- Global Voices - https://globalvoices.org -

Egypt: The other side of Gaza’s story

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Breaking News, Governance, History, Human Rights, International Relations, Protest, War & Conflict

“Why aren’t you as an Arab lady writing about Gaza?”
“Where are your columns about Gaza?”
“Say the Israelis are wrong!”

The messages started to arrive soon after Israel’s bombardment of Gaza killed close to 300 Palestinians. Implicit was the pressure to toe the party line, Hamas is good, Israel is bad. Say it, say it! Or else you’re not Arab enough, you’re not Muslim enough, you’re not enough.

Mona El Tahawy, an Egyptian columnist based in New York, started her last article “Israel is the Opium of the People and Other Taboos [1]”.

The last Iraeli attacks on Gaza not only had impact on the Palestinians or the Arabs but also by those living in Egypt who have witnessed a different story unfolding

The conflict that's been going on for the past 4 days in Ghaza is kind of horrific, with both sides sharing some the blame (Hamas for being its stupid and reckless self, and Israel doing it's own rendition of what the wrath of the old testament god would look like today). The Arab world decided that it will take a stand, and place the full blame on one party, and, here is the twist, it wasn't Israel or Hamas. They instead chose to blame Egypt. Sweet, huh?

Blame Egypt: all the cool kids are doing it! [2]”, Sandmonkey decided to title the above post.

Since Last Saturday, voices were raising against Egypt to open the borders unconditionally for all Palestinians, to stop verbal condemnation for the situation in Gaza and start taking an action.

Needless to say, that such voices were the first to accuse the Egyptian government with treason claiming that President Mubarak knew about the Israeli Attack beforehand; the thing that Livni, the Israeli foreign affairs minster,has denied herself on Al Jazeera [3] news TV.

Furthermore, an Egyptian border officer was shot [4] in his office by Hamas gunmen last Sunday.

Hizboallah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, conducted a speech about Gaza [5], asking Egyptians to go to the streets and stand against the regime, to force the regime to open the crossings unconditionally or else Egyptians will be accused of helping in Palestinian murder.

This caused a few Anti-Egyptian demonstrations to fire up in some Arab cities; resulting in theEgyptian consulate in Aden [6], as well Egyptian Embassies in Lebanon and Sudan [7] being stormed by angry Gaza-supporting-protesters, who replaced the Egyptian flag by the Palestinian flag on the Consulate.

Tales of a Fattractive Egyptian Woman, wrote [8]:

And I’m sick of the sudden “let’s blame Egypt” mentality, and not only by Hamas. I mean, good on you Arab leaders, for taking a united stand, but one against Egypt?! Storming the Egyptian Embassy in Yemen? Considering an Anti-Egypt protest in Johannesburg? Hamas killing an Egyptian border officer? Nasrallah asking Egyptians to revolt against their leaders for another country, when they aren’t even doing it for themselves?

I don’t know if y’all have realized this, but Egypt has signed an international agreement with Israel, violating it would mean war. And Egypt can’t open the borders except by agreement with the Palestinian authority, which, I’m sure you also haven’t noticed, were kicked out by Hamas!

Back to Mona El-Tahawy where she clearly points out [1]:

It is difficult to criticize Palestinians when so many have died this weekend but the Hamas rulers of Gaza are just the latest of their leaders to fail them. For those of us who long to separate religion from politics, Hamas has given the truth to the fear that Islamists care more about facing down Israel than taking care of their people. The Palestinians of Gaza are victims equally of Hamas and Israel.
Yes, Israel’s occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture, and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could’ve toppled their dictators years ago!

Again, back to Sandmonkey’s post [2] where he justified his words saying

Heading the charge are the Jordanians, the Lebanese and the Syrians- not to mention some of our own “oh-being-arab-is-so-awesome-we-wish-we-were-arab” self-hating dicks, and some gulfies. The rationale being that somehow, Egypt is not doing enough to support the Palestinian cause, and is to blame for the Gaza blockade. The rationale completely skips that
1) Egypt tends to honor it's international agreements, even if we don’t like it,
2) The coordination for opening the border happens between us and the Palestinian authority, which was overthrown by a nice bloody coup exacted by Hamas, and
3) Hamas is the kind of Islamist terrorist organization that we don’t really wish to legitimize or support, let alone give access to a part of our country that witnessed 3 separate terrorist attacks in the last 4 years, 2 of which targeting Israeli tourists.

On a different note, Tarek highlights another aspect of the story related to media in his post “The other Gaza [9]”, where he started by mentioning the Late Egyptian president Abdel Nasser’s experience with media.

In the early fifties and sixties, the Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser used the conflict to reach the hearts and minds of the people here in Egypt and in the whole Arab world as well. The Egyptian influence and Soft Power on all Arabs was at its best then. The wholes Arabs use to admire and look up to Egypt as leader country in the region, thanks to our media then, and for sure thanks to Abdel Nasser's speeches that made the best use of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. People across the whole Arab world loved Abdel Nasser and Egypt, although we lost the six days war in 1967, and a significant parts of our countries were occupied.
The following president of Egypt, Anwar El Sadat, fought in 1973 to liberate our occupied land, and he succeeded in getting it back.

Tarek further comments on the nowadays “Media Game”

And since then, people everywhere started learning how to play this game. Saudis, Libyans, Sudanese, Moroccans, etc. They all learned how to play that game very well. Even someone like Saddam Hussein was considered as a brave hero by some Arabs only because he cursed Israel once or twice. They all knew that “Israel is the opium of the people”. Political leaders learned very well that they are not supposed to focus on solving the conflict, getting the Palestinian rights back, or even show the whole world that we are deprived from our rights. They knew that it is useless to focus on such stuff. All they have to do is to give speeches and portray themselves as heroes and the ones who are sympathizing more with the Palestinians. And be all here, I mean everybody, including Egypt. We all stopped caring about solving the problem and now we are caring more to show everybody that we care about solving the problem.

Some nations now know how to play the game well, while other like Egypt for example are not that good in it nowadays. And though they all are useless and do not offer any real help to the Palestinians, the ones who are skilled less in the media game now, are the ones who are being blamed the most.

At the end, Zeinobia concludes it all saying that the main problem Arabs should be focusing on now is the “Divide and conquer [10]” policy playing out

It is true and we are seeing the division in front of us in the Arab world. I am so surprised with all these protests against Egypt and all these attacks against our embassies in all over the world where as no one thinks for a moment to protest and attack the Israeli Embassy !!??

It is strange thing that the main discussion or our main issue “Gaza” is being neglected where as the focus is on Egypt and its so-called treason.

We the Arabs did a great job for Israel as usual; we are divided as usual.