Check out my translation of Salaama Ahmed Salaama’s piece “Barren American Policies” on the FPA Egypt blog here.
Here’s an interesting article by Nathan Field discussing what is going on in Gaza right now and its implications for Egypt and the region. I think in regards to Egypt it is especially interesting to note the differences between what the Egyptian government does i.e. Hamas and Israel, how the Egyptian people feel about it, and what the Arab media is saying about it.
Despite what is going on in Israel and Gaza right now, I recently came across this video by an Egyptian graduate of Seeds of Peace, a wonderful and important program of which I had the fortune to be able to be a part. It’s always nice to have a little bit of hope.
This is a little bit of a backtrack, but I had wanted to write about this before and did not have a chance to, and just found this article about it in English.
In a water-shed case an Egyptian man was convicted to three years in jail for sexually harassing a woman on the street, something which happens all of the time but is rarely talked about and for which people are rarely held accountable. This case got significant media attention, and has likely encouraged the government’s beginning to deal with the problem. For a bit more info on this check out this Foreign Policy Blog post here.
Some highlights from the article:
“Lawyer Nabih al-Wahash has issued a lawsuit against Rushdi, calling for her arrest for harming national security and lying about her attacker. He argues that Rushdi is Israeli and is attempting to undermine the sentiments of the country.”
“Nagla’a Imam, a lawyer who initially came out in vocal support of Rushdi, is now saying that the 27-year-old filmmaker is an Israeli who is attempting to tarnish Egypt and is using the case for her own personal gains.”
This is another example of disgusting Egyptian anti-Israel sentiment. Not only that, but these accusers are completely ignoring the essential problem, which is rampant sexual harassment in Egyptian society.
I think I have mentioned before how popular conspiracy theories are in Egypt. Frankly, I am getting a little tired of hearing them. It’s not only that I find most of them offensive on many levels as well as completely unrealistic, but that a lot of people here really truly believe them. They do not question these ideas. There is no academic or rational reflection.
So I try not to get into these conversations these days if I don’t have to, but the guy in the book store down the street said to me today “oh, you are American? Do you think Bin Laden was the one who brought down the towers?” He said that it did not make sense for Bin Laden to do this because he was a wealthy man, so why would he leave his riches and go live in the mountains? In addition, it is not in Bin Laden’s مصلحة, or interest.
And guess who’s interests it is in? America’s, because they do not have an enemy after the fall of the Soviet Union, “so they bring the towers,” and according to him, it’s as simple as that. In addition, surprise surprise, it’s in the Jews interest, because in order for Israel to survive there needs to be conflict in the Middle East. He said that if there is peace in the Middle East, then all the Jews will return to the countries from which they originally came (including Egypt) because they will not need Israel to protect them any longer. I really did not get that one.
I asked this guy where he got all of these ideas from, and he said “I read it in a book!”
I just happened upon this post from a blog called Khaldoun which comments on Middle East politics, culture, and media. It is a letter which was supposedly sent out by Dr. James Zogby, president and founder of the Arab-American Instistute.
From the blog: “It’s a thoughtful article by James Zogby about how the Arab world should interpret Obama’s appointment of Rahm Emanuel.”
I am going to be doing some blogging for the Foreign Policy Association’s Egypt Blog.
This is the url: http://egypt.foreignpolicyblogs.com/. My first post is titled : Egypt’s Exporting of Gas to Israel not Likely to Change.
If you were an American wandering the streets of Cairo these days, you might be asked the following questions upon meeting Egyptians:
1. Where are you from?
2. What is your religion?
3. What is your name?
4. What do you think of Obama?
5. What do you think of Israel?
6. What do you think of Bush?
7. What do you think about the invasion of Iraq?
8. Can you teach me English?
So a friend on campus told me two interesting pieces of news today that I thought you all might like to hear. The first is that he overheard two Egyptians speaking at the US Embassy about how the Jews caused the financial crisis. It must be true, because Hamas thinks so as well. The second is that the Israel lobby is blocking the bailout of GM. Just thought you should know.
I am going to stop numbering my “Gym Talks” because I foresee there will be many more to come.
A couple of guys in the gym asked me today what I thought of Obama. I won’t go through it here but I basically said that I like him although I do not think he is perfect (unlike some other people I know). Anyway, I asked them what they thought. One guy, pointing to his skin, said that Obama being elected was a big deal because brown people in the United States usually cannot be in higher jobs than white people. I explained that although there is racism in the US, we have Black, White, Asian, Arab, etc. presidents of companies, universities, etc. etc. I agreed however that having a Black president is a big deal.
Their biggest complaint about Obama was that they 1. “think that he is going to do things just for the Jews” and 2. “heard that he is biased towards Israel.” One of them mentioned Rahm Emanuel’s appointment in passing. I’ll be honest, the music was really loud, and one guy had a speech impediment, so I didn’t catch everything they were saying. From what I could tell though, they didn’t really go into much detail about their opinion or what they heard. I would venture to guess this is because they don’t really know why they think that Obama is biased towards Israel, and if he is why that might be. These guys are not dumb, but they don’t read The New York Times every day either (that is not a shot at The New York Times, it’s just an example).
I asked what they thought about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general. They said what I hear most Egyptians say, which is that it will never end. We continued talking and they told me that there are good Israelis and bad Israelis just like there are good Egyptians and bad Egyptians, but that the governments are the ones that cause all of the problems because they say one thing and do another. In addition, they agreed with a two state solution.
I am not sure where the idea about race relations in the US came from, but I sure know where the ideas about Obama came from, because as many people have pointed out, the whole Arab world is distraught over Rahm Emanuel’s appointment. They see it as a death sentence for a Palestinian state. And the majority of news and opinion I hear here completely disregard anything else about Emanuel’s personality, experience, or qualification for the job.
I understand people’s concerns vis-à-vis Emanuel and Israel, but I do not think there is evidence that he is going to be bad for the Arab side. He played an important role at Oslo. And as I have said many times before, just because someone is pro-Israel does not mean that he does not believe in a Palestinian state.
The fixation with everything Israel and Zionist in the Arab media gets really frustrating. I have no problem with reporting on the closure of Gaza or on Israeli raids into the West Bank or whatever. These are things that are happening and they are important to people in this region. But the constant discussion of these issues at the expense of sometimes more important ones and the lack of balance in the sharing of opinions is really tiring.