Commentary Magazine


Topic: American University in Cairo

More Academic Mobbery at AUC

Every few months or so, I’ve been reporting about another incident at the American University in Cairo (AUC) concerning calls for boycotting Israeli academics and universities. Until now, this has been a mostly student-led campaign, with students threatening to hold strikes and sit-ins in response to rumors that Israeli professors would be attending conferences on campus. On November 1st, a group of students made national news after storming a faculty senate meeting at which the issue was being discussed, forcing its adjournment. Meanwhile, the administration has issued a series of gutless statements, refusing to tackle the bigotry inherent in the students’ actions head-on, while claiming that “security concerns” have prevented it from bringing Israeli scholars to campus.

Well, it’s no longer just the students engaging in this shameful charade of intolerance. Last week, the AUC faculty senate passed a resolution discouraging the “normalization” of relations with Israeli institutions of higher education. Although the resolution stops short of banning individual Israeli academics outright–senate chairman Fred Perry acknowledged that banning individuals would be “against human rights law”–it virtually ensures that the severe vitriol fling at Israel by Egypt’s finest institution of higher learning will go unchallenged for many years to come.

But beyond providing yet another expression of AUC’s inhospitality towards Israelis, the circumstances surrounding the faculty’s resolution reveal a disturbing trend: the involvement of American students in fanning the flames of anti-Israel hostilities while studying abroad. Kate Dannies, a student involved in AUC’s pro-Palestinian al-Quds Club is a case in point. Ms. Dannies, who was among thirty al-Quds Club members to attend the faculty’s final vote, called the anti-normalization decision a “feel-good resolution,” dismissing objections from certain sectors of the student body that such a resolution might jeopardize American funding. “If we lose funding from American institutions, maybe we can gain it from Arab ones,” she said.

I, for one, interested in putting Ms. Dannies’ ideology-over-funding priorities to the test. Back in 2004, Ms. Dannies won a $1,000 scholarship from the United States Institute of Peace for a national peace essay contest. Having risen to the forefront of a campaign to undermine Egyptian-Israeli peace by protesting Egyptian-Israeli people-to-people exchanges, it seems only fair that the USIP demand that its congressionally funded scholarship be returned.

Every few months or so, I’ve been reporting about another incident at the American University in Cairo (AUC) concerning calls for boycotting Israeli academics and universities. Until now, this has been a mostly student-led campaign, with students threatening to hold strikes and sit-ins in response to rumors that Israeli professors would be attending conferences on campus. On November 1st, a group of students made national news after storming a faculty senate meeting at which the issue was being discussed, forcing its adjournment. Meanwhile, the administration has issued a series of gutless statements, refusing to tackle the bigotry inherent in the students’ actions head-on, while claiming that “security concerns” have prevented it from bringing Israeli scholars to campus.

Well, it’s no longer just the students engaging in this shameful charade of intolerance. Last week, the AUC faculty senate passed a resolution discouraging the “normalization” of relations with Israeli institutions of higher education. Although the resolution stops short of banning individual Israeli academics outright–senate chairman Fred Perry acknowledged that banning individuals would be “against human rights law”–it virtually ensures that the severe vitriol fling at Israel by Egypt’s finest institution of higher learning will go unchallenged for many years to come.

But beyond providing yet another expression of AUC’s inhospitality towards Israelis, the circumstances surrounding the faculty’s resolution reveal a disturbing trend: the involvement of American students in fanning the flames of anti-Israel hostilities while studying abroad. Kate Dannies, a student involved in AUC’s pro-Palestinian al-Quds Club is a case in point. Ms. Dannies, who was among thirty al-Quds Club members to attend the faculty’s final vote, called the anti-normalization decision a “feel-good resolution,” dismissing objections from certain sectors of the student body that such a resolution might jeopardize American funding. “If we lose funding from American institutions, maybe we can gain it from Arab ones,” she said.

I, for one, interested in putting Ms. Dannies’ ideology-over-funding priorities to the test. Back in 2004, Ms. Dannies won a $1,000 scholarship from the United States Institute of Peace for a national peace essay contest. Having risen to the forefront of a campaign to undermine Egyptian-Israeli peace by protesting Egyptian-Israeli people-to-people exchanges, it seems only fair that the USIP demand that its congressionally funded scholarship be returned.

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Carter’s Dixie Chicks Moment

Yesterday, following meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and another Hamas delegation, Jimmy Carter blasted American attitudes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “My country, the political arena of my country, is almost 100 percent supportive of the Israeli position,” Carter said. “You never hear any debates on both sides much, and most of the information is predicated on that sort of original premise.”

The spectacle of a former U.S. president denouncing his fellow countrymen abroad was a Dixie Chicks moment for the ages. But his choice of venue for decrying the lack of debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no less ironic: the American University in Cairo–where students are so unwilling to consider the “other side” that they threatened strikes and sit-ins when rumors surfaced that Israeli professors had been invited to campus. Most recently at AUC, a play that featured an Israeli character was protested by its own student-actors, who walked on the stage draped in kaffiyehs and donned “Palestine will remain Arab” t-shirts following the performance. (The actors objected to Israelis being portrayed “as humans only,” one cast member said.)

Sadly, if Carter’s address has any influence, AUC is unlikely to become more hospitable to meaningful dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anytime soon. After all, the more Carter spoke, the more he justified AUC students’ hatred for the Jewish state. At one point, after speaking of his visit to Sderot, where the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza has traumatized the community, Carter said, “At the same time, if you live in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 to 40 Palestinians are killed because of the extreme military capability of Israel.” At another point, he creatively redefined “terrorism” to equate Palestinian rocket-firings with Israel’s military response, saying that any “killings of civilians is an act of terrorism.”

Even for Carter, this exercise in public counter-diplomacy is shocking. After all, Carter’s greatest legacy–for which he still deserves his Nobel Peace Prize–remains his efforts to forge peace between Egypt and Israel. The more vociferously he denounces Israel to young Egyptians still raised to hate it, the more he jeopardizes that one accomplishment.

Yesterday, following meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and another Hamas delegation, Jimmy Carter blasted American attitudes regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “My country, the political arena of my country, is almost 100 percent supportive of the Israeli position,” Carter said. “You never hear any debates on both sides much, and most of the information is predicated on that sort of original premise.”

The spectacle of a former U.S. president denouncing his fellow countrymen abroad was a Dixie Chicks moment for the ages. But his choice of venue for decrying the lack of debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was no less ironic: the American University in Cairo–where students are so unwilling to consider the “other side” that they threatened strikes and sit-ins when rumors surfaced that Israeli professors had been invited to campus. Most recently at AUC, a play that featured an Israeli character was protested by its own student-actors, who walked on the stage draped in kaffiyehs and donned “Palestine will remain Arab” t-shirts following the performance. (The actors objected to Israelis being portrayed “as humans only,” one cast member said.)

Sadly, if Carter’s address has any influence, AUC is unlikely to become more hospitable to meaningful dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict anytime soon. After all, the more Carter spoke, the more he justified AUC students’ hatred for the Jewish state. At one point, after speaking of his visit to Sderot, where the daily barrage of rockets from Gaza has traumatized the community, Carter said, “At the same time, if you live in Gaza, you know that for every Israeli killed in any kind of combat, between 30 to 40 Palestinians are killed because of the extreme military capability of Israel.” At another point, he creatively redefined “terrorism” to equate Palestinian rocket-firings with Israel’s military response, saying that any “killings of civilians is an act of terrorism.”

Even for Carter, this exercise in public counter-diplomacy is shocking. After all, Carter’s greatest legacy–for which he still deserves his Nobel Peace Prize–remains his efforts to forge peace between Egypt and Israel. The more vociferously he denounces Israel to young Egyptians still raised to hate it, the more he jeopardizes that one accomplishment.

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Love Lost for the Palestinians

It took me a while, but I’ve finally come around on David Hazony’s argument that Gaza has become Egypt’s problem. Beyond the strategic implications of this development, Egypt’s newfound responsibility for containing Gaza—and all the security risks it entails—has serious implications for the way Egyptians will view the Palestinian issue.

Consider the sudden shift in public debate at the American University in Cairo. Although AUC has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activism, students are exhibiting a staggering decline in their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, with a rift developing between a small cadre of pro-Palestinian activists—most of whom are Palestinian—and the rest of the student body. Last week, the pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Club organized the “End the Siege on Gaza” sit-in—an effort that was heavily promoted on campus and via Facebook. During the demonstration, protesters held posters accusing Israel of terrorism and ominously vowing, “Palestine, we die so we can live!” Meanwhile, student speakers compared Gaza to a cage—all in all, typical rhetoric that the AUC student body had long embraced as doctrine.

Yet the student body—which is roughly 80% Egyptian—was hardly impressed. According to The Caravan, turnout was far less than expected, with students noticeably uninterested in the sit-in. But the true insult to pro-Palestinian activism came in The Caravan’s weekly “Q & A,” which asked students what the Egyptian government should do about the Gaza border. Without exception, students’ responses sounded shockingly Lou Dobbsian:

“The government has an obligation to protect its border and its people.”

“This is not one nation’s problem, Egypt should join forces with other countries to find satisfactory solutions.”

“They should close it. Only medical conditions should be admitted.”

In short, AUC students are indicating that, with Hamas now firing at Egyptian workers, the Palestinian cause is just a bit less compelling.

It took me a while, but I’ve finally come around on David Hazony’s argument that Gaza has become Egypt’s problem. Beyond the strategic implications of this development, Egypt’s newfound responsibility for containing Gaza—and all the security risks it entails—has serious implications for the way Egyptians will view the Palestinian issue.

Consider the sudden shift in public debate at the American University in Cairo. Although AUC has long been a hotbed of anti-Israel activism, students are exhibiting a staggering decline in their enthusiasm for the Palestinian cause, with a rift developing between a small cadre of pro-Palestinian activists—most of whom are Palestinian—and the rest of the student body. Last week, the pro-Palestinian Al-Quds Club organized the “End the Siege on Gaza” sit-in—an effort that was heavily promoted on campus and via Facebook. During the demonstration, protesters held posters accusing Israel of terrorism and ominously vowing, “Palestine, we die so we can live!” Meanwhile, student speakers compared Gaza to a cage—all in all, typical rhetoric that the AUC student body had long embraced as doctrine.

Yet the student body—which is roughly 80% Egyptian—was hardly impressed. According to The Caravan, turnout was far less than expected, with students noticeably uninterested in the sit-in. But the true insult to pro-Palestinian activism came in The Caravan’s weekly “Q & A,” which asked students what the Egyptian government should do about the Gaza border. Without exception, students’ responses sounded shockingly Lou Dobbsian:

“The government has an obligation to protect its border and its people.”

“This is not one nation’s problem, Egypt should join forces with other countries to find satisfactory solutions.”

“They should close it. Only medical conditions should be admitted.”

In short, AUC students are indicating that, with Hamas now firing at Egyptian workers, the Palestinian cause is just a bit less compelling.

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Obama’s Real Israel Problem

Last week, the blogosphere hotly debated Barack Obama’s stance on Israel. Here at contentions, Noah Pollak argued that Obama’s advisory staff suggests an unfavorable disposition towards Jerusalem, while I noted that Obama’s strongly pro-Israel statements on the campaign trail contrasted with his previous call for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over at The American Prospect, however, Matthew Duss intimated that these concerns were petty—“Good heavens, ‘an even-handed approach’? What’s next, wearing a keffiyeh?” The Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias agreed.

Unfortunately, Duss and Yglesias declined to address criticisms of Obama’s apparent Israeli-Palestinian flip-flopping—which was first exposed by a prominent pro-Palestinian activist—substantively. But, with the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl affording downtrodden Jets fans ample time to mull, I’ve decided that Duss and Yglesias are right: our focus on the various forces shaping Obama’s outlook and statements on Israel is petty, though not for their condescending reasons.

Consider the following: over the next four-to-eight years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to be the least dynamic feature of Middle Eastern politics and, by extension, U.S. policy in the Middle East. Firmly in control of Gaza, Hamas is bound to remain an actively destabilizing force in Palestinian politics for years to come. Fatah—the U.S.’s great hope for Palestinian moderation post-Arafat—remains weak and unpopular, and its decline will accelerate once Abbas leaves office in 2009. Meanwhile, Israel’s leadership still sees no contradiction between pursuing peace and expanding settlements, further lacking the vision to transform short-term military successes against terrorism into long-term political solutions.

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian sphere will remain unambiguously hopeless for years to come. It is thus hard to imagine Obama adopting Samantha Power’s advice that pumping billions of dollars into a nascent Palestinian state is a panacea. Indeed, focusing on Obama’s Israel outlook merely distracts from his potential approach to far more dynamic—and therefore critical—areas of Middle Eastern politics.

