Egypt and Tunisia – The Power of Prediction

February 14, 2011 by David Singer
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The West has been caught with its pants down following the popular revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia during the past month. I wonder why.

There was plenty of evidence floating around to indicate that Egypt and Tunisia were repressive states where human rights abuses were the order of the day and people power was set to explode.

Rather the West preferred to avert its gaze and focus its concentration on alleged human rights abuses carried out by Israel – the only true democracy in the Middle East – to the total exclusion of subjecting.dynastic Arab dictators to the same scrutiny. Iran was shamefully allowed to retain its membership of the United Nations and strut the world stage calling for the destruction of Israel to the applause of these dictators.

Trade unions, church groups and human rights organizations led the chorus of campaigns and campaigners to boycott Israel and delegitimize its right to recognition as the Jewish National Home – whilst abuses of human rights in Arab countries never rated a mention on their radar screens.

The terrorist government of Hamas in Gaza  democratically elected  to power by the choice of the West Bank and Gazan Arabs – and removed by Presidential decree of Mahmoud Abbas – became the focus of the world’s sympathy as the Gazan Arabs became dragged into confrontation with Israel and the Palestinian Authority by a Government they had freely elected.

That the mayhem in Gaza was the direct result of their own voting decisions seemed inconsequential as the West sent in flotillas and demanded an easing of the blockade instituted by Israel and Egypt.

Meanwhile hundreds of millions of Arabs in other countries suffered ongoing abuse and persecution perpetrated by rulers those populations were never given the opportunity to elect – or reject. Were any protests made for their redemption or flotillas sent to their aid?

The banning of blogging and web sites on the Internet in 2009 in Arab countries was allowed to happen without any whimper of international protest – as contrasted to the outrage this repressive practice has hypocritically – and belatedly – received in 2011.

The UN Human Rights Council (with Egypt as a member) led the howling pack against Israel whilst serious human rights abuses in Arab countries were ignored, America sought engagement with this outrageous organization rather than identifying and isolating it as an affront to human dignity.

In December 2009 I wrote about a highly critical Report that came out of Cairo indicating in detail the human rights abuses occurring in many Arab countries – including Egypt and Tunisia.

I guess all the advisers to Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers, as well as the Gaza do-gooders – not to mention the media – had enough information and stage managed events being spoon fed to them to lambast Israel and allow these Arab dictators to continue on their merry way unchallenged and uncriticised in the face of this very comprehensive report. The silence following its release was deafening.

We are all going to pay the price for the chaos and suffering that must now inevitably occur.

The new buzzwords “orderly transition” are meaningless. They may have been relevant fourteen months ago had the fundamental concerns in this report been addressed then using a modicum of the time and diplomatic pressure spent in exerting pressure on Israel.  But the genie has now been let out of the bottle as events of the last month in Egypt and Tunisia have proved.

My article is reprinted below for your reading.


Arab Human Rights Abuses Uncovered In Explosive Report

Saturday, December 12, 2009

“A man spends his first years learning how to speak and the Arab regimes teach him silence for the rest of his life” Algerian writer Ahlem Mosteghanemi, “Memory in the Flesh”
The above quote forms the backdrop to an explosive report titled “Bastion of Impunity, Mirage of Reform” released this week by the Cairo Institute For Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) on the state of human rights in the Arab World for 2009.

Given the Report’s contents and the existence of CIHRS as a non government organization since 1993 –  one wonders how it has managed to survive to continue its valuable work openly in Egypt exposing human rights abuses in the Arab World.

Perhaps the reason can be found in the associations CIHRS has built up over the years with other human rights organizations around the world that has now enabled it to produce this second comprehensive annual report in which it notes the worsening of human rights in the Arab world since 2008..

The CHIRS web site describes these associations as follows:

“CIHRS enjoys consultative status with the United Nations ECOSOC, and observer status in the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. CIHRS is also a member of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). CIHRS is registered in Egypt, France and Geneva, has its main offices in Cairo, an office in Geneva for its work at UN human rights mechanisms and an institutional presence in Paris. CIHRS was awarded the French Republic Award for Human Rights in December 2007. “

The Report notes that in the Arab world in 2009

“Human rights defenders and advocates of democratic reforms were targeted for various threats and acts of repression.”

