On the evening of 20-21 September al-jazeera TV reported extensively on “massive” protests taking place in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, and several other cities around Egypt. They called the protest “larger than expected” and members of the crowds were heard chanting for (President) as-Sisi to get lost , and that “the people want to bring down the regime.”
On the other hand, the AP reported that the demonstrations only included “dozens” and was mostly just people celebrating the victory of the al-Ahli soccer club over arch rival Zamalek.
The truth probably lies somewhere in between. The AP report appears to have come from an Egyptian journalist (meaning pro-government) interviewed by al-jazeera who used words in Arabic which equated verbatim the AP English report above.
Al-Jazeera has subsequently (23 Sept.) reported that the Egyptian authorities prevented all foreign news agencies, including those from America and Europe, from gaining access to any of the areas where the protests were taking place. This would explain the vanilla reporting by the AP.
The live al-Jazeera video feeds, incidentally, were entirely from individuals taking part in the protests who filmed it on their cell phones and uploaded it to the internet. These views tell a story completely at variance with the AP and “official” Egyptian reporting.
One major weakness in the AP report is that after stating that only “dozens” showed up to protest, they also stated that the authorities arrested “dozens.” In other words, the authorities arrested every single protester, which is an absurdity–especially if all they were doing was celebrating a soccer victory.
The video feeds shown on al-Jazeera clearly show no less than tens of thousands swarming Cairo’s midaan at-tahreer (which was the focal point of the 2011 Arab Spring protests), and other sections of Cairo, as well as large crowds in Alexandria and elsewhere. While it may be true that the size of these crowds may have been swollen by soccer hooligans, the video feeds also showed the authorities arresting individuals, but certainly not the majority of protesters. (Subsequent reporting by www.aljazeera.net on 23 September claimed that over 350 were arrested and charged with such things as “belonging to a terrorist group,” “protesting without giving prior notification to the government,” “spreading fake news,” and “wrongful use of certain methods of social media.”)
Most damning to the AP report is that the video feeds showed the protesters burning banners that had as-Sisi’s face on them–something one would not expect from mere soccer fans.
There has been some talk of another demonstration next Friday, so that will tell whether or not this Arab Spring 2.0 has any legs or not in Egypt.
IS PRESIDENT AS-SISI A JEW?
In a possibly related matter, rumors have just circulated claiming that current Egyptian President Muhammad ‘abd al-Fetah as-Sisi was born in Marrakesh, Morocco and has a Jewish heritage. Moroccan intelligence, of course, has refuted this claim out of hand.
However, the fact that such a rumor could get started and have enough traction to be repeated on al-jazeera TV requires some unpacking.
First off, one of the biggest insults in the Arab world is to call someone a Jew. That ranks right up there with calling someone the son of a whore, or a dog. Morocco has also been the home to a large Jewish community. Thousands of Spanish Jews fled there in the wake of the Christian Reconquista and subsequent inquisition. During WWII Jews found refuge in Morocco from the Nazi purges. Thus, the possibility of someone being born in Morocco having a Jewish ancestor somewhere in the family tree is not as far-fetched as it may sound.
What is far-fetched, though is claiming that as-Sisi was born in Morocco. I have heard President as-Sisi speak on many occasions, and the lingo he speaks is very, very beladi ‘awwi ‘awwi as the Egyptians would say. In other words, his lingo, unless he is reading a prepared speech to a pan-Arab convention, or a UN General Assembly session, is that of the lowest of the lowest class of Egyptians, i.e. the peasants tied to the soil–in other words a way of talking not indicative of the offspring of immigrants. Translation: President as-Sisi is the offspring of poor, very low class, rural or small town, purely Egyptian parents.
Why is such a rumor as this being hatched and spread at this time? That it conveniently pops up at the same time that there are anti-President as-Sisi demonstrations going on in Egypt is certainly suspicious.
In this context we must remember that a former president of Egypt, Anwar as-Sadat, was assassinated in 1981 by members of his own military who were secret members of an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. The reason for his assassination, and the reason his assassination was celebrated by Egyptians across the globe, was because he visited Israel and delivered a speech to the Israeli Knesset. This then led to a peace agreement and mutual recognition between the two countries, which further infuriated fundamentalists in the country.
Because of the as-Sadat assassination, no Egyptian president has visited Israel since. However, as-Sisi has done perhaps even more than that. He has had his military conduct joint exercises in the Mediterranean that included Israel as one of the four participating militaries (Greece and Cyprus being the other two). President as-Sisi as also not only allowed, but actually asked for, Israel to conduct air raids on Egyptian territory (this being to attack salafi terrorists in the northern Sinai who are a threat to both countries).
Translation: President as-Sisi’s friendliness with Israel in particular, and world Judaism in general, are what may have stimulated the launching of the above-mentioned rumor. The fact that there are many other complaints against the as-Sisi regime connected with his iron-fist rule such a rumor of a Jewish connection serves to pour kerosene on an already existing fire.
The spokesman for the “Libyan National Army” (LNA) Gen. Mismarri accused the “internationally recognized coalition” government led by Fayez Sirraaj of drafting children and using them in battlefield operations. Then he claimed that the plans of Turkey, Qatar, ISIS, and al-Qaeda have fallen in Libya before the will of the Libyan people and army.
Both the Qatar owned al-jazeera TV and the Saudi-owned al-arabiyya TV reported that “unknown” aircraft hit a pair of heshd sha’bi (people’s mobilization) installations in western anbar province.
Suspicion for the attack is aimed at either America, or Israel acting on American’s behalf.
The heshd sha’bi are Iraqi Shi’a militia units organized by Iran initially to fight the American occupation of Iraq (and to set up roadside IEDs to kill and maim Americans). Since the U.S. pull-out these units have continued to be funded and controlled by Iran. Anbar province is a predominantly Sunni region of Iraq and extends from just west of Baghdad westward to the Turkish border.
The Shi’a population of Iraq is mostly concentrated in the eastern and southern portions of Iraq, so to have Iranian-controlled and funded Shi’a militia in the very western and predominantly Sunni region is rather noteworthy in itself.
The suspicion that either America hit these essentially Iranian sites, or the Israelis at America’s behest did it, might have some merit coming as it did only days after the two Saudi oil refiners were taken out by either Iran or one of Iran’s proxies. The implication being that the Trump administration was sending a message to the Iranian mullahs that one: There will be a price to pay for any further Iranian adventurism beyond that of additional sanctions. And, two, “we can use proxies too.”
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com