For example, consider U.S. public diplomacy—the area in which Obama has the greatest potential to truly affect change. As LinkTV reports, “many Arabs believe that Obama’s ethnicity and background give him a kinder understanding of Third World countries.” I can vouch for these sentiments: when Obama announced his candidacy early last year, his childhood years in Indonesia and Islamic middle name enthused my classmates at the American University in Cairo, who were otherwise strictly critical of American politics and policy. These students represent the foremost demographic that U.S. public diplomacy must attract if it is to succeed: they are well educated, fluent in English, exposed to American culture, and relatively liberal in their social outlooks.

Yet Obama’s policy proposals would immediately undermine his biographical advantages with this key Arab constituency. After all, Obama has repeatedly called for dialogue with Iran and a conference with the leaders of Islamic states—initiatives that would sacrifice these young moderates to the region’s most illiberal forces. In Iran, Obama’s overture would inflict double damage: it would represent official U.S. acceptance of the hostage-taking Revolutionary regime, while debunking public sentiment that views Iran’s isolation as too steep a price for Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic rhetoric. Ultimately, the U.S. would be more in bed with Middle Eastern authoritarians than ever before, acquiescing to Iranian ascendancy in the process.

In short, if Barack Obama truly views himself as an “agent of change,” then scrutinizing his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the least dynamic of all Middle Eastern policy areas—is wasteful. Rather, it is his approach on Iran, Arab democracy, and U.S. public diplomacy—fluctuating issues that will demand Obama’s immediate attention should he assume office—that require the deepest evaluation.

Last week, the blogosphere hotly debated Barack Obama’s stance on Israel. Here at contentions, Noah Pollak argued that Obama’s advisory staff suggests an unfavorable disposition towards Jerusalem, while I noted that Obama’s strongly pro-Israel statements on the campaign trail contrasted with his previous call for an “even-handed approach” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Over at The American Prospect, however, Matthew Duss intimated that these concerns were petty—“Good heavens, ‘an even-handed approach’? What’s next, wearing a keffiyeh?” The Atlantic’s Matthew Yglesias agreed.

Unfortunately, Duss and Yglesias declined to address criticisms of Obama’s apparent Israeli-Palestinian flip-flopping—which was first exposed by a prominent pro-Palestinian activist—substantively. But, with the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl affording downtrodden Jets fans ample time to mull, I’ve decided that Duss and Yglesias are right: our focus on the various forces shaping Obama’s outlook and statements on Israel is petty, though not for their condescending reasons.

Consider the following: over the next four-to-eight years, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to be the least dynamic feature of Middle Eastern politics and, by extension, U.S. policy in the Middle East. Firmly in control of Gaza, Hamas is bound to remain an actively destabilizing force in Palestinian politics for years to come. Fatah—the U.S.’s great hope for Palestinian moderation post-Arafat—remains weak and unpopular, and its decline will accelerate once Abbas leaves office in 2009. Meanwhile, Israel’s leadership still sees no contradiction between pursuing peace and expanding settlements, further lacking the vision to transform short-term military successes against terrorism into long-term political solutions.

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian sphere will remain unambiguously hopeless for years to come. It is thus hard to imagine Obama adopting Samantha Power’s advice that pumping billions of dollars into a nascent Palestinian state is a panacea. Indeed, focusing on Obama’s Israel outlook merely distracts from his potential approach to far more dynamic—and therefore critical—areas of Middle Eastern politics.

For example, consider U.S. public diplomacy—the area in which Obama has the greatest potential to truly affect change. As LinkTV reports, “many Arabs believe that Obama’s ethnicity and background give him a kinder understanding of Third World countries.” I can vouch for these sentiments: when Obama announced his candidacy early last year, his childhood years in Indonesia and Islamic middle name enthused my classmates at the American University in Cairo, who were otherwise strictly critical of American politics and policy. These students represent the foremost demographic that U.S. public diplomacy must attract if it is to succeed: they are well educated, fluent in English, exposed to American culture, and relatively liberal in their social outlooks.

