Beyond the Cusp

February 23, 2014

Anti-Semitism; the Ugly Underside of the Ukraine Uprising

Amid the claims of good news and the distinct possibility that the uprising in the Ukraine may be on the cusp of a resolution and to be forming an interim government which will be composed of representatives of the various political parties, there are some sobering reports of increasing anti-Semitism. The most disturbing portions of these reports has been that both the police and security personnel of the former government of President Yanukovych as well as enforcers from various segments from among the rebellious demonstrating parties have been threatening Jewish residents in Kiev. There have been reports which imply that Ukrainian radical movements are working with and have very close ties to the Hungarian Fascist Jobbik Party, a reputed neo-Nazi nationalist party. Furthermore, there have been accusations of protesters reaching Jewish areas of Kiev and vandalizing shops. Many of Kiev’s Jewish population have fled the Ukrainian capital city escaping to safer regions where there are no protests and the police are not acting as enforcers of a hated regime stamping out those who they consider to be a source of the country’s problems. With the validation of the police threatening the remaining Jews claiming the uprising was orchestrated by Jews attempting to take control of the Ukraine government and also validating that some members of the extreme right-wing nationalist parties are also denouncing the Jews as supporters of President Yanukovych and his criminal governance, it becomes clear that both extremes are attacking the Jews in order to make them responsible for both sides of the civil strife setting the grounds for potential persecution of the Jews regardless of which side prevails. Such accusation of Jewish manipulation of governance in order to pit one sector of the society against the rest in order to gain influence is an old and vicious blood libel.

 

Twenty-five years ago, in 1989, there were almost a half a million Jews in Ukraine, now a mere 70,000 Jews are citizens of Ukraine according to official statistics. The cause of this radical decline in the Ukrainian Jewish population was a direct result of slowly growing anti-Semitism which had been steadily worsening well before the uprisings. The truth is that the uprising allowed for additional opportunities to blame the “other” for the financial, social, political and other ills that were affecting the Ukrainian peoples. As has been the case historically in the Ukraine, as in much of the rest of the world, that “other” singled out to carry the blame for all that was wrong in the society were the Jews. Recent examples of Ukrainian anti-Semitism have included a teacher of Talmud Torah in Kiev was brutally attacked by three locals requiring medical treatment at a local hospital, the stabbing a Hareidi man in Kiev this last January and the failed attempt to assassinate Vadim Rabinovich, President of the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, as an unknown assailant hurled a bomb at his car. With the renewed and escalated threats against Jews living in the Ukraine, especially in Kiev, Jews have taken precautions by not wearing Yarmulkes or other clothing and jewelry which might indicate their Jewishness.

 

Meanwhile, President Yanukovych has raised the issue that he is the victim of a coup and that the vote by the Ukrainian Parliament calling for him to vacate the Presidency was illegal and made under duress from outside forces. He has also gone to the extreme of comparing the current situation in the Ukraine to the Nazi takeover of pre-war Germany from the democratically elected Weimar Republic. President Yanukovych was quoted claiming, “We see the repeat of the Nazi events, when in the 1930s in Germany and Austria the Nazis came to power. This is a repeat of that. They banned parties. The same is happening now. They are banning the Communist Party of Ukraine, the Party of Regions, putting labels on it, chasing, beating people, burning houses, offices.” These statements came as President Yanukovych had fled Kiev taking refuge in the countryside in the northeast of the Ukraine, an area which supports his position of preference for close ties with Russia rather than with the European Union and other European nations.

 

On the brighter side of events in the Ukraine, Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from the prison hospital where she was serving a seven year sentence resulting from a controversial verdict on her actions as Prime Minister. Many had contended that her trial and conviction were politically motivated by President Yanukovych as he saw her as posing the greatest threat to his being reelected president in the future. She was ordered released by a vote of the parliament on Friday. Yulia Tymoshenko was warmly received by the crowds celebrating their apparent victory in Liberty Square in Kiev. Unable to stand, she addressed the cheering masses from her wheelchair proclaiming, “You are heroes!” She further stated, “Until you finish this job and until we travel all the way, nobody has the right to leave, because nobody could do it, not other countries, nobody could do what you have done. We’ve eliminated this cancer, this tumor.” Ms. Tymoshenko is rumored to be the most likely person to assume the Presidency once Mr. Yanukovych has been officially confirmed to have stepped down.

 

There are still a number of potential slips and falls threatening a peaceful transition as Yanukovych is still refusing to abdicate despite the protesters having gained uncontested possession of the Parliament building and much of the capital of Kiev. There is currently a tentative peace, or at least a lull in active violence between protesters and police. This would be the third agreement to halt hostilities thus far just in the last few days. The Parliament has fallen in line completely backing the calls for new governance including a new constitution which will place stricter limits of Presidential powers stripping it of much of the privileges and dictatorial powers usurped by Yanukovych since he ascended to the Presidency. The Ukraine appears to be close to a new lease on life, so to speak, yet the path ahead is neither sure nor easy. The one conclusion which can be taken is that the nationalists will have vastly increased power going into the new governance. The Ukraine also will be economically better off after removing the criminal influences and thuggery that accompanied President Yanukovych’s terms in office. Still, there is a definitive possibility that any new government could prove to fall under the influence of xenophobic purists who will call for cleansing the Ukrainian society of those who are considered to be foreigners or parts of accused subversive elements. This was part of the poisonous anti-Semitism which has been on the rise in the Ukraine as well as much of the rest of Europe as has been made overtly evident by the protestations and accusations in Hungary by the Jobbik Party and in Greece by the Golden Dawn Party.  The Ukraine will require close observation going forward and any signs of xenophobic influences should be pointed out and denounced. It is very probably too late to save and ensure a healthy Jewish population in the future of the Ukraine as the decimation of the Jews over the past twenty-five years has reduced their once significant Jewish population to a dwindling remnant more likely to be erased than it is to thrive and grow. It is a sad end to what had been a vibrant and dynamic Jewish center and an example of what is currently occurring across Europe and, I fear, soon to become all too real in the United States as well. It is this exact situation which makes Israel a necessity as otherwise the Jews would have nowhere in which to take refuge leaving them victim to the full force of unbridled hatred such as what has led to the murderous intentions so many times through the ages since the Roman dispersion. There is currently an exodus of Jews from the nation with the third largest Jewish population in the world behind Israel and the United States respectively, and that tragedy is befalling the Jews of France. Today, every Jew in France is being accused of treasonous tendencies and may as well carry the name of Captain Alfred Dreyfus. And France is far from alone, they are just the leading example with Britain, Sweden and across Europe in general everywhere that nationalist extremists are gaining in power and popularity. This too is a situation which deserves inspection and exposure to the light of day.

 

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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