Tag Archives: Nationalism

“Drink the sea”

In an editorial today in Al-Masry Al-Youm, the editor-in-chief put forth his opinion about the recent controversy surrounding his censorship of the newspaper where I work, which is (confusingly) the English-language sister (cousin? resentful stepson?) of his newspaper. I’m posting an English translation for people who are unfortunately like me and require many hours with a dictionary in order to sort of understand a long opinion article in Arabic. (The translation was done by an excellent translator. I can put you in touch if you want.)

For background on the whole situation, you can read our own editorial on the whole fracas here or an article by the author of the censored article here. The original article is here. You can read a parody of the editorial below here. I’ll add my own thoughts at some point, but wanted to make sure that the English translation was available in all its glory. Also, I want to add that this is far and away not at all the most important thing in Egypt right now or even of interest to many people.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

By Magdi el-Gallad

I thank God for his several blessings, one of which is that I am thick-skinned: I only contemplate objective criticism. Another of God’s blessings on me is that I do not fear but my Creator, for no harm can befall me unless God has written it.

Yet another of the blessings God has bestowed on me is that, like you all, I was born of Egyptian land and have learned to cherish my Egyptian nationality and to act in the belief that my country is a major power.

The fact that we have survived decades of degeneration should not make us think of ourselves as standing in an inferior position with regards to the West. Half a century of events will eventually be written in three lines in history books and Egypt will rise, because we will not abandon it, no matter what crises we face.

Neither American writer Robert Springborg, nor British Independent’s correspondent Alistair Beach are able to grasp this culture, belief or that kind of loyalty to a nation that has taught its people to die for its defense.

Both of them, as well as others who live among us but are bedazzled by the lights of the West, are not aware that a genuine Egyptian cannot be blackmailed, pressured or threatened. They heaped pressure on Al-Masry al-Youm to publish an article for Springborg in the pilot English supplement inciting Egyptian army officers and Sami Anan, the chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, to mount a coup and seize power, particularly following the results of the first phase of elections, claiming Field Marshal Tantawi is allied to the Islamic wave.

Believing the English supplement staff were well-intentioned, I assumed they lacked sufficient experience or did not recognize who the American writer was. But because I know who he is quite well, I stopped at the article, read it over and over and decided not to run it.

I did not take into account the writer, the country he belongs to, or to its bloody practices across the world. Nor did I fear his ensuing bellowing in the Independent or Foreign Policy.

I could not care less for the broken record about freedom of speech, employed by the West to achieve its nefarious ends against us, when it suppresses those freedoms to protect its interests and national security.

Springborg and those backing him are unfortunately faced with a man who cannot be blackmailed, who is not West-struck or ultra-impressed by Western press. I think of myself as equal to them, even superior, most of the time.

For those who do not know, Springborg is the Program Manager for the Middle East for the Center for Civil-Military Relations, a government center affiliated to the US naval forces and a branch of the Pentagon. So, do you now know who the writer is and who is inciting Egyptian officers and the Chief of Staff to launch a coup?

He believes that the attack he and some people in Egypt are launching against me will push me to change mind on a choice I have made based on national interest. But for me, one black strand of hair from an Egyptian child in the heart of Upper Egypt is of greater value than his country or the entire West.

He works for the US Pentagon, whereas I work for the simple Egyptian citizen. He derives his arrogant power from the American arsenal, while I find protection in satisfying a poor man in some impoverished Egyptian neighborhood.

He and those allied to him are using the internet to arouse people against, while I seek refuge in the soil of may land which they want to occupy through creating chaos and inciting military coups, squishing Egypt back to square one.

He thought that our occasional disagreement with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the Islamic wave were going to pave the way for him to realise his evil schemes. But to him I say, “Our beliefs and civilisation teach us that disagreement is a mercy but the army, Islamists, liberals and all 87 million Egyptians are citizens are breastfed to love this homeland which the West wants to hijack.”

To that Springborg and those behind him I say that we insist on refusing to run his article. Al-Masry Al-Youm’s opinion writers, of whom I am one, criticise the SCAF extensively–but they are free Egyptian citizens who do not work for the US Pentagon.

Those in the US and its servant Britain who are not happy with what I have written might as well put that in their pipe and smoke it!

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Ece Temelkuran on Turkey’s minority issues

There’s a fascinating and wide-ranging interview with Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran on the New Left Project‘s website. Temelkuran has written extensively on Turkey’s issues with minorities and a lot on her book about Armenia. A few choice excerpts follow.

On the Armenian issue in Turkey today:

There is huge propaganda in the schools against Armenians, but it’s not only that. It’s on the street, it’s everywhere. ‘Armenian’ is a curse word in Turkish, still. And when you ask people about Armenians, you get this blank expression. It’s like you’ve entered the wrong password and their brain just stops, and the password is ‘Armenian’. They go blank. Especially in south-east Turkey, when you see an Armenian church and ask about it people will say ‘oh, it’s prehistoric’, although it dates back only to 1915. And when you insist on this question – ‘this is an Armenian church’, ‘where are the Armenians?’, etc. – if they don’t get angry with you they will say, ‘oh, the Armenians are gone. They are gone.’ And if you ask, ‘where did they go?’ ‘They went over the bridge’. And beyond that, it’s blank again. In Istanbul there are many Armenian buildings and you don’t really see them or think about them.

On Kurds and Armenians:

Well, when it comes to the Armenians the Kurds were also the perpetrators once. Today, politically, they have accepted their responsibility, while the state hasn’t yet. The BDP, a Kurdish party, offered such a declaration, acknowledging that ‘our ancestors did such and such to Armenians, and we apologise for that’. More broadly, for the time being, there is this undercurrent among people in Turkey, and it’s also true for Kurds, where people are looking back to try and discover their roots. And having Armenian roots became kind of ‘hip’. Now and then I hear people saying, ‘you know what? My grandmother had no relatives, so we might be Armenian’, or ‘I remember my grandfather talking in a weird language, so we might be Armenian too’. Especially after the death of Hrant [Dink, a prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist gunned down in 2007 by a Turkish nationalist], becoming Armenian started to be ‘cool’, and I think this represents another role for Turkish people – they don’t want to be the ‘perpetrators’ after Hrant’s death, because that killing touched their hearts, so they want to move to the ‘victim’ side by having Armenian roots.

On coming from the oppressor’s side:

Writing the book was intellectually challenging as well, because there was this ontological security issue. Although I don’t represent anyone but me, I was coming from the ‘side’ of the perpetrator, and I was telling the story of the oppressed. So do I have the right to do that? How should I do that? During my time in Oxford Bernhard Schlink, the writer of The Reader – he’s a German jurist and an author – was there giving seminars on collective memory and collective guilt, and I joined one of them. He was talking about his guilt, and his generation’s guilt, over the Holocaust. After a while, following the speech, a Palestinian Oxford student asked him what he thought about the ‘Holocaust industry’, and he said ‘there is no such thing’. I asked a question, ‘what do you think about the fact that a nation is building up its hostile foreign policy on your feeling of guilt?’ He said, ‘I don’t want to talk about it’ – no, he said ‘I cannot talk about it, because I am German.’ So that was a great example of this phenomenon where if you’re coming from the perpetrator’s side you’re obliged to shut up and not talk about it. And I don’t think that’s correct – we should talk about it.

That’s probably enough excerpts. Read the whole interview here.

I think the issues surrounding minorities in Turkey are, to a certain extent, unique because of the intensity of Turkish nationalism. Nationalism plays a bigger role in social consciousness here than it does in any other country I’ve been to, possibly with the exception of Israel. Chauvinism exists everywhere (we all know how common it is in the U.S.) but in relatively new nation-states like Turkey (and Israel) it is more pronounced, more public and more vehement.

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Honoring terrorism?

Two days ago the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, honored the 100th birthday of Avraham Stern, the founder of the Lechi movement.  The Lechi movement was a hardline Zionist organization in the 1940s that took part in attacks against the British colonial administration.  They were widely regarded as terrorists by other Zionist groups.  But now, according to this article, they are “enjoying a warm and admiring embrace from the Israeli consensus.”  The great irony that I see in this situation is that Olmert’s praise of Avraham Stern comes just days after the death and burial of George Habash, the Palestinian leader of the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine who pioneered the PR technique of airplane hijacking.    

I will not comment on the lives of either of these two figures.  I’m sure if I were an ardent Palestinian nationalist I would have great respect for George Habash and if I were an equally avid Zionist then Avraham Stern would seem like a hero.  But the lesson that we can learn from these twin memorials is that to a certain extent terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.  One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s insurgent.  In 1777, George Washington might have looked like a bin Laden to his enemies across the Atlantic.   

Perspective plays an important part in how we view violence. I don’t think equivocating Osama bin Laden with our Founding Fathers is morally acceptable, but one must recognize the important role that our individual predispositions and ideologies play how we understand our enemies.

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