairy tale.
There is undoubtedly a secret history of WikiLeaks to be told. But Domscheit-Berg’s Inside WikiLeaks appears to hide much more than it reveals.
John Rosenthal writes on European politics and transatlantic relations for such publications as the Weekly Standard, Policy Review, and the Daily Caller.
December 20th, 2011
By Mike M. Ahlers
Recent and proposed budget cuts at all levels of government are threatening to reverse the significant post-9/11 improvements in the nation’s ability to respond to natural diseases and bioterror attacks, according to a report released Tuesday.
“We’re seeing a decade’s worth of progress eroding in front of our eyes,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, which published the report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Budget cuts already have forced state and local health departments to cut thousands of health officials, the report says. Cuts are jeopardizing the jobs of federal investigators who help states hunt down diseases, threatening the capabilities at all 10 “Level 1″ state labs that conduct tests for nerve agents or chemical agents such as mustard gas, and may hurt the ability of many cities to rapidly distribute vaccines during emergencies, it says.
The “upward trajectory” of preparedness, fueled by more than $7 billion in federal grants to cities and states in the past 10 years, is leveling off, and the gains of the last decade are “at risk,” the report says.
The 2011 report departs slightly in tone from the nine previous reports prepared by the two health advocacy groups. Earlier reports, while focusing on gaps in the nation’s preparedness for pandemics and bioterror attacks, showed a “steady progression of improvement,” said Levi.
“Our concern this year is that because of the economic crisis… we may not be as prepared today as we were a couple of years ago,” he said.
Once lost, medical capabilities take time and money to rebuild, the report says.
“It would be like trying to hire and train firefighters in the middle of a fire,” Levi said. “You don’t do that for fire protection, and we shouldn’t be doing that for public health protection.”
There are few expressions of assurance or optimism in the 2011 report.
The report says:
– In the past year, 40 states and the District of Columbia have cut funds to public health.
– Since 2008, state health agencies have lost 14,910 people through layoffs or attrition; local health departments have lost 34,400.
– Federal PHEP grants – Public Health Emergency Preparedness grants – were cut 27 percent between fiscal 2005 and 2011, when adjusted for inflation.
– Some 51 cities are at risk for elimination of Cities Readiness Initiative funds, which support the rapid distribution of vaccinations and medications during emergencies.
“Two steps forward, three steps back,” said Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, in an essay accompanying the study. “As certain as the sun will rise in the east, we will experience another event that will demonstrate our inability to cope, as the resources for public health are scarce, and it will prompt the cycle of build-up, neglect, event, build-up, etc.”
Federal aid to state and local governments for health preparedness peeked in 2002 at about $1.7 billion, and fell to $1.3 billion in fiscal 2012, Levi said. But the impact of cuts were masked when Congress allocated more than $8 billion in emergency funds to fight the H1N1 flu in 2009, Levi said. “Now that money is gone. And so we’re seeing the real impact of these cuts,” he said.
The TFAH report comes just two months after another report concluded that the United States is largely unprepared for a large-scale bioterror attack or deadly disease outbreak.
The WMD Terrorism Research Center, gave the country mostly B’s and C’s for its ability to handle small-scale events, such as the anthrax letter attack of 2001, and failing grades for its ability to handle large-scale events, like the global epidemic depicted in the movie “Contagion.” It gave the country a “D” for its ability to develop and quickly approve medical countermeasures, such as diagnostic tools and vaccines, during outbreaks of all sizes.
Report authors said they recognize that budget constraints prevent governments from addressing all of the shortcomings in bioterror preparedness. But they recommend focusing on preparing for large-scale outbreaks, saying those preparations would automatically improve preparedness for smaller outbreaks.
The Meir Amit
Intelligence and Terrorism
News of Terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
(December 14-20, 2011)
The second stage of the deal for the release of abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is completed: Palestinian terrorists released from Israeli jails wait at the Rafah crossing to enter the Gaza Strip (Al-Aqsa TV, December 18, 2011).
This past week Israeli-Palestinian events focused on the second stage of the deal for the release of Gilad Shalit. Five hundred and fifty Palestinian terrorists released from Israeli jails were handed over to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The implementation of the second stage reignited criticism from Fatah over Hamas’ handling of the negotiations with Israel.
Palestinian spokesmen again stressed the need to release the remaining terrorists imprisoned in Israel, emphasizing additional abductions.
The 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas was marked by a large rally in Gaza City. Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, noted the movement’s commitment to “armed resistance” (i.e., terrorism, as opposed to the so-called “popular resistance”). He claimed the “armed resistance” was the only way to “liberate the land of Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.”
Implementing the Second Stage of the Shalit Deal
On December 18, 2011, the second stage of the deal to secure the release of Gilad Shalit was implemented. An additional 550 Palestinian terrorists were handed over to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. The prisoners’ families rioted for hours at the Palestinian Authority’s Betunia crossing, resulting in the prisoners’ being transferred a different way in the evening and not through the crossing. The transfer was effected with the aid of the International Red Cross (IDF Spokesman, December 18, 2011).
The implementation of the second stage reignited the public controversy between Fatah and Hamas regarding how Hamas compiled the list of prisoners to be freed. Issa Qaraqe, the Palestinian minister for prisoners’ affairs, criticized Hamas’ conduct in the negotiations with Israel, claiming that all the expectations for the release of long-time prisoners, the disabled and the sick had not been realized (Ma’an News Agency, December 15, 2011). Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum responded to the criticism, saying that anyone who thought the deal was not sufficiently important should suggest a different way of operating. He said the release of each prisoner was a great national achievement, regardless of individual organizational or political affiliations (Safa News Agency, December 15, 2011).
The prisoners were welcomed with ceremonies in Ramallah and the Gaza Strip. A festive welcome was held at the Rafah crossing where Ahmed Bahar, the deputy chairman of the Palestinian Legislative Council, spoke, praising Hamas’ military-terrorist wing which, he said, had forced Israel to accept its terms (Al-Aqsa TV, December 18, 2011). A state reception was held in Ramallah for the terrorists, attended by a delegation of Palestinian Legislative Council representatives. Ahmed al-Tayyib, presidential secretary general, welcomed the released prisoners (Wafa News Agency, December 18, 2011).
Terrorists return to the Gaza Strip as part of the deal to release Gilad Shalit
(Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 18, 2011).
With regard to the prisoner exchange deal, various speakers noted the need for an effort to be made to release the other Palestinian terrorist prisoners held in Israel jail, stressing the need for more abductions.
Abu Obeida, spokesman for Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, said that the prisoner exchange deal was a success and victory for Hamas and the “resistance” [i.e., the path of terrorism]. He said that so far 20% of the prisoners had been released “in return for one Israeli soldier.” He said it was not the end of the line and that the issue of the prisoners was at the top of the “Palestinian resistance’s” priority list (Al-Aqsa TV, December 18, 2011).
Abu Obeida speaks about the prisoner exchange deal
(Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, December 18, 2011).
Atallah Abu al-Subh, minister for released prisoners in the de-facto Hamas administration, told the prisoners released in the deal that they could only have been released by the “resistance” [i.e., terrorism], with deals like the last one.
Jamal Mheisen, a member of the PLO’s Central Committee, warned that the fact that Israel had agreed to release prisoners only after an Israeli soldier had been abducted was an opening for future abductions. However, he said that Fatah did not encourage that (Palestinian TV, December 18, 201
Important Terrorism Events Israel’s South
Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory
This past week four mortar shells were fired into Israeli territory. They landed in open areas in the western Negev. There were no casualties and no damage was done.
Rockets and Mortar Shells Fired into Israeli Territory 2
Rocket Fire — Monthly Distribution
Mortar Shell Fire — Monthly Distribution
Judea and Samaria
The Situation on the Ground
This past week the IDF carried out routine counterterrorist activities in Judea and Samaria, detaining Palestinians suspected of terrorist activities and confiscating weapons. During the week Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown at IDF soldiers and Israeli civilians in Judea and Samaria.
On December 15 a civilian Israeli woman sustained slight injuries when stones were thrown at an Israeli bus southeast of Qalqilya. She received medical treatment at the site of the attack (IDF Spokesman, December 15, 2011).
Developments in the Gaza Strip
Marking the Anniversary of Hamas’ Founding
To mark the 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas, a rally was held in the Al-Katiba al-Khadraa Square in Gaza City. According to Hamas, it was attended by 350 thousand people. Its theme was “Loyalty [belongs] to free men…Jerusalem, we are coming.” Speakers included many important Hamas figures, such as Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, and Yehya Sunwar, a released terrorist.
Pictures posted on the Hamas website from the rally held to mark the 24th anniversary
of the movement’s founding (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 14, 2011).
Ismail Haniya made it clear that Hamas had not abandoned the principle of “armed resistance” [i.e., terrorism] and that reconciliation with Fatah would not come at the expense of the movement’s principles. The main points of his speech were the following (Al-Aqsa TV, December 14, 2011):
The principle of “armed resistance:” Hamas, he said, still promoted “armed resistance” as the only way and the strategic choice for liberating “Palestine from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.”
Regional uprisings: According to Haniya, the “Arab spring” would help the Palestinian cause. One of the important results of the revolutions in the Arab world was the fall of the “lackey regimes” which had “plotted” against the Gaza Strip and besieged it. Those regimes, he said, were disappearing, the Palestinian cause had returned as a focal point of interest, Jerusalem was again a top priority and Hamas was both publicly and officially supported.
The internal Palestinian reconciliation: Haniya claimed that the delay in advancing the reconciliation was caused mainly by the Palestinian Authority’s yielding to external pressures. Hamas, he said, adhered to national unity in the reconciliation but it would not reconcile with Fatah at the expense of the ideology of the “resistance” [i.e., the path of terrorism] and the rights of the Palestinians.
Response to Israel’s claim that the Sinai Peninsula had turned into a source of terrorist attacks: Haniya said that Hamas and Egypt had joint responsibility for maintaining stability and security in the Sinai Peninsula and accused Israel of an attempt to “create disturbances” in the region. He said Egyptian security was Palestinian security and Gaza’s security was Egypt’s security.
Ismail Haniya speaks at the rally marking the 24th anniversary of the founding of Hamas
(Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 14, 2011).
To mark the anniversary, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military-terrorist wing, issued figures reflecting the activities of the movement since its founding. According to its website, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades boasts of having sacrificed 1,848 shaheeds, having fired 11,093 rockets into Israeli territory, and having killed and wounded 7,776 of the “Zionist enemy and the IDF” (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, December 14, 2011).
Activist Announces Hamas Leaving Syria
Ali Barake, Hamas representative in Lebanon, said in a newspaper interview that several Hamas activists had left Syria. He said that only junior (“administration”) activists who were not Syrian residents had left, such as individuals who had been born in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere, because of the “natural” problems of carrying out their work. He added that Hamas-Syrian relations were firm and that Hamas was in favor of a political, peaceful solution for Syria’s current internal crisis (Hamas’ Felesteen, December 16, 2011). It was the first official Hamas announcement relating to the exodus of Hamas from Syria after previous denials.
Contacts for a Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation Continue
On December 18 a meeting was held in Cairo attended by Fatah and Hamas representatives in preparation for the December 20 meeting, which will confirm the agreements reached so far. One of the decisions made on December 18 was to postpone appointing a reconciliation committee until the organizations meet on December 20. Another decision was to appoint a central elections committee, whose composition would also be discussed on December 20 (Safa News Agency, December 19, 2011).
Regarding the central issue of the path of terrorism [the so-called "resistance"], fundamental differences were revealed:
Mahmoud Abbas, currently visiting Brussels, claimed in an interview that during the most recent meeting in Cairo Hamas had agreed with Fatah that there had to be a lull in the fighting from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and that the “resistance” had to be “popular” and not armed (Euronews website, December 16, 2011).
On the other hand, Salah al-Bardawil, head of Hamas’ information office, denied that any dialogue or discussion had been held with Mahmoud Abbas about the “resistance” and denied that any agreement had been reached which would obviate a “military resistance” against Israel. He stressed that according to the national reconciliation document The Palestinians agreed that the “resistance” was the legitimate right for [implementing] the “liberation” of Palestine and that the organizations were proceeding with the “resistance” in such a way that it would serve Palestinian interests. He said that while the “popular resistance” had been chosen as a priority, that did not mean that “military resistance” was not on the table (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 18, 2011). Note: Ismail Haniya, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, also emphasized in his speech for the anniversary of Hamas’ founding, that Hamas was committed to “armed resistance.”
Mahmoud al-Zahar, member of Hamas’ political bureau, remains pessimistic about the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation. He said there had been no significant progress made in the five articles of the agreement and even the issue of the liberation of the prisoners had not been translated into action. Moreover, he said, since May Mahmoud Abbas had not found the time to deal with the reconciliation because of his move in the United Nations, and only a month ago had he found time for it (Voice of Palestine Radio, December 14; Middle East News Agency, December 13, 2011).
In addition, the committee of the families of political prisoners in the West Bank revealed a list of 76 names of people detained by the Palestinian Authority’s security forces since Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashaal met in Cairo. The committee said in an announcement that most of the detentions of those referred to as “political prisoners” were carried out by the Palestinian Authority’s preventive security force. According to the announcement, the families demanded that the Palestinian Authority immediately release all those detained, in accordance with the reconciliation agreement (Hamas’ Palestine-info website, December 17, 2011).
Lebanese Army Finds Four Rockets in the Eastern Sector
The Lebanese army said in an announcement that following a report by a farmer working near the Israeli border in the eastern sector of south Lebanon, four 107mm rockets had been found. The rockets were hidden in water pipes and were not ready for launching. Lebanese army units encircled the area and prevented media personnel from covering the event. So far it is not known to whom the rockets belong and if they were intended for firing into Israel (Lebanese News Agency, Al-Manar TV, Radio Nur, December 19, 2011).
UNIFIL and Lebanese army forces at the scene. Right:
One of the rockets (Al-Manar TV, December 19, 2011).
Convoys and Propaganda Displays
Networks Organize for Propaganda Displays during the First Half of 2012
Preparations continue around the world for organizing a number of propaganda displays slated for the the first half of the new year. For organizing and especially enlisting participants and raising contributions, “information” conferences are being organized in various cities and dedicated websites have been started in many languages. So far the degree of interest in participating in the events is unknown and the status of practical preparations for them is unclear.
Some of the events planned are the following:
A world march to Jerusalem: The march is scheduled for March 30, 2012. In preparation, a conference will be held in Rome on January 14. Conferences have already been held in Jordan, Austria, India and Turkey. The conference organizer said in an announcement that to simplify the process of collecting money and organizing activists, coordinators would be appointed in Europe, similar to those already operating in the United States and Asia (Ipk-bonn.de website, December 13, 2011).
A protest fly-in to Ben-Gurion International Airport: The fly-in is scheduled for April 15, 2012. It will be similar to the previous one. On December 16 a number of preparatory conferences were held in France and Belgium. One of the conferences in France advertised that a troupe from the Gaza Strip would perform during the evening. According to the event’s Facebook page, 98 individuals confirmed their participation. The fly-in’s organizers are asking for contributions to help activists pay for their tickets (Fly-in website).
Events for Nakba Day 2012: The events are planned for May 15, 2012. The organizers are planning events similar to those held in 2011, and they claim that more than a million Palestinian refugees and Arab and foreign solidarity activists will gather at Israel’s borders, coming from every direction by land, sea and air. They claim they will hold non-violent marches whose theme will be the “return to our homes which were taken from us in 1948.” According to the announcements, they will appeal to international institutions, first of all the United Nations, to provide protection for the marches, and to send an international force to prevent Israel from attacking the marchers. They are also asking businessmen to help finance the march (Nakba Day events Facebook page).
“Freedom Flotilla Italia:” On December 11 a coordinating meeting was held in Rome. The next meeting is planned for Stockholm, where flotilla management and routes will be discussed. The intention of the organizers is for the flotilla to pass through a number of European ports, among them two in Italy (Organization website, December 19, 2011). At this point the proposed date of the flotilla is unknown.
Logo of the Italian flotilla (Organization website).
1 After his remarks were quoted by the Israeli media, Mheisen said he wanted to make it clear that he had been misunderstood and that Fatah aspired to release the prisoners by means of negotiation and not by abducting soldiers. He said that Israel’s stubbornness in releasing prisoners was liable to encourage the prisoners’ families to abduct [Israeli] soldiers to be able to release their relatives, but stressed that Fatah did not ask them to do it (Qudspress website, December 19, 2011).
2 The statistics do not include rockets and mortar shells fired which fell inside the Gaza Strip. As of date December 20, 2011.
December 21, 2011
By Lisa Bryant
As Europe’s fiscal concerns mount, relations between France and Britain are fraying as the two countries trade barbs over which economy is the worse off. The spat among historic rivals comes amid more gloomy economic forecasts out this week.
Slow growth and high debts have strained European Union ties this year, raising arguments that Europe must either bind closer together fiscally and economically, or face at least the prospect that the 17-nation eurozone might break apart. Britain – which is not part of the eurozone – made clear earlier this month it would not join a new fiscal pact championed by France and Germany.
That has strained relations with France. So have comments by French government officials – like French Finance Minister Francois Baroin.
In a recent radio interview, Baroin rejected any economic “lessons” from London. Britain’s economy was very worrying, he said, adding that it was preferable to be French right now than British.
Reports say Britain has objected to these and other French remarks. But the bottom line, says Tomasz Michalski, a professor at the HEC business school in Paris, is that both France and Britain should be worrying.
“If you look at economic figures, both France and the United Kingdom are not doing especially well,” said Michalski. “So they have high debt-to-GDP ratios – France has something which is approaching 90 percent; the UK is around 80 percent. Both are in danger of a recession. And therefore the prospects of both countries incurring more debt in the future are still large.”
Ratings agencies – including Fitch Ratings on Friday – have warned a French downgrade is looming. That would be a blow to French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s campaign for reelection next year.
“Sarkozy is very uneasy with France losing its triple A status just before the presidential elections,” said Michalski. “That’s because it would be on his watch – he would be responsible.”
In fact, the outlook for Europe as a whole is gloomy. The European Central Bank in a report on Monday predicted tough economic times in 2012, with slower economic growth and a shortage of financing for banks. But in remarks to European lawmakers, ECB President Mario Draghi downplayed fears of a breakup of the eurozone.
“I have no doubt whatsoever about the strength of the euro, about its permanence, about its irreversibility….The one [single] currency is irreversible,” Draghi said.
On Monday, European finance ministers agreed to inject $196 billion into the International Monetary Fund to help shore up struggling eurozone countries. But that sum fell short of the $261 billion European leaders agreed on earlier this month. Britain reportedly declined to contribute to the funding.
Thousands of woman marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening to call for the end of military rule in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking a female demonstrator on the pavement of Tahrir Square.
“Drag me, strip me, my brothers’ blood will cover me!” they chanted. “Where is the field marshal?” they demanded, referring to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council holding onto power here. “The girls of Egypt are here.”
The event may have been the biggest women’s demonstration in Egypt’s history, and the most significant since a 1919 march led by pioneering Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi to protest British rule. Continue reading