Tag: Egyptian anti-semitism



Showtime for the Egyptian President: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2016— Western media have been quick to speculate about the end of the road for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, pointing out a rapidly dropping approval rate.

Save Egypt Before it’s Too Late: P. David Hornik, Frontpage Magazine, Nov. 17, 2016— Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, reports that Egypt is in trouble.

Egypt and Israel: Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25, 2016   — The cold peace that has characterized Israel’s relations with Egypt since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty is warming up on the diplomatic and military levels.

The Truth About Egypt’s Revolution: Oren Kessler, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2016 — The usual account of Egypt’s revolution goes like this: In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned after 18 days of protests led by the tweeting revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, ending his nearly 30-year presidency.


On Topic Links


Egypt Court Overturns Death Sentence for Ousted Leader Morsi: Times of Israel, Nov. 15, 2016

Egypt on the Verge of Crisis?: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Oct. 25, 2016

Egypt Juggles Its Friendships as Russian Influence Surges: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2016

Russian-Egyptian Cooperation in the War on Terror: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Nov. 9, 2016




Zvi Mazel

Jerusalem Post, Nov. 11, 2016


Western media have been quick to speculate about the end of the road for Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, pointing out a rapidly dropping approval rate. Above 90% a few weeks ago, it now stands at “a mere” 68% – a rating that many a Western leader would be ecstatic about. Nevertheless the Egyptian president is doggedly pursuing his objective of reforming the economy and putting his country squarely on the road to sustainable growth.


He has achieved a lot so far, launching or completing a number of mega projects. There is the doubling of the Suez Canal carried out within one year by the army – no mean feat – and a source of great pride to the Egyptian people. He has initiated the building of a new capital east of the present one. It will be the seat of the huge Egyptian administration, easing the congestion of the old capital, now slated to become a touristic and commercial hub.

An estimated 3,000 km of new highways are at various stages of planning. Reclaiming one and a half million feddan (about 1.5 million acres) will extend agriculture lands into the desert. More prosaic but no less vital was the cleaning and rehabilitation of silos, where every year 30% of the wheat, main staple for the Egyptians, rot because of dirt and negligence. Sisi has also boosted research and development of oil and natural gas resources; once an exporter, Egypt now needs to import at great cost the oil and natural gas it needs. Improving the situation can take a few years. The process could be greatly accelerated if the West decided at long last to help Egypt. It has not happened so far.

Western countries led by US President Barack Obama still see in president Sisi a military dictator who grabbed power from a “democratically elected president.” They do not want to admit that Morsi was toppled by a popular uprising – admittedly with the help of the army – just in time to prevent him from creating an Islamic dictatorship. Deprived of Western backing, Egypt turned to Russia and China for political support and economic cooperation. The two countries promised to invest in industrial and tourist projects, including the construction of a nuclear power plant by Russia in northern Egypt. Russia also pledged to supply Egypt with advanced weapons.

This new alliance put Cairo on a collision course with Saudi Arabia, which opposes Russian assistance to president Assad of Syria. To mark its displeasure, Riyadh announced it was halting shipments of oil to its former ally. A drop in popularity is a small price to pay for the successful completion of long and difficult negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Egypt is about to receive a $12 billion loan at very low interest. This much needed injunction of foreign capital should help it over the coming months.

The loan comes at a price. Sisi had pledged to take drastic steps to reform an ailing economy burdened by a bloated civil service and hampered at every turn by unending terrorism. While the Muslim Brotherhood is still carrying out low-grade warfare against local infrastructure inside the country, the Sinai branch of Islamic State has dealt a series of deadly blows which left Egypt still reeling.

The downing last year of a Russian plane has brought tourism to a near standstill. Supply of much needed foreign currency has all but dried out, hampering trade and severely inconveniencing the population. Faced with a black market out of control, and to comply with the exigencies of the IMF, Sisi announced that the pound would “float,” with the rate adjusting daily according to supply and demand. While the rate had been artificially pegged at 8.8 pounds for a dollar, it traded at 18 on the black market. It is now stabilized at about 13, hopefully marking the end of the black market. The move was welcomed by traders and businessmen.

Other measures dictated by the IMF were not as popular. For the first time in history there is a VAT in Egypt. Set at 13% at present, it may not be easily implemented in a country where lots of transactions are still in cash, but it was another of the IMF requests. So was cutting down subsidies drastically for oil and natural gas. There was a corresponding rise in the cost of living, leading to a lot of muttering and general dissatisfaction. Hence the drop in approval rate. Unfortunately, the government felt threatened and tightened security measures as well as pressuring the media.

