Yesterday, 2nd Feb, it looked like a classic counter-revolution: on the night of Day 8, Mubarak said he would only stay until September, a statement calculated to divide the rebels’ support (“why go on with the chaos for the sake of just six months?” the gullible were asking); the “soft-cop” army said: you’ve made your point, now go home. And the hard-cop government-hired thugs and plain-clothes police, promised large sums of cash if they took over Tahrir Square, moved in with lethal weapons, petrol bombs, and heavy intimidation familiar as a tactic during elections. Meanwhile, known leaders of the protest were being picked up and detained.
But a few thousand committed men and women stood their ground through the day and night, barricaded themselves into Tahrir Square and vowed “we stay until he goes”. Ad hoc groups sallied forth in the morning to get blankets, food and medical supplies. After several deaths and nearly 1000 injuries, they were in no mood to leave: “If we go, they’ll hunt us one by one. We’ve not only stood together, we’ve bled together, we are not leaving.” Even hungry, exhausted and wounded, they organised marshalling and work parties, to distribute food and water, ensure security and early warning signals, and deal with infiltrators by handing them over, unharmed, to the army.
These incredible heroes of the overnight stand may have saved the revolution. Now there’s the start of a backlash against the government-sponsored violence, despite lies in the media about foreign agents being behind it all. And reinforcements are constantly arriving, bringing supplies and help — having to run the gauntlet of the thugs in the streets around the square.
For once, powerful international voices in Washington and Europe are not mincing their words. The tide has turned in the Arab world, and they’re running to catch up, explicitly calling on Mubarak to “start the transition now, urgently”. They are saying that they will hold the regime accountable for any further harm to those in the square, whether by the regime’s uniformed or free-lance agents or even from genuine pro-government groups, stressing (albeit 30 years too late) that it is a government’s legal duty to protect peaceful protest. Mubarak’s newly appointed PM has apologised for the attacks and announced an inquiry.
Politically Mubarak may now have squandered his last bit of credit. It probably now falls to the army to decide whether to “tap him on the shoulder” or to side with him, bring in fresh troops that haven’t fraternised, and clear the demonstrators out: they have other methods short of the lethal force they have promised not to use.
All the opposition groups have refused to talk until Mubarak goes, presenting a solid front so far. Friday 4th has been named “Departure Day”. If they can force him out, freedom will really be on the march in the Middle East: unprecedented events are happening in Jordan and Syria, Khartoum and Yemen (20,000 on the streets).
The first beneficiary could be Gaza, whose siege Mubarak policed on Egypt’s border. And maybe, maybe, the demand for control and freedom will reach into Ramallah, and clear out the quisling PLO gang and their masters in Tel Aviv*. We will all owe a huge debt to the brave people who held Tahrir Square last night: whatever the outcome, this night was the stuff of legend and history.
Banned demonstrations in the West Bank
Palestinian TV has tried to ignore events in Egypt. The Palestinian Authority has banned demonstrations in solidarity. Even small delegations to the Egyptian consulate in Ramallah have been monitored and dispersed. Dr Mamdouh al-Aker, speaking to Amira Hass, said the PA leadership didn’t want their ally Hosni Mubarak upset, nor did it want young Palestinians to get ideas. “What has happened in Tunisia and Egypt will expedite the process of change, revitalize the Palestinian cause and bring it back to where it belongs — not to a government or a “state,” but as a movement of national liberation.”
* These are some of the next fixtures: non-violent, non-party rallies, no factional signs, just flags of Egypt, Tunisia and Palestine.
Friday 4 Feb, after Fri prayers, Bethlehem Governorate. Demonstration against Israeli colonisation.
Sat 5th Feb 2pm:
1)AlQuds, Bab El Amoud Damascus Gate
2)Ramallah Al-Manara Square
3)Bethlehem Nativity Square, and more cities to be announced soon.
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