Mahmoud Salem
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Dr. Yoram Meital, Chairman, The Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy, Ben-Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel has just responded to our petition:

Dear Petitioners:
have received your petition of complaint regarding Dr. Mohamed Mosaad
Abdel Aziz's recent presentation on "Political Weblogging in Egypt" at
our recent conference on Reform, Resistance, and Conflicts in the
Middle East. We take all comments regarding our efforts to bring open
discussions within the topic of reform and resistance very
seriously. The blogosphere is an important and valuable element within
reform and resistance discourse.

am not an expert on the Egyptian blogosphere, but I am aware that it is
expansive and quite pluralistic, representing a wide spectrum of
Egyptian society. I was significantly impressed by the useful work of
Egyptian bloggers during the last elections for both the parliament and
the presidency. I gave expression to this in my recently published
article “The Struggle over Political Order in Egypt: The 2005
Elections,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 60, No. 2 (Spring 2006), 257-279." 

Now, allow me to correct your claim that Dr. Mosaad was intentionally invited to express criticism on the Egyptian blogosphere. This claim is a total misunderstanding of how this academic conference was organized. The
Herzog Center is a non-partisan institute, and the views openly
expressed by conference participants reflect their views only. 
idea to discuss the Egyptian blogosphere has evolved from a keen
appreciation of this growing media in Egypt. A colleague, Dr. Mike
Dahan who specializes in weblogging in the Middle East, recommended Dr.
Mosaad, and the later was invited to speak on the issue of "Political
Weblogging in Egypt". The title of his lecture and the abstract sounded
promising. Quoting Dr. Mosaad,

"In Egypt, weblogging is thriving and is mainly political.  It has been argued that blogging gave a floor and voice to a large and previously silent sector, that used cyberspace to share information, raise significant but ignored issues, pose questions,create discourses, extend new political relations and affiliations and organize political
campaigns and activities. I argue, nevertheless, that weblogs are dominated by urban petit bourgeois young activists, who reflect the dominant social hierarchical structures,
tend to recycle tired discourses and turn the potentially creative cyber-space into a reflection of the traditional political public sphere in Egypt. This is not to say weblogging has had no value. Weblogging has undeniable political contribution. The paper will portray how political weblogging has failed to challenge traditional political structures and processes in Egypt."

Some of Dr. Mosaad's arguments did, indeed, come to me as a surprise. I was
not alone in criticizing him during the conference. I was not convinced
by his analysis of the political situation in Egypt, and the role of
new media. Dr. Mosaad's central point
of criticism was that HE has lost hope that blogging could make a
difference in Egypt's political arena.
However, like all of our
participants, I respected Dr. Mosaad's right to present his claims
freely. I am surprised that many among the respondents to your petition
supported a call to defame Dr. Mosaad, instead of formally taking issue
with his claims. 

I would like to express my keen appreciation of the Egyptian
blogosphere community; and to assure you that, like many others, I hold
the efforts and sacrifices of Egyptian bloggers in high esteem.

Sincerely Yours,

Dr. Yoram Meital
The Chaim Herzog Center for
Middle East Studies and Diplomacy
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

My response:
Dr. Meital,

Thank you for your prompt response reagrding this
issue. As you can imagine, this incident has inflamed many people, none
more than myself, due to the serious defaming to egyptian bloggers that
took place on the panel and in the Israeli media.You may not be aware
of this, but one of our own is currently at trial for charges such as
"defaming the President on his website" and is looking at a 9 years
prison sentence come January the 25th. Others are facing constant
harassment from the egyptian police and state security, not to mention
the insults and insinuations about us in the state-sponsored media. The
Egyptian bloggers are fighting on many fronts dear sir, so to have
someone who doesn't even know us or seems to have done any proper
research on the topic, come out with such statements, well, it becomes
hard not to consider it another attack and take issue with it.

You stated that you were surprised how so many people have
supported the call to defame dr. Mosaad instead of formally taking
issues with his claims, and I am asking you: what claims? If you read
the petition you would find numerous factual errors in his statements
that could be proven by anybody with access to google and 20 minutes to
spare, especially regarding the nature, size and socioeconomic
backgrounds of egyptian bloggers. If you are referring to his claims
that the egyptian blogsphere is now reflecting the traditional
political public sphere, well, even that statement is misguided at
best. None of the traditional political forces in operation in Egypt,
even the so called opposition parties, have raised the issues that we
have raised or even pursue them after we brought them into the
spotlight. Egyptian bloggers from every political background actually
do attempt to discourse and have more than once abandoned personal and
ideological differences to work together for the common good, something
that not even the political forces in your country does, let alone
ours. There is nothing to take issue with because the man simply
doesn't know what he is talking about. Saying that publically is not
defaming him, it's actually a step to stop him from defaming us.

Now, I never personally believed that he was invited to your
conference to defame us, but what I couldn't fathom is how was it
possible for him to get invited as an "expert", when a simple online
search would have shown how disconnected and insignificant he is to the
egyptian blogsphere. In your e-mail you just answerd my question: Dr.
Mike Dahan invited him, which explains so much to me, since Dr. Dahan's
knowledge of the Israeli blogsphere parallels that of Dr. Abdel Aaziz
knowledge of the egyptian one: ignorant and shallow. This is the same
man, if I am not mistaken, who publically stated that the Israeli
blogsphere is irrelevant and is primarily comprised by 14 year old
girls who write personal diaries. As someone who have seen the Israeli
blogsphere's attempts to reach out to their lebanese counterparts
during last summer's war and how it gave Irsael and Israelis a human
face to a world population that generally demonizes them, it would be
easy to see how I would disagree with his assessment of the israeli
blogsphere as well.

That being said, I have only one thing to ask of you in the
future Dr. Yoram as a perosnal favor: Please don't take anybody's
recommendation for an "expert speaker", especially when it comes to
something as rapidly evoloving as the blogsphere, before researching
that person online first. Otherwise you are jepordizing your
conference's credibility and intentions, something I am sure  a great
academic such as yourself would not be very keen on.

And again, thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response.
I really appreciate that you took the time to explain to us your point
of view, and we keep waiting on Dr. Abdel Aaziz to do the same.

Best Regards,


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18 thoughts on “Responses

  1. Great letter, SM.

    Dr. Mosaad’s central point
    of criticism was that HE has lost hope that blogging could make a
    difference in Egypt’s political arena.

    Even if that’s the case, and I don’t think it is, there was no need to get petty and personal, especially when presenting information to people who know little or nothing on the subject.

    Academics (and “academics”) are stubborn folk. But the tone in your letter is perfect and I hope it sinks in with that guy.

  2. Well done sand monkey. Mature and well thought out. I am not surprised that this segment of academia has their head where the sun does not shine. Generally academia lives in a fairytale world envisioned from their ivory towers. It has ever been true: Those who can …. do. Those who can’t …. teach.

  3. The whole thing sounds fair enough. Let’s face it…the Egyptian blogsophere is not the center of the universe…not yet anyhow. The dude’s response was reasonable…

    Did anybody hear Kareem’s story made it so prime time USA least my wife came in asking me about who he was and said she saw it on TV.

    Hope that helps him.

  4. Sand Monkey, I undertand your anger about Dr. Mohamed Mosaad
    Abdel Aziz saying, and about the university which invite him as an “expert”.
    but do you consider yourself to an expert? I think that the university invite him to an open dialog and not as an expert, and they could invite you in the same way.
    Dr. Mohamed Mosaad Abdel Aziz is a bloger like you, and he has his opinion . I don’t think that the crowd consider his words as GOD saying.

  5. alon,

    Yeah but … the whole thing just stinks of establishment superiority. Make that establishment normal sickening bullshit. Ignore the real blogesphere and make up a fake one. Stick your head in the sand and maybe everyone else will follow suit. Anything but simply see and say what is.

  6. Great response, SM. Well-written with a reasonable, polite tone, but with your ideas clearly stated. Those who organized this conference were clearly uninformed with little knowledge of the blogsphere—clearly!
    I read today about Kareem’s trial, and I am worried about his safety and his future. Is there more that we can do?

  7. First let me express my admiration and lots of respect to all of you guys in Egypt who are blogers. Thank you for your courage. You show the Egypt we all wont to see-free, modern and tolerant.
    Just let me say I think you overreact here… This guy Mosaad is indeed an expert. His expertise is HIS experience. Anybody can claim to be an expert.
    Since you don’t need to present a degree or document…
    The proper way to my opinion to write a series of articles about Egyptian blogosphere for all to see. Then we all can decide who is an expert or who is nobody. The important thing is NOT Mossad, but to get a clear picture about you guys. Just my 2 cents…

  8. Awesome response, SM. Especially this part:

    Mike Dahan invited him, which explains so much to me, since Dr. Dahan’s
    knowledge of the Israeli blogsphere parallels that of Dr. Abdel Aaziz
    knowledge of the egyptian one: ignorant and shallow.

    I’d add “arrogant” to ignorant and shallow. This is the face of the “post-Zionist” Israeli academia. I suggest doing a google search for Michael Dahan to understand who you’re dealing with.

    Here’s a taste:
    He travelled to the US to defend Fawaz Darma, a Palestinian imam who was videotaped calling for the murder of Jews.

    Don’t expect any honesty or moral dignity from these people.

  9. Good responce, Sam.

    It’s a pity that our academics are so out of touch with reality. Even the best tend to trust the word of a senior academic instead of *thinking*. And so the ivory tower grows taller, with its denizens learning from no one save each other and looking down at the people living below…

  10. SM, here is some more on Mike Dahan.

    1. Dahan and Mosaad appear to have presented together in a “tag-team” lecture at AUC during September 2006. Apparently, they are “joined at the hip.”

    (search for the words “Michael Dahan, from Sapir Academic College, Israel”).

    2. Dahan has written a number of articles from a far left position, attacking Israel and offering rather a rather extreme degree of support for the Palestinians. You can find various ones online

    But here is where it gets absolutely *absurd*:

    3. Dahan attempted to offer testimony in a US court to defend a Palestinian extremist imam on trial for terrorist connections, but his testimony was turned down by the defense because he had plagiarized sections of his testimon!y!

    (I say this is the same guy because the Ben-Gurion University “Mike Dahan” is billed as the founder of MEViC, an apparently dead organization, and this guy, who got his PhD at Hebrew U., “coordinated” it, as you see here:


    This is the “expert” on the Israeli blogosphere, with his separated-at-birth buddy the “expert” on the Egyptian blogosphere! What were the BGU guys THINKING?

  11. I’d say this is an example of the Israeli mentality of “smoch” – which I would translate as ‘Trust me, I’ll handle it’. I can just imagine how the conversation went.

    Yoram Meital talks to his pal Dahan:
    Yoram: “Gee, maybe we should bring someone to discuss the Egyptian Blogosphere, that might be interesting.”
    Dahan: Yeah, good idea, I’ll see if I can find someone.

    Dahan types in ‘Egyptian Blogosphere’ in google, presses “I’m feeling lucky”, gets to Abdel Aziz. Exchanges a few emails, reads the title and abstract, sends an invitation.

    Five days later Yoram calls Dahan again: “Say Miki, did you get someone to talk about the Syrian Blogosphere?”
    Dahan: “Egyptian blogosphere. Got some Abdel Aziz fellow. He sounds interesting”.
    Yoram: “Is he any good?”
    Dahan: “Smoch alay, yihihe beseder” – trust me, it’ll be ok.

    So much in this country gets done this way (sometimes rather badly).

    Though I must say Yoram sounds like a decent fellow, in his reply – usually this sort of stuff is covered up by blustering and counter-accusations and denials.

  12. “What were the BGU guys THINKING?”

    That he’s an academic, which means that he’s God Almighty and knows everything on everything. And some people here in Israel wonder why our academics aren’t exactly considered popular by the general Israeli population.

  13. SM – can you erase my response from the first post you wrote about abdel aziz? i placed it there by mistake, it belongs here… thanks and sorry…it’s the hour…

    as both a blogger and an academic researcher of blogs, i think part of this misfortunate incident comes from the inherent gap between the academic discourse and the blog/public sphere one. it also depends on the theories one holds to define change and influence which could be so different.

    since i did the original coverage of this conference which started all of this, and i know Dr. Mike Dahan and his good intentions, i want to ask you to please refrain from trashing someone’s personality or political views, it has nothing to do with this conference. there aren’t many opportunities to make academic ties between our countries and since mike and abdelaziz happened to meet in a conference in Cairo, he was invited since he was the only link available. he also took a great risk in crossing the border since as you know, it’s not so easy to get a visa from the Egyptian side and your motives are always suspected. nothing there was on purpose from the Israeli part. in fact people here want to hear that things change and matter in the world.

    i too had to listen to bullshit lectures of esteemed scholars in their field who took the blogsphere as another case study and came up with complete rubbish, the real fault lies in the different perspective of academic discourse that sometimes can be nothing but detached from reality but sometimes and on a different level of the issue, has a hard truth beneath the surface that we are not ready/able to see. in order to achieve the latter you often fall into the former, i guess. Can you blame someone for having a less popular theoretical standpoint? he spoke for himself and i hope we’ll live to see the times in which our ties will be wormer and merrier and more people could represent a more complex picture of the blogsphere or any other issue.

  14. Hello, I spare few minutes reading this saga, after reading Carmel.

    Now when everything is resolved my suggestion to you SM is to cool down a bit, it all sounds like a “storm in a glass of water”, Dr. Aziz is entitled to his views ans like you care a lot to your freedom of opinions so Dr. Aziz is, even if you disagree wuth him.

    Also, don’t be too sensitive about issues like “honor” and “respect”.

    It’s unfortune for me to read a friend of yours is going to be jailed, and this is the main struglle right now, to fight for a freedom od speach.
    It’s also very encouraging for me to read that you’re already making huge steps in the direction.
    Ma’a salame.

  15. Hi SM,

    You made a fundamental error. You believe that academics are after the truth. After all, we know a few who risked (and took!) death in fire to tell the truth of our solar system.

    Well, you don’t know the names of thousands who were repeating lies about the solar system at the very same time. History didn’t keep their names, that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist. You really think Galileo was the only scientist in Europe in his time?

    An average academic is after making a career, and that means invitations to conferences and citations in scientific literature. One Prof. in Israel invited a Prof. from Egypt to speak, and expects a favour in return. They care about your oppinion as much as a biologist cares about an oppinion of a rabbit.

    Our academy evolved into something arrogant and detached from reality.

    Do not expect Dr. Meital to google Egyptian blogosphere – they will defend their right not to be accountable to general public on the way they conduct their academic affairs. I’d say, some Israeli media and definitely Israeli blogoshere can do much more in keeping them accountable, especially if that gets to pollies in opposition.

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