Lawmakers Hear Concerns About Human Rights In Egypt

Is It Time To Rethink The U.S.-Egypt Relationship?
On Tuesday, a congressional panel convened to examine the state of human rights in Egypt and whether it might be time to reexamine the relationship between the US and Egypt. Violence in Egypt is nothing new, but Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution made the case that human rights violations and systemic violence under the regime of President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi surpasses that of former President Hosni Mubarak, which should be of great concern to the US and western nations.

In the first year after the 2013 coup, at least 2500 civilians were killed and 17,000 wounded and by early 2015, more than 40,000 people had been arrested and a growing number of Egyptians have simply “disappeared,” he said.

“Beyond the numbers, which can only tell us so much, how does regime repression today differ from that of previous governments? I argue here that Sissi’s brand of repression is one of the more dangerous kinds – it is both populist and popular – and therefore should be of greater concern to American policymakers,” argued Hamid.

Given the growing intolerance for opposition parties and views, Hamid suggests the US place its relationship in a broader context. While working on issues of mutual security interests, the US should in no way help to “legitimize” or “normalize” the regime’s behavior, which he says “has undermined Egypt’s stability and security and will continue to do so in the critical months and years ahead.”

Hamid’s dim view of human rights was echoed by Robert George of the US Commission on International Human Rights, who views the situation in Egypt today as more complicated than ever.

“While the Sisi government has clamped down on virtually all forms of dissent in the country, which has had an alarming impact on human rights and civil society activities, President Sisi has made a number of positive gestures and public statements urging reforms and religious tolerance, and his government has undertaken some initiatives that aim to improve religious freedom. At the same time, most of the existing laws and policies that restrict religious freedom remain unchanged and, during his tenure, new government campaigns have been initiated which do not bode well for Egyptian religious minorities and non-believers,” George told the panel.

What Does The Average Palestinian Believe?
Much of the discussion surrounding the future of the Middle East focuses on the goals and aims of members of the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. Far less focus is trained on the opinions of the average Palestinian citizen towards Israel, terrorism and the use of violence to reach political goals.

Daniel Polisar, a political scientist and executive vice-president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, examines almost 350 opinion polls to find out what the average citizen wants.

Not surprisingly, he finds that most Palestinians look at Israel and see a country of enormous power and influence that has done great harm to them, that seeks to displace them entirely from historical Palestine, and whose people are deficient as individuals and also lacking any collective rights to the land in general or to Jerusalem in particular. Similarly, most blame their current problems on Israel and its policies, although many do not have a favorable view of the PA.

He also finds an unhealthy level of support for using violence as a means to achieve political ends, particularly against Israeli settlers. So, what does that portend for the future?

“Palestinian support for violence, and the attitudes underlying that support, have developed and become entrenched over a period of decades. Altering those attitudes can only begin once the attitudes are recognized for what they are, without blinking and without excuses,” he writes.



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