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June 1998
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MER - Washington - 4 June:

It was only a few months ago that the massacre at Luxor took place; the crucial Egyptian tourist industry taking a terrible hit from which it has yet to recover. In the wake of the ongoing attempts to cripple the corrupt government of Hosni Mubarak -- essentially a disguised military regime ruling under emergency decrees since the assassination of Anwar Sadat -- Egypt has increasingly become a repressive police state. Terribly sadistic forms of torture are practiced, freedom of the press has become a joke, and only the minuscule capitalist class associated with the regime and the Americans benefits, while the great majority of Egyptians simply live in squalor and repression.

Meanwhile the political and cultural contradictions within Egypt continue to escalate. How long a regime as confused and prostrate as the one now in Cairo can continue to rule in a country as important and historically rich as Egypt is surely now in doubt. But as long as the Americans continue to prop up Mubarak, and as long as the CIA and more recently the FBI continue to provide the Egyptian regime the means and techniques of surveillance and repression, the polarization that has characterized Egypt for some years since the Camp David period is certainly likely to expand toward the explosion point.

Meanwhile, two important Egyptian events in recent days:



Literally at the same time the Israeli government was publicly indicating  it will not arrest Abu Abbas, leader of the PLO faction that pulled off the "Achilles Lauro" hijacking during which Leon Klinghofer was murdered; the Egyptian government quietly let the FBI and CIA whisk out of Egyptian another former PLO official charged with having been involved in airplane hijackings in the same 1980s.

Abu Abbas is in Gaza, and the Israeli courts were asked to direct the Israeli government which "controls all entry and exit points into territory under the administration of the Palestinian Authority" to arrest him should he ever attempt to leave Gaza. The Israeli Attorney General indicated this would not be done and Israel would in effect look the other way regarding Abu Abbas. Some former "terrorists" are on the Israeli good-guy list these days.

Not so the American-controlled Egyptians, however. Amazingly the Egyptian government allowed the FBI and CIA to capture and secretly kidnap another former PLO official, Mohammed Rashid, from Egypt. He was brought to Washington a few days ago on board a secret U.S. military transport, the Egyptian public never even aware of what was happening right there in their own country.

There were no legal or court proceedings in Egypt; no deportation procedure followed. And to make matters worse Rashid had already been tried in Greece during the 1980s for the same offenses and imprisoned there! The Greeks had refused American demands to extradite Rashid to the USA. Not so the Egyptians, however, who didn't even bother with an extradition hearing, nor contact their favorite Palestinians, Yasser Arafat and Nabil Shaath.

Meanwhile there are credible rumors in Washington that American payoffs of more than a million dollars were paid to officials in Egypt connected with the Mubarak government regarding Rashid.


Maxime Rodinson is a brilliant French writer who during his career has written passionately and eloquently about the Palestinian cause -- long before it became popular to do so. In the 1970s he also wrote an extremely interesting and insightful book about Mohamed.

After some second-rate Egyptian columnist finally managed to read this long published book, writing about it in the government-controlled paper, Al-Ahram, the Mubarak government has now banned the book! Just like that: government decree! And the once proud American University of Cairo quickly took over from there, ordering its Professors to remove the book from their reading lists and from the university bookstore and library!

The question needs to be asked here, for if a journalist were to try to do so in Egypt he would be arrested and imprisoned -- hasn't the time come for Mubarak and cronies to go the way of Marcos and Suharto? Or is maybe the analogy of Benazir and her gallant "Mr. Ten Percent" husband more fitting -- they are under arrest now in Pakistan in case anyone is wondering?




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