WHILE THE EGYPTIANS ARE KILLING EACH OTHER IN THE POWER STRUGGLE, THE ISRAELIS FIND A NEW HERO IN CAIRO
by Syarif Hidayat*
While the Egyptians (pro-deposed President Muhammed Morsi demonstrators and the Egyptian troops) fight and kill each other in the streets of the Egyptian cities in the latest power struggle in this Nile country that left 1000 people dead according to official figure (Muslim Brotherhood put the figure at some 2,600), the Israelis find a new hero in Cairo. He is General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who ousted a democratically elected President Morsi.
Egyptian security troops forcibly dispersed two major protest camps for pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square and Giza’s Nahda Square on Wednesday. Clashes later flared between angry Morsi supporters and security forces in several provinces nationwide.
According to government figures (until Saturday, August 24, 2013), more than 1,000 people have been killed across Egypt, including about 100 soldiers and police, since the army deposed Mursi on July 3. The Brotherhood says the death toll is much higher.
The official death toll given by the Health Ministry remains far below figures given by the National Alliance for the Defense of Legitimacy, a coalition of pro-Morsi Islamist parties and figures, which has put the number of deaths from the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in alone at some 2,600.
The Brotherhood put the death toll at a staggering 2,600 and the injured at around 10,000 – figures that are extremely high in light of footage by regional and local TV networks, as well as The Associated Press.
Muslim Brotherhood leader urges world to intervene to stop ‘massacre’ of Morsi supporters. Al-Beltagi has appealed to the international community to intervene to halt what he described as “massacre” of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. “They are dealing with us as if we were fighting a war,” al-Beltagi told the Anadolu Agency Wednesday.
“Military facilities near the protest camp, which we never touched for weeks, are now being used by snipers to shoot at us,” al-Beltagi said. “Live ammunition has been fired at [demonstrators’] chests and heads from aircraft and tanks for the past four hours,” he added. “Ambulances are not allowed into the square and medical supplies at the field hospital have been torched.” There was no immediate reaction from the police or army regarding al-Beltagi’s assertions.
Israel finds a new hero in Cairo
World Bulletin in the latest article titled: “General Sisi is new hero of Israelis – Israelis find a new hero in Egypt” published in its website: www.worldbulletin.net reported that the Israeli people are seeing Egyptian General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who announced the toppling of democratically elected president Morsi and the suspension of the constitution on July 3, as a hero. Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit has written that Israelis were yearning for Sisi who announced the military coup against President Mursi, in the article titled of “Longing for Egypt’s General Sisi”.
The article compares Sisi with Morsi by having the former represent the ideal of “undemocratic enlightenment” of society’s elite and the latter represent the “unenlightened democracy” of the people in general. Ari Shavit specifically targets Morsi’s beard by saying, “Israel had no doubts about Sisi and they’re all for the right of clean-shaven generals who were educated in America to end the rule of an elected, bearded leader, who was also educated in America and who was supposed to subordinate the generals to his authority.”
“The Israeli yearning for Sisi is two-fold. Looking out, we seek friendly dictators who will rule the hostile Arab masses surrounding us,” he writes, conveying the Israeli attraction to dictators they find sympatethic due to their grasp on the Arab populations they govern. Regarding Israeli politicians, Shavit adds, “But when we look in, many of us long for a supreme commander of our own who will limit the powers of the elected political leadership we loathe.”
He expresses that the “Israeli center-left elite” dreams of “Men in uniform with the same ideological DNA as ours will save the homeland from the unfit, elected governments that the ignorant masses voted for in their great stupidity.” “While the protest marches were impressive, their translation into partisan politics was miserable. After years of degeneration, enlightened Israeli society has lost the ability to act within the parameters of democracy and absorb the principle of majority rule. It no longer knows how to love the people, talk to the people and respect the people’s decisions.”
Longing for Egypt’s General Sisi
Haaretz columnist Shavit writes “after years of degeneration, enlightened Israeli society has lost the ability to act within the parameters of democracy and absorb the principle of majority rule. It no longer knows how to love and respect the people. But no enlightened general will rescue us.” The new Israeli hero is an Egyptian figure − General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. You don’t need an especially discerning eye to see the Israeli elite’s deep sympathy and barely concealed admiration for the commander of our large southern neighbor’s armed forces. The one who has just imprisoned the elected president who appointed him to his position.
