Tag Archives: Egypt

It’s the real thing: The one sided right of return

In 2001, Hussam Khader, a Fatah leader, said of Yasser Arafat’s last negotiations with then President Bill Clinton, “If Yasser Arafat or any other Palestinian leader were to relinquish the right of return, I would lead the revolt against him.” This supposed right, one sided as it might be, is the stated reason why the Oslo Accords failed, and is something that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert amazingly offered in a rejected last ditch effort to hand over 97% of Judea and Samaria and the Golan Heights in exchange for peace.

The Arabs claim that the the right of return is an individual right, enshrined in international law, which no international or national leader can sign away. This right, however seems only enshrined on a one-way street for Palestinians. For Jews, there is no such right, nor any major calls for justice to be served on the behalf of Jews who were forcibly kicked out of Arab lands after the British and French Mandates created the Arab states of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and so on, following the end of World War I.

Syrian Jews, Iranian Jews, and Iraqi Jews all lost property, assets and other valuables, but no one cries for them. There are no movements or United Nations discussions, and in fact, there is no justice in the American courts either, leading one to believe that the right of return is more of a Palestinian ploy than a real international issue applicable to all.

More recently than the end of WWI, General Abdul Nasser came to power in Egypt and ordered the arrests of Jews and confiscated their property, both personal and commercial. He deported thousands, confiscating all their assets. Most of the deportees were limited to one suitcase apiece. Being so bold, in 1964, Nasser declared that Egypt believed in the Nazi cause, saying, “Our sympathy… was with the Germans.”

Fast forward to today, for a case that few are even paying attention to; it is one that reeks of the hypocrisy of the “treasured” right of return law that Arabs so audaciously cling to. It is the illegal trespass of America’s Coca-Cola on property outside Cairo that was taken from a Jewish family by Nasser in 1962. Coca-Cola built a bottling plant in Egypt in the 1940s when it leased land and buildings from the Egyptian Jewish Bigio family, land it owned since 1929. The Bigios were later expelled from Egypt in 1965, after their property was confiscated. Egypt nationalized their property. After the Begin-Sadat talks and the 1978 Camp David Accords brought a treaty, Bigio returned in 1979 and managed to obtain a decree from the Ministry of Finance that the property “had never been legally sequestered or nationalized and accordingly remained” Bigio property.

Yet, a series of back handed deals between Egyptian insurance companies and the government caused the land to fall into the possession of the Misr Insurance Co., a government-owned entity that refused to turn it over to the family. Then, in 1993, Egypt announced the privatization of the bottling facility and Bigio notified Coca-Cola of his family’s interest in the property, but Coca-Cola closed on a deal to acquire ownership interest in the property anyway. Egypt was not going to offer justice or any right of return to the Jewish Bigio family.

Even so, there was hope that the matter could be settled by the American court system, as Coca-Cola is an American operation. Now, 14 years later and after the United States Court of Appeals has reversed dismissals of the case twice, it was shot down again on the argument that the theft was committed by Coca Cola Egypt and not by the American defendants. Fourteen years through the system; the initial suit was dismissed under the Alien Tort Statute stating that there was no jurisdiction and that the act of state doctrine barred the exercise of jurisdiction. The 2nd Circuit reversed it on appeal. The Bigios filed again in 2009, claiming “unlawful taking and exclusion of plaintiffs,” citing the trespass and civil conspiracy as well as unjust enrichment. However, the case was dismissed indicating that Egyptian law prevails. Remarkably, it also said the Bigios “have not plausibly alleged that defendants enriched themselves without just cause.” This was the same Coca-Cola Company that knowingly entered into a lease with the Bigios in the 1930s then ran to buy the land after it was confiscated from them–which they were well aware of.

This past March, the court found that Coca-Cola and its subsidiary occupied the property under a legitimate claim of right for Egyptian law and therefore their possession is not illegal. Then, in what seemed to be an act of kicking a man when he’s down, Coca-Cola filed a “Bill of Costs” to collect the printing costs of its brief from the truly impoverished Bigios. They took the land and now asked for blood.

Fortunately, Coke’s lawyers attached a bill for a completely different brief that was longer than the one Coca-Cola filed. In addition, it never filed a “Supplemental Appendix,” that they also demanded reimbursement for. Diet Coke — obviously embarrassed — withdrew its request for costs once it was revealed. Minor justice served, while the major offense remains intact.

The family now has until May 2 to request a rehearing.  Their attorney, Nathan Lewin, intends to continue the pursuit of justice all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The final outcome of the case will be interesting, because it speaks volumes of the fraudulent nature of the right of return. What cuts for Arabs, does not appear to cut the same for Jews. If Jews demanded their rights of property, assets and land from Arab countries that threw them out, and the United Nations and world leaders joined in the call for Justice for Jews, how lopsided would this world seem on that day? Perhaps a court can decide once and for all that Israeli Law applies for cases involving Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR
This article appeared in the Jewish Star

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Filed under anti-Semitism, Crisis Management, Cutting Edge News, Egypt, Islam, Israel, Judasim, News and Views, War against Israel

Sam LaHood, Son of U.S. Transportation Secretary, Barred from Leaving Egypt

Juda Engelmayer January 27th 2012

The Cutting Edge News Contributor

Egypt - Sam LaHood
Sam LaHood

Ten Americans working for nongovernmental organizations in Egypt have been barred from leaving the country.  Among them is is a son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sam LaHood.

Mr. LaHood is director of the Washington-based International Republican Institute’s Egyptian office, an organization that seeks to promote democracy in Egypt.  Mr. LaHood reported that when he showed his passport to the immigration official at the airport on January 21, 2012, he was told to stand aside. He was then told that he could not leave the country, but was given no reason as to why.

Recently, Egypt’s military council has been suggesting that the United States is trying to destabilize Egypt by non-profit human rights groups and these democracy-building agencies.  Upon learning the news of the ban, Washington officials said that Egypt was “endangering American lives.”  Egypt referred to the travel ban as a “de facto detention.”

In December, LaHood’s organizational office in Egypt was raided and police took everything: computers, documents, furniture, and the office was sealed and remains so for the past six weeks. Prior to this ban, the American Embassy had been working hard to get the property back, but nothing has been returned or explained. Lorne W. Craner, President of the International Republican Institute, said that the Egyptian government had promised to close the investigation and return the seized property, but nothing has happened. “Here we are all these weeks later and all these assurances later, and things are getting worse,” Craner said.

Mr. LaHood reported that he complied with investigators, signed a statement on a copy of his passport and pledged to be available for his next “interrogation”. 17 members of LaHood’s staff had been interrogated and three called back for a second session.

President Obama called Egyptian Field Marshal Tantawi to reaffirm the close partnership between the United States and Egypt and to underscore the United States’ support for Egypt’s transition to democracy. The President emphasized that non-governmental organizations should be able to operate freely.

The Obama administration has just unambiguously threatened to withhold its annual aid to the Egyptian military. Michael H. Posner, an assistant secretary of state responsible for human rights issues, said, “It is the prerogative of Congress to say that our future military aid is going to be conditioned on a democratic transition.”

Senator John McCain said statement released by his office Thursday, “This crisis has taken a new and disturbing turn with reports that the Egyptian government is prohibiting employees of these NGOs, including American citizens, from leaving the country.”

“It is worrying enough that Sam and his fellow NGO workers have been singled out by name in Egyptian state-owned media,” McCain said, adding, “it is outrageous that these individuals would be held against their will by Egyptian authorities and prohibited from leaving the country.” He added that action must be taken immediately “for the safety of all of the employees of these NGOs — Americans, Egyptians and others, especially those who have been barred from leaving the country.”

The White House and LaHood have not commented further on negotiations to end the travel ban.

Juda Engelmayer is an executive with the NY PR agency,5W Public Relations and a contributor to the Cutting Edge News.

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New World Order & New Media Order: how social media changed our world, again

The 1970’s counter-cultural poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” may have seemed reasonable back then, but that was before media and even social media took over the world as it has done toward the end of the Century and well into the 21st. Today, Gil Scott-Heron would be sorely disappointed to learn how far from the truth he is, as we see governments today shutting down social media when they need to silence a rebellion.

“The Great Lie” is harder to maintain than ever before, as self-created content via social media has spread to the Middle East and worldwide.  While President Mubarak and many throughout the Arab world have ruled with iron fists, they never conceived that with all the guns and ammunition they posses, the biggest threat to despotic rule-would come through a simple technology that people use for entertainment; a mere 140-character message has more power than an army of loyal fighters. Jan 25, 2011 is likely to be remembered as the day commemorating the start of the modern Egyptian revolt, fed greatly, if not led by the Internet.  It is no surprise that Egyptian leaders decided to disable both the internet and the wireless telephone services as early measures against the current unrest.  The implication that is that this is this era’s form of silencing the opposition is altering basic freedoms of expression in Egypt. Social media was also found in Tunisia to be the main media for anti-government forces to mobilize, inform, and communicate with one another.

State run media in countries similar to Egypt could previously use its resources to spew propaganda; today social media is a mass communications tool whereby each citizen is a journalist, giving true rise to the title and concept of citizen journalism, and taking the power back from the despots.  This of course comes on the heels of the Wikileaks’ revelations that put entire countries in states of sheer anxiety prior to the releases. The unprecedented phenomenon causing undisclosed records to reach the public amass raised diplomatic chaos worldwide.

Political philosophers such as Immanuel Kant and John Locke addressed the issue of a government’s responsibility towards its people, and social media allows people to force government to face and defend their versions of truth and morality, whether they like it or not.  New media today is causing the world to open faster than some “leaders” would expect. We see images today of protestors with hand held cameras surely for Youtube, and we remember the images a few months ago of the protests in Iran.  How much would have changed sooner if instant pictures and cries for help were heard around the world during China’s Tiananmen Square massacre more than twenty years ago.

The ‘truth’ is now in the open; exposed and accessible to people instantly and vertically across most of the world. The impact – is something we are witnessing right now. Lies and manipulations must be handled differently by dictators with this degree of transparency. It takes one person with a mobile phone to start a revolution, one network of friends on Facebook to mobilize thousands and then millions around a cause; only 140 characters to begin the once insufferable idea of expelling a dictator, as we saw in Tunisia.

Social media has shown its potential with the simplicity of online and wireless access by individuals with passion, energy, a just cause, and now an unbridled newfound power. While it is still uncertain whether Egyptian youngsters will achieve their end goals, the young have not disappointed as they have moved quickly and unhesitatingly to form nothing less than a ‘New World Order’. Egypt’s coerced president has installed a new cabinet and a vice president – something he had resisted until now. Perhaps state run media in many countries will also follow the lead of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who joined Twitter a few months ago, and invited Cuban head Fidel Castro to join him in Tweeting their messages.  He had previously called Twitter a potential “tool of terror” – and now has realized that it can be used as his tool of terror. China, Syria, Iran and other South American countries are wasting effort in limiting the access people have to social media. I’d strongly suggest that if they really want to protect their power base and maintain their form of order, that they keep and learn to harness its power before their subjects begin to use it.  Perhaps they should take classes in social media themselves.

Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S. Named to the “40 under 40” list of PR Week & Advertising Age, Ronn Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and may be reached at Rtorossian@5wpr.com and followed on twitter @rtorossian5wpr

 

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New Footage Aboard Gaza Flotilla Show Preparations to Throw Israelis “Into the Sea”

The Hamas Flotilla

New Footage Aboard Gaza Flotilla Show Preparations to Throw Israeli “Into the Sea”

Gaza Topics - Gaza flotilla 2

To the cry “Takbīr,” the crowd shouts “Allahu Akbar” in harmony, as the leader of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and
Humanitarian Relief (IHH), Bulent Yildirim addresses a gathering of men aboard the ship Mavi Marmara on May 30, in a new video released by Israel’s Foreign Ministry last week. The images and dialogue, in Arabic with English subtitles, depict four men standing in front of the crowd; Yildirim, one man labeled as member of Egypt’s Parliament, and two others preparing the group for a planned confrontation with Israel. (More)

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