Israel and Egypt’s Junta, Birds of a Feather
The NY Times published a strange story today. It recounts that Israel expressed dismay at Obama’s cut-off of military aid to Egypt in light of the military junta’s massacre of hundreds of unarmed Muslim Brotherhood protesters over the past month, including 55 in the past few days. The U.S. move was long overdue and a further indication of the temporizing that characterizes U.S. relations with some of the world’s worst thugs. But what few expected was the Israeli protest.
So why would Israel care whether the U.S. gives Egypt its annual $3-billion infusion or nothing? The answer to this question raises many interesting issue about the developing collusion between Israel’s far-rightist government and Egypt’s far-rightist military junta. The interests of both mesh nicely. Israel faces an Islamist threat on many fronts: Gaza from Hamas; Lebanon from Hezbollah; Sinai from Bedouin Islamists. The military junta’s biggest enemy is the Muslim Brotherhood, from whom they stole the last democratic government. There is also a rising Sinai Islamist threat targeting both the Egyptian army and Israel. Bedouin militants perpetrate virtual daily terror attacks on Egyptian police and military forces. The same fighters also launch rockets at Israeli targets like Eilat.
Israel and Egypt’s ruling elites increasingly see their interests and fates intertwined. That’s why Israel wants Egypt to continue receiving U.S. funding so it can buy all the military gear and weapons that largess provides.
This brings up an important related observation: Israel (with only a few exceptions) increasingly sees its allies in the Arab world as autocrats and brutal dictators. It stuck with Hosni Mubarak to the bitter end and resented Obama for dumping him unceremoniously. Until his country self-combusted, Israel co-existed quite comfortably with the al-Assad regime in Syria. Israel loves the fatcat sheikhs of the Gulf including Saudi Arabia, because both share a deep mistrust of truly democratic, populist movements. It loves Jordan’s Hashemite kingdom.
Israel is increasingly anti-democratic at home and views democracy in neighboring nations as a chance for the Arab masses to rise up against it. Which brings me to my main point: a country that loves dictatorships among its neighbors does so because it sees value in what they represent in domestic terms. Like the military dominated security-obsessed governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, Israel is becoming a mirror image. Every major domestic policy concern is refracted through a security mirror. Democracy is jettisoned to the extent that it conflicts with perceived security needs (see the Democracy Institute poll I posted about a few days ago).
Israel views with increasing alarm and hostility democratic openings in the Arab world. Turkey is the leader of an restive movement of Arab democracies which Israel can’t control. Lebanon’s democracy movement, in which Hezbollah has played a sometimes contradictory role, is yet another Arab country Israel can’t control. Iran, which represents the threat of revolutionary Islamism (in Israel’s eyes), is a regime whose interests resonate in Shiite areas of the Middle East.
Israel wants Arabs it can buy or control. Arabs (or Muslims) who are incorruptible or who represent populist values are a deep threat. Instead of engaging with such a movement and finding common cause with it, Israel sees the Arab Spring as the enemy. This doesn’t bode well for Israel’s ultimate integration into the region.
Finally, in typically clueless fashion, the Times neglected perhaps the main reason Israel has lobbied on Egypt’s behalf: Egypt’s military engaged in gross violations of democratic norms and international law in mounting a coup and massacring civilians in the streets. What other country does that remind you of? A country violating democratic norms and international law, mowing down protesting civilians in the street? That’s right, Israel.
Israel sees cancelling Egypt’s aid package as a precedent that could happen, if not now, then at some point in the future after Israel mounts an especially egregious massacre or war against one of its neighbors. Just as Israel fears BDS, or “delegitimization” as it so awkwardly calls it, it fears any action that could be used to single it out for opprobrium on the world stage. You can be sure anti-Occupation activists both inside Israel and abroad will take note of the Obama administration’s punishment of the junta generals and point out that Israel has behaved just as badly.
The Occupation has continued for five decades. Land continues to be stolen. Israel resists the world consensus in favor of a Palestinian state. The IDF daily kills and maims Palestinian civilians resisting Israel’s oppressive rule. It’s entirely appropriate for the U.S. to use the Egyptian precedent and withhold aid to Israel.
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White House denies rumors of cutting Egypt aid
The Obama administration is denying media reports that the United States plans to cut aid to Egypt.
“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at UNGA (the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York), that assistance relationship will continue.”
Looks like CNN et al got it wrong (as they so often do).
Cutting Military Aid and Funds to Egypt
○ “Egypt will not surrender to American pressure and is continuing its path towards democracy as set by the roadmap.”
Washington said it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as $260 million in cash aid from the military-backed government, pending progress on democracy and human rights.
Debate Is the Coup A Coup? US secretly suspends military aid to Egypt.
Here is one thing that I don’t really agree on.
The Muslim Brotherhood lost democratic legitimacy with Morsi’s amendments to the constitution back in 2012, if not earlier. They also stood by and supported the crackdown on anti-MB protesters gleefully, or did nothing when pro-MB or Salafist thugs went out and beat up or tried to kill anti-MB demonstrators on other occasions.
During his time in office, Morsi allowed greater freedom for fringe extremists and sectarians to go on radio or television and preach overly hateful messages; saying that the Coptics were “evil” or not true Egyptians, or that Shia’a were “evil” and should be killed, or that the people who considered themselves “followers” of these people were the only “real Muslims” and everyone else was an infidel or a heretic– divisive, disgusting, lying claptrap that often caused the sort of people who listened to believe that “they were sanctioned” in attacking the “enemies” laid out in the messages of these extremist ideologues. Morsi personally stood by and said nothing when the same sort of people spoke at a rally, again mostly attended by the more violent sort of Salafi, talking about how they needed to fight a holy war in Syria and to “kill all the Shia and the Alawi vermin”.
When Morsi was elected, the overall voter turn-out rate was something like 30%, and Morsi won with 51% over the “Mubarakite” Shafic, who had 48%. I’m not saying here that this election doesn’t matter– apart from the conservative Islamist support base, Morsi did make promises about improving the internal issues in the nation, especially concerning jobs and the economy– but I am saying that it wasn’t as though it was this resounding, undisputable, everyone-loves-him Morsi victory.
If one looks at the multiple and varied groups who had gone into opposition, or were created in opposition, to MB rule, one has to take into account that they represent the opinions of a large portion of Egyptian people, and it would be preposterous to say that these groups are all anti-democracy or pro-repression (not that I’m saying you’re saying that here, but there are some people who do seem to be saying things along those lines– admittedly, many of these sorts do seem to be overly sympathetic to the MB). These groups, as well as what amounted to millions of Egyptians, asked for Morsi to step down from office due to the fact that many people were dissatisfied, or angry, with his behaviour while in office, and when he refused to do so, the army stepped in and removed him from the presidency.
At this point, naturally it becomes a lot less clear, and I’m not going to be one of those people who tries to absolves the army of any wrong-doing, or who says that “Al-Sisi is a saint” or anything like that. I condemn the massacres of anyone who died afterwards, especially during the summer– although I see a big difference between the Palestinians as a people and the supporters of the MB and their more extreme allies who’ve been protesting since July. The only main similarity between the two is that they both get shot at, although the Palestinians, as you know, naturally, are shot at as “per usual” and most often out of hand, and in response to staging protests or actions in anger over being denied their basic rights, or the theft of their land, or everything else that has been going on for decades. A lot of the MB supporters mainly seem to be upset that so many in the country turned out to be anti-Islamist, or at least anti conservative Islamist, and there is a dearth of essentially malicious, overly sectarian rhetoric, if not outright violent rhetoric, being thrown around by people demonstrating in favour of Morsi.
No doubt some are unhappy that it seems as though they won’t get their so-called “Islamic state” (which would be, as per their specific ideals, an ultra-intolerant, pro takfiri Salafi state) because Morsi’s not around to passively condone their antics anymore. I guess these sorts decided that it would be best to vent their anger by attacking random Coptic churches/ any other people in Egypt who weren’t the “violent Salafi” brand of Sunni. These sorts seem to make up the nucleus of the insurgency in the Sinai– “black flag” groups who at least partially have alliances with Al Qaeda, and who have no claims or legitimacy to anything or for anything (far different from the Palestinians), and who appear to believe that the best recourse is to try and attack the Egyptian military and police in the Sinai, and hope to frighten people living there as part of a collective punishment to the nation because of Morsi’s removal.
I’d like to apologize in advance if this seems at all rambling– I think the sentence structure and everything is good though.
Before I look like an idiot in this regard– I should’ve wrote that for the elections, the first round saw a voter turn-out rate of 46% of eligible voters, and the second round 52%. Almost half still voted for the guy tainted by his relationship with Mubarak, and the issue of 48% of the eligible voter base not voting in the second round is something to consider.
@ Kyle: You’re completely off-base. You blame Morsi because he didn’t speak out about this or that outrage when most national leaders similary don’t speak out against outrages like these within their countries. A president isn’t responsible for every bad act that occurs in his country nor is he responsible merely because he doesn’t denounce it. Morsi may’ve been an especially bad president, but there have been far worse presidents in the world who completed their terms w/o coups being mounted against them. There is only one way to topple a president in a democracy, by voting. Unfortunately, Egypt’s Mubarak-era courts rejected the Constitution and none could be completed that might’ve provided an alternate roadmap to impeach a president. But those are the ONLY ways to go. Anything else is illegitimate, period.
You’ve shown you simply don’t know anything about the Brotherhood, its members, their views, etc. You’ve essentially justified a military coup. That’s about the most despicable position any so-called progressive can take.
Your comment was off-topic as well. Other readers have written precisely the same sort of ignorant anti-MB comment before. So let that be the end of this subject.