Today Egypt taught us the difference between an “humanitarian” and a “rabble-rouser”. Thanks to Egypt we learned that among over 1400 people who gathered for the Gaza Freedom March only 100 were true “humanitarians”. And we have to thank Ms Mubarak to have -at least- helped those 100 “true humanitarians” to be able to travel to Gaza. Today I saw one of the saddest pages of inter-Arab relations. Too sad to realise that Arabs don’t need Israel to have an “enemy”..they do already quite well among themselves..
This is an email I got from an American friend of mine who’s there for the Gaza Freedom March and who won’t be in Gaza cause, despite she was judged “a true humanitarian”, she decided to stay with the “rabble-rousers”…
“Situation very volatile. Apparently there is a TIMES article-haven’t seen. Code Pink negotiated an agreement with egyptian govt. bilaterally for two buses to take 100 people to Gaza (Mrs. Mubarek’s intervention). This completely split the international group. Egyptians had insisted that no one from France and Italy could go (the French have been encamped outside their embassy for days, under police guard.) Also no one from a Middle Eastern country. The New York delegation met and decided not to send anyone. So did south Africans, Canadians, etc. Meanwhile E. Foreign Minister announced that they had chosen 100 people who were true humanitanians and forbidden the rest, who were international rabble-rousers. We three were opposed; all or nobody. At 7 this morning we went to see the buses–the scene was heartbreaking. People got on the buses, then after a call from the Palestinians within Gaza saying the buses should not go, many got off. This continued for at least two hours, with police surrounding all the time. (You had to beg to get out of the area.) Code Pink was determined the buses would leave, but when they finally left they continued many fewer than 100. Meanwhile, the rest of us are meeting, meeting to decide what is next. Surely a march of some kind tomorrow. The leaders are the South Africans and the French, but also some others, including Americans such as Felice Gelman. We are certainly not going to Gaza, but we are seeing the birth of a new world-wide movement.
Press is very important. We’ve had press from all over the world on the fact that Egypt has kept the group from going to Gaza. Important now to make sure press understands that whatever the Egyptians say officially is all lies.
We took part in a rally last night at the headquarters of the Journalists Union. More about that later..”.
The Second Arab Bloggers meeting is just over here in Beirut. It has been an incredible opportunity to meet up and discuss with a bunch of very interesting folks coming from Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Egypt,Qatar, Sudan, etc.
We have run into a full week of presentations, workshops, talks and even games and I’ve learned so much from countries that I’ve never expected to be so active on the web 2.0 field.
Bloggers, activists, techno-enthusiasts, hackers, creative people: an incredible variety of mix in terms of backgrounds, skills and contexts but at the same time each of them with more than one interesting project/story to tell.
I’m grateful to Sami Ben Gharbia and the Global Voices team to have put together such a worndeful group people, and to Doreen, Alia, Heba, Corinne and the Heinrich Boll Foundation for having made this thing possible – it was not easy to organise such a meeting, and not only in terms of fundraising-.
It was the first time for me to attend a truly Panarab grassroot meeting and to be able to listen to it in its original language. I realised the power of this language, Arabic, that -even if spoken in so many different accents and local varieties- can link together people coming from 22 countries and let them share ideas and projects.
It’s true that Classical Arabic -or “fus7ha”- is still quite a “cold” language, that is perceived to be distant from people daylife and certainly not suitable for a tech meeting. But I’ve a little hope after this meeting, that a certain kind of “medium or standard dialect” (“3ammieh”) can be developed by each Arab country in order to be understood by the others.
Egyptian is widely understood by everybody not because it is easy (!) but because it has been “the” language of mass communication in the Arab world for many years. And now Syrian and Lebanese are widely understood because of TV.
I think that, despite they are harder to understand, even Tunisian and other North-African dialects could be more popular thru media in the future. They just have to be used, instead of using French (!). I believe that the beautiful Arabic language should be enhanced thru new digital media, but in its local lively versions -together with the Classical “official” one-. I hope that meetings like this could push people to speak more Arabic, learn more Arabic and produce more content in Arabic. Definitely it was like that for me!
And, again, a special thanks to Sami for having put such a network of people together.
I do believe “Panarabism” can happen only this way, thru this grassroots, bottom-up movements.
Shukran kteer wa ila liqa’, inshallah..
more pics are available thanks to Jillian C. York here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jilliancyork/sets/72157622874966605/?page=3