So it is now show time for the Egyptian leader. The next few months will be critical. On the one hand, most Egyptians understand that their president has no other choice; should his reforms fail, the country could very well plunge into chaos. On the other hand, his drastic measures are taking their toll on the poorest of the poor, while the Muslim Brotherhood is busy fanning the flame. Hopefully the new administration in Washington will reverse course and at long last provide much needed relief in the form of investments and transfers of technology. Meanwhile, Israel is quietly helping wherever it can. It could undoubtedly do much more were the Egyptian leadership ready to defy the Islamic establishment and the old Nasserist circles, still bitterly opposed to any form of normalization.





                                                 P. David Hornik                                                                                                 

Frontpage Magazine, Nov. 17, 2016


Zvi Mazel, a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt, reports that Egypt is in trouble. On the one hand, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is pursuing ambitious economic reforms. He’s doubled the size of the Suez Canal, bringing a major spike in revenue. He’s building a new capital south of Cairo, aimed at relieving congestion and pollution in Cairo and making it a commercial and tourist hub. Sisi has also launched processes of building about two thousand miles of new highways, cleaning and rehabilitating wheat silos where wheat—the main Egyptian staple—rots because of negligence, and developing oil and natural gas resources. That oil and gas development, Mazel notes, “could be greatly accelerated if the West decided at long last to help Egypt. It has not happened so far.”


Indeed it’s well known that since Sisi—then the defense minister—overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, the Obama administration and other Western governments have turned Egypt a cold shoulder. They have done so even though that overthrow was backed by the most massive popular protests in history, with 14 million Egyptians taking to the streets. They were protesting a regime that was radical, incompetent, and—in office for a year—already taking steps to abrogate Egypt’s constitution and strangle the country in sharia legislation.


Yet “Western countries led by US President Barack Obama,” Mazel notes, “still see in president Sisi a military dictator who grabbed power from a “democratically elected president.” They do not want to admit that Morsi was toppled by a popular uprising—admittedly with the help of the army—just in time to prevent him from creating an Islamic dictatorship. Jilted by the West, Sisi has had to turn elsewhere. China is underwriting his building of a new capital. More problematically, Egypt has already signed major arms deals with Russia, and Russia has pledged $25 billion toward the building of a nuclear power plant in northern Egypt.


It might all be less troubling if Egypt were mainly suffering from economic problems. But, in addition, it remains under assault by radical anti-Western terrorist forces. “The Muslim Brotherhood,” Mazel reports, “is still carrying out low-grade warfare against local infrastructure in the country.” And a branch of Islamic State in the Sinai Peninsula has kept up a string of deadly attacks. The most devastating was its downing one year ago of a Russian plane, which, says Mazel, “has brought tourism to a near standstill.” And as the economy keeps struggling and Sisi institutes reforms—some of them, like a VAT increase, widely resented—the potential for popular insurrection, driven by or at least exploited by the Islamist forces, remains. Or as Mazel puts it, “It is now show time for [Sisi]. The next few months will be critical.”


Israel, for its part, is helping Egypt both in the security and economic spheres, but the assistance it can give is limited by ongoing popular hostility to Israel and Jews in Egypt. Another development in the next few months, however, offers the best hope of keeping Sisi’s government on its moderate, constructive course and keeping the jihadists at bay. An AP analysis notes that U.S. president-elect Donald Trump has already praised the “good chemistry” between him and Sisi when they met at the UN in September, suggesting a possibility of “closer ties after the chill between al-Sissi and Obama.” Indeed Egypt’s media cheered Trump’s victory, reflecting widespread resentment at Obama’s support for the short-lived but hated Morsi regime.


It is not that Egypt is an exemplary country or a Western democracy. As mentioned, hatred in the Israeli and Jewish direction is still pervasive decades after the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Vigilante attacks on Christians continue. Sisi’s crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood and other radical forces hardly meets Western judicial standards. But in the real world, the Sisi government—which wants to align with the West, is nonbelligerent toward Israel, and at least aspires to curb Islamic extremism—is vastly preferable to the alternatives. Supporting Sisi would mean a shift to a sane policy.    




EGYPT AND ISRAEL                                       


Jerusalem Post, Oct. 25, 2016


The cold peace that has characterized Israel’s relations with Egypt since the signing of the 1979 peace treaty is warming up on the diplomatic and military levels. But it remains to be seen whether popular opposition among Egyptians to such warming – not to mention outright hostility and antisemitism – will roll back progress. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rightly sees in Israel an important ally in the fight against political Islamism.


Working together, Israeli and Egyptian forces have taken on Islamist terrorist groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula, and have reined in Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The ratcheting up of cooperation in the intelligence and military fields has also had an impact on other aspects of Egyptian-Israeli ties. A number of high-profile visits and meetings have taken place since Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood-ruled government and took control in 2013.

Former Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold visited Egypt in June 2015; the Israel Embassy in Cairo was reopened, and a new Egyptian ambassador was dispatched to Tel Aviv. In April, Israel approved the Egyptian transfer of two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, a move that entailed reopening the security annex of the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty. Perhaps the most impressive showing of improved relations between Cairo and Jerusalem, however, was Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry’s July visit to Israel, which included a long meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.


Unfortunately, these gestures by high-ranking officials on the diplomatic and military level have not trickled down to the Egyptian people. This was apparent from the reactions to rumors that Israel intended to reopen its consulate in Alexandria, as reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Arab Affairs Correspondent Ben Lynfield.

According to the London-based Al-Araby al-Jadeed website, Israel’s ambassador in Cairo, David Govrin, visited Alexandria under heavy security, met with the city’s tiny Jewish community, visited the Eliyahu Hanavi synagogue, and met with the governor of Alexandria. The website also quoted activists who were angered by the visit, seeing it as a “provocation.” A parliament member from Alexandria was quoted as saying there is “no justification” for closer relations with Israel.

A September 2015 poll by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research indicates that most of the Egyptian public view Israel as hostile. The survey assigned countries a rating ranging from 100 to -100, with the negative figures indicating hostility and the positive figures friendliness. Israel received -88 points in the survey, and is thus considered by Egyptians to be its most hostile nation. The US was ranked a distant second with a -37. China was ranked 41, thus receiving the highest “friendly” rank of any non-Muslim country.

According to a report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a number of Egyptian books were on sale at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest, with blatantly antisemitic themes. A number of books claim that the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was part of a larger plot instigated by Israel to destabilize Egypt and other Arab countries, and relocate the Palestinian in Gaza to Sinai. Earlier this month, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture honored novelist Sherif Shaban for “enriching Egyptian cultural life” with his novel Daughter of Zion, which revisits claims made in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The miniseries “Horseman Without a Horse,” which is based on the Protocols, has regularly aired on Egyptian television channels in recent years.

Anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli sentiments clearly run deep in Egyptian society. This state of affairs generates dissonance. Egypt’s high-ranking officials have advanced policies and made gestures that signal a warming of relations with Israel. The Egyptian people, meanwhile, are largely antagonistic toward Israel and Jews.


As long as Egypt’s leaders do not take steps to prepare their people for improved relations with Israel, this dissonance will remain. Egypt and Israel share many common interests, but Egypt will be limited in its ability to take advantage of cooperation with Israel as long as popular opinion views this cooperation as a form of betrayal. As leaders, Sisi, Shoukry and others have an obligation to fight prejudice and hatred, not just because it is the right thing to do but because it will facilitate the cooperation which Egypt so desperately needs.                                     




THE TRUTH ABOUT EGYPT’S REVOLUTION                                                                               

Oren Kessler                                                                                                            

Wall Street Journal, Oct. 21, 2016


The usual account of Egypt’s revolution goes like this: In February 2011, Hosni Mubarak resigned after 18 days of protests led by the tweeting revolutionaries of Tahrir Square, ending his nearly 30-year presidency. Then the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked the revolution, prevailing in parliamentary elections and installing one of its own as president. A year after the Brotherhood’s win, Egyptians again hit the streets, this time demonstrating against the Brotherhood. The army staged a coup to remove Mohammed Morsi, and Egypt returned to the same condition it has known for six decades: military rule.


In “Arab Fall: How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days,” Eric Trager upends this pat narrative. In his telling, the Brotherhood was a powerful, if quiet, presence from the start of the 2011 rallies. It didn’t hijack anything: The Brotherhood was, in fact, the only movement in Egypt organized and disciplined enough to challenge the old regime at the ballots. Finally, he suggests, the military’s move against Mr. Morsi was not the inevitable result of its determination to deny the Brothers their place in the political power structure. Instead, it was the Brotherhood’s own lack of vision and incompetence that drew Egypt’s largest-ever crowds to the streets demanding redress.


