Jadaliyya co-editor Bassam Haddad reflects on various points surrounding the discourses that have shaped how Egypt is covered and discussed:

“Good Morning, I’m Late, But an Egypt Expert Now!”

Many commentators, on all sides of the political spectrum, come to the Egyptian scene as spectators who did not closely follow the events between 11 February 2011 and 30 June 2013. And they know much, much less about the Egyptian polity prior to 2011. Thus, judgments often proceed from a priori positions regarding false binaries such as “Islamism” vs. “secularism,” as though there is no history prior to 2011, or as though there was no record of policies to judge during Morsi’s presidency. More often than not, analyses embrace all-encompassing narratives that present Egypt as a battlefield featuring only a few actors (“Islamists vs. liberals”; “Army vs. Muslim Brotherhood”;  “Revolutionaries vs. Counter-Revolutionaries”). Such accounts effectively erase the many processes and actors that do not fit into these binary categories. As with Syria, we end up witnessing entrenched ideational/impression-based camps rather than dynamic analysis that is amenable to revision. The discourse on Egypt becomes more important than what is actually happening in Egypt. The same applies to local Egyptian media if observers are glued to one venue.

“The Brotherhood is Only a Party that Opposed Dictatorship”

Many commentators know about the Egyptian state or dictatorship under Mubarak, including its economic exploits and the marriage of money and power; concessions to, and collaboration with, Israel; and the repression of political alternatives. However, most know little about the history of the Muslim Brotherhood nor for that matter the organization’s preferences, behavior, and policies after Morsi’s election. The most egregious common mis-analysis is the jettisoning of the Muslim Brotherhood’s role in cajoling the army and re-entrenching the security state and some of its social and political corollaries under Morsi’s leadership, and before. The idea that the Brotherhood was also being used by the army (as Tamarod was) is noted. More important, however, is that there were explicit decisions by the Brotherhood/Morsi to strengthen the hand of the ancient regime and a near absence of an institutional curtailing of the security state’s power or the probability of its abuse of power. The Brotherhood, for those who only see a past of an underdog opposing authoritarian rule, is much more than and much less than that. Their social and economic record prior to 2011, notwithstanding the services they provided, is very much of a black box, or irrelevant, to many commentators and instant “experts.”

The Media’s Binary

The media have played an exceptionally delusional role inside and outside Egypt, supporting partisan narrative in their maximalist version. Unending and thorough demonization of the Muslim Brotherhood was countered by most Brotherhood supporters/defenders with utter neglect of their excesses, complicity with the army/fuloul, and transgressions, especially after 2011. Watching one or the other type of television stations (or reading one or the other publication) exclusively prejudices outcomes beyond reason. Most dangerous has been the vitriol in most liberal Egyptian media against the Muslim Brotherhood and pretty much everything they stand for today or stood for in the past. This discourse mobilized not just bodies, but minds, preparing them to anticipate, accept, and perhaps justify violent and brutal action against them. The reactionary Muslim Brotherhood equivalent about the “other” is and was at play, in media and action. Perhaps we are accustomed to it and were unmoved. Yet this reactionary equivalent of the Brotherhood pales in comparison with the institutional and coercive action-backed discourse against them.

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Bahrain’s rulers treat the country they took over approximately 230 years ago as a typical business model. To protect their investments from the people of Bahrain, they have brought in tens of thousands of Sunni mercenaries from countries such as Pakistan, Jordan, Syria, and Yemen to maintain their authoritarian hold on power. This also serves a purpose of changing the demographics of Bahrain from a Shia majority into a Sunni majority, as the regime only allows for the political naturalization of Sunnis. Through their membership in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain’s rulers have forged alliances with other Gulf monarchies, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Such alliances have shielded Bahrain from international scrutiny and accountability. Bahrainis often complain that Bahrain is not Al Khalifa’s country and Bahrainis are not their people. They accuse the rulers of treating the country they conquered by force as a privately owned money hub and do not care about the consequences of their irreversible and damaging actions.

My Parents’ Bahrain by Maryam Al-Khawaja

The poor coverage of Bahrain in Western media is nothing surprising. It would do you good if you read this heartrending account by Maryam Al-Khawaja, the acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, whose father (Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja) and sister (Zainab Al-Khawaja) are currently imprisoned for their peaceful activism. Maryam was also recently banned from entering Bahrain.

