Beyond the Cusp

August 23, 2013

Same Old Egypt but New Targets

Some are wondering why the current violence in Egypt has been restricted to mostly victimizing the Coptic Christians while there are no reports of any other religiously persecuted groups. Most obvious by their absence as victims of the current violence in Egypt are the Jews. The reasons behind this require a quick refreshing look at recent history since 1948 and the founding of Israel. Upon the founding of the Jewish State of Israel on May 14, 1948 Egypt was one of the numbers of Arab nations which declared war intending to eradicate both the nation and Jewish people of Israel. At the time of the founding of the State of Israel there were approximately 75,000 Jews residing in Egypt. After years of pogroms, bombings, riots and other violence the Jewish population had seen 40% of their population emigrate by 1950. This reduced the number of Jews left residing in Egypt to around 45,000 with most of them residing in either Alexandria or Cairo. The next major event was the 1956 Suez War where French, British and Israeli forces attacked Egypt in order to force Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser to reopen the Suez Canal to international shipping after he had nationalized the canal and began denying western shipping the use of this vital waterway. Subsequent to this conflict it was announced that the “all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state,” and would soon be expelled. After this declaration some one-thousand Jews were arrested and imprisoned while nearly half the remaining Egyptian Jews fled Egypt for Israel, Europe and the Americas. Upon leaving these Jews were forced to sign declarations that they were leaving voluntarily and had agreed to the confiscation of their wealth, property and other assets. This left a mere 25,000 Jews living in Egypt with a large percentage of this population being elderly. The final event came after the 1967 Six Day War which began with Egypt closing the Straits of Tiran, massing troops and armor divisions on the Israeli border along with Syria massing on Israel’s northern border both nations threatening immediate annihilation of the Jewish State. Israel responded to this casus-belli with a preemptive assault defeating both enemies plus Jordan who declared war on Israel soon after hostilities began. After the Six Day War almost all the remaining Jews were forced to emigrate after having their wealth, properties and anything of value confiscated while some of the male Jews above the age of eighteen were imprisoned and tortured for three to five years and then made to leave Egypt. There is now but a tiny remnant remains numbering under one hundred all of which are aged with no younger generations of Jews so once these few die there will be no Jews remaining in Egypt.

 

So, when religious violence broke out after the removal of President Morsi by the Egyptian military there was not a sufficient population of Jews to target which left only the Coptic Christians and Shiite Muslims for the Sunni members of the Muslim Brotherhood to victimize. This is the main driving reason for the seeming singular persecution of the Coptic Christian population as they number anywhere from five to twelve million persons depending on which source one chooses. Even at the lowest estimate of around five million the Coptic Christians far outnumber the under one-hundred remaining aged Jews. The Coptic Christian population also far outnumbers the Shiite Muslim Population in Egypt as there are estimated to be anywhere from a few thousands to as many as eight million with the recognized number being around one million. So, now that we have discussed the numbers which reveal and make obvious the reason behind why we are hearing about violence against the Coptic population in Egypt and not about any violence against Jews or Shiite Muslims whose numbers are quite small by comparison, it honestly is all about availability of people to target. No matter the reason underlying the victimization of Coptic Christians and the destruction of their churches, monasteries, businesses, homes and other properties as well as the assaults, murders, and forced conversion and marrying young Coptic women to Muslim men, often to men far older than the woman and under threat of torturing and killing of their families in order to force compliance, human compassion and especially Christian compassion needs to spur action to protect the victims from such crimes fueled purely by hatred and religious persecution.

 

As horrid the pictures and news out of Egypt reporting of the violence and destruction of the Coptic population and property in Egypt may be, it pales when compared to the silence and complete lack of action by the remainder of the Christian world in response to the violence being perpetrated on their fellow Christians. What makes this passivity in the face of Christian persecution is made all the worse when one realized that the Coptic Christians are the descendants of some of the oldest Christian communities dating their origins to their being brought to Christendom by Saint Mark in the city of Alexandria in the year 42AD. This victimization of the Coptic Christians should serve as a warning for all Christendom as to their future should Israel ever be destroyed thus leaving the Christian populations as the largest and often sole non-Muslim population throughout much of the Middle East and the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds. What is currently befalling the Coptic Christians in Egypt is the same fate that awaits the Christians within Israel and in a slightly lesser extent already befallen the Christians in the Palestinian controlled areas of Gaza and the West Bank. One need not look any further than the numbers of Christians residing in Bethlehem where in 1947 the Christians made up 85% of Bethlehem’s population which declined by 1998 to a mere 40% of Bethlehem’s population. There are differing numbers pertaining to the numbers of Christians remaining in Bethlehem today but most agree they are now less than one quarter of the population and still in decline. Researching Christian population numbers throughout the Middle East and North Africa one will realize that the Christian population has been generally in decline across the entire area and their numbers decreased at a greatly accelerated rate once the Jewish population either emigrated or was otherwise diminished to a point where the Jewish numbers were negligible. The sole nation which attests to an increasing number of Christians is Israel despite the falling numbers in the Palestinian controlled areas, whether controlled by the Palestinians Authority or Hamas. The only advice history might provide Christians at this point in history is they need to protect their fellow Christians who are under assault which currently is most obvious in Egypt where open hostilities are on display and the Coptic Christians are helpless victims. It is time for all Christians to protest the victimization of the Coptic Christians and put aside any differences their particular sect may have with the Coptic Christians as such things are of little importance when Christian lives are on the line. If the world’s Christians are unable to protect the Coptic Christians within Egypt then it is dependent upon the Christians to provide the Coptic Christians a path to escape the Egyptian violence and to provide welcoming arms to care and assist fellow Christians to pick up their lives and make a new start. What else can be said other than it is the Christian thing to do.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 3, 2013

