Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fatuousness in Cairo

Phil Weiss will probably soon travel back to New Jersey and interest me less than he has this week, but for the meanwhile he continues to purvey high quality silliness from Cairo. It has been most helpful in getting a feel for the roots of the man's positions and those of his ilk.

Here's his most recent column. The quandary this time is whether to send 100 demonstrators to Gaza, as the Egyptians have allowed, or not.
Over the last week, as the international marchers arrived in Egypt, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry made it very clear that it did not want them going into Gaza, and it would arrest them short of that goal. But these 1400 are not tourists or milquetoasts, they are activists; and they were not going to be stopped by any old Ministry, even the ministry of a police state.
Awesome. Then the Epyptian said some could go, but most not.
Over the next 4 hours I witnessed agony and torment, and said a secret blessing that I had not tried to get on the buses last night. A crowd of those opposed to the 100 stood outside barricades set up around the buses and shouted "All or none!" and "Get off the Bus!" It turned out that they had many confederates among the 100 who boarded the buses– confederates who at a signal marched off the buses, some giving heroic speeches.

The people staying on the buses leaned out the doors to say that the Gazans wanted them to come so as to to join their march to the Israeli border on the 31st. But they wavered. Indeed, you saw some of the most resolute activists on the planet—Bernardine Dohrn, the law professor and former member of the Weather Underground; Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada; and Donna Mulhearn, an Australian woman who was a human shield during the beginning of he Iraq war, board the bus and get it off it, and then board it again and get off it, and on and on.

Weathermen, huh? Maybe these demonstrators are a wee bit more sinister than they let on. Here, I thought they were thoughtful people who've been carefully weighing the facts and trying to do the right thing in a complicated situation, while unfortunately reading too many counter-factual reports and so getting into the wrong positions.

Abunimah, who had been roughed up by security at the American Embassy yesterday, told me it was the hardest decision he’d ever had to make. It was an individual decision, he had no clarity on it, and no one could tell you what to do, and he respected the decisions of all parties. Mulhearn said that going to Iraq in 2003 had been easy compared to this; for that choice was in the face of physical danger and she would take that any day, this was in the face of moral doubt.

Moral doubt, yeah, that's hard. Fortunately most of us manage to get through life without much of it, and even then rarely on the level of actually getting on a bus to demonstrate. That must have been tough.

Dohrn said that the principle of "All or none" was a miserable one for activist politics. You always took what you could get and kept fighting for more. A European man in a red keffiyeh screamed at her that she was serving the fascisti. Her partner Bill Ayers gently confronted him and asked him why he was so out of control. Between getting on and off the bus, Dohrn, who wore a flower in her hair, said that she didn’t like the absolutist certainty of the people on the other side of the police barricades, and having been in the Weather Underground, she knew something about absolutist feeling.

Dohrn. Ayers. Now wait. I've seen those names somewhere. Israel must be doing something right if these are her enemies.

Yet I remind readers that good things are arising from this experience. The Americans, who are so conditioned to living with the Israel lobby, as an abused wife to her battering husband, are being exposed to a more adamant politics—we are having a rendezvous with the Freedom Riders. For another thing, our direct actions and demonstrations seem to be awaking Egypt, a little, and getting a lot of publicity. Helen Schiff told me that the front page of an official government newspaper today said, "Mubarak to Netanyahu: Lift the siege and end the suffering of the Palestinian people." We gave him that line! she said. A longtime civil rights activist, Helen told me it’s "fabulous" what happened, we are achieving more in Cairo than we would if we had gotten into Gaza.

Freedom Riders. Now that's an admirable role model, we can certainly agree on that. Young citizens willing to be arrested, beaten up, and indeed to risk their lives in a very real way, so as to heal their society of its worst affliction. That's quite a mantle Phil's claiming, isn't it. And note also that the demonstrators have been handing Mubarak his lines! (But not enough to have him let them travel to Gaza).

So there’s a tumultuous and ascendant feeling here tonight, in the little hotels that we have to meet in to make our plans. I can feel the spirit of the Freedom Riders and of the abolitionists, who fought the limits on freedom of movement of black people for so long in my country. As for the divisions, and bitterness, I think they will go away. A European friend advised me tonight that those who take the Palestinian side will find that they share somewhat in the Palestinian experience. They will experience isolation, division, bitterness, failure, contempt, manipulation. Surely not on the scale of the Palestinians; still, they will experience some of those things, and they will grow from them.

Freedom Riders move over, it's the abolitionists now. Of course, these brave folks will of course be called upon to endure great suffering in the little hotel rooms they've got to meet in, but that's how it is with the movers and shakers of history and justice.

There's something almost endearing, in a wistful sort of way, about the way Phil Weiss (and his readers) seek the confirmation of historical greatness. No, he's not Martin Luther King, of course (who is? Khaled Meshaal perhaps?). Yet if he can be a foot-soldier and chronicler of the Movement, that will satisfy him. As long as his grandchildren or theirs look back at him someday with awe for his far-sightedness and bravery.

Actually, I know the feeling, and that's what makes Phil Wiess so weird. He could easily join us.


Avi said...

As the nasty Zionist controlled Egyptians won't let the dedicated protesters show solidarity with the poor Palestinians in Gaza, why don't representatives of "good on earth" turn their faces to the east and go and show solidarity with the oppressed of Iran?

Obviously they would have a problem deciding who to support. Would they be for the murderous regime who opens fire on its own citizens who demand freedom or or for the dupes of the Zionist lobby illegally campaigning against the supreme religious leader?

There are none so blind as those who can not see, especially if their own ego blots out reality.

Barry Meislin said...

I propose that in the spirit of the season of goodwill and peace towards all men and women and animals and plants (with the exception, to be fair, of Zionists) all over the globe and throughout the universe, that we give all these lovely people the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are going to Gaza to:

1. Persuade Hamas to stop threatening to destroy the Zionist Entity.
2. Persuade Hamas that throwing their political opponents off rooftops is not cool.
3. Persuade Hamas that kneecapping and torturing their political opponents is not good manners (see point 2).
4. Persuade Hamas that if they have to shell Israeli targets, they should try to shell military targets only.
5. Persuade Hamas that while stockpiling rockets and missiles for the next round of hostilities against Israel is perfectly understandable, they should make an effort to store them in and launch them from other than residential areas.
6. Persuade Hamas to try to avoid boobytrapping Gaza schools, etc.
7. Persuade Hamas that running a totalitarian society might have some drawbacks.
8. Persuade Hamas that there is such a thing as truth and that it just might set one free.

Yes, I have a dream!!

(On second thought, I must be quite as delusional as those lovely people....)

Anonymous said...

Dohrn and Ayers are also friends of the Obamas. Ayers was the ghost writer for Obama's book "Dreams From My Father"

Morey Altman said...

"All or none" is a perfect slogan. Since the beginning of this conflict, the Arabs have always demanded 100% and nothing less, and this has resulted in loss after loss. There could have been a Palestinian state in 1948 (and before) but it wan't good enough. Why? because it wasn't the WHOLE Mandate. After the war, Israel offered compensation and a right of return to 100,000 Palestinians (an acknowldgement that at least SOME had been forced out of their homes) The Arabs states refused the offer, demanding (again) that every refugee must be permitted to return or none would. And so it was. In 1967, Jordan was warned not to enter the war; it did anyway, and lost the West Bank. Israel offered to negotiate its return in exchange for peace. The response? The Arab League proudly proclaimed, NO to peace, NO to recognition, NO to negotiations.

As of this year, Israel has actually relinquished control of 91% of land seized in 1967. Shouldn't that warrant some consideration? No, it's not 100%. And we both know even 100% won't be good enough because then the battle will be over the other 100%: the State of Israel.

NormanF said...

Its amusing the moonbats feel superior to the Palestinians and the Arabs. Their arrogance has turned off ordinary Egyptians who share their antipathy towards Israel. Yeah, it must hard to get on a bus and go ride out in support of the medieval theocracy in Gaza. The "Free Gaza March" misfits are long-winded and short on real courage. The Palestinians need friends like them like they need enemies.

Avigdor said...

These "get on get off" the bus hysterics are hilarious. These people are so soft and weak, consumed with delusions of self-importance. They have absolutely no clue about what it means to face down a real police state. They are being escorted around by the Egyptians like royalty. Being one of these 1400 lunatics has got to be the safest way to wingnut stardom. Can you imagine how much free sex they are all having? Who would pass up a chance to get laid on a trip like this? It sounds like so much fun.

AKUS said...

Actually, this whole charade has garnered absolutely zero attention in the serious US press as far as I can see.

They are like a group of teenagers on a road trip - totally immersed in their own doings, and unaware fo how childish it looks to the adult observers.

If I didn't read a few blogs I wouldn't know this was happening.

Anonymous said...

Stephen Walt is doing his part to spread the story: referencing Mondoweiss and calling GFM 'worthy effort to help the Gazans'.

As Egypt's stunting rate amongst children is twice that of Gaza's, I don't quite see it the GFM the same way Walt does.

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