Al-Ahram Weekly Online   24 February - 2 March 2011
Issue No. 1036
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Democracy US-style

Egypt's pro-democracy movement was greeted in Washington by scheming and second-guessing, observes James Petras*

One of the least analysed aspects of the Egyptian pro- democracy movement and US policy towards it is the role of the influential Zionist power configuration (ZPC) including the leading umbrella organisation the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations (CPMAJO), Congressional Middle East committee members, officials occupying strategic positions in the Obama Administration's Middle East bureaus, as well as prominent editors, publicists and journalists who play a major role in the leading US newspapers and popular weekly magazines. This essay is based on a survey of every issue of the Daily Alert (propaganda bulletin of the CPMAJO), the New York Times and the Washington Post between 25 January and 17 February.

From the very beginning of the Egyptian pro-democracy movement, the ZPC called into question the legitimacy of the anti-dictatorial demands by focussing on the "Islamic threat". In particular the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Alert harped on the "threat" of a "Islamic takeover" by the Muslim Brotherhood even as the overwhelming number of non-Zionist experts and reporters in Egypt republic (see the Financial Times ) demonstrated that the vast majority of protesters were not members of any Islamic political movement, but largely advocates of a secular democratic state.

Once their initial propaganda ploy failed, the ZPC developed several new propaganda lines, the most prominent of which was a sustained defence of the Mubarak dictatorship as a bulwark of Israel's security and guardian of the so-called "Peace Accord" of 1979. In other words the ZPC pressured the US administration, via congressional hearings, the press and AIPAC to support Mubarak as a key guarantor and collaborator of Israel's supremacy in the Middle East, although it meant that the Obama regime would have to openly oppose the million-member Egyptian freedom movement. Israeli journalists, officials and their US Zionist counterparts willingly admitted that although the Mubarak regime was a bloody, corrupt tyranny, he should be supported because a democratic government in Cairo might end Egypt's decades-old collaboration with the brutal Israeli colonisation of Palestine.

Once it became clear that uncritical support for Mubarak was no longer a viable position and the Obama administration was appealing to the democratic movement to "dialogue" and negotiate with the dictator, the ZPC demanded caution in backing a "dialogue" and assurance that the dialogue did not lead to any abrupt changes in the Mubarak-Israeli treaty. The ZPC and its scribes in the Washington Post presented Mubarak's hand picked "vice president" Omar Suleiman as the legitimate interlocutor for the dialogue, even as he was unanimously rejected by the entire pro-democracy movement.

As the demonstrators grew in number and engulfed the major public squares throughout the country and extended beyond the first week, Israel and the ZPC promoted a possible alternative solution, which would keep Mubarak in power, during a nine-month transition period. Caught off guard by the rapid growth of the Egyptians' revolt, Israel's willing accomplices in the US administration and media conceded that an end to the dictatorship would be a good thing -- if it was managed appropriately; namely, if it excluded or minimised the role of the Muslim Brotherhood and maximised the role of the pro-Israel military high command and intelligence services as overseers of the "transition". The ZPC contemptuously rejected Egypt's independent pro-democracy movement and its leaders and sought to undermine the Egyptian people's movement by inflating the role of the "best organised" Islamic Brotherhood and warned of a future Islamist "seizure of power".

The leading Zionist official in the Obama administration and AIPAC point man Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg travelled to Israel to assure the Netanyahu/ Lieberman regime that the US was in contact with the Egyptian military high command and sectors of the civilian opposition (El-Baradei) and that Washington's support of the democracy movement was conditioned by their assurance that the Israeli-Egyptian treaty would remain unchanged.

When Mubarak was finally forced to resign, handing power to a military junta, the ZPC congratulated the coup-makers, supported their demobilisation of the movement and more important, celebrated the Egyptian generals' endorsement of the 1979 peace agreement. Now the Israeli propaganda machine began to harshly criticise Mubarak and portrayed the military coup as a positive step towards an "orderly and peaceful transition".

By "orderly" the Zionist think tankers meant a regime change that did nothing to change the blockade of Gaza, the regular shipment of fuel to Israel, or the hotline of collaboration between Tel Aviv and Cairo. Israeli and American Zionists rejected early elections and promoted a prolonged process in which the Egyptian military, the US administration and the ZPC could handpick members of the transitional constitutional and electoral commissions committed to continuing Mubarak's policy of unconditional submission to Israel.

By "peaceful" the pro-Israel diplomats in the Obama Administration meant clearing the streets of the masses of pro-democracy activists and demonstrators so that decisions could be controlled by the small circle of Mubarak military and civilian holdovers behind closed doors.

By "transition", the circles of Zionists propagandists, US/Israeli policy-makers and Egyptian generals meant that nothing would change but the face of Mubarak.

While Israel and the bulk of Zionist scribes and propagandists in the US opposed or questioned the pro- democracy movements against pro-Israeli rulers in the Middle East, they embraced and publicised the social movements opposing the Iranian regime. In every print and electronic outlet, the pro-Israel journalists emphasised the repressive, brutal nature of the Iranian regime, called for regime change and raised the spectre of a military confrontation if Iranian warships traversed the Suez Canal, Iran's right by international maritime law. Israeli security, the threat of radical Islam and Iran were cited to place narrow limits on all discussions and debates over US policy regarding the enormous and growing mass pro-democracy movements throughout the Arab world.

The same prominent US Zionist scribes who, at first, defended US support for the dictatorial Mubarak regime and then supported the military takeover in Cairo, have now become born-again backers of anti-regime democrats in Iran. This is not inconsistent: the issue for US Zionists is how might pro-democracy movements affect Israel's colonial policies in Palestine and Israel's expanding power in the Middle East? In other words, the ZPC in Congress and the White House are not concerned about promoting democracy through American foreign policy, but only about harnessing US diplomacy and military leverage to serve Israel.

What is striking about Obama's twists and turns in policy towards the mass popular struggles in Egypt is how closely it repeats and implements the policy positions of the US Zionist power configuration clearly presented in the 52 organisations' propaganda organ the Daily Alert.

* The writer is a political analyst. His most recent book is What's Left in Latin America ?

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