The Report cites Syria as the worst offender, describes Tunisia as a “Police State” and includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan as sanctioning state authorized acts of repression against human rights defenders.  It lists a large number of specific individual cases and actions taken in these countries to support its claims.

The report is particularly revealing about three of the six Arab countries that currently sit on the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) – Bahrain, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia – a body that spends most of its time and discussions on condemning human rights abuses committed by Israel.

Saudi Arabia is exposed as having no independent media and according to the Report

“… it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of internet websites are blocked. Some Saudi bloggers were subjected to arbitrary arrest, and one Saudi citizen was sentenced to five years in prison and 1,000 lashes on charges of publicly proclaiming a sin, following statements he made on a program carried by a Lebanese satellite channel…

… remains dangerous for human rights defenders and advocates of reform. Authorities refuse to grant legal status to the few human rights organizations that exist in the Kingdom and many reformers have been detained for long periods of time without trial and tortured. An Islamist reform activist was sentenced to a prison term for opposing government policies, and several rights defenders were banned from travel.

… a great many people detained in connection with terrorism cases were subjected to physical and psychological torture, including cuffing, beatings, sleep deprivations, and the denial of family visits. Some people detained for their advocacy of political reform were also tortured.”

Bahrain – according to the Report:

“… continued to block political, news, and advocacy websites, as well as online forums. In a space of just three months in early 2009, more than 70 websites were blocked, among them online newspaper sites. Lawsuits were filed against journalists on charges ranging from slandering officials to undermining the judicial authority to harming national unity…

…Torture remains a routine practice in Bahrain, used especially against activists in social and political movements seeking an end to the institutionalized discrimination against Shiites; several human rights defenders were also tortured.”

Egypt has been in a state of emergency for the last 28 years and according to the Report:

“The greatest infringements of freedom of expression in Egypt were seen in the broad attacks launched by the security apparatus on bloggers and internet activists, dozens of whom were placed under administrative detention, abducted, or temporarily taken to undisclosed locations, usually State Security police headquarters; some have been detained for more than two years without charge or trial….

… continued to top the list of countries in which torture is routinely and systematically practiced. In 2009 Egyptian authorities used torture not only against those accused of political crimes or terrorism, but also against adherents of minority religions such as Shiites as well as suspects of criminal offences. Indeed, the threat of torture hangs over anyone who steps foot in a police station, whether to give a statement or file an assault charge, or   pursuant to a summons by an officer, who might discipline or abuse citizens on behalf of influential persons.”

The Report comments as follows on the consequences of the split governance by Hamas in Gaza and by Fateh in the West Bank :

“Under the cover of the war in Gaza, Hamas embarked on several repressive measures targeting Fateh members, figures who oppose Hamas’ rule, and suspected collaborators with Israel, and it is suspected that dozens of people were killed, either shot to death or as a result of torture. Hamas personnel also broke the legs and arms of dozens of other people to compel them to stay in their homes. Also, some government employees in Gaza were replaced with Hamas loyalists.

In the West Bank, under the authority of Fatah, hundreds of Hamas sympathizers remain in detention; it is thought that at least two of the detainees have died as a result of torture. The West Bank authorities fired civil servants and teachers suspected of Hamas sympathies, while the salaries of thousands of employees of the Palestinian authority inside the Gaza Strip were suspended. Licensing for associations and companies in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is now preceded by a security check,and those organizations that have affiliations with the “wrong” party are refused Licenses.”
Few of the 22 members of the Arab League are spared criticism in the Report which should be required reading for anyone interested in seeing some balance restored in any deliberations regarding the numerous and ongoing conflicts in the region.

No doubt this Report will not even rate any serious review or investigation by the UNHCR.

Whilst the Arab man in the street is prevented from expressing his opinion freely and without fear – the Arab world shall continue to present the monolithic Arab view of those few repressive regimes who rule to the detriment of the rest of the populations they rule over.

Such is the state of denial that the world currently finds itself in where the Arab world is concerned.

David Singer is a Sydney Lawyer and Foundation Member of the International Analysts Network


4 Responses to “Egypt and Tunisia – The Power of Prediction”
  1. david singer says:

    To Stewart Mills

    The questions you pose should be directed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) .which I have reiterated on more than one occasion rules the daily lives of 95% of the West Bank Arab population and Hamas which rules the daily lives of 100% of the Gazan Arab population.

    Your only response to this claim is that it lacks objectivity. What does that mean? It is a statement of fact. Tell me where I have got it wrong. Is this what Oslo provided or was it not?

    The PA and Hamas are responsible for the well being, advancement and welfare of their populations – not Israel, How they go about achieving this in their respective fiefdoms is their business.

    Arbitrary arrests and detention,torture,murder of prisoners ,arbitrary trials, honour killings, murder of Palestinians selling land to Jews, are all features of life in these Palestinian fiefdoms. Of course I feel sorry for those subjected to this abuse of their human rights but these offences are being committed by Palestinian against Palestinian as Hamas and the Palestinian Authority continue their internecine struggle for power.

    Have you ever shown the slightest concern other than to wrongfully blame Israel for this sorry state of affairs?

    Oslo gave the Palestinians a chance for a better life. Israel’s evacuation from Gaza in 2005 gave them even greater hope . In their euphoria they elected Hamas to power for which they are suffering the consequences of their poor decision. Thousands of rockets and missiles lobbing into Israeli civilian population centers is hardly the way to win friends and influence people. They have well and truly blown it after 17 years of fruitless negotiations – as they have done so often since 1937.

    Now they refuse to negotiate at all. That is their perfect right – but in my opinion it is a dumb decision.

    The future destiny of the West Bank and Gazan Arab populations will be determined by the leaders they elect. I hope they make better choices than those who presently lead them – if and when they get another chance to have their say,

  2. David, it is not too difficult to understand the actions of those like me. What hope do people in my situation have for bringing about change in Egypt, North Korea, Sudan or China if a mixed democracy like Israel, and a nation with strong Western support, is not even open to substantial change? In order to make a better argument for other tyrannical regimes is it not sensible for us to be able to prove ‘we’ have our own house in order? For over 4 decades Israel has been asked to leave the territories. But instead the the West Bank has been settled and despite Israel’s agreement to a two state solution Israel has tripled settler numbers. How is that showing good faith? How are settlers undermining peace for a new generations of Israelis and Palestinians?

    The principle I work on is act within circles of influence that I am a part of or I have been personally touched by. My experience living in Israel and visiting Palestine impacted me, hence my concern for peace and security for all parties. I was a volunteer in a Jewish-Israeli-Palestinian-Israeli village Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam. As a person who grew up in regional NSW and saw how Aboriginal people were talked about by European Australians it was plainly obvious to me on my experience in Israel of history repeating itself. As Australians we have a responsibility to ensure the mistakes made by Europeans is not made by other Europeans in another part of the world (not forgetting the Mizrahi who also open to making the same mistakes as Europeans when it comes to the control of land and people).

    David, your assertions that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have 100% or 95% political and civil rights lacks any objectivity. Just go through the ICCPR article by article:

    How is a Palestinians right to self-determination being met by occupation? How are they free to pursue their economic, social and cultural development? (article 1).

    How are Palestinians discriminated by race, religion, political or social origin? (Article 2) How is it that there are vast amounts of roads in the West Bank that prohibit other human beings to travel on them because of their nationality status? How is it that there are different laws for different people? Why is it that there are one set of laws for people who build so-called illegal buildings and there are another set of laws for another people who also build illegal buildings?

    What evidence is there of the arbitrary taking of life of PAlestinians (Article 6); the torture of Palestinians (article 7)?

    What evidence is there of arbitrary arrest and detention (Article 9)?
    What evidence is there of those detained to be treated with humanity (Article 10)?
    How is the right to freedom of movement being denied to Palestinians (Article 12)?
    How are Palestinians denied from arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country (Article 12)?

    How are Palestinians denied a fair trial (Article 14)?
    How are Palestinians subjected to unlawful or arbitrary interference with their privacy, family or home (Article 17)?
    How are Palestinians rights to marriage impacted (Article 23)?
    How are PAlestinians children right to acquire a nationality impinged (Article 24)?
    How are Palestinians missing the opportunity to genuine, periodic, free and fair elections (Article 25)?
    How are Palestinians denied equal protection before the law (Article 26)?

    David, I strongly urge you to reconsider your minimalist or denialist approach to the situation of the Palestinians. I for one acknowledge the trauma that the Jewish community has gone through for millenia. I acknowledge the blight on the human record that is the Shoah. I acknowledge the acts of violence that have been committed against Jews in British-mandate Palestine and in post 1948 Israel. I acknowledge the threats that Israel faces given its geographic setting.

    Sadly, but, David I do not hear from you any empathy towards the plight of the Palestinian people. Who were the 90% of the population at the time of Balfour? What contradictory promises were made by the British to that 90% of humans in the region who were not Jewish? Why would Palestinian Arabs have feared and opposed mass European Jewish immigration in the 1920s-30s? Why would Palestinian Arabs have opposed partitioning the state? Why would Palestinian Arabs have fought back? What can be done today to provide dignity, respect, justice and security to the people of Palestine and Israel?

  3. david singer says:

    To Stewart Mills

    Your failure to condemn the world for its silence on the suppression of political and civil rights in Arab countries is puzzling.

    When did the UN Human Rights Council pass any resolution about such oppression in Egypt or any of the other Arab States now collapsing under the pressure of people power for those rights to be given to them?

    Didn’t the rights denied to 200 million Arabs justify some action or international protest?

    Focusing on Israel to virtually the total exclusion of those Arab States has enabled dictators to sit back and continue to deny their citizens’ political and civil rights that should be available to all people.

    For your information once again – as you have ignored these facts before :-
    1. the political and civil rights of 100% of Gaza’s population are determined by the laws of Gaza and its Hamas Government
    2. the political and civil rights of 95% of the West Bank Arab population are determined by the laws of the areas administered by the Palestinian Authority under agreements reached with Israel pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

  4. David, during the 1980s the US Republicans were split about how to respond to Apartheid South Africa.

    On the one hand there was Reagan and his faithful who were against boycott and divestment of Apartheid South Africa. There were 4 main reasons why this group were against boycott: strategic minerals that South Africa possessed, South Africa ‘was its only friend in the region’ in the fight against communism, a boycott would hurt black South Africans and lastly inconsistency as there were far worse examples of tyranny in the world [think of what the eg Soviets had been doing].

    The arguments used by those against BDS are analagous to the one’s used against the limited boycott of settlement [which Gush Shalom has supported for over a decade] and the general boycott of Israel. It is this last argument, ie inconsistency given the greater tyranny occurring elsewhere, that you have used in your article.

    South Africa was identified as being vulnerable to an international boycott. That is why it was chosen as a tactic to put pressure on the White South African Government to end Apartheid. A boycott against the Soviet Union would have little impact; just as the US BDS program towards Cuba had little result. Naomi Klein argued in favour of a boycott against Israel purely because it would have an impact; and G_d willing would bring about a change that would allow the people of Palestine and Israel to live together as neighbours in the land.

    In the end the majority of Republican’s rejected the anti-boycott arguments and in a rare act overturned a Republican presidential veto on a foreign policy issue. This put in place the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act 1986 which symbolised the beginning of the end of Apartheid in South Africa. For without US and European support South Africa was vulnerable and had to put in place civil and political rights for all citizens under its control not just for some.

    This is the state that Uri Avnery, Gisha, B’Tselem and Rabbis for Human Rights is working for.

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