Everybody's a commentator
You can criticize what's happening in the Arab world, but you need a little 'knowledge' first.
As swift as an arrow, my colleague Benny Ziffer defended the unfortunate comment by Amos Gilad that "a terrible dictatorship" is reigning in Egypt. In a piece on Friday, Ziffer said Gilad, a senior Defense Ministry official, was right. And he offered some proof: "Not only would several million Israelis endorse Gilad's statement ... several million Egyptians would also agree with it." I assume those are the same Israelis who would endorse expelling Arabs from Israel, continuing the occupation and bombing the Aswan Dam. So many Israelis can't be wrong, we all know.
"Anyone ... who has even the slightest knowledge about what is happening in Egypt knows that [Gilad's] description absolutely hits the nail on the head," Ziffer wrote. A little knowledge is the weapon of a demagogue; it's enough to tar and feather any suspect.
So there's "proof" about Egypt's dictatorship. How could the commentators not see that the firing of the editor of an "important newspaper" - Al Gomhuria - is a clear indication of that dictatorship? Ziffer asked. How could they fail to understand that the order limiting stores' and restaurants' nighttime hours, and the censorship of a belly-dancing scene from a new Egyptian film, represent ruthless control by the Muslim Brotherhood?
Let's start with the firing of Al Gomhuria's editor, Gamal Abdul Rahim. Al Gomhuria is a government paper. The editor was appointed by the Egyptian government; that is, by President Mohammed Morsi, via the Supreme Press Council that's run by the head of the upper house of parliament. On the face of it, the person with the authority to appoint the editor also has the authority to dismiss him.
That's how things were during the enlightened years of Hosni Mubarak, as well as those of Anwar Sadat and Gamal Abdel Nasser. But the dictator, Morsi, went by the law. Last week, the administrative court overturned the dismissal and ordered that Abdul Rahim be allowed to return to work. That wouldn't have happened in Mubarak's time.
The decision to close businesses early was designed to save electricity. The impressive data submitted by Egyptian experts who aren't necessarily regime supporters bear witness to this. As expected, the decision raised a storm and the merchants' organizations and shopkeepers protested vehemently. The dictator, Morsi, listened and ordered that the decision be delayed. It seems it will be overturned.
And what was said about censoring the belly-dancing scene? The peak of dictatorship. "The new regime in Egypt is doing all it can to strike terror into the press with a bluntness unseen in Mubarak's day," Ziffer wrote. But a glance at the list of fully or partly censored films during the Mubarak era, the hundreds of banned books, the closed newspapers and the arrested journalists makes Morsi look like a boy scout compared to his predecessor.
Since there is no constitution or parliament, it's too soon to decide on the nature of Egypt's democracy. In a demonstration Friday, around 10,000 members of the Salafi movements demanded that sharia law, not merely its principles, be the main source for legislation. That is, experts in religious law will decide whether the state's laws are in order.
This is a real concern that threatens secular and liberal Egyptians - and the Copts in particular. But who took pains to announce they wouldn't take part in the demonstration? The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi Al Nour party. Because Morsi, too, doesn't want Salafi sages to decide on the correctness of his laws.
The president is urging the committee drafting the constitution to finish its work by mid-December, so he has proposed that sharia's influence not be much different than under the previous regimes. You can criticize what's happening in other countries and societies, but you need a little "knowledge" first. Without that, any intelligent thinker could, heaven forbid, turn into a commentator on Arab and military affairs.