Who Blinks First in Egyptian Stare-Down?

UPDATE: Morsi removed by Egyptian military, with head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mansour placed as interim President and tasked with forming ruling council and setting up new elections for new Parliament and President.

As if there were not enough explosive conflicts and standoffs around the world with a cluster centered within the ever troubled Middle East with Iraq sliding back into Sunni-Shiite violence with multiple bombings each week, Afghanistan is slowly being subsumed by the resurgent Taliban which is refusing to even talk with representatives of the United States vowing instead to simply wait for the last of the troops to depart so they can retake power; Turkey is facing ongoing Shiite demonstrations and riots; Libya still has residual tribal conflicts preventing any effective unified governance to unite the nation; Yemen has dual civil wars with Sunni-Shiite violence in the north and al-Qaeda terrorism in the south; Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq are being overrun by refugees from Syria; and civil war continues unabated in Syria with much of the country virtually destroyed and the death toll well over a thousand innocent civilians just one part of the toll. Now Egypt has entered into a stare-down between the Muslim Brotherhood standing behind President Morsi against the Military each demanding they take control of the escalating situation addressing how to resolve the massive demonstrations threatening to devolve into a civil war. So, let us continue our coverage and attempts to make sense of the threats developing in Egypt and try to identify the probability of a peaceable resolution versus the outbreak of another Middle East civil war.

 

On Monday, the Supreme Council which leads the Armed Forces gave President Morsi until Wednesday to reach a solution ending the strife from the demonstrations and riots between the pro-Morsi and the anti-Morsi factions. Responding to the military’s ultimatum, President Morsi released a statement decrying the military’s declaration explaining it had no authority as it had not been cleared by the Presidency which could only cause confusion and not settle the serious problems. Taking the confrontation into the virtual world, President Morsi released another statement via the Egyptian Presidential Twitter account where he posted, “President Mohammed Morsi asserts his grasp on constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to deviate from it, and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and refuses to be dictated to internally or externally.” I am not exactly sure what the use by Morsi of electronic social media to get his message out is supposed to imply unless his aim was to make a statement that the social media was not solely the domain of those opposing his Presidency. This defines the situation within Egypt’s borders where at some point on Wednesday either one side will blink and allow the other to prevail or Egypt may fly beyond the cusp and into the fiery chasm of civil war.

 

Meanwhile, the situation had claimed between one and two dozen lives and injured hundreds and possibly over a thousand people sufficiently injured as to require some degree of medical treatment. In the city of Minya, in front Al-Rahman Mosque, Al-Ahram newspaper reported that number of pro-Morsi people gathered and marched to Palace Square in order to confront where hundreds of anti-Morsi protesters were staging a sit-in against the recently appointed Islamist pro-Morsi Governor. Upon their arrival the confrontation took a horrific turn when they fired at the anti-Morsi protesters. There report did not include if there were or the numbers of casualties whether injured or killed. Either way, this was the initial use of firearms which very well could be but a precursor of much worse events escalating at some point on Wednesday.

 

Reports on Tuesday claimed the Egyptian military had drafted a political plan which suspends the Egyptian constitution, dissolves the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist dominated Parliament, and replaces the President and Parliament with an interim council with the Chief Justice taking the lead position staffing the council with civilians from different political backgrounds and experiences making up the body of the council. President Morsi has completely rejected this idea or any other proposal which includes removing him from office or calling for early elections. Morsi is demanding that the current elected government must be allowed to settle the differences finding a resolution to end the demonstrations. He has warned the military to rescind their ultimatum and sworn to resist by whatever means are necessitated should the military continue on their current trajectory. As we stated yesterday, this will be a test which will reveal the truth that the Muslim Brotherhood does indeed possess military arm with which to enforce and support President Morsi and the Parliament remaining in power and resisting the demands for early elections. Thus far the numbers of demonstrators have slightly favored those opposing President Morsi which should be expected as more often than not those demanding changes in governance turn out in greater numbers than those who have no demands or complaints about those in power and their actions. Should violence explode on Wednesday, then we can expect the numbers supporting President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to appear in far greater numbers. Add to this that any organized forces which the Muslim Brotherhood probably can call up to utilize as a form of shock troops and you have the makings for the start of another Syria style civil war in Egypt by the end of the week. I guess the Arab Spring has firmly advanced through the Summer and Fall and now we have definitely entered the Arab Winter, a cold long Arab Winter.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

July 2, 2013

Egyptian Military Clamps Forty-Eight Hour Lid on Protests

Egyptian Commanding General Abd al-Fatah a-Sisi has announced that President Morsi and his government have forty-eight hours to find a solution to the political unrest after which the military will step in and impose a solution. This comes on top of the resignation of four of President Morsi’s Departmental Ministers, the Tourism, Parliamentary Affairs, Communications and Environmental, which would lead one to think that Morsi will be required to call new elections. Adding to the ministers fleeing a stricken presidency, Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr resigned late last evening Egyptian time. This was in response to demonstrations which featured over a million protesters turning out across the nation calling for new elections and only slightly less turning out to support the continued rule under President Morsi. The main headquarters of the Peace and Justice Party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm which Morsi leads, was ransacked and stripped of its furnishings and other supplies including televisions, computers, furniture, body armor and anything else worth stealing before the building was firebombed destroying anything left inside. The Muslim Brotherhood personnel had been escorted from the building earlier in the day Monday.

 

In a separate incident it was reported that hundreds of Alexandria police officers publicly declared their support for the anti-government groups. Further reports informed of Egyptian tanks gathered in Sinai along the border with Gaza presumably in order to secure against any possibility for Hamas forces to enter Egypt with the intent of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. It was likely feared that Hamas would serve in a similar role should violence break out as Hezballah is currently serving supporting President al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. It appears the Egyptian military is taking every precaution in order to minimize having Egypt break down into violence and even a civil war similar as has happened in Syria which would have been predicated on Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood not rejecting their ultimatum. This will not be the case as the Muslim Brotherhood has rejected the military’s ultimatum.

 

The response from the Muslim Brotherhood came via the Al Jazeera network where Yasser Hamza, a member of the FJP’s legal committee, was quoted claiming, “Everyone rejects the statement of the armed forces. Solutions will be in the framework of the constitution. The age of military coups is over.” This is basically a declaration of intent to fight by and with any and all means possible by the Muslim Brotherhood aimed directly at the military. This reverses the whole state of affairs from immediately after the military issued their demands. Now the ball is back in the court of General al-Fatah a-Sisi’s court to take the next move. So, now all eyes and ears are tilted towards the military in anticipation for how they will react to this fusillade from the Muslim Brotherhood. If the military should back down it will allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take whatever measures they deem necessary to continue with President Morsi in office. Then the one action which might force a military intervention would be if the Muslim Brotherhood in the name of the governing powers decided to forcibly bring an end to the demonstrations. By taking such a move they will have proven that Morsi is not all that different than any other tyrannical leader making his government no better than the Mubarak government when they initially attempted to silence the demonstration against them. So, what does the future hold in Egypt that is the big question.

 

The most likely future no longer depends on what Morsi says or does, on what stance is taken by the Muslim Brotherhood, or even whether or not the military pushes back immediately by enforcing their forty-eight hour deadline; it depends entirely on the opposition demonstrators who are demanding Morsi step down and hold new elections. Should these people remain in the streets demanding new elections then there will be a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the demonstrators which inevitably leads to a confrontation between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. We have been on the receiving end of endless propaganda advising us that the Muslim Brotherhood is, as Intelligence Chief James Clapper was quoted, “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’…is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried Al Qaeda as a perversion of Islam. They have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt, et cetera…..In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally.” It looks like we are about to witness exactly how much the Muslim Brotherhood  will have “eschewed violence” and “have pursued social ends, a betterment of the political order in Egypt” by their response to the demonstrators seeking to hold new elections. If James Clapper was correct we would see a referendum over whether or not new elections were something the majority desired, a sort of vote of confidence in Morsi by the people and if their vote indicated the need for new elections then the Muslim Brotherhood would put forth their candidate under their Freedom and Justice Party brand and hold new elections. Personally, I do not think Mr. Clapper’s view is going to hold up and we are much more likely to see that the Muslim Brotherhood is very willing to employ violence.

 

Egypt is very likely to go over the edge and may become a second Syria, something the world definitely could do without. We are going to witness the Muslim Brotherhood taking off the nice presentable suits and ties and returning to their more Hamas-like origins. One needs to remember that Hamas is simply the Muslim Brotherhood branch if the Palestinian neighborhood. Should the protesters continue their public outcry for new elections then we will see the unfortunate result which is inevitable when those who hold absolute power, or at least believe they hold absolute power, are confronted with a challenge of what they see as their right to rule unopposed. We saw it in a small scale in Egypt in the lead up to Mubarak stepping down, and again in Libya when Gadhafi refused to step down, and are still witnessing in Syria as the two sides completely and utterly destroy the nation over which they fight. Judging from their initial successes the anti-Morsi demonstrators are not going to back down mainly because they rightfully see their nation’s whole existence in the balance of whether or not they prevail. They have witness a year of devastating damage to the Egyptian economy, infrastructure, energy supplies, trade, tourism industry, monetary reserves, and the erosion of their freedoms. They watched the Muslim Brotherhood strong-arm a Sharia based Islamist Constitution and follow that up with a steady output of laws which aimed to erode personal freedoms and put all of Egypt under a Sharia observant system. There have been a series of what can only be described as pogroms against the Coptic Christians, the Shiite communities and anybody else who may have been suspected of opposing the continued rule by the Muslim Brotherhood. These oppressive attacks had actually been on the rise more so of late especially against Christians. With their liberties and freedoms being encroached by the Morsi government, the pro-democracy supporters in Egypt likely saw the one year anniversary of President Morsi’s time in office as an appropriate opportunity to voice their discontent. Now that discontent will be put to the test and their sole hope is for the military to enforce their timely ultimatum.

 

We will likely witness the response play out throughout the day, today. It is possible that violence may have broken out in earnest by the time this article gets posted and you have the opportunity to read it. We can all hope that any violence can be avoided and the people’s will is permitted to be voiced, but we also know that is probably just a dream. The Muslim Brotherhood possesses sufficient supporters within the military such that should the military attempt to impose their ultimatum there will be some units who will side with the Muslim Brotherhood against their fellow soldiers as in Egypt alliances of brothers in arms are not as strong as the ties to Islamic fellowships. One of the interesting developments to watch out for is on which side will the Salafists fall? While they are even more radical Islamists than the Muslim Brotherhood and thus one would be lead to think they would join with the Muslim Brotherhood, the reality is there is no love lost between these Islamist rivals. The Salafists would just as soon see Morsi toppled in the hopes that they would be able to take the lead over Egypt. Where the Salafists voted with the Muslim Brotherhood on the Constitution and the laws implementing Sharia, they have no loyalty beyond assisting the application of Islamist Sharia Law over Egypt. We might also look for any interference from Iran through the Shiite population though that is not a high probability as Egypt’s Sunni population has an overwhelming advantage in sheer numbers.

 

The report that hundreds of Alexandria police officers publicly declared their support for the anti-government groups will bear some watching as they would serve as the first line in defense of the protesters should Morsi order the demonstrators to be dispersed. This is even more true as it would be special units within the national police who would most likely be the first line units deployed in such an effort. We will eventually see units being deployed who are enforcers for the Muslim Brotherhood and have been enforcing the modesty laws and other decrees of Sharia which were only semi-officially implemented. Should the demonstrators be fully backed by the military, or at least the majority of the military who are more loyal to Egypt than the Muslim Brotherhood, then we may be facing a repeat of Syria styled civil war in Egypt. This would present a real problem for President Obama and friends who have invested so much in their backing and complete faith in the Muslim Brotherhood. President Obama wrongfully supported the candidacy of Morsi and was overly pleased at his being elected. Now President Obama will need to choose between his Egyptian savior Morsi and the pro-democracy demonstrators. As we recall President Obama initially tried to take both sides semi-backing Mubarak but soon deserted Mubarak completely demanding him to step down for the good of Egypt and the World. We will get to see if the same maturation process will take President Obama from the Morsi support system onto demanding Morsi step down and allow for new elections. No, President Obama will remain faithful to his good friend Morsi and especially to the Muslim Brotherhood. There is not likely to be any surprises from Washington until it becomes, if it ever should, obvious that Morsi will be dethroned. In the meantime we here will watch and provide whatever spiritual support we can to the protesters in the extremely slim chance that they can actually drag Egypt politically into the spirit of the Eighteenth Century or even better, the democracy wave of the Twentieth Century.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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