x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Morsi puts revolution in danger

By making his decrees incontestable, President Mohammed Morsi has over-reached, a commentator says. Other topics: Israel's defeat and the decline of Arabic theatre.

Egyptian revolution is in danger as Morsi decides to make his decrees incontestable

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said on Friday that the decrees he had issued earlier in the week, which entitle him to extensive legislative and executive powers, are meant to ensure the country's stability, enhance productivity, put an end to thuggery on the streets and entrench the culture of power rotation.

But the immediate outcome of Mr Morsi's move has been diametrically opposed to those purported pursuits, wrote Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of the pan-Arab newspaper Al Quds Al Arabi, in a front-page column yesterday.

"Decidedly, the Egyptian revolution is under threat, and the great achievements it had brought in terms of unifying the Egyptian people are now being put to a serious test," the editor wrote.

Egypt now is split between two warring camps: one bearing Islamist colours, comprising the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists; and the other, of a secular inclination, composed of liberals, nationalists, leftists and Coptic Christians - with the supporters of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak lurking right behind them, according to the editor.

"The dreadful manifestation of this rift could be easily seen in the protests and counter-protests that followed [the presidential declaration] in various squares in Cairo and other cities."

Tens of thousands of protesters against Mr Morsi's new, if provisional, constitutional declaration - which makes his presidential decisions irreversible - vented their anger in Tahrir Square on Friday, with some denouncing him as Egypt's "new pharaoh".

His supporters, in their thousands also, gathered outside the Presidential Palace to show their loyalty. It was only a matter of time before violent clashes erupted.

"Not too long ago, bloody clashes in Egypt were between the champions of the revolution and the supporters of an old, corrupt and despotic regime," the editor noted. "Now, these clashes are pitting the champions of the same revolution against each other … Which is a recipe for disaster."

It was has been several months coming, the editor went on. The current clashes should have been foreseeable ever since prominent personalities such as Amr Moussa, George Isaac and Ayman Nour decided to withdraw from the constitutional assembly, which is tasked with drafting the country's new constitution.

Mr Morsi's decrees were simply "the match that ignited the wick", leading to the violence in Tahrir Square on Friday.

To be sure, there are positive aspects to Mr Morsi's declaration, given that some of its intentions intersect with popular demands to, for instance, retry old regime figures suspected of giving orders to kill protesters during the revolution, but who have been acquitted for lack of evidence.

But that cannot be enough to justify the president's unilateral decision to make his own decrees above any sort of oversight, the editor concluded.

Israel fails to see that military will not prevail

With all its military might and the unwavering support of the West, Israel still cannot bring the small Palestinian enclave of Gaza to its knees, wrote the UAE newspaper Al Khaleej in its editorial yesterday.

Perhaps with the exception of the 1967 War, Israel has systematically waged wars that only proved that its regional invincibility is a myth.

Throughout modern history, people's resolve to resist their aggressors has always paid off, and the examples are many. Washington unleashed its power in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, only to later regret it, the paper said.

"The same is true of Israel in its assaults on Gaza and in Lebanon [over the decades]."

All the Palestinians and the Lebanese had was "a surplus of resolve", plus some basic munitions.

"This surplus of will forced Israel to withdraw from Beirut in 1982, foiled its 'Grapes of Wrath' operation in 1996, pushed it out of Lebanon again in 2000, aborted its assault on the same country in 2006 and, later, on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, before the latest attack on Gaza [this month], in which Gazans were victorious."

Israel should learn this odd but time-tested algorithm: even super-empires collapse when the sheer confidence of the people they want to conquer is such that it matches the conqueror's hard power.

The twilight of Arab theatre is a great loss

"When I was little, I read several books by the famous British novelist Agatha Christie. Just recently I learned that her play The Mousetrap, a 128-page read, has become the longest-running play ever, having been staged without interruption for the past 60 years," wrote columnist Zainab Hifni in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

Arab theatre also had a glorious past, but that is no longer the case, the columnist argued.

"I lament the waning status of Arab theatre today," she wrote. "I say 'Arab theatre' because in the early and mid-20th century in Egypt … actors from a variety of Arab nationalities would be standing on the same stage."

Sadly, no one has taken the baton from such great masters as Naguib El Rihani, Youssef Wahbi and Mary Mounib, leaving the Arab theatre without a compass.

"Every time I visit Cairo, I see the bills dotting the main avenues, advertising cheap, pathetic plays," the writer said. "I am not against musicals or farce … but I'm against contrived, deliberate, superficial spectacle."

Producers seem convinced that all Arab viewers want from theatre is to open their mouth and laugh at the next slapstick skit, the writer argued.

Arab culture as a whole is being degraded as a result.

* Digest compiled by Achraf El Bahi