While the U.S. administration’s stomach is turning at the headlong collision between General al-Sisi’s undemocratic enlightenment and Mohammed Morsi’s unenlightened democracy, Israel has no doubts. We’re all for Sisi. We’re all for the military coup d’etat. We’re all for the right of clean-shaven generals who were educated in America to end the rule of an elected, bearded leader, who was also educated in America and who was supposed to subordinate the generals to his authority.
Israeli ambassador calls Al-Sisi a “national hero for all Jews”. The Israeli ambassador in Cairo has told a minister in the interim government that the people of Israel look upon General Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi as a “national hero”. According to Israel Radio, the ambassador rang Egyptian Agriculture Minister Ayman Abu-Hadid to congratulate him on his new post and said, “Al-Sisi is not a national hero for Egypt, but for all Jews in Israel and around the globe.”
Israel is looking forward to the launch of new relationships with Egypt, said Yaakov Amitai, as well as joint efforts in the war on terror. His mention of “terror” is understood to be an oblique reference to President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters protesting against the coup which removed him from office. The two men agreed on the resumption of the work of the Supreme Egyptian-Israeli Agricultural Committee. Meetings of the committee are held alternately in Cairo and Tel Aviv every six months. They also agreed to reactivate the Egyptian branch of the Future Leaders Network, which includes Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli youths.
“ALL THESE PEOPLES WERE STAGE-MANAGED BY US”
Watching on television the Egyptian military violent crackdown against pro-deposed President Muhamed Morsi and anti-coup protesters in Egyptian cities that killed more than 500 people and reading the reports from Tel Aviv that say the Israelis have found a new hero (General Abdul-Fattah Al-Sisi) in Cairo make me remember about The Protocol of the Elders of Zion, Protocol No.13, Paragraph 6 that says: “Who will ever suspect then that ALL THESE PEOPLES WERE STAGE-MANAGED BY US ACCORDING TO A POLITICAL PLAN WHICH NO ONE HAS SO MUCH AS GUESSED AT IN THE COURSE OF MANY CENTURIES?”
Al-Sisi informed Israel of the coup three days prior
Israeli military analyst Roni Daniel revealed that the Egyptian General Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi informed Israel of his efforts to remove President Mohamed Morsi three days before the coup. Speaking to the Israeli TV channel 2, Daniel said that Al-Sisi asked Israel to monitor the Palestinian Islamic movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. He said Al-Sisi was afraid of Hamas, but his fear faded after the Israeli assurance that everything in Gaza has been under strict surveillance.
Israel advised Al-Sisi to destroy the tunnels. Daniel asserted that the military coup in Egypt is useful to Israel and it had been an “urgent demand” for Israeli and its security. Military analysts did not hesitate to confirm news about contacts between Al-Sisi and Mohamed El-Baradei from the Egyptian side and government officials from the Israeli side. He said that El-Baradei met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once before the coup and again after the coup. According to Daniel, Israel promised Al-Baradei to help lobby for Western recognition with the new government (after Morsi).
The Egyptian army started damaging tunnels to Gaza several days before the coup took place. The tunnels are the main lifeline for Gaza residents who have been living under an Israeli, internationally backed siege since 2006. Despite frenzied defamation campaigns against them by the Egyptian media and the Egyptian anti-Morsi elite, Hamas asserted its longstanding position towards what is happening in Egypt. They have said that they do not interfere with any of the state’s internal affairs.
Israel and the Egyptian Revolution
Since its inception, Israel has invested great interest in Egypt and in its critical role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, both during the period in which the two countries were at war or and after the signing of the peace agreement between them. These attention they pay Egypt is due to two main factors: first, Egypt’s internal strength as a large and cohesive state with the potential forces and determinants of power that make it the Arab state with the ability to hold strong against, and indeed challenge, Israel.
Second, Egypt’s Arab and regional influences that have enabled it to assume a leadership role in collective Arab action for a considerable period of time. The Camp David agreements, from an Israeli perspective, did not end the conflict between Egypt and Israel; rather, these talks gave it a new form. After the treaty was signed, the conflict continued over a wide range of issues, particularly over each country’s status, role, influence and ability to affect developments in the region. In managing this conflict, Israel relied on its sources of power, particularly:
1. Its military superiority over Egypt and the rest of the Arab states in conventional arms;
2. Its monopoly of nuclear weapons in the region;
3. Its advanced economic standing, evidence for which is its average per capita income which, for the past two decades, has been comparable to those of some European countries;
4. Its possession of a unified political position on national security issues, in which the Israeli military establishment plays a primary role in formulating security goals and mobilizing popular social support behind them, and in which the Israeli democratic process is founded on ideological, political and security precepts that have the status of being unquestionable and even “sacred”;
5. Its especially advanced relationship with the United States of America, through which Israel receives vital and important U.S. economic, military and political support that aims to maintain Israeli superiority in relation to all Arab countries.
Based on these factors of power, Israel has in recent decades sought to diminish Egypt’s standing, marginalize its role on the Arab and regional levels, reduce its ability to independently impact the course of regional events, and impose upon it an Israeli agenda with regard to the core issues underlying conflict in the region, particularly with regard to the Palestinian cause, in an attempt to transform Egypt into a contractor for Israeli policies towards this and other regional issues, under the guise of “mediation,” the fight against “terrorism” and confrontation of “Islamic extremism.”
A central factor that facilitated Israel’s success in achieving many of these policy objectives has been the presence in Egypt of a regime founded on corruption and tyranny, similar to systems of governance in other Arab countries. There should be no surprise then, with this context in mind, that Israel opposed the Egyptian and other Arab revolutions from the first moment, firmly holding to its support for the stability of the corrupt and tyrannical regimes.
“DEMOCRACY IS NOT FOR THE ARABS”
Two elements are characteristic of the orientation in Israeli political culture towards Arabs: hostility towards Arab unity and hostility towards democracy in Arab countries. Underpinning this hostility are mainly political factors: Zionist and Israeli leaders have believed-and continue to believe-that democracy and Arab unity reinforce Arab power and increase the potential-in the medium and long term-for resistance to Israel and the possibility of a resultant Arab victory.
This view was held by no less a personality than David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel and its security doctrine. On January 29, 1949, after reading the political program of an Arab political party that appeared in the late 1940s, Ben-Gurion wrote in his diary that “the Arabs that see the situation clearly have finally appeared.” He added: this party calls for Arab unity and “believes that people are the source of power, that everyone has the right to equality in rights and duties,” and calls for freedom of the individual to live in dignity and freedom from colonialism.
Ben-Gurion then expressed his fear that if Arabs were to proceed in the way advocated by this party, “this is the way for the Arabs, and all the time I am afraid that an Arab leader will emerge who will lead the Arabs in this direction. They ignore the internal and external constraints and the time required to achieve Arab unity. Woe to us if we do not make use of this time to grow and fortify ourselves, to occupy a place in the world.”
After the Egyptian revolution broke out in January 2011, the vast majority of Israeli officials were overcome by the fear that this revolution could lead to the establishment of a democratic political system in Egypt. The same fear was shared by the analysts, journalists and Arab affairs experts commenting on the Egyptian revolution. All of these people have spoken about democracy in Egypt as a “threat” in various forms ranging from the explicit to the concealed.
The total Israeli antipathy and fear of the establishment of a democratic system in Egypt led the Israeli writer and journalist Ofer Shelah to address the issue in an article titled “Democracy is not for the Arabs.” Shelah starts his article by stating that “there is no sane Israeli who is not afraid of the consequences of the events in Egypt”,” especially since the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt is of crucial importance to Israel, and any disruption of the agreement affects all aspects of life in Israel.
Shelah goes on to say that “there is one thing I hear from those who speak on behalf of Israel and from a large part of the Israeli public, that is: democracy is not for Arabs. For example, yesterday we heard a “general” say clearly that democracy is not for the Arabs, and they are not worthy of it, and that what Israel needs is Arab political systems that are stable, not democratic. Put simply, we need Arab rulers who are dictators dependent on the West.”
Shelah then analyzes this Israeli view that calls for dictatorial Arab regimes, concluding that two motives underlie this view. First, the fear that democracy would bring political Islam to power; and second, Israeli arrogance. It “has become psychologically necessary for us that Arabs remain backwards and despotic, that they be unworthy of fundamental human rights”,” he writes. In the Israeli view, the Arabs are hundreds of years behind the West and Israel because of their culture, traditions and their unchanging collective nature.
