Al Arabiya breaks the news with this sensational photo.
Pretty cool character, that Muammar, no?
Al Arabiya breaks the news with this sensational photo.
Pretty cool character, that Muammar, no?
Turns out I spent most of today unknowingly queueing alongside the idiotic attention seeker anarchist who threw a shaving foam custard pie at Rupert Murdoch in this afternoon's Parliamentary Select Committee hearing.
He calls himself Johnnie Marbles, though he's clearly lost his. His real name is something rather posher--Jonathan May-Bowles. It seems he's both an anarchist and a peddler of small-time attention-seeking art and comedy stunts which reveal all too little talent at either. He was one of The Guardian's Top Ten Plinthers rated for their act on the Fourth Plinth "One and Other" project of Antony Gormley. His performance consisted of reading out texts of their secrets sent him by the audience. What on earth must the not so Top Plinthers have been like? Great Art, oh, yes.....
Funnily enough,The Guardian's write up on him this evening doesn't mention his being on their list of Top Plinthers. How odd. But it does tell us that he's a founder member of UKUncut, which is issuing vigorous denials that they had any foreknowledge of his stunt, although they seem to know he pulled another stunt incident in a BHS store and got into the Fortnum and Mason invasion.
I first learnt what great political theatre Select Committees can be years ago-- I used to go and hear Sir Keith Joseph being done over by the Education Select Committee when he was Minister for Education in the seventies. And I recently went to one of the best in the new Parliament-- Hague, Liam Fox, Oliver Letwin, Andrew WhatisisName i/c Overseas Aid being questioned by the Foreign Affairs SC, where we learnt that the new Defence Strategy consists of tiny forces barely able to cope with their existing commitments, so our overseas influence is now to be built by lots of overseas trips making friends and informal alliances with groups and countries we used to ignore or keep at arm's length. Like the Arab League and Bahrein.
So I decided that today's hearing by the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, calling Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, might just be worth an enormously long wait, hopefully on the nice green benches outside the Committee Room in Portcullis House, whilst I got on with some paperwork or reading. I got there at around 9:25, was pointed to a queue outside Portcullis House of about thirty people and found myself behind four rather alternativey looking people-two youngish couples- with a tall very smartly dressed ginger-headed man, neat trench coat and leather satchel, who seemed to be in some sort of organizational role in relation to them.
I got into small talk with them and said I'd go and see if it was possible to sit and queue inside. "If I'm not back in twenty minutes, you'll know you can queue inside-- and will you keep my place?". And Mr Ginger talked about needing to ensure that he designated one of them to queue for him. Well, it didn't work-- they weren't letting anyone queue inside (which they usually do), but soon enough the amiable Mr Ginger turned up, tried to reinforce my request to include himself, but we ended going back to the queue, where he briefed his friends and disappeared.
So in front of me through the four hour wait on the pavement outside Portcullis House were Jonathan May-Bowles (though I didn't know his or any of their names till after the event, his girl friend (that's her in the picture above, a stereotypical anarchist-looking guy, with a Tolstoyan hair and beard-- all very amiable. We exchanged bits of chit chat from time to time. Mr Ginger appeared some hours later and waved aimiably from the other side of the press queue, but he didn't rejoin us.
They let just over 30 of us into the Select Committee Hearing room, all seated on the wooden bench at the back. The security was the usual letting us into Portcullis House. Bags put through an airport type scanner. Photos taken and an electronic arch to go through. And until May-Bowles pulled his stunt, I'd never have guessed.
Reading the online reports and the tweets after we got turned out of the hearing, they don't really convey how very poorly Rupert Murdoch performed. Long, long pauses almost every time he was asked a question. Sometimes had no idea what to say. More than once I had the strong impression he'd forgotten the sentence he'd started saying. Banging the table as he spoke was weirdly out of synch with the relatively anodyne things he was saying. He often said he didn't remember, and I didn't get the impression from his tone of voice that he was covering up. I remembered his television interview clip last week when they asked him what his priority was now he'd arrived in England to sort the News International mess. "This one", he said, putting his arm round Rebekah Brooks' shoulders. It seems to me quite likely that he couldn't remember her name at that moment. James Murdoch repeatedly butted in to try to answer for him, but was batted away by the Committee members.
If I were a News Corp shareholder (a laughable concept, but still..) I'd be calling for Rupert Murdoch to have to undergo a brain scan and in depth neurological report. Seriously. I've been around dementia and mental impairment sufferers long enough to recognise the very early stages of permanent cognitive decline when I see them. I'm gobsmacked to think of him playing such a key role in a global corporation. Tellingly, he did mention that his underlings often tell him he's talking rubbish when he tries to give them ideas.
And James Murdoch? He came across like a typical organizational suit, full of the usual obfuscation and evasiveness I'm regularly encountering in my current dealings with NHS PCT bureaucrats. Paul Waugh tweeted one of his prize lines of organizational gobbledygook:
There are thresholds of materiality where something has to be moved upstream.
This was one of the few times when Rupert outstripped his son, in this case by translating the verbiage into plain English:
Anything seen as a crisis comes to me.
