x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A blow to Egypt's court system

Egypt really does look like a "banana republic" over the way US activists were suddenly released from the legal system, an Arabic-language editorial argues. Other topics: America's Israel lobby and Palestinian unity.

Easy bailout of NGO operatives threatens the integrity and independence of Egypt's judiciary

Dr Mohammed Al Baradei, who was an important figure in the Egyptian revolution and until just recently, a strong candidate for the Egyptian presidency, posted on Twitter the observation that Egypt has become a banana republic, the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi noted in its Saturday editorial.

His comment was posted in protest to the foreign interference with the Egyptian judiciary that led to the release of US activists accused of meddling in Egyptian internal affairs.

"He was right in his choice of description," said the paper.

US pressure was successful in securing a bailout for a group of American activists who were standing trial in Egyptian courts for their involvement in actions that conflict with Egyptian sovereignty within the framework of the foreign financing of non-governmental organisations operating in the country.

The US administration sent the chairman of its joint chiefs of staff, General Martin Dempsey, to Cairo to negotiate a way out of this crisis with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf), one which would allow the American activists to leave Egypt and return home.

The general's mission was successful. All the defendants did indeed leave amid exaggerated fanfare at Cairo airport, having each paid a bail of two million Egyptian pounds ($330,000 US or Dh1.2mn).

"The Egyptian authorities had first shown that they would submit to US pressures no more, and that they would not remain captive to the annual aid of $1.25 billion. But they soon retracted and the case was transferred to the court of misdemeanours to facilitate the defendants' departure," added Al Quds Al Arabi.

The way the crisis was handled brought to mind the practices of the deposed regime, that submitted unconditionally to US requests and directives and made every effort to keep the US administration appeased, fearing that otherwise aid would be cut off and the regime's corruption would be uncovered.

How were members of externally-funded NGOs allowed to leave the country so easily after they had been accused of plotting to divide Egypt and disrupt its internal stability, especially since incriminating evidence was found upon inspection of their headquarters?

"It can only be one of two possibilities: either the authorities who made the accusations had been lying and didn't really possess any evidence, or they surrendered to the American will," the paper went on.

Egyptian authorities would have been better advised to leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the judiciary, even if on grounds of reciprocity.

US authorities would have never allowed another country to interfere in its independent judicial proceedings, no matter what the case may have been.

Americans rally against Israeli lobby

It is refreshing to see that some civilian groups in the United States are still able to stand up to the Zionist lobby in Washington, making sure their protests against Israel's far-reaching hand in their country's decision-making are heard loud and clear, the UAE-based newspaper Al Khaleej said in an editorial yesterday.

Crowds of US citizens, of Arab descent and other stocks, organised marches last week on the streets of Washington, after they reportedly launched an "Occupy Aipac" campaign on Twitter with comments like "We want our country back".

Aipac stands for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which is self-identified as "America's pro-Israel lobby".

"Though deeply entrenched in the nooks and crannies of … US institutions, think tanks, financial centres and the media, the Zionist lobbies still could not muzzle active forces in society that oppose Zionist belligerence and racism," the newspaper said.

"This is proof that there is an American public opinion that stands against the US's pro-Israel policies … especially as these hurt the US and its international standing, while US taxpayers have to bear the brunt of funding Israel's war machine."

Indeed, we may be witnessing a sea change in the American public's view of Israel, as more Americans become conscious of the US media's always gentle portrayal of Israel's behaviour.

Reconciliation was so near and yet so far

The Intercontinental Hotel in Madinat Nasr, Egypt, was abuzz last week with dozens of leading Palestinian figures from Damascus, Amman, Ramallah and Gaza, representing different factions trying to agree on a transitional Palestinian government, Ahmad Youssef wrote in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds yesterday.

But they could not agree.

There were high hopes that the cohort of leaders would come to a consensus, especially since the prospective chief of the provisional government was already agreed upon: Mahmoud Abbas, the current head of the Palestinian Authority.

"Yet, the meeting was a big disappointment. And everybody went away with a sense of deep frustration," the writer said. "That was the feeling I myself got from speaking to a good number of those who were in attendance … The spokesmen of Fatah and Hamas were trying to blame one another for stalling," he added.

True, a reconciliation that satisfies all parties, large and small - is a challenge. And US and Israeli dissatisfaction with the rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organisation, is not helping. "These are understandable pressures," the writer noted, but the Palestinians' resolve to reunite must be stronger."

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk