Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Gadhafi digitally remastered - Bells Toll for Assad -
As Gaddafi falls, the bells toll for Assad
By Michael Danby
"Zenga Zenga daar daar" was the subversive YouTube video made by Noy Alooshe sending up the bizarre Libyan dictator, Moamar Gaddafi.
To the jiving sound of Shakira, Alooshe re-engineered the exaggerated body movements of a crazy Colonel Gaddafi media conference given in the early stages of the revolt against his brutal regime. More than four million people across the Middle East, mainly younger people, have now seen this send-up of Gaddafi. Its popularity indicated widespread contempt and a lack of fear for his regime.
And it is this lack of fear that has now proved fatal to another Arab dictator. Wherever Gaddafi is, dead or alive, in Zimbabwe or Algeria, his brutal regime is now at an end.
The mysterious Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) has all but defeated the man who controlled Libya for 42 years. Former US Ambassador to Morocco, Marc Ginsberg argues in his article 'Tripoli Minus Gaddafi' (The Huffington Post), that Libya in the post-Gaddafi era, with the 140-plus tribes that make up the nation, could easily slide into civil conflict. While the NTC are united in the push to oust Gaddafi, there is a real concern that the alliance between various factions will fray post-Gaddafi. After all the control of 3 per cent of the world's oil is at stake. The NTC consists of a combustible mixture of democrats from Libya's secular society tribes and hard-line Islamists who were based in Benghazi. Some of the Benghazi gang were once (and still may be) affiliated with members of the extremist Libyan Fighting Group - a franchise of Al Qaeda and its Algerian offshoot; the Armed Islamic Group.
Gaddafi leaves Libya with no parliament, no political parties, no unions, no civil society, no non-government organisations, and no ministries except the state oil company. Despite having a country of six million people and vast oil resources, Gaddafi leaves Libya a broken nation.
It is a shame that none of the legion of Australian apologists for the Colonel - former MPs Joan Coxsedge and Jean McLean, or educator Brian McKinlay - are willing to speak about their decades-long support for the Colonel.
Australian academic and Russian resident John Helmer, the other half of the famous Claudia Wright/ Helmer duo, co-authors of innumerable treatises for Chatham House and the serious US foreign policy journals like Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy, is also grumpily silent about his former advocacy of Gaddafi's so-called "moderation".
Gaddafi agreed to give up Libya's weapons of mass destruction for cosier relationships with the West after he saw the attack and destruction of the Saddam Hussein regime. I note the ominous warning of visiting Israeli expert Professor Efraim Inbar that the lesson learned by Middle East dictators is this: "not to give up your nuclear weapons". Australia briefly experienced a romance with Gaddafi in 2004 when in a Libyan charm offensive, the dictator's odious son Saif-al-Islam Gaddafi was met by deputy prime minister John Anderson and was even interviewed by The Australian's foreign editor Greg Sheridan.
While the end of the "mad dog of the Middle East" is an occasion to celebrate, the people of Libya will not be completely free unless we support their transition to democracy.
Most importantly, perhaps the fall of Gaddafi and the fact that Libya is out of the way, means that international opinion can finally be galvanised against Syria, whose fate is far more strategically important.
Since the beginning of the uprisings in March, 2,200 people have so far been killed by the Assad Baathist regime. The Assads belong to the Alawite sect of Shiah Islam. This is regarded by the Sunni majority as heretics. They in turn regard themselves as natural elite. Although Assad's Alawis are only 13 per cent of the population, with Sunnis around 74 per cent and Christians 10 per cent, they control most of the positions of power, including the military and the security apparatus.
Syria is the key conduit between Iran and its proxies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, so the fall of Assad could have dramatic and in my opinion positive consequences for regional stability.
Unlike the United States, who still has an Ambassador in Damascus, Australia has refused to credential the Syrian Ambassador. Even Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has publicly recalled his Ambassador to Syria, and issued a statement of condemnation of the Assad regime in early August. Kuwait and Bahrain have also condemned Assad. More ominously for Assad, three days ago Turkey announced that they no longer have confidence in the Syrian regime.
Whether Assad faces the same fate as Mubarak and Gaddafi is questionable, but the Colonel's demise will mean the full force of world opinion focuses on Damascus.
Michael Danby MP is the Federal Member for Melbourne Ports.
Moammar Gadhafi, digitally remastered
August 30, 2011
By Michal Levertov
When the Tel Aviv-based musician Noy Alooshe decided to create an ironic dance remix of a speech by Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, he never imagined it would become a huge YouTube hit in the Arab world.
Not only has the video attracted more than 5.5 million hits, but television footage showed Libyan rebels advancing into Tripoli being greeting by locals chanting "zenga zenga" - words from Alooshe's remix.
The title, "Zenga Zenga," comes from Gadhafi's repetition of the Libyan Arabic word for "alleyways" in the speech used in the video clip. Alooshe, 32, first posted the video in February.
"The news reports from the revolution in Egypt stressed that this was a new world - that all the young people there are into Facebook and Twitter," Alooshe said. "I was interested to see if youngsters in the Arab world really were so involved in the Web and in its social networks."
At first, he sent the video to about 20 sites devoted to Arab opposition movements. Within hours, "Zenga Zenga" had received more than 300,000 hits. Alooshe was surprised at the massive response.
"Most viewers were in Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt," he said.
Once news of the video was reported by mainstream Israeli media, viewership took off internationally. Alooshe said he heard that the video was even shown on Libyan state television until someone realized it was mocking Gadhafi rather than glorifying him.
Although Alooshe did not identify himself as an Israeli when he posted "Zenga Zenga," he noted that most viewers learned of his background by looking at his online profile.
"There were ... many pleasant reactions: people who wrote saying how much they enjoyed the remix; Libyans who promised they would dance in the streets to this music when the country was freed; Iranians and Syrians requested such remixes of their own leaders," he said. "People even wrote that they disliked Jews and Zionists but liked the remix."
Alooshe says he's learned much from the response.
"In Israel, the Arab Spring was depicted as a revolution doomed to be taken over by extremists such as the Muslim Brotherhood," he said. "But then, I suddenly saw a totally different picture - one of people who are just like me.
"All these years, we were told that there are these enemy countries whose citizens hate us. And then you get to talk to people from Saudi Arabia and Iran and other Muslim countries, and you simply grasp that it's nothing like what we were told all of those years."
Michal Levertov is a Tel Aviv-based journalist who writes for the Institute for War & Peace Reporting.