It is therefore better for them and the world that they be governed by dictators who rely for their authority on military force and bequeath power to their children. Freedom is not good for them; because their dark nature would explode outward in waves of violence against their community in the event that they are granted freedom. Anyone who thinks otherwise, “especially the fossilized West and the naive man in the White House, simply does not understand the world, or does not live here like us.”
Shelah affirms that this is the prevailing Israeli view whether one lies on the left or the right of the political spectrum. The Israeli left, which traces its roots to those who migrated to the country to build a “villa in the jungle,” armed with the slogan “a land without a people, for a people without a land,” is as marked by this condescending outlook at least as much as the Israeli right.
In concluding his article, Shelah distinguishes his view from that prevalent amongst the elites and the public in Israel as it pertains to the issue of democracy in Arab countries, saying: “I do not know what will come to be in Egypt … I know that if democracy is good for us, it is also good for the Arabs.”
Violence no tool to solve Egyptian divide
The situation in Egypt is desperate as the army’s plan to return to Mubarak era is likely to fail due to political Islam firmly striking roots in the country in recent years, journalist and author, Hugh Miles, told RT. A vigorous police crackdown on the sit-ins supporting Egypt’s ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi has turned Cairo into a battlefield. Health and security officials are so far only talking of dozens of confirmed casualties, although the Muslim Brotherhood claims more than 500 have been killed. Hugh Miles says that the new wave of violence in the Egyptian capital comes as no surprise, with the army issuing warnings to the pro-Morsi protesters beforehand.
“Well, the military have been preparing for this for some time, there have been leaks about this for several days. We were expecting it right after the Eid holiday, which was a couple of days ago. But I think the square was just too full of people then for it to be safe and they thought that maybe they could frighten some people off by leaking about the attacks in advance. But now the military felt they had to make this move because this protest is blocking up the major thoroughfare in the center of Cairo. It’s causing serious disruption, they’ve been there for many, many days. So, this is why they’ve gone ahead and taken this move.”
The journalist believes “anything is possible” in Egypt, which is equally split between the backers of civil society and the Islamists.
“Egypt is obviously sliding into a very desperate condition. The future is highly uncertain and all the predictions so far about what’s going to happen in Egypt have all turned out to be wrong. So, it’s very difficult to say what’s going to happen. Various historical precedents, the Algerian model, the Syrian model, the Iranian model – none of them particularly attractive.”
“What’s clear is that Egypt is a very divided society, the Islamists – having won the last four democratic elections – are very popular. They can`t just be swept under the table. It’s not possible to turn the clock back to the Mubarak era. And that seems to be the plan at the moment for General [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi and his backers to try and go back to the kind of status quo before 2011 revolution. But I think if that’s their plan, they are dreaming because Islamists in Egypt are now used to being free and being able to practice their religion in the way they want. And it’s not going to be easy to deny these people, what they have become accustomed to.”
By relying on methods of force, the military has shown that it doesn’t have the clear view of what’s happening in the Egyptian society where the influence of Islam has recently increased, Miles explained.
“Well, the Egyptian people are very divided and not all behind this move at all. I mean this a move which is being orchestrated, as far as we can tell by General Sisi and the army. And, of course, the army have spent decades ruling Egypt and have long been opposed to the Muslim Brotherhood. And they’re very separate from the Muslim Brotherhood. The army tries to keep the Muslim Brotherhood out of the ranks. So, the army and the security services generally in Egypt are very used to dealing with these enemies. This is a kind of back to the old school. It`s back to the old rule book in Nasser’s time or Mubarak`s time. The Islamists are a threat to the state and they can be locked up, repressed, shut down. And that’s what we’re seeing now.
“But it just seems like times have changed since this tactics worked. And it seems that the military is out of touch with the make-up of Egyptian society today where Islamism has become extremely popular and what we’re really seeing now in Egypt is a clash between people who want Islam as their frame of reference against people who want a more secular kind of European style frame of reference. And that’s a very fundamental divide. It divides families and it divides Egypt. Probably, roughly half and half is the best guess.”
According to the journalist, the only way out of the crisis for the split society in Egypt is compromise, but no sides seem eager to make concessions.
