Obama’s Acceptance of Egypt’s Media Crackdown a Favor to Israel – Activist
They say he wouldn't sit at the head of an authoritarian regime if not for the steady flood of cash and weapons flowing from the U.S.
“Not another nickel, not another dime. No more money for Egypt’s crimes,” chanted pro-peace and democracy protesters with Code Pink this afternoon. They waved signs reading “journalism is not a crime” and “Dictator Sisi free Al Jazeera journalists.”
After the military seized power from the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi a year ago – in a move the US government refuses to call a coup – the U.S. suspended part of the $1.5 billion dollars in aid it gives Egypt each year.
But now the U.S.'s unwillingness to fund the regime is coming to an end. The State Department recently unfroze more than $500 million dollars in aid, and Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier this week that he expects a shipment of helicopters to arrive in Egypt shortly.
One Code Pink activist looks beyond Egypt's borders for an explanation as to why the U.S. is backing Egypt's president that he says blatantly violates human rights and who's assent to power he says shreds the democratic fiber of Egypt's Arab Spring.
Ben Norton, an activist and freelance journalist. Photo credit: © Molly Seder
Ben Norton, an activist and freelance journalist, thinks it has everything to do with President Sisi's willingness to cooperate and even sell gas to Israel, the top U.S. ally in the Middle East.
“If you follow the money… one of the primary reasons without a doubt the U.S. is supporting Sisi so fervently and supporting him in spite of all of these egregious human rights violations is because of his support for Israel,” Norton told VR.
Leaders in Australia, the Netherlands, Britain and the United Nations all slammed Egypt's newly elected President for his crackdown on opposition groups and those journalists willing to write outside of the government line.
Norton says it's time the U.S. takes seriously its commitment to divest from authoritarian regimes, and to call a spade a spade, or in this case, a dictator a dictator.
The international media’s coverage of the alleged human rights violations swelled yesterday when Egypt sentenced three reporters with Al Jazeera – including an Australian and a Canadian – to at least seven years in prison. Rights groups from around the world slammed the guilty verdict as a clear violation of the freedom of the press, a right enshrined in Egypt's new constitution.
Moves like these have sunk Egypt to 159th place out of 180 countries on Reporters without Border's latest index of media freedom.
Code Pink's National Coordinator Alli McCracken says while the Egyptian government makes a bold return to military authoritarianism and strips its citizens of their rights, the U.S. is determinedly focusing its attention elsewhere. And at the same time, it's leaving the tap running on donations of sophisticated military hardware, like Apache helicopters.
“In June of 2013 Field Marshal Sisi helped lead a military coup of the Mohammed Morsi government,” McCracken said to the press assembly on the sidewalk outside the Egyptian Defense Office. “And since then the Egyptian military has jailed over 20,000 protesters and killed thousands more. As US citizens whose tax payer dollars are going to the Egyptian military, we say shame on the Egyptian military.”
Code Pink Protesters say it's absolutely wrong for the U.S. to treat President al-Sisi like an elected leader even though he did sweep the ballot box this spring. They say the credibility of the election is in doubt because less than 50% of eligible Egyptians cast ballots, which is made even more surprising only two years after Egypt saw its first regime change in 30 years.
Tighe Barry, code pink activist imitated President Sisi. Photo credit: © Molly Seder
One code pink activist, Tighe Barry from LA, imitated President Sisi. Barry put on a suit coat on top of his camouflage jumpsuit, reminding his audience that President Sisi took the presidency after serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces. He jeered, “I would like to thank the American public for paying for our junta in Egypt. It is very good of you. Thank you, America.”
The activist then turned to the crowd, saying “and I want you to know that journalism is protected in Egypt.”
“How?” asked another protester.
“We put them in jail and protect them.”
These activists say the test of Egypt's government is how it treats members of the press. Yesterday's ruling speaks volumes about the limits of free speech in a country the US is willing to view as a partner.