News Brief: Protests continue in Tahrir Square despite talks with opposition
Protests continue in Tahrir Square despite talks with opposition Pro-democracy protesters continue their demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the 14th consecutive day, despite talks that were held Sunday between the government and opposition groups. “There’s a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve, ...
Protests continue in Tahrir Square despite talks with opposition
Pro-democracy protesters continue their demonstrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square for the 14th consecutive day, despite talks that were held Sunday between the government and opposition groups. "There's a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve, but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible," said an Al Jazeera correspondent. Meanwhile, Egypt's newly appointed cabinet met today, and a Google executive, Wael Ghonim, is scheduled to be released this afternoon after having been arrested when he joined the protests in Cairo on Jan. 27. Ghonim announced on Twitter that he had been "brutally beaten up by police people."
Protests continue in Tahrir Square despite talks with opposition
Pro-democracy protesters continue their demonstrations in Cairo’s Tahrir Square for the 14th consecutive day, despite talks that were held Sunday between the government and opposition groups. “There’s a lot of popular public sentiments in Cairo and wider Egypt regarding what those protesters are trying to achieve, but at the same time, people are trying to get back to live as normal lives as possible,” said an Al Jazeera correspondent. Meanwhile, Egypt’s newly appointed cabinet met today, and a Google executive, Wael Ghonim, is scheduled to be released this afternoon after having been arrested when he joined the protests in Cairo on Jan. 27. Ghonim announced on Twitter that he had been “brutally beaten up by police people.”
In attempts to end the country’s crisis, Omar Suleiman — Egypt’s new vice president — began to hold meetings with six opposition groups on Saturday, including with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood downplayed its talks with the vice president, reiterating that it would continue to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. “We cannot call it talks or negotiations,” said Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a member of the Brotherhood. “The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned … that [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase.” In an interview with NBC, Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei says he was not invited to take part in the government’s talks with opposition groups, calling the process “opaque” and saying that “nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage.”
U.S. President Obama told the American network Fox on Sunday that the Muslim Brotherhood is only one faction in Egypt — and that the Egyptian people would not allow a repressive regime to fill Mubarak’s seat. “But here’s the thing that we have to understand,” said President Obama. “There are a whole bunch of secular folks in Egypt; there a whole bunch of educators and civil society in Egypt that want to come to the fore as well. So it’s important for us not to say that our only two options are either the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed people.”
Anti-government demonstrators rest in front an Egyptian army tank in Tahrir Square on February 7, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. The protesters want the army to stay in the square, as protection against government supporters. Almost two weeks since the uprising began, thousands of protesters continue to occupy the square, demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak (John Moore/Getty Images.
Arguments & Analysis
‘We could experience an Arab Spring’ (Mohamed ElBaradei, Der Spiegel)
The German daily Der Spiegel sits down with Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei to discuss the ongoing situation in Egypt, what the opposition is demanding, and steps going forward. One important exchange:
SPIEGEL: Do you see any parallels between the toppling of the regimes in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989 and the ongoing popular uprisings in the Arab world?
ElBaradei: Absolutely. Both are major, historic breaks. What’s currently playing out in the Arab world — from Tunisia all the way to Yemen — resembles a wildfire. I have no doubt that the transition in Egypt will be accompanied by a transition in the entire Middle East. We could experience an Arab Spring …
SPIEGEL: … which hopefully won’t end as tragically as the Prague Spring of 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops violently suppressed political liberalization in Czechoslovakia. The Israelis seem more worried than anyone.
ElBaradei: There are a few myths that Mubarak has successfully disseminated in the West and in Israel. First, that if he falls, there will be immediate chaos. Second, that if Egypt transitions into a democracy, the peace treaty with Israel will be annulled and we will be on the verge of entering into a new war in the Middle East. And, third, that if there is a transformation, an ayatollah à la Iran will take over in Cairo. All of that is nonsense.
SPIEGEL: Does that mean you can’t sympathize with people’s nervousness about Egyptian Islamists?
ElBaradei: I don’t think like the Muslim Brotherhood, and I don’t share their conservative religious ideology. Incidentally, they are not a majority; instead they have the potential to win about 20 percent of the Egyptian vote. Nor do they have ties with al-Qaida. They have sworn off violence and agreed to play by democratic rules.
‘Egypt shows there can be no stability without dignity’ (Tony Karon, The National)
The author discusses the broader lessons of the Egyptian protests for U.S. policy in the region writ large. Bottom line: “That the foreign policy of an Egyptian democracy would be independent of and often at odds with Washington will certainly be a problem for the US foreign policy establishment — just as Turkey’s similar shift has been. A democratic Egypt would be less willing to tolerate, much less enable Israel’s dispossession and humiliation of the Palestinians. But what Tahrir Square has shown is that there can be no stability in the Middle East without Arab dignity. Rather than hoping to find continuity via a new strongman to succeed Mr Mubarak, the US and its allies might be better advised to rethink outmoded understandings and expectations of the Arab peoples.”
‘Israel and Palestine: Breaking the Silence’ (David Shulman, New York Review of Books)
The author describes the ongoing situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories and whether a two-state solution is still in the cards given the trajectory of each sides’ respective strategy (occasioned by new books from al-Quds Univesrity President Sari Nusseibeh and the Israeli NGO ‘Breaking the Silence’). “This is no ordinary blindness”, notes the author regarding Israel’s own culpability in the conflict,
…it is a sickness of the soul that takes many forms, from a dull but superficial apathy to the silence and passivity of ordinary, decent people, to the malignant forms of racism and protofascist nationalism that are becoming more and more evident and powerful in today’s Israel, including segments of the present government. I suppose that to acknowledge these facts is too demoralizing, and too laden with potential guilt, for most of us. Often it seems that we will do anything-even risk catastrophic war-to avoid having to look our immediate neighbors in the face, to peel away the mythic mask. Palestinian violence over many years has made it easier for Israelis to make this choice, but it is important to bear in mind that it is, indeed, exactly that, a choice. There is a clear alternative-clearer today than ever before. In the history of this conflict, Israelis have by no means had a monopoly on blindness, but they are the party with by far the largest freedom of action and the greatest potential to bring about serious change.
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