Yet Obama’s policy proposals would immediately undermine his biographical advantages with this key Arab constituency. After all, Obama has repeatedly called for dialogue with Iran and a conference with the leaders of Islamic states—initiatives that would sacrifice these young moderates to the region’s most illiberal forces. In Iran, Obama’s overture would inflict double damage: it would represent official U.S. acceptance of the hostage-taking Revolutionary regime, while debunking public sentiment that views Iran’s isolation as too steep a price for Ahmadinejad’s vitriolic rhetoric. Ultimately, the U.S. would be more in bed with Middle Eastern authoritarians than ever before, acquiescing to Iranian ascendancy in the process.

In short, if Barack Obama truly views himself as an “agent of change,” then scrutinizing his views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—the least dynamic of all Middle Eastern policy areas—is wasteful. Rather, it is his approach on Iran, Arab democracy, and U.S. public diplomacy—fluctuating issues that will demand Obama’s immediate attention should he assume office—that require the deepest evaluation.

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“Security Concerns”?

Last week, the American University in Cairo’s faculty senate reconvened to discuss the possibility of academic exchanges with Israeli universities. AUC President David Arnold, who has refused to take a stand for academic freedom and defend these proposed exchanges, has now offered an official excuse to forestall any resolution that would open the campus to Israeli academics: security concerns. “My opinion is that it will be ill-advised and unwise for the senate to adopt a formal resolution dealing with cooperation with Israeli universities and research institutions,” Arnold said. Provost Tim Sullivan was more blunt, saying that AUC has to uphold “the high principle of security.”

But security from whom? The AUC campus, where I studied last year, is remarkably safe—its gates are protected 24 hours a day by security patrols, with bags and ID’s checked at every entrance. Moreover, little of what happens on campus permeates beyond these gates, as the Western dress of many female AUC students is rarely otherwise seen on the surrounding streets. Finally, AUC currently is situated in one of the most heavily policed—and thus safest—parts of Cairo, and will be moving to the outskirts of the city by fall 2008—where it will be even more insulated from those who might wish to do Israeli visitors harm.

Indeed, one is forced to wonder whether the “security concerns” to which AUC’s leadership alludes exist within AUC itself. As I reported two weeks ago, AUC students—outraged by the prospect of exchanges with Israelis—have threatened to hold strikes and sit-ins should Israelis be permitted on campus. On most campuses, the cancellation of proposed academic activities due to real security concerns might raise the alarm of students. Not so at AUC, however, where one active alumnus called Arnold’s decision a “win-win situation.” Meanwhile, another student deplored that AUC did not take a more explicitly political stance against exchanges with Israelis, saying that, “They have no right to say that AUC is only an academic institution.”

The facts of this case indicate that President Arnold is less motivated by “security concerns” than by a fear of challenging large segments of his student body. His American patrons need to call him on this shortcoming. If AUC is to serve its declared mission of fostering “freedom of expression” and “the exchange of ideas on campus,” its President must be the first to stand for these principles, leaving matters of security to his guards.

Last week, the American University in Cairo’s faculty senate reconvened to discuss the possibility of academic exchanges with Israeli universities. AUC President David Arnold, who has refused to take a stand for academic freedom and defend these proposed exchanges, has now offered an official excuse to forestall any resolution that would open the campus to Israeli academics: security concerns. “My opinion is that it will be ill-advised and unwise for the senate to adopt a formal resolution dealing with cooperation with Israeli universities and research institutions,” Arnold said. Provost Tim Sullivan was more blunt, saying that AUC has to uphold “the high principle of security.”

But security from whom? The AUC campus, where I studied last year, is remarkably safe—its gates are protected 24 hours a day by security patrols, with bags and ID’s checked at every entrance. Moreover, little of what happens on campus permeates beyond these gates, as the Western dress of many female AUC students is rarely otherwise seen on the surrounding streets. Finally, AUC currently is situated in one of the most heavily policed—and thus safest—parts of Cairo, and will be moving to the outskirts of the city by fall 2008—where it will be even more insulated from those who might wish to do Israeli visitors harm.

Indeed, one is forced to wonder whether the “security concerns” to which AUC’s leadership alludes exist within AUC itself. As I reported two weeks ago, AUC students—outraged by the prospect of exchanges with Israelis—have threatened to hold strikes and sit-ins should Israelis be permitted on campus. On most campuses, the cancellation of proposed academic activities due to real security concerns might raise the alarm of students. Not so at AUC, however, where one active alumnus called Arnold’s decision a “win-win situation.” Meanwhile, another student deplored that AUC did not take a more explicitly political stance against exchanges with Israelis, saying that, “They have no right to say that AUC is only an academic institution.”