“Arab Fall” is based on dozens of author interviews with Brotherhood members and leaders that the author, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, conducted before, during and after the revolution. The book’s wealth of detail may challenge the lay reader, but it is indispensable not just for its account of how the Brothers failed so disastrously at governing Egypt but equally for its analysis of how Washington failed so completely to understand them.


The Muslim Brotherhood is the world’s oldest and largest Islamist organization, founded in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, a schoolteacher in Ismailia. At the time, Egypt was a nominally independent monarchy under de facto British rule, and Ismailia epitomized that reality. The city had been built on the Suez Canal by the Europe-obsessed Khedive Ismail Pasha, and it teemed with foreigners profiting from the British-controlled waterway. In Ismailia, Europe’s political, economic and scientific supremacy over the world of Islam was impossible to ignore.


This state of affairs tormented Banna. Islam, the pious teacher was convinced, offered all that its adherents needed for political, material and moral uplift. His motto—and the Brotherhood’s still today—insisted: “Islam is the solution.” Banna’s program was bottom-up. First would be the “reform of the individual.” These individuals would then foster model Muslim homes, which would collectively form a faith-based, God-fearing society—an “Islamic state,” in Banna’s words—that would eventually link up with similarly Islamized societies to restore the caliphate, the centuries-old Islamic super-state abolished by Turkey’s secularist government in 1924. The Brotherhood would be a vanguard to that end, carefully selecting only those whose commitment to its mission was absolute.


Today becoming a Brother is an arduous five-to-eight-year process of rising through highly stratified ranks. Upon achieving the last of these—akh ‘amal, or “active Brother”—the inductee declares himself a “loyal soldier,” vowing “not to dispute commands” and to expend his “efforts, money and blood in the path of God.” Christian Democrats these are not.


And yet the day before Mr. Mubarak’s resignation, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper assured a House committee that “the term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular.” The White House too seemed unaware of the kind of movement that might replace Mr. Mubarak. On Feb. 1, 2011, just a week after the protests began, President Obama declared that a change of government in Cairo “must begin now.” (By comparison, it was five months before he said the same about Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.) When Mr. Mubarak stepped aside 10 days later, a U.S. diplomat later recalled that Mr. Obama’s advisers toasted with vodka and beer.


In the months after the revolution, the Brotherhood vowed not to seek the presidency or a majority in Parliament, lest these actions scare off Egyptians wary of its Islamizing mission. Both pledges ultimately faded away. When the group’s first choice for a presidential candidate was disqualified on a technicality, the honor fell to an uncharismatic functionary: Mohammed Morsi.


If the Obama administration knew little about the Brotherhood, it knew even less about Mr. Morsi. Mr. Trager, however, had interviewed him two years before in Cairo and knew him as an enforcer of internal dissent within the Brotherhood and a devotee of Sayyid Qutb, the Brotherhood ideologue who was executed by the nationalist regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser and whose message has inspired al Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al-Awlaki. “Our program is a long-term one, not a short-term one,” Mr. Morsi told Mr. Trager. “Our goal is not to become governors. Our country should be governed . . . by Islam.” By the time of the summer 2012 elections, it was clear that the Brothers had shunted aside other opposition forces—the non-Islamist “liberals” that so enamored Western observers—who, in any case, were barely organized and enjoyed scant public support. With Mr. Morsi poised to take the election, Mr. Trager writes, U.S. officials began “beating a path to the Brotherhood’s door.” No one was more surprised by Washington’s embrace than the Brothers themselves.


Once elected in June 2012, Mr. Morsi took to governing with an ineptitude that shocked even the author. The Brotherhood, he writes, “had no real policy vision apart from stacking the Egyptian government with Muslim Brothers or like-minded officials.” To lift Egypt’s faltering economy, for example, Mr. Morsi’s government offered the “Renaissance Project,” which promised to cut inflation by half, “protect the dignity of the poor,” and double the number of families getting social security. How it would achieve these seemingly contradictory objectives was never explained. The economy thus neglected, Mr. Morsi proceeded to target the press, charging four times as many journalists with “insulting the president” in his first seven months as Mr. Mubarak had over 30 years. Then, in November 2012, Mr. Morsi made a power grab the likes of which even Mr. Mubarak hadn’t dared, placing his decrees above judicial scrutiny. Weeks later, he rushed through a constitution drafted by Brotherhood and Salafist MPs.


As dissent mounted over the following months, Mr. Morsi turned to the comfort of conspiracy theories: It was foreigners, Mubarak regime remnants or powerful business interests fomenting the unrest. Once the dissent had turned into mass rallies, bigger than anything in 2011, he dismissed them to anxious U.S. officials as inconsequential. In June 2013, when the Brotherhood equipped hundreds of its cadres with helmets, shields and sticks to “protect the revolution,” it foolishly confirmed fears of pro- and anti-Morsi mobs clashing in the streets, thereby bolstering the military’s mandate to intervene…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]


On Topic Links


Egypt Court Overturns Death Sentence for Ousted Leader Morsi: Times of Israel, Nov. 15, 2016—An Egyptian appeals court has overturned a death sentence handed down against ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi in one of four trials since his 2013 overthrow, a judicial official said.

Egypt on the Verge of Crisis?: Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, Oct. 25, 2016—All is not well in Egypt, as the government implements unpopular austerity measures to shore up its floundering economy. As average citizens feel the pinch, they are increasingly blaming President al-Sisi as calls grow for mass street protests.

Egypt Juggles Its Friendships as Russian Influence Surges: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2016 —Balancing acts are precarious by definition and, as Egypt is finding out, even a small move can have cascading consequences.

Russian-Egyptian Cooperation in the War on Terror: Dr. Shaul Shay, Israel Defense, Nov. 9, 2016— Exercise "Defenders of Friendship 2016," a joint Russian-Egyptian counter-terrorist exercise, took place in the territory of the Arab Republic of Egypt in the area between the city of Alexandria and El Alamein, on October 15-26, 2016.








The Evolution of Egypt-Israel Relations: No Longer a Terrorist Entity: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2016 — The Egyptian foreign minister brought a breath of fresh air to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict when he stated unequivocally on August 21 that Israel could not be considered a terrorist state.

The Meaning of an Olympic Snub: Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2016  — An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics.

What the Benghazi Attack Taught Me About Hillary Clinton: Gregory N. Hicks, Fox News, Sept. 11, 2016— Last month, I retired from the State Department after 25 years of public service as a Foreign Service officer.

Libya: Unified Against ISIS, Fragmented After: Rod Nordland & Nour Youssef, New York Times, Sept. 3, 2016 — Martin Kobler, the United Nations envoy to Libya, used to regularly joke that the only functioning government in Libya was the Islamic State.


On Topic Links


Not Just Sports: Mixed Sentiments in Egyptian Discourse about Israel : Omer Einav , Orit Perlov & Ofir Winter, INSS, Aug. 18, 2016

The Weakening of Wilayat Sinai: Yoram Schweitzer, INSS, Aug. 31, 2016

Hillary Clinton Forgets Benghazi, Claims ‘We Did Not Lose a Single American’ in Libya: Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, Sept. 7, 2016

Inside the Brutal But Bizarrely Bureaucratic World of the Islamic State in Libya: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2016




Zvi Mazel                                                            

Jerusalem Post, Sept. 10, 2016


The Egyptian foreign minister brought a breath of fresh air to the decades-long Arab-Israeli conflict when he stated unequivocally on August 21 that Israel could not be considered a terrorist state. This further step toward closer relations between Egypt and Israel resonated throughout the Arab world, where accusing the Jewish state of terror against the Palestinians is a basic propaganda tenet.


Sameh Shoukry, meeting high school students in his office, was asked why Israel’s actions against the Palestinians were not considered terrorism. The exchange between the students and the minister was recorded and posted by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry on its Twitter account. His answer was factual and devoid of the accusations against Israel, which are automatic in the Arab world. He is quoted as having said, “You can look at it from the perspective of a regime of force,” going on to explain that “certainly in accordance with its history it has a society in which the element of security is strong.” And then he added something startling, “From Israel’s perspective, since 1948 that society had faced many challenges that have instilled in its national security doctrine its control of land and border crossings.” In fact, said the Egyptian foreign minister, “there is no evidence showing a link between Israel and armed terrorist groups.”


This can be seen as a new way of viewing Israel and its place in the region in the face of Arab attitudes, the Islamic establishments and nationalist elites still refusing to acknowledge its legitimacy and opposing it furiously. For not only did Shoukry distance himself from qualifying Israeli activities as acts of terror, that is, illegitimate and deserving of unreserved condemnations; he mentioned the year 1948 – that is,the year of the proclamation of the State of Israel and the war of independence, both sources of the nakba or “disaster” of the Palestinians and of all Arabs – as a well-known historical fact.

And it was because of the challenges that resulted from that historical fact that Israel had to react forcibly ever since.

Shoukry’s words made headlines in Egypt – though many media outlets chose to ignore them, including those affiliated with the regime who were reluctant to deal with such potentially explosive declarations. Indeed, the following day a Foreign Ministry spokesman accused “several papers” of having distorted what had actually been said and of falsely reporting that the minister had declared that the killing of Palestinian children was not terrorism.


Furthermore, he said, those papers were guilty of incitement against the well-known views of Egypt, which has championed Palestinian rights in the past, the present, and would forever champion them. He stressed that the students had not asked specific questions concerning the killing of Palestinian children but had simply voiced a theoretical question as to why the international community did not define Israeli actions as acts of terror. The minister, the spokesman said, had replied that there was no legal international definition regarding acts committed by nations. In other words, the Foreign Ministry did not try to distance itself from what the minister had said, and simply accused the media of having distorted his words.


Taken in the context of the evolution of the relations between Egypt and Israel, Shoukry’s comments can be seen as yet another step toward closer links between the countries. It is well known that there is strong intelligence and security cooperation between Israel and Egypt based, among other considerations, on the common threat of Islamic State – Sinai Province. If it is not defeated in Egypt, it will attack Israel directly. In the past, the group has launched missiles across the border and was responsible for a cross border terrorist attack near Eilat in 2011 in which eight Israelis were killed.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly declares that he has frequent conversations with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. Such is the background of the gradual rapprochement between the two countries: Egypt has sent an ambassador to Tel Aviv and the Embassy of Israel in Cairo is open again. Sisi has also said that he is ready to help promote negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and his foreign minister recently made a visit to Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s envoys regularly travel to Cairo for high-level talks. It can be safely assumed that they include a number of subjects and not solely the Palestinian question, which is far from being Sisi’s first priority.


There can be no mistake: The Egyptian president is behind all these moves. Sisi has launched an all-out effort to develop his country and put it on the path of sustainable economic growth. Cooperation with Israel is part of this vision. Sisi is a staunch Muslim but has always shunned religious extremism. He has been remarkably moderate concerning Israel ever since he became a public figure, that is, when he was appointed minister of defense by the since ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in the mistaken belief that this pious general would help bring about the rule of the Brotherhood with a complicit army.


Sisi refrains from attacking or even condemning Israel. It was made clear from the first interviews he gave the press even before his election to the presidency. It took several questions concerning his views on the Palestinian issue before he succinctly said that there should be a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.


At the same time the Egyptian president has been pushing for toning down extremism in Islam. He has demanded that the clerics of al-Azhar Mosque undertake a reform of some of the more extreme expressions of religious dialogue. The Education Ministry has also been tasked with removing from textbooks elements or episodes encouraging religious extremism, more specifically those extolling Jihad – such as the wars of Saladin and of Akba Ben-Nafea, who conquered large territories in Africa. Also expunged were some texts disparaging the Jews, but not all. Chapters dealing with the peace agreement with Israel were expanded; the new modern history book of Egypt has a picture of Menachem Begin next to Anwar el Sadat, together with significant extracts of the peace treaty.


In spite of these encouraging developments, there are those who are steadfast in their opposition to Israel. They are mostly to be found in the old elites – the Islamic establishment and what is left of the nationalistic and pan-Arabic movements. There is still a prevalent belief among the Egyptian public that Israel is an enemy bent on harming Egypt. When Sisi decided to build a second canal alongside the Suez Canal to double its capacity and let a greater number of vessels through, a number of articles “explained” that the move was intended to spike Israel’s projected Ashdod-Eilat railway, allegedly intended to draw traffic away from the canal. When Prime Minister Netanyahu toured East African countries some weeks ago, media in Egypt “explained” that it was in order to encourage agriculture in countries situated up river on the Nile, which would then need more water thus diminishing what will be left for Egypt. When parliament member Tawfik Okasha had “the temerity” to host the Israeli ambassador for dinner, he was expelled from the parliament.


And of late an Egyptian judoka was roundly berated for agreeing to a match with an Israeli opponent – and for losing. No wonder then that the Egyptian president is proceeding cautiously. Warmer relations with Israel are of paramount importance, but he has no wish for a confrontation with elites he needs to support his economic policy, especially since at the moment it has ushered in a measure of austerity which is highly unpopular. He has apparently chosen a more circuitous route. A few months ago he announced that he wanted to help restart dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, a perfectly legitimate long-term preoccupation for Egypt, which aspires to peace in the region…                                                                       

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




THE MEANING OF AN OLYMPIC SNUB                                                                        

Bret Stephens                                                                                                      

Wall Street Journal, Aug. 15, 2016


An Israeli heavyweight judoka named Or Sasson defeated an Egyptian opponent named Islam El Shehaby Friday in a first-round match at the Rio Olympics. The Egyptian refused to shake his opponent’s extended hand, earning boos from the crowd. Mr. Sasson went on to win a bronze medal. If you want the short answer for why the Arab world is sliding into the abyss, look no further than this little incident. It did itself in chiefly through its long-abiding and all-consuming hatred of Israel, and of Jews.


That’s not a point you will find in a long article about the Arab crackup by Scott Anderson in last weekend’s New York Times Magazine, where hatred of Israel is treated like sand in Arabia—a given of the landscape. Nor is it much mentioned in the wide literature about the legacy of colonialism in the Middle East, or the oil curse, governance gap, democracy deficit, youth bulge, sectarian divide, legitimacy crisis and every other explanation for Arab decline.


Yet the fact remains that over the past 70 years the Arab world got rid of its Jews, some 900,000 people, while holding on to its hatred of them. Over time the result proved fatal: a combination of lost human capital, ruinously expensive wars, misdirected ideological obsessions, and an intellectual life perverted by conspiracy theory and the perpetual search for scapegoats. The Arab world’s problems are a problem of the Arab mind, and the name for that problem is anti-Semitism.


As a historical phenomenon, this is not unique. In a 2005 essay in Commentary, historian Paul Johnson noted that wherever anti-Semitism took hold, social and political decline almost inevitably followed. Spain expelled its Jews with the Alhambra Decree of 1492. The effect, Mr. Johnson noted, “was to deprive Spain (and its colonies) of a class already notable for the astute handling of finance.” In czarist Russia, anti-Semitic laws led to mass Jewish emigration as well as an “immense increase in administrative corruption produced by the system of restrictions.” Germany might well have won the race for an atomic bomb if Hitler hadn’t sent Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller into exile in the U.S.


These patterns were replicated in the Arab world. Contrary to myth, the cause was not the creation of the state of Israel. There were bloody anti-Jewish pogroms in Palestine in 1929, Iraq in 1941, and Lebanon in 1945. Nor is it accurate to blame Jerusalem for fueling anti-Semitism by refusing to trade land for peace. Among Egyptians, hatred of Israel barely abated after Menachem Begin relinquished the Sinai to Anwar Sadat. Among Palestinians, anti-Semitism became markedly worse during the years of the Oslo peace process. In his essay, Mr. Johnson called anti-Semitism a “highly infectious” disease capable of becoming “endemic in certain localities and societies,” and “by no means confined to weak, feeble or commonplace intellects.” Anti-Semitism may be irrational, but its potency, he noted, lies in transforming a personal and instinctive irrationalism into a political and systematic one. For the Jew-hater, every crime has the same culprit and every problem has the same solution. Anti-Semitism makes the world seem easy. In doing so, it condemns the anti-Semite to a permanent darkness.


Today there is no great university in the Arab world, no serious indigenous scientific base, a stunted literary culture. In 2015 the U.S. Patent Office reported 3,804 patents from Israel, as compared with 364 from Saudi Arabia, 56 from the United Arab Emirates, and 30 from Egypt. The mistreatment and expulsion of Jews has served as a template for the persecution and displacement of other religious minorities: Christians, Yazidis, the Baha’ i. Hatred of Israel and Jews has also deprived the Arab world of both the resources and the example of its neighbor. Israel quietly supplies water to Jordan, helping to ease the burden of Syrian refugees, and quietly provides surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to Egypt to fight ISIS in the Sinai. But this is largely unknown among Arabs, for whom the only permissible image of Israel is an Israeli soldier in riot gear, abusing a Palestinian.


