The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Shukri: Mazel Tov, Egypt!

Israelis, you need to read this: your government has done you one more disservice with its pro-Mubarak position during Egypt's crisis. Ezzedine Shukri, who knows your country well, highlights its mistakes

First, Egypt's revolution has been about Egyptian affairs only, with almost no reference to foreign policy. No one was chanting death to the US or to Israel. The dominant themes were related to freedom, social justice and dignity. Egyptians who took to the streets in millions were expressing their rejection of an ossified regime which ignored their concerns for decades. It is somehow miraculous that no one tried to capitalize on the ‘Palestinian cause' or ‘anti-American' sentiments. People ignored these issues; why Israeli leaders injected themselves into the story and brought undue attention upon themselves is a mystery to me.

Second, even if the Egyptian revolution posed serious questions to Israel, is it conceivable to quell the voices of eighty-five million people and practically enslave them in order to avoid facing these questions? Shall we then support those who ordered security forces to shoot at protesters at will, killing three hundred Egyptians in two days? And how many are we prepared to kill in order to keep an unpopular ruler in place -- and for what aim? If the only answers to these questions entail supporting the moves of a right-wing government in Israel to keep a couple of isolated settlements or annex a couple of square kilometers in the West Bank, then  we're talking about something morally reprehensible indeed.

Third, preemptively antagonizing a whole population is nonsensical. Policy towards Egypt is too important to be based on prejudice and stereotypes. What is happening in Egypt is not a replica of 1979 Iran or Hamas in 2006 (if its comparable to anything at all, Iran in 2009 would be the closest case). The Egyptian revolution is in large part the making of a generation that for too long suffocated under the garb of old men running Egypt according to archaic rules. Those who took to the streets do not want violence or vendetta; they want to be part of the modern world. They express a deep desire for renewal, and are doing so in peace and in diversity.