Do Western journalists understand the principle of cause and effect? I ask only because in the last few days I have seen a number of articles with the headline “Is the Arab Spring in danger?”, or thereabouts, generally about the upsurge of activity which took place this week. Now, as I understand it, the main worry is that the revolutions will be betrayed by those who have been brought to power (such as Tantawi in Egypt). Surely, then, the revolution was under far more threat before this week, when the protesters were not out in force, than it is now? I know all of this stems from the fact that a non-story (viz., the absence of protests last week) cannot be published, whereas exciting pictures printed under a headline which would have been the title of said non-story but which has now been conclusively superseded by events can. There is also, I suspect, no little percentage of “if only we were there to show them where they’re going wrong”-style Orientalism at play here.
Anyway, just in case you haven’t been as mindlessly obsessed with the Arab Spring as I have (and also partly so I can keep the facts straight myself), here is a round-up of the events over this weekend:
EGYPT: There are rumours that Mubarak has slipped into a coma, although the hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh has denied this. More crucially, several cabinet ministers have lost their jobs today (the foreign minister Muhammad al-Orabi, finance minister Samir Radwan, and trade minister Samir al-Sayyan). A cabinet reshuffle has been one of the most prominent demands of the protesters. However, none of the really controversial ministers (ie., those from Mubarak’s era) have been removed, and the Supreme Military Council’s statement – realsed, with ineffable Zeitgeist, on its Facebook page – made it clear that their patience is wearing thing. Finally, Zahi Hawass, the long-reviled Minister of Antiquities with political views more outdated than his artifacts has resigned, in characteristically bombastic fashion, and told tourists not to visit Egypt.
BAHRAIN: The long silence (or muffling) in Bahrain has at last been broken, as protests yesterday resulted in the death from tear gas of a disabled mother of two. Due to the popular anger sparked by this event, the opposition Shi’a party, Wefaq, has withdrawn from talks with the government.
JORDAN: After 17 journalists were beaten up by security forces at a protest on Friday in Amman, one of the Middle East’s least mismanaged governments arrested several of the policemen involved. Despite this, the journalists have stated they plan to sue the government. The resurgence of protests after a long hiatus, as in Bahrain, has been met a more violent response from the government than the initial demonstrations in February. There is talk of demanding the resignation of Marouf al-Bakhit, the Prime Minister, who has only been in office since the 1st of February.
YEMEN: Protests continued around Yemen on the 33rd anniversary of Saleh taking power. Despite threats to return, the incapacitated Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia, where the United States and the Saudis themselves doubtless wish him to remain.
ISRAEL: An Al-Jazeera article today reported, on the authority of an ex-CIA agent, that Israel – or more correctly Netanyahu – is planning to bomb Iran in the next few months, something which doesn’t even bear contemplating. In happier news, a joint march of Israelis and Palestinians took place in East Jerusalem, arguing for the Palestinian statehood bid before the UN in September.
SYRIA: The border town of Zabadani, in the mountains close to Damascus, has been occupied by security forces who are undertaking a crackdown on anti-Assad protests. Meanwhile, the Syrian opposition held a conference in Istanbul calling on their supports to engage in a campaign of civil disobedience against the government. Their attempts to form a shadow cabinet have so far been thwarted by sectarian divisions. This inability to agree is reminiscent of Lebanese political life and does not bode well for any future Syrian opposition government that might happen to take power.