Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1178, (2 - 8 January 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Shame on The New York Times

The one-sided version of post-30 June realities in Egypt that The New York Times presents is nothing short of a travesty, writes Abdel-Moneim Said

Al-Ahram Weekly

According to the conventions of professional journalism, events are reported first in as much detail as possible followed by the reactions they trigger. Then comes the turn of commentators among the various parties involved with respect to which diverse viewpoints should be covered as fairly as possible. The New York Times chose to alter this order when it came to the terrorist attacks that have afflicted Egypt. On this subject, the US-based newspaper starts with the reactions on the part of the Egyptian authorities, which it treats in great detail. Then come the commentators/analysts who not only condemn the actions of the Egyptian authorities but also hasten to add that they will lead to nothing. Only then does the newspaper or its Cairo correspondent, Mayy Al-Sheikh mention in a few brief lines, in token deference to journalistic duty, that a terrorist attack occurred in Cairo and another in Mansoura. Then the newspaper goes back to the commentators/analysts who generally subscribe to a single school of thought on the subject of Egypt since 30 June, which holds that the mass revolution that day and several days later was a “military coup” against an elected president and that the terrorist attacks are in the nature of acts of resistance. Moreover, these acts of resistance should not be attributed to the Muslim Brothers for they are being carried out by an organisation called Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis that has no connection with the Muslim Brotherhood but is merely resorting to violence out of sympathy for the downtrodden Muslim Brothers who condemned the terrorist acts.
The flow and balance of the NYT narrative betrays no small degree of professional remiss. There was no attempt to speak of to probe and bring to light the facts to the greatest possible extent, in contrast to The Wall Street Journal, which can hardly be accused of flattering the Egyptian authorities but which, nevertheless, gave as much attention to the attacks as it did to the consequences.
The NYT’s original sin is that it refuses to recognise the mass uprising on 30 June 2013 as a revolution whereas it does recognise as such the January 2011 uprising, which succeeded in overthrowing a tyrannical regime, even though the number of people who participated in that revolution were about half as many as those who took part in the 30 June demonstrations. In both cases, it was the military that shifted the balances on the ground and that channelled a massive grassroots movement into political processes that brought the country back from the brink of conflict and civil war. But the NYT doesn’t see it that way. In its opinion, the military’s intervention in the first case was not a coup because it eventually brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power whereas its intervention in the second case was a coup because it ushered the Muslim Brotherhood out of power and into forms of “resistance”. Not only do such double standards obscure the truth, they also give way to a number of historical misconceptions regarding the idea of “revolution” or mass uprising in general, and what has happened in Egypt in particular.
For the most part, a revolution is an exceptional event. It is a form of upheaval that has never resolved itself in a quick return to stability. In fact, in cases, it precipitated a chain reaction of turbulences that would continue for some time before conditions settled down and stabilised. After the American Revolution succeeded in evacuating British forces from American soil, the newly formed confederacy of American states did not have a moment of stability. This was not just because of the commercial rivalries between the states, and disputes over the question of slavery, but also because of assorted rebellions, all of which were crushed with varying degrees of brutality.
Worse would come with the outbreak of the French Revolution whose strident revolutionary slogans were too radical for the ears of the American revolutionary elites. Not least of these was the first US president, George Washington, who had Congress pass the Alien and Sedition Act, banning French revolutionaries from entry into the US and unleashing an iron fist against all who might be tempted to advocate the ideas of the French Revolution or emulate the behaviour of French revolutionaries. Historians have long been perplexed by Washington’s refusal to intervene to secure the release of General Lafayette, his friend and ally during the American War of Independence who, upon his return to France, was imprisoned for five years. The most logical explanation is that Washington’s hostility to the ideas of the French Revolution and the potential damage they might cause to the nascent American confederacy outweighed his affection for his friend, the Marquis.
But when it comes to Egypt, the NYT has little interest in US revolutionary history or in the histories of other revolutions and similarly huge upheavals elsewhere in the world. It has fallen in love with the Muslim Brotherhood and with inventing a history that does not exist. According to the NYT narrative, the Muslim Brothers were persecuted under Hosni Mubarak and by the current “military government” whereas, in fact, every Egyptian government, from the monarchy through the republican eras regarded the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to the Egyptian state. The NYT then laments that the problem with the Muslim Brotherhood as that no one wants to include it in the political system even though it is a part of the fabric of Egyptian society. Again the newspaper disregards the facts. The Muslim Brotherhood was given ample opportunity to enter the sphere of legitimate political activity but, since the monarchical period, it has continued to insist on two points. The first was to remain a secret organisation with a special paramilitary apparatus that carried out acts of violence and assassinations. The second was to cast itself as superior to all other political players in its self-appointed capacity as the “legitimate” agent for the Islamic creed. Its persistence on these two points led to the clashes in 1949, 1954, 1965, 1981 and 2013. Before and in-between all these dates the authorities had tried to include the Muslim Brotherhood in the political sphere.
King Farouk had initially encouraged them, only for them to turn around and assassinate his prime minister, Al-Nuqrashi. Gamal Abdel-Nasser had favoured them when he dissolved the political parties, while allowing them to keep their organisation, after which they attempted to assassinate him. Anwar Al-Sadat encouraged and promoted to the Muslim Brothers like no other leader before him and he was assassinated as the reward. Mubarak released Muslim Brotherhood members from prison, allowed them to ally with existing political parties or to field themselves as independents in legislative elections until eventually they won 20 per cent of the seats in parliament. Then they found it opportune to hop aboard the revolution to overthrow him. If, following 25 January, they were initially part of the revolutionary coalition, they soon found it more convenient to reach an accommodation with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which helped leverage them to power through electoral processes that, albeit legitimate, they clearly took as a mandate to rule exclusively and forever. The vast majority of the Egyptian people understood this, which is why 30 June occurred.
During their year in power, the Muslim Brothers never budged from their determination to keep their organisation secret. The issue was never whether or not politicians in power or in the opposition were willing to include the Muslim Brothers as legitimate players in the political process. Rather, the issue has always been whether or not the Muslim Brothers were willing to assimilate into the polity without their secret organisation, their international organisation and their special apparatus, and without the ever-present threat of recourse to violence against all who disagree with them. But the NYT refuses to see that. It keeps its blinkers intact as it mouths its homilies about inclusiveness while believing every word of Muslim Brotherhood statements in English while ignoring not just its statements in Arabic but also the terrorist threats its speakers, and speakers of its jihadist allies, issued from the platforms in Nasr City’s Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Giza’s Nahda Square during the weeks before and after 30 June, threats that they are trying to carry out to the letter today.

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