The facts of this case indicate that President Arnold is less motivated by “security concerns” than by a fear of challenging large segments of his student body. His American patrons need to call him on this shortcoming. If AUC is to serve its declared mission of fostering “freedom of expression” and “the exchange of ideas on campus,” its President must be the first to stand for these principles, leaving matters of security to his guards.

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Pseudo-reform in Egypt

Earlier this week, Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party held its annual conference, which closed with President Hosni Mubarak’s declaring that Egypt is “on the road to reform and development.” Naturally, not everyone agreed with his assessment. Given political conditions in Egypt, however, only a small group of protesters braved the ever-looming threat of violent crackdowns to protest the conference, where they were typically outnumbered four-to-one by armored riot police.

Restraints on freedoms of speech and association have been well-documented in Egypt, deplored by everyone from Condoleezza Rice to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet there is one area in which speech in Egypt is remarkably free: vilification of Israel. In limiting the scope of free speech to this small area, Egypt has built a potent strategy for deterring Western efforts to promote greater liberty.

Consider the recent history of the Kifaya movement, which spearheaded the mass protests in 2005 that paved the way towards theoretically competitive—though ultimately rigged—elections that September. But after the elections, as a consequence of disappointing results and the absence of a unifying platform, Kifaya quickly fizzled.

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Earlier this week, Egypt’s ruling National Democratic Party held its annual conference, which closed with President Hosni Mubarak’s declaring that Egypt is “on the road to reform and development.” Naturally, not everyone agreed with his assessment. Given political conditions in Egypt, however, only a small group of protesters braved the ever-looming threat of violent crackdowns to protest the conference, where they were typically outnumbered four-to-one by armored riot police.

Restraints on freedoms of speech and association have been well-documented in Egypt, deplored by everyone from Condoleezza Rice to the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet there is one area in which speech in Egypt is remarkably free: vilification of Israel. In limiting the scope of free speech to this small area, Egypt has built a potent strategy for deterring Western efforts to promote greater liberty.

Consider the recent history of the Kifaya movement, which spearheaded the mass protests in 2005 that paved the way towards theoretically competitive—though ultimately rigged—elections that September. But after the elections, as a consequence of disappointing results and the absence of a unifying platform, Kifaya quickly fizzled.

That is, until last autumn, when Kifaya returned to international headlines emboldened by its new campaign: to collect one million signatures in support of annulling Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel. To many commentators, Kifaya’s actions—coupled with the Muslim Brotherhood’s electoral successes—indicated that the United States faced a tradeoff between promoting democracy and maintaining stability in the region, and that U.S. interests might be served best by sticking with a reliable authoritarian regime. Indeed, this is exactly what the Bush administration ultimately did, virtually eliminating democracy-talk from its Egypt agenda earlier this year.

This rapid shift away from the democracy agenda, however, sent a troubling signal to the Egyptian regime: that it would take remarkably little to distract Washington from promoting liberalization. Mubarak had thus stumbled across a new strategy: conditioning Egyptian dissidents to organize for anti-Western causes rather than their own civil liberties. This strategy undermines domestic opposition while deterring American democratizing pressures.

The vocal student outcry against academic exchanges with Israel at American University in Cairo, which I reported on Wednesday, is a prime example of this strategy’s successful implementation. I happen to know one of the protest’s foremost organizers—for his security, I’ll call him Muhammad—who had previously been active in liberal anti-government protests. But, after a harrowing experience in March 2007, he swore off these protests. While distributing pamphlets opposing constitutional amendments that would restrict parties’ electoral participation, Muhammad was arrested, thrown in the back of an armored police vehicle, and driven out to the desert, where he was held with seven colleagues for twenty-four hours. During that period, he was given little water and fed one small container of macaroni; when he had to use the bathroom, he urinated in the empty container. He was later released in the desert and, after finding his way back to Cairo, learned that he had lost his teaching job.

Yet in the uproar against academic exchanges with Israelis, Muhammad has found a new outlet for organizing. In an e-mail sent to me earlier this week, he argued against these exchanges until Israel recognizes Palestinian rights. As I responded, it is saddening to compare the ease with which he protests for Palestinian rights to the difficulties he faces in advocating for his own.

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