People of Gaza and Egypt need freedom from our thug

Burn, baby, burn. Israel and America are scurrying for some kind of response to the Egyptian uprising. The poor lambs. What on earth will they do if a compliant dictatorship actually falls? For example, the siege on Gaza may well be about to change. I hope. And so do the people of Gaza. They deserve nothing less.

US neo-con Eli Lake, who spent the last decade backing every US-led war in the Middle East, is offering free advice to Barack Obama. Thanks, Eli, your understanding of the world seems about as nuanced as the “liberation” of Iraq.

Robert Fisk is on the ground in Cairo:

It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.

And as Cairo lay drenched under clouds of tear gas from thousands of canisters fired into dense crowds by riot police, it looked as if his rule was nearing its finish. None of us on the streets of Cairo yesterday even knew where Mubarak – who would later appear on television to dismiss his cabinet – was. And I didn’t find anyone who cared.

They were brave, largely peaceful, these tens of thousands, but the shocking behaviour of Mubarak’s plainclothes battagi – the word does literally mean “thugs” in Arabic – who beat, bashed and assaulted demonstrators while the cops watched and did nothing, was a disgrace. These men, many of them ex-policemen who are drug addicts, were last night the front line of the Egyptian state. The true representatives of Hosni Mubarak as uniformed cops showered gas on to the crowds.

Such average citizens are exactly the ones Mubarak, Israel and the US have ignored for decades.

Blocking the internet entirely appears to have had little effect on information getting out.

The Guardian’s Brian Whitaker believes Washington is working out a post-Mubarak period:

With his plans to attend the Cairo Book Fair today regrettably disrupted, President Mubarak will instead spend the day choosing a new cabinet to replace the one he dismissed on television last night.

But his sudden offer of “dialogue” after 30 years in power is not going to cut any ice with the protesters on the streets whom he laughably accused in his TV broadcast of being “part of a bigger plot to shake the stability and destroy the legitimacy” of Egypt’s political system. Nor will his promise that “We will not backtrack on reforms”. The people want him to go and will not be satisfied until he does, but he is not listening yet.

Mass arrests are allegedly taking place, including against the Muslim Brotherhood.

Editor Ahmad Shokr provides interesting background:

Well, the people who initiated the protest call are largely a group of youth activists that have been organizing through social media, mostly through Facebook. They started a Facebook page to call for this demonstration, which immediately received just an outpouring of support. Tens of thousands of people signed up and expressed support for the demonstration, inspired largely by the events of Tunisia a few weeks ago. So this was a youth-led spontaneous movement that’s being fueled by the anger of young people across Egypt at all of the things that I listed before.

“Egypt is a Praetorian regime”, says Juan Cole.

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