x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Civil-society forces pushed together

The presidential claim of sweeping powers in Egypt will drive other factions toward unity, an Arab pundit says. Other comment topics: a film festival's bad choice, and that cancelled anti-nuclear meeting.

Civil forces aligning in Egypt will have a lot of power in confrontation with the Brotherhood

The novelty about the political and street confrontations that have been raging in Egypt since last Thursday is that the military seems to have no role in them, at least for now, said Abdullah Iskandar, managing editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

President Mohammed Morsi granted himself the right to declare a state of emergency or to take any other measure in cases he deems the revolution and the country are in jeopardy.

Most probably, any measure that shoves the military directly into the political conflict would be the last resort in the encounter between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis on one side and civil factions on the other side.

Another unfamiliar occurrence was that the various civil factions have come together for the first time against Mr Morsi's two-fold scheme: the Islamification of the regime and the society, and also his grab for all-encompassing and irreversible powers, evoking memories of dictatorship.

"Accordingly, the elements of the present confrontation are completely different from those that have been in place since the overthrow of the Mubarak regime. The military moved to the background, and now political Islam is at the front facing the allied civil powers," said the writer.

When Mr Morsi went for his new constitutional decree, it was supposed to go through smoothly, especially after he regained some status due to his role in bringing about truce in the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza. Cairo's mediation in this affair won the regime the praise of the US, the West and the Arab world.

"Mr Morsi relied on Egypt's restored regional influence to turn his attention to organising internal affairs according to the Brotherhood's agenda," the writer added.

Those who applauded the electoral process that resulted in Mr Morsi coming to power did so with regard to the process itself, and not over the person of the president. In this sense, the support they showed hinges on the president's ability to maintain the pillars of democracy.

"The International Monetary Fund's loan to Egypt recently is an expression of international support for the democratic system. Foreign aid, especially from the US, and foreign loans are closely linked to a regime's internal orientation and its ability to ensure stability through the empowerment of institutions. But this is exactly what the constitutional decree overthrew," suggested the writer.

The ensuing scene in Tahrir Square was not like any other since the revolution. Civil personalities including former presidential candidates were at the forefront of the protests against the constitutional decree.

This new civil alliance suggests a new power balance in favour of the civil factions following a phase of dispersion after the collapse of the former regime.

Israel alone gains from scrapped nuke summit

The long-awaited conference on banning weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East ended up being cancelled, which should not really come as a shock given that it makes Israel so relieved, columnist Mohamed Obeid suggested in yesterday's edition of the Sharjah-based newspaper Al Khaleej.

The event was announced in 2010 and was planned to be held in Helsinki under joint US, British and Russian sponsorship. The 189 member states of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) were expected to attend.

In the words of Victoria Noland, the spokeswoman of the US department of state, the cancellation was attributed to international differences and regional instability, among other hollow excuses. In fact, this development simply confirms yet again that "any international move to call Israel out … is doomed to failure," the writer said.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear power in the Middle East.

Ms Noland argued that countries in the region did not come to a mutual understanding on the terms that should govern the proceedings, adding that no foreign nation can oblige the region to engage in a certain process.

"Who, aside from Israel, is going to be isolated if such a conference takes place? Plus, Ms Spokeswoman, isn't it the established role of your country to dictate the stances that should be taken?" the writer demanded.

Festival's Syrian movie screening a treason

As the Syrian regime escalates attacks on the revolutionaries in a bid to abort the uprising, pro-revolution cultural activities of all sorts have mounted in parallel, wrote Egyptian movie critic Tarek El Shenawi in the London-based paper Al Sharq Al Awsat.

"A weapon is not only a bullet, but can also be a film, a song, a poem or any type of plastic arts," the critic said. "All of these have fought an honourable fight on the field."

Backing the revolutions has been a top priority in all post-Arab Spring cultural events. But now there is an exception: The 35th Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF), which starts this week. CIFF is screening Al Ashiq (The Lover), a movie produced by a regime-linked organisation.

Directed by Syrian filmmaker Abdellatif Abdelhamid, Al Ashiq does not talk about the revolution, as though there were no martyrs and no uprising in Syria. The production company seeks to deliver a message that Syria does not live in exceptional circumstances, and the proof is a movie where there is no trace of any revolution.

"The Cairo Festival is affiliated with the ministry of culture, and with this choice it seems to be on another planet."

The festival said it is just being neutral, but neutrality can be tantamount to treason.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk