Egypt’s classic scapegoat

Israel has long been the favorite scapegoat for the failures and incompetence of Egyptian military regime

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Ever since 1948, the year Israel achieved statehood , the enraged Arab nations felt duty-bound to wage war after war to throw the little Hebrew state into the sea. Defeating and wiping israel off the map was and still the dearest commonly-shared dream of the Arab masses, even more than freedom. However, this Arabian dream (nipped in the bud) didn’t go without squeezing.

In the 1960s, the Pan-Arab Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser became the star of the Arab world mainly because of his steadfast stance regarding the existence of Israel, and his bluffing ‘donquixotian’ speeches in which he used to threaten jews with total annihilation. Being a good Arab during the Nasserism era meant necessarily being an anti-Jewish. Despite of his notorious brutality against his opponents, and the iron fist of his police state that controlled every specter of life in the then socialist Egypt, and notwithstanding the humiliating defeat of the Arab-Israeli war of 1967–Nasser is still highly regarded and respected by the majority of the Arabs, even among Islamists (Nasser’s bête noire), some could find a way to praise him. he was all pardoned for he was Israel’s number one enemy. The same could be said about the popularity of the former Algerian president Houari Boumédiène among his people, known for his famous statement : “We support Palestine, whether it oppresses or it is oppressed”.

Maybe the importance of the role that Israel plays — though unwillingly — in the Arab socio-polical life, is easy to perceive when we consider the admiration and popularity the former president Anwar El-Sādāt enjoyed when he declared war on Israel in 1973; and how dramatically he went down in flames after he decided bravely to visit Jerusalem and signed the peace treaty of Camp David with Israeli P.M. Menachem Begin In 1978; which drove Arab leaders to severe ties with Egypt, and provoked a strong popular resentment, and a vocal discountenance from intellectuals, poets, writers, universities students and politicians from all tendencies, and eventually led to his assasination by fusillade in 1981 while watching a military parade, causing no national mourning.

The military force in Egypt has long enjoyed a sacred place in the Egyptian society, that is chiefly due to the historic role it had once played in the struggle against Israel in the past, and to the ability of the regime to preserve an atmosphere of fake animosity, and to strengthen an iniquitous common impression of an imminent Israeli threat that once prevailed in the Middle East some forty years ago. Its yearly celebrated—although disputed— victory of October 1973 over Israel had given the military generals carte blanche to behave as if they own the country; enabling them, over the course of time, to create a state within the state, and exempt themselves from critics and prosecution. This abnormal status has given the military institution as a whole a leverage over the power of the parliament undercutting the constitutionalization of the country’s politics, while its budget and its evergrowing financial empire are kept in secrecy and total ambiguity.

In Egypt, Israel’s “mysterious hands” are ubiquitous on university campuses, media outlets and commonplace in editorial pages. That tiny little enclave, serounded by enemies and flushed with victories, proved to be the perfect scapegoat for the regime’s scandals and corruption. The army has long mastered the art of manipulating the public opinion by using the Israeli card in a machiavellian way; Inside the country, the state allows and encourages the preachers in the Friday sermons along with the media programs and filmmakers to fan the flames of hatred and bigotry vis-à-vis Israel; to portray it as the eternal enemy of the Egyptian nation and the source of all evils; the one behind economic crises, social miseries, popular revolts, polical plots, even the demographic explosion. Nevertheless, the picture given to the army denotes the protector of the nation and the shield of its dignity; the patriotic guardian of the integrity of its lands that Israel is itching to snatch.

And in order to keep the memories of the Israeli-Egyptian wars fresh and vivid, and to maintain the society overwhelmed with feelings of hate and revenge, the Egyptian secret intelligence service has been keen on using the all-powerful and influential Egyptian cinema, and its famous movie stars to produce popular propaganda movies and TV series about its unverified and exaggerated heroic spying operations against Israel; often depecting the Israelis in a caricaturistic subhuman characters, and using a Nazi-style prejudices and stereotypes of the evil Jew; It portrays the Jewish society as treacherous, manipulative, obscene and bloodthirsty. The most recent TV series of this kind, El-Zebaq (The Mercury), was aired in 2017 with a second part programmed to be released this year.

Whilst at the same time, Egypt bites the bullet in Pursuit of support and sympathy of the west, and the polical recognition of the regime —especially after the 2013 overthrow of a freely elected but fascist Islamist government— aswell as to sustain the U.S. military aid (estimated by 1,6 billion of dollars a year); as a result, it appears very enthusiastic to open its beautiful beaches and resorts of Sharm El-Sheikh and the Red Sea, and the historical sites of Mount Sinai and its famous St Catherine’s Monastery to tourists coming from Eilat or Tel Aviv, and shows tolerance towards the few remaining Members of the Jewish community of Cairo.

Yet the stimuli here are not only modern wars and continuous conflicts, or the interests of an enduring military dictatorship that made Jew-hatred its bread-and-butter; it’s also, and above all, a theological matter, and (far beyond the modern Islamist literature that has long Invested In the subject) we can easily find the anti-Jewish notions well-embedded In the preserved Arab culture that stretches back several centuries. They are In the books of Tradition; in the biographies of the prophet and the great caliphs of Islam; they are also detected in the popular anecdotes, poetry and folktales, proses and proverbs that date back to the days of the Abbasids of Baghdad and the Mamelukes of Cairo; they are even immortalized in the sacred Quran, the most read arabic book in the Islamic World. In one word : they are in the air of the Middle East. but no one seems yet welling to change that, especially if it has been proven politically and socially beneficial for successive rulers.

About the Author
Taha Lemkhir is a Moroccan writer and photographer. Degree in Arabic literature and Islamic studies. Critic of Islamism. languages: Arabic, English and Spanish. He Lived part of his life as an Islamist— until enlightenment flashed through his heart.
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