Three thoughts about Egypt

February 13, 2011 by

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The ringing phone unpeeled me from the TV screen. I was on the edge of my seat, watching the wonderful inspiring pictures of courageous Egyptian people fighting for their rights. The phone call pulled me back into an additional reality:  

“The site’s been hacked.”   

Sure enough, a nice chap who named himself Khaled al-Islambuli had splashed a nasty picture in place of our site. The picture suggested that the fall of Mubarak was a victory over Israel, the “enemy of god”.

Of course it wasn’t the real Khaled al-Islambuli who did it: The original al-Islambuli was executed years ago after assassinating the former President of Egypt, Anwar Sadat. He’d gunned down Sadat for making peace with Israel.

Now I’ll admit that I was annoyed by this. In all the days of crazy demonstrations in Egypt I haven’t yet seen one image of an American flag or an Israeli flag being burned.

The reason being that it’s not about us. It is not about us.

I was frustrated that someone somewhere decided to shift the universal beauty of the demonstrations into a far narrower darker place.

But what really bugged me was the way a Jewish friend of mine chose to tweet the news:

“@makomisrael site hacked by egyptian hacker angry over #israel’s support for mubarak”

This easy, even gleeful, allocation of guilt to Israel for the wrongs of another, got my hackles up. I really don’t know if “Israel’s support for Mubarak” was the reason the guy hacked our site, and neither does my friend. I am also thoroughly unconvinced that Israel is responsible for the anger of a person who signs himself as the successor incarnate of a jihadist anti-peace assassin. Indeed I’m not even convinced that Israel has been so clearly supportive of Mubarak as nearly every other Arab country one can care to name.

My friend is a bright guy, a troubled and committed lover of Israel, and a leader in the Jewish world. He’s not a self-hater and certainly no anti-Semite or enemy of the people! But sometimes I feel that many of those who more naturally ‘wrestle’ than ‘hug’ Israel, feed their pain over Israel’s mistakes in far too masochistic a fashion.

Click here for the response to the talkback on this blog.

Did Sharon get it wrong?

I really recommend reading this interview with Natan Sharansky. I remember the very first time I met him, back when I was a long-haired student in England, he explained his simple mathematical formula: a democracy does not go to war with another democracy. His views on the Egyptian people’s drive to freedom and democracy are fascinating. I don’t agree with all his perspectives by any means, but in his fundamental disagreement with Sharon – Sharon maintained that Arabs will never embrace democracy – he may be being proved amazingly right.

Democracy doesn’t work without Nationalism

Check out the number of Egyptian flags in the streets in the past fortnight. Listen to the careful yet impassioned language of that amazing guy Wael Ghonim on his release from imprisonment. The call for freedom and democracy emerges from a deep patriotism, a deep pride in Egypt and a love for Egyptians.

As Gadi Taub taught me so cleverly, you only want all ‘the people’ to have an equal say in your country, if you believe that ‘the people’ (even if you disagree with them) have the good of the country at heart. It’s why the imposition of ‘democracy’ on Iraq hasn’t yet worked out. Because to be Sunni-Iraqi, or Shia-Iraqi, or Kurdish-Iraqi really isn’t the same as being African-American or Irish-American. Iraq isn’t one nation yet. But Egypt is.

Nationalism doesn’t have to be accompanied by hatred or xenophobia. Nor can democracy survive without it.

Something to think about here in Israel.

Daniel Sieradski receives a response to his talkback here.

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