On the 39th anniversary of the 6th of October War, columnists have given in to the temptations of history. While the prevailing opinion is that the war retains an honourable position in Egypt’s past, concerns are raised for the future.
The significance of the current crisis in the Sinai is not lost on Egyptian pundits, since nearly 40 years after the region was reclaimed its security hangs in the balance. President Morsy comes in for some heavy criticism on the issue of his so-called 100 days, and the urgency of ensuring Egyptian sovereignty in Sinai, while Khairat El-Shater’s ideas for the future are also roundly dismissed.
The exclusive rights to history
Emad El-Din Adeeb
President Morsy’s decision to grant the late President Anwar Al-Sadat and former Chief of Staff of the Egyptian army Saad El-Shazli the country’s highest medal of honour won praise from Emad El-Din Adeeb, who took the opportunity to condemn rulers’ attempts at re-writing history.
The columnist describes efforts to erase or smear certain phases or personalities in Egypt’s history as an archaic, dishonourable, and dangerous tactic, which he claims was commonly employed by Egyptian rulers in the past. He draws parallels with the ancient pharaohs, who would command their subjects to cleanse the temples of all of the writings and symbols of their predecessors immediately following their rise to power.
Adeeb presents the examples of Egypt’s first president, Mohamed Naguib, as well as Sadat and Shazli, as evidence of Egyptian rulers’ tendency to treat the legacy of their predecessors with disrespect; the former was placed under house arrest and forced to live in meagre conditions for disagreeing with other prominent members of the revolutionary council, while the families of the latter two faced great difficulties in acquiring their rightful pensions and financial rights.
The author urges Egyptians to respect the country’s history and the rulers it has seen, stating that all historical events and eras should be open to criticism, but that they should all be approached with esteem reflective of the country’s dignity.
Victory in the war of hypocrisy
Gamal Fahmy unleashes a salvo of venomous vitriol against the authors of an announcement published in one of the Ministry of Manpower’s publications, under the name of the General Syndicate of Petroleum Workers.
The announcement that is the subject of Fahmy’s ire was a felicitation pertaining to the 6th of October War, which allegedly includes a clear attribution of Egypt’s historic victory to its recently elected President Mohamed Morsy.
The columnist assails the subject matter with the harshest of labels, describing it as “filth” and branding it a joke. He believes it should prompt us to cry for both the dead and the living; the dead due to the insult it constitutes to their memory and the memory of their war effort and sacrifice, and the living due to the woeful times to come, of which this atrocity is a clear indication.
Throughout the column Fahmy also extends his attack to the new ruling regime itself. He makes mocking allusions to the president, including a reference to “Sheikh Morsy,” and he goes on to claim that indications point to a new regime even more tyrannical and totalitarian than the one that preceded it.
In a particularly powerful stroke of sardonic spite, the columnist mockingly states that if claims that President Morsy was personally leading military operations against extremists in Sinai can be made with a straight face, then there is no great obstacle to further stretching truth to make the man responsible for winning a war fought decades before he came to power.
October War and peace… and the valid questions
Choosing to forgo the Egyptian tradition of approaching the 6th of October War as nationalist dogma, Adel Sulaiman tackles some of the difficult questions pertaining to the success of the war from an objective standpoint.
The first question relates to the necessity of the waging of the war, and Sulaiman argues that the war was indeed necessary. He opines that the Egyptian public was in dire need of a restoration of national dignity following the defeat of 1967, and that the 1973 war renewed national pride and paved the way for the reclamation of Sinai for Egypt.
This leads the author to the second important question, that of whether the war achieved its military goals. Sulaiman’s view is that it did so resoundingly; reinstating national honour and liberating a large portion of the Sinai peninsula after Egyptian forces held their ground and repelled enemy attacks.
Regarding the political battle, Sulaiman claims that its outcome was somewhat more ambiguous, but he makes it clear that in his view, victory was indeed accomplished politically due to the complete restoration of Sinai.
The final and perhaps most crucial issue he deals with is the question of whether the peace treaty granted Egypt only limited sovereignty over Sinai or impeded development in the peninsula. The columnist points to recent military and security operations in Sinai against extremists as proof that Egypt does indeed practice full sovereignty over Sinai, and provides a reminder that the treaty does not create obstacles to development directly or indirectly.
Sulaiman salutes those who contributed to the war effort militarily and politically, and declares that the victory stands despite claims to the contrary.
To Dr Morsy… questions that require no answer
Rifaat El-Saeed’s column is a highly critical message directed at President Morsy, characterised by a mixture of disappointment and resentment. El-Saeed writes that it is customary for the volume of questions to decrease the longer a ruler stays in power, as the picture becomes clearer for better or for worse, and that Dr Morsy’s tenure so far has been exceptional in providing more and more questions as time passes.
The writer invites the president to ask himself if he has truly achieved anything now that his much-touted 100 days are over. He attacks Morsy for his Muslim Brotherhood background, claiming that questions such as the ones he puts forth are more likely to be met by leaders of the Brotherhood than by Morsy himself.
The columnist goes on to ask Morsy a number of questions which imply a failure on the president’s part. He asks him to justify his many travels abroad, which he believes resulted in no gain, and to clarify the situation in Sinai and whether Egypt is still practicing sovereignty over the area.
El-Saeed also strikes directly at the president’s credibility. He posed the question of whether anyone truly believed Morsy when he claimed Coptic Christians would be guaranteed their full rights in the new Egypt, and he assured the president that he could continue to make statements and answer questions, but that no one would believe him.
El-Shater’s renaissance project requires an imported population
Saad El-Din Ibrahim
Saad El-Din Ibrahim recalls his experiences with prominent Muslim Brotherhood member Khairat El-Shater. Ibrahim relives his first meeting with El-Shater in jail and how he was witness to the man’s extraordinary leadership and organisational skills.
He also retells his conversation with El-Shater regarding the monetary support received and consultations conducted by the Brotherhood with outside forces, particularly Qatar, and how El-Shater cleverly managed to avoid difficult questions while denying nothing.
Ibrahim portrays El-Shater as a highly intelligent individual, claiming that as a result Ibrahim himself had been anticipating the Brotherhood leader’s “renaissance project” with great anticipation, but that he had instead encountered great disappointment.
The author criticises the Brotherhood and El-Shater’s lack of ability to adequately justify the failure of the 100-day program of President Morsy, and what he alleges are their attempts to disown the renaissance project and that others shroud it with ambiguity.
Deriding El-Shater’s response to criticism of the renaissance project, in which he claimed that the project required a highly organised and dedicated population with a great degree of awareness, Ibrahim writes that the renaissance program seems to require an imported population from Europe.