So this pair are supposed to be the Evil Empire, controlling the politicians and institutions of the UK? On the basis of this performance, utterly laughable. One of the few worthwhile and revealing answers from Murdoch Senior was when he responded to a rolling dramatic question about how come he'd entered 10 Downing Street via the back door when he visited Cameron after the election: "Because I was asked to. I did what I was told." And in passing he managed to list the many times he'd visited Blair and Brown and talked about Brown's and his kids playing together. And pointed out that it was people like Blair, Brown and Cameron who travelled across continents to see him at their request, not his.
But I never got to see the end of the questioning, including Louise Mensch's questions, because that's when Mr Attention Seeker Prat Jonathan May-Bowles threw his pie stunt. I must say it was startling (but not surprising) to see Wendi Deng, Murdoch's grim-looking wife, springing furiously into action, socking him and covering him with his own shaving foam. I looked back at May-Bowles' girl friend. She was sitting quietly watching, keeping her head down, so to speak. A girl, supposedly his ex girl friend, has tweeted to say she's dumped him because of the attack. All I can say is the very pleasant and affectionate girl friend he spent the day with didn't look at all shocked or surprised. She just seemed to want to avoid drawing attention to herself. The friendly Mr Tolstoyan Beard was already being held. I told the policeman steering us out that the girlfriend had been with May-Bowles all day, and they pulled her back. I also tried to tell one policeman after another that I'd spent the day sitting alongside them, that there was a group of four of them, and another, smartly dressed man who appeared to have been involved with them and organizing them, but they weren't interested. Just wanted us all out.
I told Nick Robinson. I told Nick Davies. I told as many of the other journos I could see what I knew. You should tell the police, they said. But they don't want to know, I said. I went back and had another try. No dice. The police just wanted the public out of the area. I went into the room where the journos where being allowed to wait to re-enter the meeting-- the public were excluded after the attack.
And there was Mr Ginger, who hadn't been in the Select Committee Hearing. I pointed him out to a couple of the journos I told the story to. Too busy. And then I went home.
Thanks to Mr Attention Seeking Prat May-Bowles, it'll probably mean fewer chances for the public to get into hearings like today's. And he's even managed to get sympathy for Rupert Murdoch, who may deserve some concerned focus on his health and fitness, but not for becoming a victim of an attack.
But what sort of security is it that lets a man into one of the most open buildings of Parliament with shaving foam in his bag? That could have been caustic soda, paint stripper, poison, acid....The security apparatus is showy but totally ineffective because the contents of bags aren't searched properly. These people didn't get in through having insider help, they just queued to get in, same as I did. And I've no idea what exactly was Mr Ginger's role, but this was clearly no spontaneous attack
And as for the police turning away witnesses after an attack....Met Police, there's an email at the top of my blog if you want to contact me.
The worst and most irresponsible internet hoax for some considerable time-- the Amina Arraf hoax--has now been exposed.
The supposed "Gay Girl in Damascus blogger", who was supposed to have been arrested and abducted by the Syrian regime, has turned out to be an invention of a couple of extreme anti-Israel activists, Tom MacMaster and his partner Britta Froelicher.
MacMaster, who is presently studying and working in Scotland, and is very active in Edinburgh University's Students for Justice in Palestine, has admitted having written every one of the posts supposedly written by an out lesbian in Damascus. This is a hoax which he has been running since 2007.
It's yet to emerge how he got hold of the photos of the young woman, Jelena Lecic, featured in the YouTube video above, whose image was appropriated by him and presented as that of Amina. The Guardian used those images, and went on using others of Jelena, even after she protested about her identity theft.
Froelicher, according to today's Harry's Place post, has a deep interest in Syria.
She presented a paper to the British Society of Middle East Studies this year, in which she argued:
The external perception of Syria’s economy is relatively negative. Most scholars find that Syria is moving into a Russian-style ‘crony capitalism’, in which well-connected individuals have de-facto monopolies with the government’s blessing. [...] My research hypothesizes that the reasons for this course of development have little to do with culture and religion or that – as the ‘transition paradigm’ tried to claim – any particular form of development is ‘natural’. Rather, the negative external perceptions of Syria’s economy also impact the desire and ability of western governments to interact positively with Syria, creating a self-perpetuating cycle of mistrust and suspicion. Furthermore, security concerns deepen an existing conservatism towards reform internally.
Froelicher is an associate fellow at the University of St. Andrews. She is researching the topic ”Economic Reform and the Syrian Textile Industry“. The University of St Andrews has been taking money from dubious Syrian sources for promoting research which happens to burnish the cultural credentials of Syria.
Some of the posts from "Amina Arraf" tried to paint the Syrian regime as not as repressive as the western publicity suggested. Maybe MacMaster was planning to resolve her apparent abduction with a sudden release with her proclaiming how kindly she'd been treated by Assad's regime.
He previously repeatedly denied to The Electronic Intifada that he was “Amina Arraf”. The Electronic Intifada, itself also a strongly anti-Israel blog, deserves credit for continuing to question and research the veracity of the Amina Arraf blog and MacMaster's and Froelich's connections to it, despite such categorical denials as this one:
I am not the blogger in question. Whomever that person ‘really’ is, I have doubtless interacted with her at some point. I do not know further than that about her. When I first read the news story, I momentarily thought I had an idea who she was. As time has progressed that seems much less likely. I understand there are a number of unusual coincidences regarding the blogger and either me or my wife. Those are, as far as I am aware, simply unusual. I am not going to make more of that.
MacMaster deserves to be sanctioned for creating and promoting this particular bit of “hoaxing”– he’s shown himself to be a hardened liar and deceiver who shouldn’t be allowed to use a University IP.
Not only is he pretty well unrepentant about what he’s done, but he uses his admission of the hoax to try and get on a moral high horse about the supposed “liberal orientalism” of the people he deceived:
I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone -- I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.
I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.
This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.
Some of the posts from "Amina Arraf" tried to paint the Syrian regime as not as repressive as the western publicity suggested. Maybe MacMaster was planning to resolve her apparent abduction with a sudden release with her proclaiming how kindly she'd been treated by Assad's regime.
But the supposed beautiful lipstick lesbian had quite a turn of phrase when it came to characterizing the people of Israel and the actions of its governments and people. Quite something to know that every word of this supposedly authentic Syrian Arab voice came from Mr Tom MacMaster, sometime of Georgia USA, now of Scotland and Edinnburgh University's Students for Justice in Palestine.
As soon as I post this, I know, the defenders of the Holy Nation will come and denounce me, will ask why it is that I do not see their cause as holy and my own people, my own heritage, my own history, as nothing more than the squawkings of baboons.
Don’t laugh; I am sure they will come. And they will again and again demonstrate their arrogance and their ignorance. When not claiming that their innate superiority in all things means that democracy is not for the likes of me (after all, how else to justify their state?) or that we are all needing just a firm, pale hand to guide us, they will show their ignorance of history.
I for one know my own history. And I know my own country. I know that Jaulan was lost after the Syrians had agreed to cease fire. I know who started that war; it wasn’t us. I know that the Israelis hold Jaulan because they would steal our water and need a nice platform to keep Damascus in their gunsights. I know that there is no difference between what keeps them there and what took Saddam to Kuwait … I know of American sailors who died to keep the world from knowing … I know that their own generals admitted that all the ‘vicious wicked Syrian attacks’ were provoked by them, not us …
I know also of the ethnic cleansing that they undertook up there; 131,000 people made homeless so that Russian migrants might have a place to illegally live.
And whatever happens in Palestine, no Syrian can forget that they stole our land and made our people homeless.
And we also know who here was guilty of collusion; we know who worked closest with the Soviets then to start the war, who it was who gave the orders to pull back troops from impregnable strongholds on the Jaulan, who it was who would surrender our patrimony without a shot;
The one who gave those orders, the order that, for what it’s worth, meant the death of my father’s older brother, now has a son. And that son is called the President.
Every Syrian knows that; every Syrian knows that Traitor of the Naksa’s second son is President and that another runs his squads of killers. Every Syrian knows that Bashar has never lifted a finger to redeem Jaulan.
So when the lying liars and propagandists, the makers of hasbara and singers of paeans to the so-called Chosen claims that “Bashar tricked us into killing people (if you can call mere Arabs humans and not two-legged dogs) so as to distract fromhis own crimes”, tell them to stuff it. They lie.
Listening to the amazing explanations of how the British SAS team came to be caught, handcuffed, publicly humiliated and booted out by the very Libyan opposition groups they'd come to make contact with, I'm not the only one to be marvelling at the incredible series of blunders and Chelm-worthy reasoning behind the debacle.
There has to be some sort of explanation for how an operation came to be approved by a whole chain of operational and political command which involved the use of a helicopter as a supposedly stealthy way to deliver a clandestine team of special forces carrying sensitive transmitting equipment and fake passports.
Anyone who's ever had a night disturbed by a police helicopter pursuing crims or coming airlift accident victims will be in no doubt that arriving via helicopter is one of the least stealthy methods imaginable of turning up for a clandestine rendezvous. What could they have been thinking?
My guess is that the unconscious pull of the romance of the James Bond ethos still impacts on real life secret service and political calculations. Especially where you have someone in charge like William Hague who seems to want to display his macho credentials when demonstrating that he's the Foreign Secretary now. And I bet they all watched the Milk Tray commercials when they were kids....
Here's Shami Chakrabharti, Director of Liberty, the leading human rights advocacy group in the UK, working herself unapologetically into a state of outrage in 2009 in front of a national TV audience about what she insists are human rights violations and acquiescence to torture by the UK government.
But since then, it's emerged that in the same year, she sat through a meeting of the Council of the London School of Economics, of which she is a member, when they refused to listen to the objections of the late Professor Fred Halliday, in a letter specifically addressed to them, about LSE taking money from the Gaddafi regime, inter alia on the grounds of Libya's continuing appalling human rights record. Needless to say, the use of torture is central to the regime's achievement in staying in power for 42 years.
Professor Halliday's letter referred to the continuing brutality and kleptocracy of Gaddafi’s regime and its disregard for human rights.Her failure to act or resign makes her complicity in LSE’s shameless cosmetification of the Gaddafi regime and Gaddafi's son Saif al-Google Gaddafi clear.
In 2009, the LSE was warned against accepting the donation from Libya by Fred Halliday, an emeritus professor of international relations, who has since died. He wrote to the council criticising Libya’s human rights record and the unrestrained celebrations in Tripoli that followed the release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. Here are some of the highly restrained and unemotional but still convincing reasons Professor Halliday gave the LSE Council for not taking Gaddafi money:
While it is formally the case that the QF is not part of the Libyan state, and is registered in Switzerland as an NGO, this is, in all practical senses, a legal fiction. The monies paid into the QF come from foreign businesses wishing to do business, i.e. receive contracts, for work in Libya, most evidently in the oil and gas industries. These monies are, in effect, a form of down payment, indeed of taxation, paid to the Libyan state, in anticipation of the award of contracts. The funds of the QF are, for this reason, to all intents and purposes, part of the Libyan state budget. ‘NGO status’, and recognition of such by UN bodies, means, in real terms, absolutely nothing.
Mention has been made, in verbal and written submissions to the School and in correspondence to myself, of the membership of the QF’s advisory board: a somewhat closer examination of the most prominent politicians involved, and of their reputations and business dealings, should also give cause for some concern.
(ii) That the President of the QF, and its effective director, is himself the son of the ruler, and, for all the informality of the Libyan political system (even the ‘Leader’, Colonel Qaddafi, has no formal position), in effect a senior official of that regime, confirms this analysis. In Arab states many of the most important positions have no official title, and kinship, and informal links, are more important than state function – and this, above all, in Libya.
(iii) Much is made by supporters of the QF grant of the fact that Libya is changing internally. This may or may not be the case – it is simply much too early to say. Certainly, the overwhelming balance of informed press conference, and the reports of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, is that while some of the worst excesses have, for the moment ceased, Libya has made no significant progress in protecting the rights of citizens, or migrant workers and refugees, and remains a country run by a secretive, erratic and corrupt elite. Perhaps part of the problem here is a misunderstanding by colleagues of the role of the ‘liberal’ wing within such states. It is not a question of whether or not they are ‘sincere’ – they may well be – but of what their function is: in Libya, as in such states as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran the primary function of such liberal elements is not to produce change, but to reach compromises with internal hard-liners that serve to lessen external pressure. So it has been, since 2002, with the various Libyan initiatives affecting LSE and the UK/US foreign policy establishment in general.
(iv) Much is made of Libya’s altered position in international relations. For sure, and for reasons of its own, the Libyan government has, above all since 9/11, negotiated compromises with the west on a number of issues, notably Lockerbie and nuclear weapons. Its leaders have met a number of politicians and diplomats from foreign countries. This is all to the good. But it is worth being cautious here. First, because tactical changes in foreign policy are not, for the purposes of evaluating political and academic links, sufficient. Secondly, because, although in some areas of foreign policy the country has changed, in others it has not: it continues to call for solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute that in effect, involves the abolition of both the Israeli and Palestinian states; it is using its money and influence to provoke extremism in southern Africa; its leader has recently called for the abolition of a sovereign European state – Switzerland. Among the guests of honour at the 1 September 2009 celebrations in Tripoli was the leader of the Somali pirates, operating and menacing international shipping in the Horn of Africa. I will not dwell here on the summer’s events surrounding Lockerbie: suffice it to say that Libya’s handling of this has not been characterised by either consistency or clarity.
(v) The most important issue of all is that of reputational risk to LSE. I have myself defended acceptance by the School of grants from some authoritarian countries (e.g. Arab Gulf states): but there should be clear limits on this, depending on the degree of political and human rights abuses perpetrated with them and on their ongoing foreign policy conduct. Here I would draw attention not just to the prevailing consensus in Whitehall and the City, which are now happy, for their own legitimate reasons, to do business with Libya, but to broader reputational concerns in regard to British and American public opinion, particularly with regard to Lockerbie. For these and other reason the same concern applies across the Middle East, in the Arab world as much as in Israel, where reserve about this state, and about its more prominent ‘liberal’ representatives, remains high. And for good reason.
"Leaked minutes of [the] Council meeting which considered [Professor Halliday's letter] reveal that senior officials feared embarrassing Saif Gaddafi, chairman of the foundation, by rejecting the cash. They also claimed there was “no evidence” that LSE’s links with Libya had attracted controversy.
According to the document, Prof David Held, co-director of the university’s Centre for the Study of Global Governance, said that a “public signing ceremony had been undertaken and a U-turn at this juncture might affect the school’s relations with Libya and cause personal embarrassment to the chairman of the foundation”.
Prof Held, who taught Gaddafi during his time at LSE, added: “The views espoused by Professor Halliday were not necessarily shared by all in the academic community; that, having trawled traditional media and the blogosphere, no evidence had been found that LSE’s links with Libya had attracted criticism, despite the ‘storm’ created by the Al-Megrahi affair.”
Chakrabharti not only sat through the meeting listening to this garbage, but she must have got the minutes and read through them without considering them incompatible with her human rights credentials.
She seems to be in it up to her neck as going along with the key assumptions of Professor Held and his fellow shills for Saif al Google Gaddafi and his dad- that it was more important to avoid embarrassing Saif al-Google Gaddafi and ruining LSE’s relationship with Libya than to acknowledge the reality of what brand of lipstick they were applying to the face of this particular monster and his dad.
In The Times (££) last week, she’s reported as saying that
The Director has been completely straight about his embarrassment. The council has been completely united in its regret. As a human rights campaigner I can only share bucketloads of both.
Clearly her bucketloads of embarrassment and regret aren’t going to prevent her from staying on as a member of the Council. At least Howard Davies never made any claim to be a national champion of human rights. I suppose some months from now, we’ll be hearing her do an “On the Ropes” broadcast on BBC Radio 4 reflecting on how she bravely overcame this little blip in her career by stonewalling her way through it and looking penitent on “Question Time”.
The Sandmonkey is probably Egypt's best known blogger in the West. He's certainly the most interesting and insightful of the Egyptian bloggers I've read.
He'd let his blog lie fallow for quite a time, but there was never any doubt that he was a long term opponent of the Mubarak regime who didn't buy into the Islamist dream and who didn't regard Israel as the source of all evil.
So it's come as no surprise to hear that he was arrested this morning as he took medical supplies into Tahrir Square for the anti-Mubarak protesters. They may well have been following his renewed blogging and tweets.And they've suspended his blog. The best hope for him is to show how his arrest has started up world wide protests against this act of repression. So please publicize this post, link to it and tweet
UPDATE: The Sandmonkey has been released: but here's his tweet about what happened to him:
I am ok. I got out. I was ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated , my car ripped apar& supplies taken
(follow him on Twitter on @Sandmonkey for updates)
Here's the last blog post he wrote -- written today, just before he left for Tahrir Square. It's inter alia a witness view of the events in the YouTube clip:
Sandmonkey at Thursday, 3 Feb 2011
Egypt, right now!
I don't know how to start writing this. I have been battling fatigue for not sleeping properly for the past 10 days, moving from one's friend house to another friend's house, almost never spending a night in my home, facing a very well funded and well organized ruthless regime that views me as nothing but an annoying bug that its time to squash will come.
The situation here is bleak to say the least. It didn't start out that way. On Tuesday Jan 25 it all started peacefully, and against all odds, we succeeded to gather hundreds of thousands and get them into Tahrir Square, despite being attacked by Anti-Riot Police who are using sticks, tear gas and rubber bullets against us. We managed to break all of their barricades and situated ourselves in Tahrir.
The government responded by shutting down all cell communication in Tahrir square, a move which purpose was understood later when after midnight they went in with all of their might and attacked the protesters and evacuated the Square.
The next day we were back at it again, and the day after. Then came Friday and we braved their communication blackout, their thugs, their tear gas and their bullets and we retook the square. We have been fighting to keep it ever since.
That night the government announced a military curfew, which kept getting shorter by the day, until it became from 8 am to 3 pm. People couldn't go to work, gas was running out quickly and so were essential goods and money, since the banks were not allowed to operate and people were not able to collect their salary. The internet continued to be blocked, which affected all businesses in Egypt and will cause an economic meltdown the moment they allow the banks to operate again.
We were being collectively punished for daring to say that we deserve democracy and rights, and to keep it up, they withdrew the police, and then sent them out dressed as civilians to terrorize our neighborhoods. I was shot at twice that day, one of which with a semi-automatic by a dude in a car that we the people took joy in pummeling.
The government announced that all prisons were breached, and that the prisoners somehow managed to get weapons and do nothing but randomly attack people. One day we had organized thugs in uniforms firing at us and the next day they disappeared and were replaced by organized thugs without uniforms firing at us. Somehow the people never made the connection.
Despite it all, we braved it. We believed we are doing what's right and were encouraged by all those around us who couldn't believe what was happening to their country. What he did galvanized the people, and on Tuesday, despite shutting down all major roads leading into Cairo, we managed to get over 2 million protesters in Cairo alone and 3 million all over Egypt to come out and demand Mubarak's departure.
Those are people who stood up to the regime's ruthlessness and anger and declared that they were free, and were refusing to live in the Mubarak dictatorship for one more day. That night, he showed up on TV, and gave a very emotional speech about how he intends to step down at the end of his term and how he wants to die in Egypt, the country he loved and served.
To me, and to everyone else at the protests this wasn't nearly enough, for we wanted him gone now. Others started asking that we give him a chance, and that change takes time and other such poppycock. Hell, some people and family members cried when they saw his speech. People felt sorry for him for failing to be our dictator for the rest of his life and inheriting us to his Son. It was an amalgam of Stockholm syndrome coupled with slave mentality in a malevolent combination that we never saw before. And the Regime capitalized on it today.
Today, they brought back the internet, and started having people calling on TV and writing on facebook on how they support Mubarak and his call for stability and peacefull change in 8 months. They hung on to the words of the newly appointed government would never harm the protesters, whom they believe to be good patriotic youth who have a few bad apples amongst them.
We started getting calls asking people to stop protesting because "we got what we wanted" and "we need the country to start working again". People were complaining that they miss their lives. That they miss going out at night, and ordering Home Delivery. That they need us to stop so they can resume whatever existence they had before all of this. All was forgiven, the past week never happened and it's time for Unity under Mubarak's rule right now.
To all of those people I say: NEVER! I am sorry that your lives and businesses are disrupted, but this wasn't caused by the Protesters. The Protesters aren't the ones who shut down the internet that has paralyzed your businesses and banks: The government did. The Protesters weren't the ones who initiated the military curfew that limited your movement and allowed goods to disappear off market shelves and gas to disappear: The government did. The Protesters weren't the ones who ordered the police to withdraw and claimed the prisons were breached and unleashed thugs that terrorized your neighborhoods: The government did.
The same government that you wish to give a second chance to, as if 30 years of dictatorship and utter failure in every sector of government wasn't enough for you. The Slaves were ready to forgive their master, and blame his cruelty on those who dared to defy him in order to ensure a better Egypt for all of its citizens and their children. After all, he gave us his word, and it's not like he ever broke his promises for reform before or anything. Then Mubarak made his move and showed them what useful idiots they all were.
You watched on TV as "Pro-Mubarak Protesters" – thugs who were paid money by NDP members  by admission of High NDP officials- started attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir square. They attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding horses and camels- in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown on TV- and carrying whips to beat up the protesters.
And then the Bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting thrown at the Anti-Mubarak Protesters as the Army standing idly by, allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it. Dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances. The Police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones who were captured by the Anti-mubarak people had police ID's on them. They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on Fire.
The Aim was clear: Use the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst the people of Egypt. But their plans ultimately failed, by those resilient brave souls who wouldn't give up the ground they freed of Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to the ground than even contemplate that possibility.
In the meantime, State-owned and affiliated TV channels were showing coverage of Peaceful Mubarak Protests all over Egypt and showing recorded footage of Tahrir Square protest from the night before and claiming it's the situation there at the moment. Hundreds of calls by public figures and actors started calling the channels saying that they are with Mubarak, and that he is our Father and we should support him on the road to democracy. A veiled girl with a blurred face went on Mehwer TV claiming to have received funding by Americans to go to the US and took courses on how to bring down the Egyptian government through protests which were taught by Jews. She claimed that AlJazeera is lying, and that the only people in Tahrir square now were Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. State TV started issuing statements on how the people arrested Israelis all over Cairo engaged in creating mayhem and causing chaos. For those of you who are counting this is an American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy. Imagine that. And MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT IT.
I recall telling a friend of mine that the only good thing about what happened today was that it made clear to us who were the idiots amongst our friends. Now we know. Now, just in case this isn't clear: This protest is not one made or sustained by the Muslim Brotherhood, it's one that had people from all social classes and religious background in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood only showed up on Tuesday, and even then they were not the majority of people there by a long shot. We tolerated them there since we won't say no to fellow Egyptians who wanted to stand with us, but neither the Muslims Brotherhood not any of the Opposition leaders have the ability to turn out one tenth of the numbers of Protesters that were in Tahrir on Tuesday.
This is a revolution without leaders. Three Million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that. The End is near. I have no illusions about this regime or its leader, and how he will pluck us and hunt us down one by one till we are over and done with and 8 months from now will pay people to stage fake protests urging him not to leave power, and he will stay "because he has to acquiesce to the voice of the people".
This is a losing battle and they have all the weapons, but we will continue fighting until we can't. I am heading to Tahrir right now with supplies for the hundreds injured, knowing that today the attacks will intensify, because they can't allow us to stay there come Friday, which is supposed to be the game changer. We are bringing everybody out, and we will refuse to be anything else than peaceful.
If you are in Egypt, I am calling on all of you to head down to Tahrir today and Friday. It is imperative to show them that the battle for the soul of Egypt isn't over and done with. I am calling you to bring your friends, to bring medical supplies, to go and see what Mubarak's gurantees look like in real life. Egypt needs you. Be Heroes. :
Is there no end to the revelations of Israeli inhumanity and cruelty the Guardian bravely publishes day after day? Tuesday's story, by Harriet Sherwood, is truly shocking. Prisoners, huge numbers of them, kept in tiny cages in Israel, barely able move, and forced to seek out their food through the wire mesh they're caged behind. As usual, it's a small anonymous NGO that's brought the story to the attention of The Guardian. They've had a smuggled in secret camera filming a group of three of the prisoners. The story is so shocking that it's on the front of The Guardian's web page as a World News story, taking precedence over carnage in the Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechniya and other world trouble spots.
Oh, so it's all about battery hens, not people? Well, yes, but this is Israel! That makes it a major world news story in the eyes of The Guardian. And one which can be used to evoke all those stock phrases of Israel-as-occupier cruelly persecuting and removing from their land defenceless Palestinians who have only activists with hidden cameras to defend them, whilst themselves being hunted down by the ruthless and previously totally secret hen prisoners security branch of Mossad.
There is of course the nightmarish image of rows of caged chickens in these Israeli Gitmos of the poultry world, stretching relentlessly into the distance, reduced to squatting helplessly in their iron hell as a bored guard brings the rations round.
Hang on! Isn't there something not quite right about that picture? Yes, battery hens..clearly taken in...oh, Beijing, China. So that's how the Guardian illustrates its shock horror story...about Israel.
So is there also a shock horror story about the plight of battery hens in China, because after all, here's David Cameron, currently in China that very day, being criticised for not doing enough to raise the question of a Nobel Prize Winner who's been imprisoned by the Chinese?
Well, no. Not at all. In fact that home page of Tuesday's web Guardian has not so much as a single link to the Cameron and Chinese prisoners and human rights story, whereas it was the top story on the web site of its ideological soulmate, the BBC News site. The imprisoned Nobel prize winner was the top story on the web site of its other ideological soulmate in the campaign to delegitimize Israel, the Independent.
OK, then. We know that there are political prisoners everywhere. So how could a trivial non event like the plight of an imprisoned Nobel prize winner in China begin to compare with the horrors of Israel's caged battery hens, surely unique in the world?
After all, how many caged battery prisoner hens are around anywhere today?