(via globalwarmist)

Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat Discusses Resumption of Peace Talks on Al Jazeera’s ‘The Stream’

In this episode of Al Jazeera’s The Stream, Jadaliyya Co-Editor Noura Erakat joins Dimi Reider, Hussein Ibish, and Gil Hoffman to discuss the significance of the resumed talks. Noura explains that returning to the negotiating table benefits the United States and Israel, and will likely result in an economic plan that incrementally improves the lives of Palestinians without altering the power dynamics at all—thus extending the shelf life of the current Palestinian leadership. She emphasizes:

[W]e shouldn’t lose sight of that what is fundamentally at issue here isn’t that Palestinians can’t govern themselves in statelet or some sort of territorial entity. The fundamental issue here is that Palestinians as a population are subject to a settler-colonial regime which deems them inferior to their Jewish Israeli counterparts.

With Our Ideas We Take Our Portrait: Reflecting on the Work of George Azar

George Azar is a Lebanese-American photographer and filmmaker who has been documenting life in the Levant since 1981. At that time he left California to photograph the Lebanese civil war with an eye to the complexity of the human experience of those events. When the first intifada began in 1987, Azar documented life in the West Bank with the same fine-grained approach. During the second intifada, Azar’s This is Palestine project moved in a different direction by focusing on what, as Darwish says, makes Palestinian life worth living.

In this collection, the second in a series of Palestinian youth commentary on photography, Palestinians who grew up in Bethlehem during the second intifada look at Azar’s photographs of their city from the first intifada and in more recent years. Comparing the first intifada with contemporary days, they recognize similar hopes and fears. They also detect changes. Azar’s work makes us wonder: What is the different resonance of a homemade flag as opposed to one produced in a factory, far away? We read here about a famous Bethlehem oven that demonstrates the creativity and work that goes into maintaining Palestinian tradition. These writings also embrace the ambiguity of images that capture Israeli violence and Palestinian steadfastness in one gesture. Together they highlight how Palestinians have refashioned their identities in the face of political trauma while maintaining a commitment to collective survival.

Click here to continue reading and for more images from the collection.

In memory of Eman Mustafa.

Last September, sixteen-year-old Eman Mustafa was walking with a friend in the village of Arab Al Kablatin Assiut, when a man groped her breasts. She turned to face him and spat in his face. He shot her dead with an automatic rifle as a price for her bravery. Mustafa’s death was an eye-opener call to those who claim that sexual violence is an urban issue. Thanks to human rights organizations and activist groups, Eman’s killer was sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2013.

Violence against women across historical, cultural, and national divides continues to be a socially accepted practice, if not a norm. In the realms of both policy and social awareness, we have collectively failed to tackle this issue with serious rigor. As a result, we seem to be witnessing an increase in sexual violence and brutality.

In Egypt, sexual harassment is widespread and touches the lives of the majority of women whether on the streets, in public transportation, or at the work place, the super market, or political protests. It is true that sexual harassment still lacks a unified definition, but it is not difficult to identify unwelcome verbal or physical sexual violation. Many Egyptians, women included, are unclear as to what constitutes sexual harassment. Others sadly, do not think it is a problem. One thing is clear though, and that is the actions of the various governments of the last thirty years have been limited to statements of regret and unmet promises.

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Anti-Imperialist Transnational Feminist Studies theorizes the US war on terror as a racialized, gendered, and sexualized imperialist war that operates through military and economic policy in order to advance and consolidate the system of capitalism. AITFS contextualizes the US war on terror within the restructuring of US domestic and foreign policy, which entailed an expansion of the conjoined heteropatriarchal, racist, and classist structures of the prison industrial complex (PIC) and the military industrial complex (MIC), both driven by the economic neo-liberalism of the late twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries. Historically, the Reagan era’s neo-liberal economic policies and the war on drugs during the decades leading up to the war on terror set this process into motion. Notably, throughout this period, the MIC has worked through a neo-liberal system in which functions of the military were increasingly transferred to bodies outside of the state, including private corporations, subcontractors, and universities. Paralleling this process, the US prison industrial complex has also undergone privatization so that nearly all prison-related service providers are for-profit companies and are sustained by a racist, classist, and heteropatriarchal criminal justice system.


From the book Dust: Egypt’s Forgotten Architecture. Photos by Xenia Nikolskaya.

This book is not about history, it is about time, and if buildings are the objective correlative of history then dust is the correlative of brute time. Let us take note that Cairo is one of the most dust-polluted cities in the world. It is impossible to beat the Cairene dust in its incessant accumulation that seems to go faster than anything else in town. Nothing can go faster than the speed of dust. (via Jadaliyya)