Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi got two things very wrong in his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo recently.
First, he claimed that Israel has “exceeded” its right to self defense in its ongoing military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Second, he said that Jews in Egypt have never been subjected to oppression or persecution.
Sissi has delivered fake news, and the issues he raised should be cleared up immediately.
The fact of the matter is that Israel is still in a self-defense posture following the October 7 massacre during which ruthless gangs of Hamas terrorists cold-bloodedly killed 1,400 Israelis and wounded many more in southern Israel in just a few hours, in the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust.
With the war far from over, Israel is still fighting back. Currently, the Israeli Air Force is bombing Hamas sites throughout Gaza, while Hamas is continuing to fire rockets and mortars at Israel indiscriminately.
Israel’s much-anticipated ground invasion, designed to smash Hamas and topple it from power, has yet to begin. Nor has Israel rescued any of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas. The video released by Hamas of one of the abductees, Mia Schem, is a cruel and malicious exercise in psychological warfare that exposes its venality.
Israel, to be sure, has a duty and an obligation to continue its war of survival against Hamas, a death cult which rejects Israel’s existence and a two-state solution and whose national charter is replete with antisemitic allusions and references.
This is no time for a ceasefire, as Sissi erroneously suggested. It is incumbent on the Israeli government to avenge the wanton deaths of so many of its citizens and, more importantly, to ensure that Hamas is militarily destroyed and never rules Gaza again.
This is elementary. This is what must happen if there is to be even a smidgen of peace and stability in the area.
It is true that a humanitarian crisis has engulfed Gaza. But at Israel’s urging, 600,000 Palestinians in northern Gaza have fled southward so they are not caught in the inevitable crossfire when Israel and Hamas clash on the ground in and around Gaza City.
Hamas, having used Palestinian civilians as human shields since its establishment in 1987, has demanded that they stay put in northern Gaza. For Hamas, they are sacrificial lambs, period.
Hamas’ repugnant strategy is clear. When Palestinians die, Israel is automatically condemned. This suits Hamas’ reprehensible purposes perfectly. At the end of the day, the amoral Hamas leadership regards ordinary Palestinians as cannon fodder to be cynically exploited for political ends.
Egypt is apparently willing to provide safe passage for truck conveys carrying vital supplies to Gaza via the Rafah border crossing adjacent to southern Gaza. But Sissi has so far rejected proposals by the United States and other countries to let Palestinian refugees from Gaza cross into the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt’s position is legitimate, given the fact that Hamas is a branch of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Understandably enough, the Egyptian government fears that some of the refugees may be Hamas supporters or sympathizers who would eventually join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood, whose sole goal is to destabilize Sissi’s government.
It will be recalled that the Muslim Brotherhood ruled Egypt for a year after the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. President Mohammed Morsi, an ardent disciple of the Muslim Brotherhood, was deposed by Sissi, the then minister of defense, in a bloody coup in 2013 during which thousands of Morsi’s supporters were fatally shot and injured by security forces. Morsi himself was arrested and died in his prison cell.
In the wake of Morsi’s incarceration, Egypt cracked down hard on the Muslim Brotherhood. But long before these momentous events, Egypt — the first Arab state to recognize and establish formal diplomatic relations with Israel — joined the Israeli government in imposing a land, air and sea siege on the Hamas regime in Gaza and in destroying its network of tunnels through which weapons and munitions were smuggled.
Nonetheless, Egypt should allow at least some Palestinian refugees into its territory, just as the Israeli government should permit life-saving humanitarian goods to flow into Gaza under its strict supervision. Palestinian civilians who face starvation and have been ruthlessly exploited by Hamas should not be punished for its depravity.
It is clearly in Israel’s national interest to protect innocent Palestinians who have nothing whatsoever to do with Hamas and the horrendous crimes its killers have committed. Inordinately high Palestinian fatalities will bring down the hammer of international public opinion against Israel and compel it to prematurely halt its much-needed offensive against Hamas.
During Blinken’s discussion with Sissi, the Egyptian president said, “Mr. Secretary, you spoke about the crisis and you spoke as a Jewish person, and let me tell you that I am an Egyptian citizen, and I was born and brought up in a neighborhood where we had Jewish neighbors. And Jews who used to live here in Egypt (had) not ever suffered from oppression and persecution … As a matter of fact, the Jews were never targeted … throughout the whole history. ”
Sissi needs to get his history right.
If the period from the late 19th century up until the advent of Israel’s statehood in 1948 is examined, an unbiased observer will find that Jews lived comfortably and were usually at ease in Egypt, a predominately Muslim country.
But prior to that era, Jews and Christians were tolerated minorities who were subjected to a host of restrictions and special taxes.
Life for Jews in Egypt became intolerable after Egypt’s military participation in the first Arab-Israeli war, which the Arab side lost. From that point forward, Muslims conflated Egyptian Jews with Israelis and acted accordingly. Jews were gradually demonized and marginalized, a process that greatly accelerated following Egypt’s wars with Israel in 1956 and 1967. Facing real danger, Jews left Egypt in droves.
Israel’s victory in the Six Day War was especially galling to Egypt. Hundreds of Jews were arrested on false charges of being Israeli agents or spies.
From a Jewish community that numbered 80,000 in 1948, Egypt’s Jewish population was incrementally depleted by mass emigration. And today, there are less than two dozen Jews in all of Egypt. For all intents and purposes, Egypt is bereft of Jews.
These are the unpalatable facts that Sissi either conveniently chose to ignore or was never cognizant of. And his contention that Israel has gone beyond its right of self-defense in battling Hamas is similarly incorrect.
Fake news should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.