“Egypt has to find a way of squaring this circle. And an obvious way is to have some kind of political reconciliation: some kind of power sharing government, where, for example, president Morsi is allowed back, but he has no other Muslim Brotherhood ministers and Mohamed El-Baradei is a deputy and maybe Hamdeen Sabahi can run this ministry and Amr Moussa can run another ministry. So, everyone shares power like as happened in South Africa after the end of the Apartheid.
“But unfortunately there has been no indication of any kind of broad inclusive reconciliatory gesture. And what we`re seeing instead is that the army and its supporters seem to think that they can go this alone without having any Islamists counting on into the power sharing at all. And certainly the army has got powerful backers, they have got allies, there are many people who support them and would like very much to turn the clock back to the Mubarak era because this model suited many other countries in the region: Egypt was predictable, it was manageable, yes, it had problems but it was easy to deal with. And the alternative, which is an Islamist style government, is a huge unknown quantity, which frightens just about every country in the region and many countries in the West.”
Egyptian political activist, Ebtesam Madbouly, disagrees with Miles‘s claim of a fifty-fifty split in the Egyptian society, saying that the Morsi supporters are in minority in the country, despite him claiming over half of the votes in last year’s election.
“Let me tell you this: its 50 percent of the people, who went to the election, there are lots and lots of people who didn’t go. And let me tell you: on the night of the June 30, there were 30 million people on the street. The night of the June 26 there were 40 million people on the street. People who elected Morsi were not only pro-Morsi people, there also were lots and lots of people who were just against the Mubarak regime.”
Her words were echoed by political sociologist, Dr. Said Sadek of American University in Cairo, who stressed that every month public opinion polls, locally and internationally, showed a decline in the popularity of President Morsi.
“People elected him only on one platform, that he would achieve the objectives of the Egyptian revolution, not the objectives of his own organization. This is what he really did. He began to use his office to put his own people, to turn Egypt into a semi totalitarian state. He began to a play a political game. He used democracy as a ladder to reach power.”
The current turn of events in Cairo was provoked by the Muslim Brotherhood members, who refused to restore order in the city, Sadek added.
“The strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood was to control and destabilize Cairo by controlling the traffic, by controlling some districts and even try to expand them. They also tried to use flash-mobs to besiege some ministries, like yesterday they tried to besiege seven ministries and cause chaos, troubling traffic of Cairo. The Egyptian government after taking all the mandates waited enough, they started acting and the brought foreign media; they brought human rights organizations to see how things are being done.”
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood spokeswoman in the UK, Mona Al Qazzaz, told RT that the actions of the military are only increasing the divide in the Egyptian society.
“They (the army) didn’t show even a single sign of good will gestures. They didn’t show any step towards reconciliation. What they’re doing is actually making the polarization within Egypt even deeper. We hold General Sisi, the military junta and all the Egyptian authorities and the civilian façade responsible for every single Egyptian blood that is shed.”
She also said that it’s “the silence of the international community,” which has given the military a mandate to use force against the “largely peaceful” pro-Morsi protesters.
“Our protests have been there for 46 days – they have been largely peaceful. Obviously, the protests aren’t a centralized protest. We have no control of what is happening in the other cities. What erupted today in every single province of Egypt was a spontaneous outrage of the Egyptian people, who saw the massacre on Egyptian TV and could do nothing, but go to the streets and say: this is enough, it’s enough for the military rule, it’s enough for this military junta we’re getting back our free Egypt.”
An assistant professor of The American University in Cairo, Mohamed Elmasry, also put the blame for the violence on the interim government, which “instigated a military coup and then proceeded to carry out mass repression” in Egypt.
“Any time you deviate from democratic norms, usually, it spells disaster. In Egypt we had a democratic society in place. The opposition could’ve competed in elections; could’ve competed for parliamentary seats. We had regular elections scheduled. We had term limits. We had balance of powers – the prime minister was about as powerful as the president. I could go on: the right to form political parties for anyone; the right to establish a newspaper without permission from the government.
“Now, all of that has been abandoned. And we’re living essentially in a military state and some of the people, who supported this coup continue to state that their optimistic about the future. Although, frankly, I don’t understand how people based on the reality that we’re seeing on the ground in terms of the violence and also in terms of the policies.” (HSH)
*The writer can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org