Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Israelis Watching Egypt

The media is awash with reports and commentary about the uprising in Egypt. Rightly so, since there's no bigger story right now. Wrongly so, since no-one (not one single living person on the globe) knows what's going to happen, what Egypt will look like in six months or two years, and consequently what the entire Middle East and beyond will be like. The only thing that's clear is that the international structure which has been in place for decades is wobbling, and may well soon be gone.

Who do you listen to in such moments? The folks who say what you think anyway? That's comforting, but possibly not helpful. The ones with the best expertize? Since when have experts ever been able to forecast paradigm-changing events?

So I'm offering only two well-written articles, neither about Egypt, both about Israel. There's no paradigm-changing event happening in Israel this week that needs to be forecast, only a deep feeling of dread, slightly tempered by hope. Dread, because the events could obviously lead back to the Middle East of the 1950s and 1960s, when Israel was surrounded on all sides by nations committed to its destruction. Dread, because if the heavy price Israel paid for peace with Egypt only bought a few decades of it (in an icy form), how can we ever consider making another painful deal? Hope, because a free, democratic and liberal Arab world would be a much better place for Israel to be living alongside.

Benjamin Kerstein

Yossie Klein Halevy


Barry Meislin said...

The following description of events from someone in Egypt, on the ground, on site, provides essential background and is a must-read.

Barry Meislin said...

Sorry. That link should be:

Y. Ben-David said...

I recall reading an article in the Jerusalem Post within the last couple of years by a fellow working on a Ph.D. in Mideaster Studies. He visited Cairo and interviewed Egyptian liberals. The women he talked to considered themselves "feminists" and did not wear the Islamic garb. All were for democratic reforms and all opposed the Muslim Brotherhood. The thing that surprised him was that they almost uniformly were strongly anti-Israel, more than Mubarak's gov't. Many read approvingly Mein Kampf. They liked it because it was "secular" and was ultra-nationalistic, which they preferred over the pan-Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood which is anti-nationalist. Of course, one of the "best" parts of Mein Kampf in their eyes was that is showed an "understanding of the Jewish problem".
If these are typical of Egyptian "liberals" then if they come to power, don't assume things will get better for us in Israel.

Barry Meislin said...

Ah yes, the Jewish problem....

Sérgio said...

Great link, Barry. Yeah, the legacy of communism will be around for decades to come.

Anonymous said...

Yossi Klein Halevi also has a very good piece in the NY Times today


NormanF said...

It would be nice if a liberal democratic regime emerged in Egypt.

The odds are against it happening and the best bet to have the current Egyptian regime muddle through without Mubarak and a few reforms.

As things stand - a democratic Egypt would be an Islamist and radical country - like Iran. That should be in no one's interests.

That is probably what will happen and the fundamental lesson as we have known for decades, is the peace process is a fraud. Its designed to denude Israel of strategically vital territory in exchange for worthless pieces of paper the other side can tear up any time it sees fit.

Israel has the vast Sinai to protect it from the chaos in Egypt but there is no such buffer in Yesha and in Gaza. And in the Middle East, more often than not, things have a way of going very wrong.

It would beyond crazy for Israel to agree to a Palestinian state in a very dangerous and unsettled world.

Bryan said...

Reading articles about Israel's concerns about a post-Mubarak Egypt is depressing. Even the BBC's article thereon was positively radiating glee at the idea of Israel being threatened by Egypt. And Haaretz's ululation has reached epic proportions.

I will never, never understand the mindset of someone who takes such pleasure in the idea that their countrymen will live in fear of loss of life. It is beyond my comprehension.

Barry Meislin said...

Indeed, future historians will be scratching their heads.

They may even conclude that Jews have a predilection for undermining the countries and societies in which they live---including their own, Jewish homeland.

(That should of course be "some" Jews....but at what point will it not matter...?)

Especially the really intelligent ones(?)

All in the cause of perfection.

(Alas, they should reread their Goethe.)

Me, I just explain it away by saying that some Jews---not only Jews, certainly---have a perversity quotient (PQ) that's way, way off the charts.

(Especially the really intelligent ones(?))

It's extraordinarily depressing.

But it doesn't matter. If they declare themselves the enemy, then they should have the courage and the conviction to pay the price.

Silke said...

I have to admit he is good even though I don't like him but I wonder which Goethe am I supposed to reread?

(My favourite is from Faust II which in my translation goes like this: "Fear and Hope are mankind's greatest foes")

Lee Ratner said...

NormanF, the Sinai isn't exactly the worlds toughest barrier to cross. Even before modern techonoly, Egypt has invaded or been invaded through it. Israel has been invaded on several occassions through the Sinai. If Egypt becomes hostile to Israel again than the Sinai will offer little or any protection.

This means that even though there is less empty space between Israel and the WB/Gaza, isn't a reason to not have a Palestinian state. Its not a reason that the world is going to find persuasive anyway. The Palestinian birthrate might be going down but not fast enough to avoid an eventual Palestinian majority. The number of Jews and Arabs are equal if you count Israeli Arabs with the Palestinian population. The only way for Israel to survive or at least survive without pariah status is to get rid of the WB.

Silke said...

modern technology or not a hill or not makes a huge difference

especially when it is a war where AK 47s and IEDs play a role too

I don't know which military guys you are listening to but I have as yet to encounter one who belongs to the tribe to tell me modern technology will do the trick.

Betting on modern technology is good for job security in the areas where factories are but they are not that much use to soldiers on the ground.

Barry Meislin said...

I was thinking of "The best is the enemy of the good," sometimes phrased as "The perfect is the enemy of the good."

Now, it seems it's not even a quote by Goethe, but by Voltaire (who does seem to have all the good lines....)

Sérgio said...

Well, Voltaire was a wit, but also a rabid antisemite, founding father of secular antisemitism.

Avigdor said...

Lee, if Egypt goes belly up Islamist and challenges the Camp David Accords, what the world considers persuasive won't matter. The whole notion of "land for peace" will be dead in the water, and Israel will return to "strategic depth" paradigms of the 50s and 60s, as Yaacov writes. If Jordan follows Egypt, that will be the nail in the coffin.

Consider that a messy treaty had been signed with the Palestinians in 2000 or 2008. Even if the Palestinians themselves had meant it, and wanted peace, could they resist being drawn into war against Israel, if that's what the rest of the Arabs want?

Anyone who wants a Palestinian state to emerge needs to start praying that Egypt does not abandon Camp David.

Silke said...

which reminds me that Margaret Mead claimed at the end of one her South Sea tales that for America it is typical to "hitch its wagon to a star" and if the star should happen to be reached another hitch-worthy star is necessary.

Me, being a member of the tribe of decadent ol' Europeans I think wisdom is in recognizing when enough is enough.

Silke said...

as to Egypt I just am told on German radio that Egyptian military is owning lots and lots of profit generating property like hotels at Sharm el Sheikh and this guy is telling a story that suggests to me Mubarak and his whoever are trying to create mini civil war

he had an older story where he suggested also that the powers that are use counter-demonstrators for defensive purposes.

Just a Thought said...

Egypt need not go Islamist for it to abrogate the peace treaty:

Indeed, Israel is foolish to have signed treaties which do not include an affirmative obligation upon the Arab world to reduce the "hate index" -- otherwise the very next government, democratic or not, simply reverts to mob-driven bellicosity.

Barry Meislin said...

Not just in Israel... The enthusiasm seems to be spreading far and wide.

File under: "People of the Book"?

Barry Meislin said...

If these are typical of Egyptian "liberals" then if they come to power, don't assume things will get better for us in Israel.

(My previous comment was supposed to have been in response to the above quote....)

Sylvia said...

It ain’t over until it’s over.

1)One can sense that the Human rights, solidarity and peace organizations of all shades and nuances are already positioned on the “go” line ready to jump in as soon as Al Jazeera utters the word ”massacre”. The usual Israel and Jew haters will join the chorus not, mind you, out of empathy with the Egyptian people, but because to those simpletons, the peace accords are what stands between them and the demise of Israel. Coffins paraded before the cameras might do the trick. This could happen tomorrow after the Friday prayers – or not.
2) If the Egyptians believe Mubarak is staying even for a few more months, they’ll express support for him. I've lived through civil unrest in an Arab country and I can tell you that in this kind of circumstances the silent majority stays put and barricaded in their houses, sticking a finger out the window from time to time to see where the wind is blowing. They’ll come out in support of Mubarak if they are convinced he is in control. The same majority will cheer for the opposition –and the next dictator - if it becomes clear they have won. What the imams will do tomorrow – incite or sit on the fence – depends on who they believe is in control.
4)Obama’s puzzling behavior and pressure will awaken Egyptian and Arab nationalism. Just give it a little time. That finger wagging smacks of colonial arrogance which Arab countries thought was well behind them. You can be sure the average Egyptian feels humiliated by what he perceives as American disrespect for the institution of the Presidency in particular and Egypt in general, whether they like Mubarak or not. Evacuating Americans from Egypt at this point is wise. Obama’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday is what might have awoken pro-Mubarak protesters.
5)But what should be worrying the West is the active role Al Jazeera has undertaken in this crisis. Since the start of the crisis, it has been acting more like a Propaganda Ministry for the opposition than an objective news media. The facts are there for whoever cares to address the question of journalistic ethics. If someone knows of an article on the subject, I’d appreciate the link.

Anonymous said...

please repost:

this is a guy who I have been reading for years and he has a pretty sane attitude towards Israel
(he doesn't hate us and doesn't love us, he sees us as people just like everyone else, and he always makes fun of people who blame things on the JOOZ)

Sylvia said...

Well, it didn't take long: Striking back at Qatar/Al Jazeera AND blaming the Mossad all in one shot:

"Egyptian woman: Mossad used me to topple Mubarak regime

Pro-government TV channel interviews woman who claims she was sent to Qatar by US organization, trained by 'Israelis and Jews'. Why confess? Mubarak 'was like father to me', she says ",7340,L-4023319,00.html

Silke said...

do you have anything enlightening to say about this report which I understood as that they whoever they may be bus in pro-Mubarak-ones. In his latest post he writes about the clashes but doesn't mention bussed in ones again.

there is for example this strange sounding thing

After an hour, suddenly, the pro Mubarak lines opened. Six horses and a camel burst through ridden by men who charged towards us whipping everyone they could hit.

in his most recent - the picture btw looks like an unrelated one to me not fitting the description of people dodging.

Anonymous said...

there's an audio interview with sandmonkey at Roger Simon of Pajamas Media

shortly afterwards, it was tweeted that he was arrested while on the way to tahrir square with medical supplies

Barry Meislin said...

Anyone who wants a Palestinian state to emerge needs to start praying that Egypt does not abandon Camp David.

What exactly do you mean by "emerge," pale-face?

Sylvia said...

Silke, that's old news. Some say they are just Egyptian citizens to whom it took time to organize, others that they are members of the police who organized this, and yet others said these were activists from Mubarak's party. What characterizes this crisis, is that nobody is whho they say they are.
New news is that anti-M are pursuing pro-M and the army is trying to evacuate Tahrir Square.
There is a lot of disinformation (also fed to reporters who can't be everywhere and don't see everything at the same time). Reporters are being told to leave their hotel by the army.
There is one unknown however that is worth watching and it's what the army is going to do. Already reporters were taken aback when a tank directed its gun on a pro-M. demonstrator

Silke said...

thanks Sylvia

yes I came to the same conclusion - keep an eye and ear on what the army does

especially since I heard on radio yesterday that they are great property owners ... aiming at Revolutionary Guards riches?

Anonymous said...

reposted from google's cache, here: