September 10, 2011

Egypt takes a break

Though not entirely surprising, accounts of the operation to rescue Israeli personnel from Israel's Embassy in Cairo are both gripping and sobering. Even if Egypt-Israel relations survive the transition from Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship, it will be a rough road.

Where does this hatred of Israel and Jews originate? Certainly, many Arabs and Muslims have a visceralresentment of the Jewish State along with garden-variety anti-Semitism. But let's not forget that it was Hosni Mubarak's propaganda machine that tolerated or forced the newspapers and TV channels to propagate the most vicious anti-Semitic images and distortions.

While he was promoting Egypt's role as the Arab gateway to Washington and peace with Israel, Mubarak was staving off domestic resistance to his military dictatorship by feeding red meat to his dear subjects. This included repressing all opposition parties except the Muslim Brotherhood, lest Egyptians ever think there was an acceptable alternative to Hosni Mubarak and his cohorts. And it included fanning the flames of anti-Semitism.

Mubarak was one of the military leaders under Anwar Sadat, and not personally implicated in the audacious peace initiative that restored Sinai to Egyptian control. Whoever ends up running Egypt will be in a similar position -- legally and economically bound to honor the terms of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty -- and with much less connection to the assassinated Sadat and his perceived perfidy.

Since Mubarak was both an ally of Washington and a grudging collaborator with Jerusalem, attacking the Israeli Embassy is a perfect way to exact symbolic retribution. Whoever gets elected President of Egypt will be held in check by the same corporate military staff that backed Mubarak all those years, but will find it easier to maintain popular support by appealing to anti-Semitism and finding ways to show defiance to Israel. On the hopeful side, Egypt-Israel relations have survived that precarious balance before. But this time, it may take more than hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment