In a paradoxical way, the Egyptians are celebrating these days what they deem the “Victory of October”— Yom Kippur war,1973. A totally crushing victory that liberated the whole lot of Sinai peninsula in a few weeks—at least that’s what the Egyptians are being told by their rulers for the last 50 years.
That common belief is the result of an effective propaganda machine that indoctrinated the nation (with 100 million estimated population) in an intensive anti-Semitic ideological program that has as an objective to secure a patriarchal role for the army in society and ensure the sacredness of the military institution as the protector of the land from a potential Zionist threat. They are taught that in schools and universities, mosques and churches; they went on to built an entire city and named it the “6th of October.” Thoroughfares, shops, gas stations, popular markets and modern malls, and countless war movies and soap operas— all bear names related to the October war.
Social media accounts, from both sides of the aisle— supporters of the despot and his opponents alike— are displaying (often merged with anti-Semitic comments) a flood of patriotic images of the war events and videos showing exposed rubber dinghies filled with heroic commandos crossing the canal, and soldiers shouting zealously, “Allahu Akbar!” as they climbed the impregnable high sandy fortifications of Bar Lev line. Wives and daughters, sons and brothers of the legendary participants in the war posting black and white photographs and portraits of their heroes in uniform, promising the avenge of the posterity, and glorifying their unmatched courage and great sacrifices in the battle that became the Arab world’s most important achievement in the last century.
Those who are now striving towards a new revolution, longing for freedom and democracy, are deeply infected with antisemitism, and a heavy cloud of double-dealing and duplicity hangs over them. Do they really believe in and adhere to the essence of those principles? Or are they no more than cosmetic puffy words lacking vigor and meaning? Can one count on them to change the fate of Egypt into a brighter and peaceful one? It is undoubtedly inspiring to every free man to see enlightened and democratic Egyptians running their own country, but they’ll never succeed if they have among their top priorities severing diplomatic relations with Israel and maybe even going to war with it.
That’s just not the right path to build a new Egypt with a new system of thought in accordance with universal values.
Israel can actually be very beneficial for Egyptian people, but it’s not in the interest of a fascist military regime to have an influential democratic state right on its doorstep. The Antisemitism approach has proved itself to be crucial to keep Israel mode of governance and its rich democratic experience out of reach of most of the population.
They have communally engulfed the memory of the war with an aura of myths and supernatural fairytales where winged angels spearheaded by Gabriel fought alongside the faithful army (the antithesis of the impious generation of the 1967 war) as they had done with the prophet and his companions in his alleged battles against the Jews in medieval Arabia.
The military regime has fabricated documents and events and forged its own distorted narration of what happened through the mighty propaganda of the regime buttressed by an overwhelming pan-Arab impulse to believe the unbelievable and swallow fallacies of all manners.
This is not a war that took place in the past; this is not Stalingrad or even Nagasaki; this not a war that is taught in history lessons to make people aware of the ugliness of wars, not at all. Instead, it is still—as the persistent common anti-Jewish sentiment invigorated by the state-owned media’s falsehoods clearly shows—vivid and alive as if it happened only yesterday; as if there is no peace deal, and that a much-wanted war could break out at any given moment. They still call Israel the A’dou, or the Enemy as in time of war, and they still long for a comeback attack that would throw more than 8 million Jews into the sea. It was no coincidence that the parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal praised Hitler on the eve of the anniversary of October war, meanwhile the state television channels were airing a 2019 propaganda drama movie about the war called Almamar (The Passage).
On the face of it, Sadat is officially considered a hero, but only in the context of war, and if one starts scratching the surface and dig deeper, Sadat would be depicted as an unstated traitor when invoking his bold and impressive effort to bring about peace. The peace agreement, omitted and unspoken of in the Egyptian press, is only mentioned, expediently, when the free foreign press or the account of the Israeli PM publishe the embarrassing picture of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi at a meeting with his Israeli counterparts.
Ironically, those ongoing popular and official celebrations and the glorification of the Egyptian military, are taking place simultaneously with a growing public discontent and anger towards the corrupted Egyptian military institution and the influence its tough generals wield over politics and economy in the country.
Following a rare outbreak of small but significant protests that took place last month in many Egyptian cities— resulting in the round up of more than 3000 protesters that encompassed juveniles, common citizens, renowned politicians, academics and journalists, and put the major security apparatuses of the state in a constant alert, with Police officers cramming the streets searching passersby’s cellular phones, informants lurking in the corners and eavesdropping at cafes, and electronic militias trolling the web hacking emails through phishing scams and tracking users’ online activity— Egyptians, in the remembrance of the 6th of October war, found themselves, as robotic ideologues, in a tricky situation where they are compelled to laud there very oppressors as war heroes, where they are currently jailing up to 60 thousand political prisoners according to human rights organizations in overcrowded jails, enduring inhuman conditions, and exposed to the most cruel and sadistic techniques of torture that one can ever imagine.
That heinous and unprovoked hate towards Israel is in fact what gives the corrupted military the legitimacy to rule the country with an iron fist and abort all attempts to submit the rogue institution to the rule of law. In truth, the legacy of the 1973 war turned out to be a heavy debt that Egyptian civilians are coerced to pay subserviently to the men in uniform from their own welfare, dignity and civil liberties.