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:
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
the 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
Herzog Center is a non-partisan institute, and the views openly
expressed by conference participants reflect their views only. The
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.
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.