The spin games and fallout from this weekend’s embassy attack has high stakes. It renders judgment on the Egyptian revolution and where the military council is leading the country.
Unlike other Israel critics, credit Yasmin Alibhai-Brown for having the honesty to squirm at the attack on the embassy in Cairo:
Rage against Israel’s policies is completely justifiable, but not when expressed in this way and at this crucial time of incredible transformation. The possibility of democracy has freed spirits in every way. In Egypt women now wear headscarves covered in balls, and flowers, feathers and sequins, more colourful than the hats at Ascot. Their clothes cling and invite attention. Muslims walk hand in hand or cuddle on streets; it wouldn’t happen in Bradford or Southall. In cafés you hear philosophical and intellectual debates you would not get in our Starbucks. Internet liberationists, wary that their new rights could be repossessed, are becoming astute, informed and strategic, growing a respectable political class in effect. Writers and movie-makers tell me they felt they have emerged from airless, lightless dungeons and feel their creative lines opening up.
Global populations have been inspired by Arab youngsters for the first time in centuries. It’s incredible, really – but Israeli-bashing now will kill all that and reassure those who believe Arabs are no good at anything but blaming others.
Indeed. What’s the value of a superficial freedom that allows you to bash Israel in more colorful clothes, but not much more? Israel has always been the scapegoat, says Benny Avni.
Until now, the received wisdom in international circles was that Egypt, the Arab world’s newest “democracy,” could no longer afford to turn deaf ears to its citizens. Everyone hated Mubarak’s ties with Israel, so Cairo-Jerusalem relations must chill.
Baloney. Israel hatred has been the go-to move in the failing Arab tyrant’s playbook for nearly a century. The outbreak is no sign of democracy or progress; it shows that attempts to improve Egyptians’ lives are failing. Success would be if Egyptians stopped obsessing about stealing foreign flags and started refurbishing the crumbling buildings under them instead.
According to Tim Marshall, the attack is the logical extension of “a 60 year campaign of hate which has permeated all levels of Egyptian society and which the current chaos in Egypt is allowing full rein.”
The teaching of hatred for the ‘other’ is widespread in Egypt. School books are full of historical innacuracies and holocaust denial. Portions of the Koran which deal with the Jews in a hostile way are promoted. Few politicians can resist the temptation to play to popular appeal and routinely engage in virulently hostile comments not just about Israel but about Jews. These politicians are not just from the Islamic parties, some of the brightest and best of Egyptian liberals also use deeply anti-semitic language.
Every Friday many Immans pour forth abuse against Jews without any official sanction. The mass media also routinely engages in anti-semitism. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion , used to justify slaughter for decades, is a best seller, Hitler’s Mein Kampf is popular. The ‘Protocols’ were serialised as a 24 episode TV series a few years ago and portrayed as fact. In 2002 the number 1 hit in the Egyptian charts was a song about the Jews masterminding 9/11. Newspapers print deeply offensive cartoons which are used across the Arab world.
Ultimately, even if the embassy attack didn’t happen, you’d be hard pressed to call the revolution a success. Egyptian liberals who talked to Michael Totten (I presume before the weekend’s mayhem) rendered their own verdict: a botched revolution.