CAIRO: A 19-year-old Egyptian intern at this newspaper said something, which to me, sums up what’s at stake for the future of this country if Egypt continues doing nothing about the barbaric assault on Gaza.
“I’ll hate my country forever if it’s true that our government knew about this attack and supported it, she said.
She refused to believe that Egypt could actually be complicit in this crime against humanity which has murdered some 425, at least 45 of them children, and wounded over 2000 all of whom will be maimed for life, if not physically, then emotionally and psychologically.
Like her, and despite my anger at the impotence of the Egyptian government’s reaction to what Israeli officials have dubbed an “all-out war on Gaza, which actually began with the Israeli-imposed blockade that has been suffocating the city for over 17 months, I refused to acknowledge what I believed were insidious accusations of complicity.
But is seems now that misguided patriotism and the idealistic images that have accumulated over the years about Egypt’s past sacrifices for Palestine, had blinded my powers of reason.
“While I strongly resent even the slightest implication that the Egyptian government may have given Israel the nod to unleash its barbaric onslaught on Gaza, I wrote in my Tuesday editorial, “I also strongly condemn Egyptian (so-called) diplomacy for its naiveté in dealing with Israel, which timed Livni’s Cairo visit precisely to cause this local and regional backlash against Egypt, and thus foment the divisions which always cripple a unified Arab stance.
Yet in light of what has transpired over the past few days, I must confess that I’ve been extremely naïve in my analysis of the situation.
As one reader commented on my editorial online: “Whilst I agree with most of what you say, I do think it is naive of you to suggest that Egypt was somehow naively duped in its current situation as the regional traitor in the Arab world. Egypt is no alien to social ostracism. If Mubarak and his poisonous little cabal wish to remain the powers that be in Egypt, they will endorse Israel’s actions till kingdom come. In fact, the reaction to Egypt’s inaction precipitated in Egypt and around the Arab world, was no doubt discussed in Livni’s visit. The result for Mubarak and friends to stay in America’s favor, is a price worth paying.
The farcical Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo which, four whole days and nine hours late, led to no more than a feeble call on Palestinian factions to come together and a draft resolution condemning Israel’s violent attacks and calls for an immediate ceasefire to be presented at the UN security council which everyone knows will be vetoed by the US, only sharpened my sense of betrayal. They couldn’t even agree to hold an emergency summit.
In addition to condemnations by the editors of Egyptian independent and opposition newspapers, Robert Fisk’s damning tirade against the endemic corruption that has reduced Egypt to a puppet in the hands of Washington (“To admit that Egypt can’t even open its sovereign border without permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us, he wrote in the Independent on Wednesday) marked another rude awakening.
More poignantly than ever the belief in Egypt’s, and indeed all Arab States’ sovereignty has come crashing down and nothing will ever restore it for the masses of Egyptians.
Unfortunately their humanitarian sentiments are being mocked by a minority of Arab commentators (read Mona Eltahawy’s opinion piece “Israel is the Opium of the People and other Taboos on www.thedailynewsegypt.com ) who have nothing better to do than remind us of the horrors Arabs had visited upon each other.
They remind us of the Lebanese Phalangist massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila and sectarian violence in Iraq among others, equating Hamas, a resistance movement that’s been struggling to free its occupied land for decades, with Israel, a terrorist, racist, Apartheid state that a little over two years ago in its attack on Lebanon was condemned for using weapons of mass destruction on civilians such as cluster bombs, white phosphorous and even poison gas. Human Rights Watch had even accused it of war crimes for its apparent targeting of 153 civilians, including convoys of people fleeing from the south.
When hundreds of people are being massacred right at our doorstep, Arab commentators, especially those addressing a Western audience, need to overcome their own amnesia before railing against those whose only respite is to take to the streets in protest, often putting their own safety on the line.
It’s easy to say that Israel “gives sense to our victimhood and to accuse the masses of “collective amnesia and demand that they channel “their anger at the human rights violations, torture, and oppression in their respective countries (which incidentally they do as evidenced by the thousands of political detainees in Egyptian jails, for example). But how can anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the dynamics of the Middle East’s political quagmire, underplay the fact that the combination of nuclear-weaponed Israel and eternal support by the world’s only superpower, is the reason why the Arab world’s dictatorships continue to thrive?
And this is not a conspiracy theory. Israel is not our opium, it’s the F16s, the armored bulldozers, the Apaches, the fighter aircrafts and the sub-machineguns. It’s no news that Israel has been the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance from the US since 1976, and the largest total recipient since World War II, purchasing most of its military equipment from the US. Those are the facts.
With Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s shameful announcement that the Rafah crossing will remain closed until the Palestinian Authority regains control of the Gaza Strip, he has confirmed doubts that have rendered 2008 the equivalent of the 1967 Naksa for a generation that has known no other president, and whose patriotism has been fractured forever.
Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.