Ooops! Seems there are a socking 390,000,000 egg laying hens in the European Union, always so ready to tell Israel how to be more humanitarian, of which over two thirds are kept in battery cages. So that's way over 200,000,000 EU battery hens. Of which at least 16,000,000 are imprisoned in Britain today. And not a single Guardian editorial tear being shed for any of them. Tuesday or any other day recently. But the plight of Israeli battery hens? Shocking headline news. Caged prisoners. Guardian front page story.
Still, I'm sure that Alan Rusbridger and all his colleagues on The Guardian only ever eat free range eggs. You know, those ones produced far from cages, and, unlike their caged colleagues, where the dear little chickens can run free through eternally sunlit fields,stopping only to be petted by members of the English aristocracy in a dreamland of pastoral English wish-fulfilment, and.... peck and bully and cannibalise each other.
I find that a very touching and apt thought.
Well, he's Leader of the Labour Party now. And here he is, setting out his new broom visions in his first speech as Labour leader. How's this for the voice of the "new generation"?
But Israel must accept and recognise in its actions the Palestinian right to statehood.
That is why the attack on the Gaza Flotilla was so wrong.
And that is why the Gaza blockade must be lifted and we must strain every sinew to work to make that happen.
And he thinks it’s an important enough point for him to make that he puts it into his “speech of a lifetime” inaugural speech as the new leader of the Labour Party.
Oh, yes, definitely a brilliant thinker. A man of the Centre, indeed. Red Ed? How could anyone possibly think that?
This week begins the month of Ellul, the month of remembering, which comes before the festivals of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Succos. It is a month of self-scrutiny, but also a month of visiting the graves of loved ones, and of cherishing their memories, before, next month on Yom Kippur, we say the memorial prayers for them.
And now, this year, I shall be saying those prayers for for my mother, who completed her life and passed to her eternity on the 8th January this year, 23rd Teveth, Shabbos Shemos, the anniversary of my daughter's basmtizvah, and just two days after my daughter's and my son in law's birthdays.
This mourning year for my mother is very different from the one I lived through for my father, whose life was completed in 1983. It seems much less intense and overwhelming, though for most of my life and certainly through my childhood and teenage years, I was much closer to my mother than my father. I'm not sure why that should be; it might have to do with the fact that my mother lived through eleven years of increasingly severe dementia, and so the anticipation that her life could end at any moment was one I lived with for a very long time, whereas my father died after a short but very serious illness. Or maybe it had to do with the different sorts of complicated my relationship was with each of them. Or maybe it is, as I suspect from hearing others' experiences, that the first loss of a parent is very much more intense than the second. Or maybe it's something of all of those.
I expected I would write a lot about my mother in the weeks after her death, when I was closest to the intensity of the bereavement. I did that about my father. But I found myself marking my mother's passing in very different and quite idiosyncratic ways, and particularly by doing many things that marked the void of her absence from my life, after so many years when I was responsible for caring for her. I stopped wearing makeup (which I did for special occasions) but still had my nails done. I stopped buying Vogue. I have covered the television with a sort of improvised installation of a white sheet across which are pinned photos and images which summarize vivid moments of her life from 2 years old--when she and my daughter looked exactly alike-- to my daughter's wedding day in July 2007, when she was 91.
The image that now means most to me is the one here. It was a mere passport photo, taken in 1964, when she was 48 and I was 20; it was taken by the renowned Boris, who had moved his studio from Whitechapel, where he was the central visual biographer of almost every Jewish wedding in the East End, to the West End, where nobody remembered he was still around.
Today, I have been moved to write this post, after all these months, by reading Talia's post on her feelings about holding the last concrete link with her own mother, who also died recently, and far too young, at the age of 56, after a particularly horrifying cancer. Talia's record of living through the period of her mother's illness and death and what came after it, which is on her Daughter of Cancer blog, has astonished and touched me intensely.
Here's what I wrote as a comment on her post. May her mother's memory, and that of my mother, and all of our dear ones, be remembered with love and may we and all who mourn be comforted.
I so much feel for you, not just because I have been moved and enriched by reading your posts about your mother and the time before and since her death, but because I grew up without grandparents, three of whose lives were ended brutally and prematurely by the Nazis, as well as those of a beloved uncle and endless numbers of great aunts and uncles and cousins.
I particularly felt and still feel great regret that I never got a chance to meet them, most of all my mum’s parents and my dad’s mum, after whom I named my daughter.
But the lives and personalities of my mother’s parents were almost as real to me as if they had been alive, thanks to the stories my mother constantly told me of them, and of course through the wonderful food we had all through my childhood, all of which was from my grandmother’s methods and recipes which my mother learnt and served up, always perfectly, without a single written recipe.
So successful was my mother in evoking their presence and their loving care in me, that I seriously thought as a kid that their souls were living in our cat, who watched over me so benignly and so unjudgementally, and was always my loving friend and companion when I had none.
When I was 18, I met my surviving great uncle, my grandfather’s brother when I spent six months in Israel, and it was a great joy to meet him and see in person what a wonderful couple he and his wife were throughout the six months, and even experience their Seder.
That gave me a taste of what that generation of my mother’s family was like–a fantastic experience which I treasure to this day and made me feel as near as I could have been to being in the company of my grandparents. I gave my daughter my late great aunt’s name as an additional name in loving memory of her.
And also at that time I met various refugee and Holocaust survivor relatives who told me stories of these wonderful meals they’d had at my grandmother’s table, over sixty years previously when they were passing through Berlin on their way to the USA or on aliyah.
So I think, Talia, that if you are blessed with children, and I hope you will be, your mother and her life and gifts will be as vivid to them as my grandparents are to me through your own wonderful gift of making her live for all of us through the stories you’ve told and tell in your blog. But you will have many thousands more of much smaller and apparently trivial and not-for-sharing outside family stories that they will also hear and love, and ask for time and time again.
That will be one of the many great gifts you will be able to offer them, that will be worth much more to them through life then gold and rubies.
I've no reason to think that British universities' Islamic Societies are in general anything other than a welcome resource for Muslim students and those interested in Islam to meet, study and socialise together, performing exactly the same function as the unversities' many Christian, Jewish and Buddhist societies. With the regrettable difference that many Student Islamic Societies spend a great deal of energy promoting boycott motions against Israel and sometimes campaigning against Jewish societies on the grounds that they are zionist.
During my daughter and son-in-law's time in Cambridge however, I know that the university Jewish Society and the Islamic Society had successful dialogue meetings, and both groups are linked to continuing multifaith projects in Cambridge.
But there is some disturbing evidence that Islamist terrorists have succeeded in getting themselves voted into powerful positions in a small number of university Islamic Societies.
And the latest news about the Detroit Bomber having been President of the UCL Islamic Society during 2006-2007 raises questions about whether the extent to which would-be Islamist terrorists and supporters of Islamist terrorist organizations may have used those societies to spread their message and recruit followers.
It was after all in August 2006 that Waheed Zaman, the then President of the nearby London Metropolitan University's Islamic Society was arrested. He is closely linked to the convicted would be transatlantic plane bombers, all involved with the Al-Qaeda-linked Tablighi Jamaat extremist Islamist group.
Zaman, part of whose "martyrdom" video shown above was released by the police to the jury during one of the two trials he's so far been through on charges related to the aborted "soft drink" bombing conspiracy. So far, he's been found not guilty on the most serious charges of conspiring to cause an aircraft explosion, but in September 2009, the jury failed to reach a verdict on the charge of "conspiracy to murder involving liquid bombs". It's not yet clear whether he will face a further trial.
The line of defence offered by Waheed and the other suspects whose martyrdom videos were shown at the trial was that it was all "just" a make-believe designed to be released as a publicity stunt to bring home to the British public their view of how disastrous British foreign policy was.
The trial verdicts, convicting just three of the eight men on trial on the lesser charge of conspiracy to murder, but acquitting them of conspiring to target aircraft, caused astonishment and dismay amongst the counter-terror authorities and civil servants who knew the vast weight of decisive evidence against them. Having recently been on jury service myself, I'm well aware of how reluctant many jurors are to convict anyone of anything, no matter how strong the evidence, unless they are presented with an action replay. That's because they tend to over-interpret the requirement that a guilty verdict must be based on certainty beyond reasonable doubt. They tend to assume that must mean certainty beyond all possible doubt.
So what's the evidence for any links between Zaman and Detroit Bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab? Both have been linked to the East London Mosque. But Abdulmutallab is known to have visited it on just three occasions. It would be interesting to know which those were.
Much more significant is the certainty that as Presidents of their own universities' Islamic Society, they would inevitably regularly have been involved with meetings and networking through the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) and its London regional group in particular. Despite its overall establishment-style self-projection, FOSIS has a track record of supporting the recognition of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the replacement of democracies with a Caliphate to be established worldwide, including in the UK, and it is also closely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Gaza offshoot is the Hamas terrorist group. The wider university links between Waheed Zaman's group and other Islamist-dominated Student Islamic Societies are documented here.
The UCL Islamic Society seems to have had particularly strong involvement in FOSIS. Two of FOSIS' current national executive members, the Head of Finance and the Head of Media, are current or former UCL Islamic Society activists whose period of involvement overlaps with that of Abdulmutallab, including the time when he was President.
None of this establishes a clear direct relationship between Zaman and Abdulmuttallab beyond the fact that they are almost certain to have been fellow participants in national Student Islamic Society meetings and to have had links with the East London Mosque. After all, Abdulmutallab was a keen Arsenal supporter, but that's no reason to suppose that he was using Arsenal matches to promote Islamist extremism. It's clear however that both men are linked to Al Qaeda. Indeed, Abdulmuttalab and his failed plane bombing attempt has been claimed by an Al Qaeda website as its own operation. And there are reports that Al Qaeda has been moving its main centre from the Afghan-Pakistan borders and Iraq to Yemen.
I hope that both the British and US anti-terror authorities are involved in jointly investigating these student Islamist extremist networks more thoroughly. Unfortunately, one can't assume any such thing. Just a couple of days ago, the UK's Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, was reassuring about the fact that Abdulmuttallab was on a UK watch list for terror, had been refused re-entry to Britain, and, he was confident, the US authorities would have been informed of this. However, it turns out that they weren't.
Fraser Nelson posted a few days ago on how draconian current UK libel laws stand in the way of investigating and publishing information about Islamist extremist supporters and their activities. There was for example a New York Times block on a link to UK ISPs to an article which spelled out the links between the soft-drinks transatlantic bombers and the additional suspects like Zaman. So far, I've seen almost no press investigation of Abdulmuttallab's time as President of UCL's Islamic Society. And that's a matter for concern.