The week in brief, 31 January – 06 February 2011 – a summary of recent postings

February 5, 2011
Richard Kuper

jfjfpThe week has been overwhelmingly dominated by developments in Egypt where all too much of the Israeli and Jewish reaction has been dominated by that hoary old question “Is it good for the Jews?” In his posting Liberating the Egyptians and Softening Our Hardened Hearts Jeremiah Haber reflects on Jewish ambivalence about the Egyptian events: “if the price to pay for a Jewish state is acquiescing in tyranny and injustice for reasons of realpolitik – as Israel did with apartheid South Africa – then arguably that price is too high…”

We’ve tried to keep the number of posts on the events in Egypt down to a bare minimum, but it has been hard. The events are of such crucial significance not only for Egypt but for the whole of the Middle East and North Africa – and probably for the rest of us, too.

During the course of the week we’ve linked to all the following :
* Tony Karon (of the Rootless Cosmopolitan blog) now writes regularly for Time magazine where his What the U.S. Loses if Mubarak Goes appeared. Written after the first five days of street protests, he reflects insightfully on US, Israeli and Palestinian reactions, El Baradei, the Muslim Brotherhood and more;
* Ahmed Shawki, editor of International Socialist Review reports enthusiastically straight from Cairo on the mass demonstrations that shifted the balance away from the violence of the regime;
* Jack Shenker in the Guardian writes about the emerging demands of the movement;
* Uri Avnery argues powerfully that what is happening now in Egypt will change our lives; while
* Palestinian Israeli novelist Sayed Kashua, in a bittersweet piece, argues that when it comes to Arabs, Israel knows only what it wants to;
* Antony Lerman looks at the inadequacy of media reporting on developments in Egypt, and the general absence of context; he also notes the often “flaky” responses by the US and the EU;
* JfJfP issued a brief statement of solidarity;
* The Middle East Report Online provides much needed background analysis in its Now it’s Egypt’s turn; Into Egypt’s Uncharted Territory responds to ongoing developments;
* Ahdaf Soueif’s reports movingly from Cairo in her Comment-is-Free piece, The Egyptian regime has turned its thugs loose again …
* JNews carries an early evaluation of the regional significance of the upheavals in Israel and Palestine in a new Middle East?,
* Eyal Clyne asks Why Israelis aren’t thrilled by the prospect of a democratic Egypt;
* Zvi Bar-el, in an early response to events says we need a revolution in the way the West views the region;
* Barak Ravid reports that Israel’s immediate reaction was to seek “to convince its allies that it is in the West’s interest to maintain the stability of the Egyptian regime”; while
* Gideon Levy argues that The Egyptian masses won’t play ally to Israel. He wrote uncompromisingly at the earliest stage: “If there’s one thing shared by all factions of the Egyptian opposition, it is their seething hatred of Israel… A real alliance with Egypt and its sister-states can only be based on the end of the occupation, as desired by the Egyptian people, and not on a common enemy, as an interest of its regime.”

Other news this week

Ameer Makhoul, director of Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, based in Haifa and a human-rights activist, was goaled by Israel for nine years for alleged espionage. A ‘confession’ obtained while Makhoul was held incommunicado and probably tortured was admitted in court; the information allegedly conveyed by Ameer Makhoul was publicly available (under the Israeli penal code, people can be charged with “espionage” even if the information passed onto an “enemy agent” is publicly known…)

Some American Jews are losing it completely as witnessed by the blatantly fascist behaviour of right-wing Zionists in Los Angeles who have declared open season on Estee Chandler, head of the local branch of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). They certainly can’t be happy about a sympathetic article on JVP in the  New York Times describing its work and its support for the popular movement in Egypt: “Hundreds of people, mostly Arab-Americans, are expected to gather Saturday in downtown San Francisco to support anti-government protests in Egypt, and a large contingent of Jews representing a Bay Area peace-advocacy group will join them, one of its leaders says….” The Reut Institute, for example, sees the Bay Area as “one of the very few geographic locations that drive a global assault on Israel’s right to exist.”

Last week the Jewish Chronicle ran an editorial “Guardian’s shame”. Apparently its behaviour, in how it presented the Palestine Papers, was “even by its own often disreputable standards over Israel… simply shocking”. This week the Guardian replies – and the JC continues its private war.

Finally, acclaimed writer/director Peter Kosminsky has produced a four-part drama series, The Promise, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as seen through the eyes of two Britons from different eras. It screens from Sunday 6th Feb on Channel 4. We link to an interview with Kosminsky published in the Jewish Chronicle, headlined in their summary of the week’s articles as “How the British lost their love for the Jews of Israel”.

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