Sunday, January 22, 2012

Frustration and Extortion


by Mordechai Kedar

In just a few days the Egyptians will mark one year since the outbreak of their revolution, whose only success has been - so far - the removal of Mubarak. The parliamentary elections that were held in recent months might also be called a success by some, but they were a disaster for the secular and liberal sectors, so it's not clear if those people would define the elections as a success.

The majority of Egyptians are severely frustrated today with the results of the revolution, and are extremely worried about the future of Egypt, principally because of the deterioration of the economic situation. With the outbreak of the massive demonstrations a year ago, foreign investments have totally disappeared, and tourism has been almost totally eliminated. Unemployment in some areas of Egypt is fifty percent and even higher in others, and there have already been reports of Egyptians committing suicide because of the lack of ability to provide for their hungry families.

The secular, liberal sectors are extremely frustrated; on one hand, the army continues to rule their lives and deaths; and it becomes increasingly clear to them that General Tantawi does not intend to hand power over to the people. On the other hand, in the fair elections that were held for parliament, the religious parties - the Muslim Brotherhood and the (ultra religious) Salafis - won about seventy percent of the seats in the house. There are no jobs, no livelihood, and the future looks very bleak.

The Egyptian government is nearing economic bankruptcy, and is frantically seeking any source of income.

The Big Israeli Mouth

And then there's Israel's part: since the demonstrations began on the 25th of January, 2011, Israeli spokesmen have continually expressed their anxiety about the peace agreement with Egypt, and their fear that the agreement will be cancelled. Every interviewer brings this matter up, and every interviewee answers according to his understanding. The Egyptians immediately picked up on the Israeli fear and began extorting us, knowing that we would be willing to give a lot, only to keep the peace agreement. Evidence of this is seen in the Shalit agreement and in the increase in the number of Egyptian soldiers permitted to enter into Sinai. Israel went to great pains in order to answer every Egyptian demand, if only Egypt would keep the peace agreement.

And then comes the big blow: today, Egypt's leaders are seeking any possible source of cash, even opening files from thirty years ago or more, dealing with what Israel did or didn't do in the years between 1967 and 1982. It was recently made known that Egypt is preparing a huge suit against Israel for the amount of no less than 500 billion dollars, for damages caused as a result of the conquest of Sinai in 1967 and additional actions that Israel has taken since then.

The claim for compensation is based on charges that in Sinai, Israel established mines for stone, marble and other natural resources; and stole sand, water, antiquities, wildlife, and silver and gold from the banks of the cities of Sinai. There is also a claim that Israel ruined coral reefs in the Gulf of Eilat near the Sinai shore and exterminated schools of fish.

According to the Egyptian claims, Israel killed 250,000 Egyptians, soldiers as well as civilians, and wounded a million; Egyptians are still being killed by Israeli mines that were left in the area, and Israel refuses to hand over the maps of the mine fields, despite the fact that Israel is obligated by law to do it. The Egyptian Air Force was severely harmed because of Israel, and the land forces as well.

Egypt also claims that Israel is responsible for the cessation of shipping in the Suez Canal for six years, and therefore it is also responsible for the damage that was caused to Egypt as a result.

And so on, and so forth. Some of the claims have a basis in reality and some are delusional, but all are built on the ability of the Egyptians to squeeze Israel again: In the past, they received all of Sinai without one Israeli in Yamit, Ofira, Di-Zahav, Neviot, Refidim, Elei Sinai and other Israeli settlements which were built is Sinai after 197. Who remembers these wonderful places thirty years after Israel destroyed them with its own hands because of Sa'adat's demands?

And these days, the Egyptian regime, which is going bankrupt, is trying to sell Israel the peace agreement again, this time in exchange for cash, accompanied by the threat that if Israel doesn't pay up, the peace agreement will be cancelled.

The Israeli proves again that he doesn't know what to say or what not to say in the Middle East, an area in which if you express a fear of something, you'll have to pay in order to remove the threat; and if you fear someone you will have to pay "protection money" to him or his friends, just to keep him from harming you. Only he who is sure of himself and of his strength and has no fear, is left alone in peace.

They Should Sue Themselves

It is well known that Arabs flee from taking responsibility for their mistakes and blame others for all of their woes. It's very difficult for them to own up to the mistakes that they've made, because he who errs brings shame upon himself. Placing blame on others eases his conscience and exempts the Arab from the price of admitting guilt and the painful responsibility to repair the damage.

The Egyptians ignore the fact that the state of war between them and Israel was caused by them alone, because Israel always wanted peace with her neighbors, and in the year 1948 there was no "occupation" (unless we define Tel Aviv as occupied territory).

The Egyptians are suing Israel also for the downing of the Libyan jet in 1973 after entering the airspace over Sinai, but ignore the Israeli fatalities in the War of Attrition, 1969-1970, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The Egyptians ignore the damage that they caused to the young State of Israel when they invaded its territory on the 16th of June 1948, one day after the declaration of its independence. They don't count the Israeli citizens who were killed in bombings by Egyptian planes during the war of Independence, just as they ignore the many Israeli casualties that fell when Egyptian officers sent fedayeen terrorists into Israel during the fifties.

They complain that Israel caused the closing of the Suez Canal between the years 1967 and 1975, but ignore the fact that they illegally prevented Israeli ships to pass through canal between 1948 until the peace was signed, flouting International Law, which obliges them to allow the ships of the whole world to use the canal.

And by the way, it was Gamal 'Abd al-Naser who closed the canal in 1967, in order to put pressure on Europe which would, in turn, put pressure on Israel to retreat from Sinai.

The Egyptians ignore the tremendous damage that they have caused to Israel since the establishment of the boycott on Israel and on companies that trade with it, just as they ignore the support that Egypt gave to the enemies of Israel over the years, mainly Hamas, even after the peace treaty was signed, by allowing the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.

They ignore the murder of Israelis in Ras Burka, 1985, which also occurred after the peace agreement, when an Egyptian police officer killed seven vacationers on the coast of Sinai. And they ignore the victims of the terror attacks last year along the border between Rafah and Eilat. They don't take into account the economic damage that was caused to Israel by the thousands of illegal aliens who pass through their territory into Israel, and they don't relate seriously to the damage of drugs, women and goods that are smuggled from their territory into Israel.

And here's the joke: They complain that Israel stole oil from Sinai, but they "forget" that it was Israel who discovered the oil field and developed the field of the black liquid that came from it, and in the end handed over the precious oil facilities to the Egyptians for free, even giving up the oil that it deserved as a result of the discovery.

The Egyptians also suffer from a weak memory: They forgot to note in their suit that it was Israel who rescued thousands of soldiers of the Egyptian Third Army, who were trapped in Sinai in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and were left to their fate by the Egyptian command. If Israel had not fed them and given them water during the war they would have become food for the vultures and foxes of the desert. In fact, Israel could serve a counter suit against Egypt that would be much larger than the Egyptian suit, even if one doesn't include the damages that were incurred to us when we were slaves in Egypt of Pharaoh.

But the most important service that Israel can do for Egypt is a little advice: start looking into where your faults are, before accusing others for your problems. Because it just might be you yourselves who are the cause of all of this woe and damage, and if you don't find an answer, just look in the mirror.

And if you're suffering from a lack of cash, look for the money among the corrupt people you who took advantage of the poor and miserable Egyptian people, stole Egypt's wealth and accumulated billions, which are now sitting in the banks of Switzerland, Vaduz and the Cayman Islands, the favored tax shelters of the crooks of the world.

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Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the
Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally.

Links to Dr. Kedar's previous articles on this blog:

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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