As a nation, we are reaching the point of national overload. Last summer life seemed simple. If only we could bring down the cost of cottage cheese, then the world would be a better place. This summer, the fact that food prices here are some of the highest in the world has virtually been forgotten (except of course when we have to pay our bills). Instead, our concerns over the cost of living here have been replaced with anxiety regarding a possible strike on Iran, the Syrian civil war, (whose outcome could be either good or bad for us, but either way seems dangerous), and the Muslim Brotherhood’s complete takeover of Egypt. While all three of the issues above worry me, some of my personal interactions this week bring me to write about the third issue.
The events in Egypt this past week were both breathtaking and frightening. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood pulled off a silent coup. Now the world is celebrating, as if the Brotherhood’s success was a victory for freedom and democracy. One subtitle in this week’sECONOMIST editorial says it all: “The sacking of a clutch of top generals is a welcome step to securing Egypt’s nascent democracy.”
How could the world be so blind? In a matter of weeks, the Muslim Brotherhood has accomplished what took Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan ten years to achieve– while the supposed “liberal world” applauds. One of the Egyptian liberals that I follow on Twitter recommended watching an interview with Egyptian Sociologist, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, on how scary the goals of Muslim Brotherhood truly are. Western democracies have, once again, made the mistake of supporting elections– before an independent judiciary and constitution have been created.
It seems both the Israeli and the American governments do not know how to react to the abrupt changes in Egypt. The Americans implicitly welcomed the move in Egypt. Naturally, the Israeli government has said nothing publicly.
This state of affairs led to me to an interesting interaction over social media with an Egyptian liberal. Last week, he wrote that Israel was happy with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, since it weakened the Egyptian military. I went on to ask him what makes him think that about Israel. His first, and probably Pavlovian response was– “Since the US government does not seem to have a problem with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, then obviously Israel does not as well.” Following his response, we had a positive exchange. I explained why the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood is a very dangerous thing for Israel, how sometimes Israel and the United States do not see things the same way, and how this time (in my opinion), the United States is simply wrong.
That conversation has stuck with me these last few days, as I see the concern in Egypt growing among the liberals– concern that they are about to be governed by an Islamic dictatorship. Most of them are a little too late realizing the error of their ways in entering into any sort of alliance with the Brotherhood– an alliance that the Brotherhood used as long as it was convenient. The actions of the Brotherhood are very similar to the tactics Hitler entered into on his way to governing his complete dictatorship.
This situation puts the Israeli government in a tricky place, as it does to the US administration. It is obviously in Israel’s interest to maintain the best relationship possible with the new Egyptian government. The same is true for the American government. Neither country wants a confrontation; both want to try to salvage relations, as best as they can be preserved. However, does that mean both countries have to be silent, as the hope for some sort of liberal democracy in Egypt passes silently into the night?
Unfortunately, the answer might be “Yes”– at least as far as the governments are concerned. Neither government wants to give the new Egyptian administration a reason to take any action against it. Of course there is a counter-argument. Egypt’s economic situation is so precarious that it cannot take a chance in angering the US. Though in Israel’s case, since we have little ability to actually influence events in Egypt, maybe silence is best. However, I think that is partially a cop out. In my opinion, the actions that are appropriate for the government are not necessarily the same as the actions that could be acceptable for non-government organizations and opposition political parties.
The Egyptian “democrats” fear crackdowns by the new government. It is possible they are paranoid. They are clearly fearful and I tend to share their fears. Actions have already been taken to muzzle journalists who oppose the new Egyptian government. I hope the liberals are proven wrong. If however, in the more likely case, they are proven correct, it will be up to all the organizations here and in the United States who care about democracy and human rights to denounce of any repressive actions perpetrated, and the government that committed the offenses– loudly and clearly.
It is especially important for Israeli organizations, and opposition political parties, (such asMeretz) to speak out in support of Egyptian liberals. We do not know whether this wave of political Islam (that began in Iran in 1979) is at its crest, or is only at its beginning. We can hope that it’s at its crest– and not in its early stages. Whether or not the wave of political Islam is at its crest, it is important that those fighting for liberal democracy know they have fellow travelers, both here and in the United States.