Successful nations make a point of trying to learn from their neighbors. The Arab world has been taught over generations only to hate theirs. This may be starting to change. In the past five years the Arab world has been forced to face up to its own failings in ways it cannot easily blame on Israel. The change can be seen in the budding rapprochement between Jerusalem and Cairo, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which might yet yield tactical and strategic advantages on both sides, particularly against common enemies such as ISIS and Iran. That’s not enough. So long as an Arab athlete can’t pay his Israeli opposite the courtesy of a handshake, the disease of the Arab mind and the misfortunes of its world will continue. For Israel, this is a pity. For the Arabs, it’s a calamity. The hater always suffers more than the object of his hatred.





Gregory N. Hicks

 Fox News, Sept. 11, 2016


Last month, I retired from the State Department after 25 years of public service as a Foreign Service officer. As the Deputy Chief of Mission for Libya, I was the last person in Tripoli to speak with Ambassador Chris Stevens before he was murdered in the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on our Benghazi post. On this, the fourth anniversary of the Benghazi tragedy, I would like to offer a different explanation for Benghazi’s relevance to the presidential election than is usually found in the press.


Just as the Constitution makes national security the President’s highest priority, U.S. law mandates the secretary of state to develop and implement policies and programs "to provide for the security … of all United States personnel on official duty abroad.”  This includes not only the State Department employees, but also the CIA officers in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012. And the Benghazi record is clear: Secretary Clinton failed to provide adequate security for U.S. government personnel assigned to Benghazi and Tripoli.


The Benghazi Committee’s report graphically illustrates the magnitude of her failure. It states that during August 2012, the State Department reduced the number of U.S. security personnel assigned to the Embassy in Tripoli from 34 (1.5 security officers per diplomat) to 6 (1 security officer per 4.5 diplomats), despite a rapidly deteriorating security situation in both Tripoli and Benghazi. Thus, according to the Report, “there were no surplus security agents” to travel to Benghazi with Amb. Stevens “without leaving the Embassy in Tripoli at severe risk.” Had Ambassador Stevens’ July 2012 request for 13 additional American security personnel (either military or State Department) been approved rather than rejected by Clinton appointee Under Secretary of State for Management Pat Kennedy, they would have traveled to Benghazi with the ambassador, and the Sept. 11 attack might have been thwarted.


U.S. law also requires the secretary of state to ensure that all U.S. government personnel assigned to a diplomatic post abroad be located at one site. If not, the secretary — and only the secretary — with the concurrence of the agency head whose personnel will be located at a different location, must issue a waiver. The law, which states specifically that the waiver decision cannot be delegated, was passed after the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, when deficient security was blamed for that debacle under Bill Clinton's presidency.


When asked about security at Benghazi on Sept. 11, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly asserted her lack of responsibility. Initially, she said that she never read any of the reporting on security conditions or any of the requests for additional security, claiming that “she delegated security to the professionals.” More recently, she stated that “[I]t was not my ball to carry.” But the law says otherwise. Sound familiar? Her decision to allow the Benghazi consulate to be separate from the CIA annex divided scarce resources in a progressively deteriorating security environment. U.S. personnel assigned to Benghazi tried to overcome this severe disadvantage through an agreement that the security personal from each facility would rush to the other facility’s aid in the event it was attacked. The division of our security resources in Benghazi is the root cause of the “stand down” order controversy so vividly portrayed in the movie “13 Hours.”


Notably, one of the primary goals of Ambassador Stevens’ fatal visit was to begin consolidating our Benghazi personnel into one facility, which would have concentrated our security posture in Benghazi’s volatile and violent environment. There are no punitive measures for breaching these two laws. Mrs. Clinton will not have to appear before judge and jury to account for her failures. Is this why she felt these laws could be ignored? Because she is now the Democratic presidential candidate, only the American electorate will have the opportunity to hold her accountable…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Rod Nordland & Nour Youssef

New York Times, Sept. 3, 2016


Martin Kobler, the United Nations envoy to Libya, used to regularly joke that the only functioning government in Libya was the Islamic State. Unlike the country’s other three governments, it not only held territory but ran the courts, provided services to the public and ensured security — however harsh its rule. Fortunately, Mr. Kobler said recently, his joke is now out of date, with the Islamic State reduced to three neighborhoods in the coastal city of Surt, and its headquarters in the hands of militias supporting the new United Nations-backed government. “This is over now,” he said.


The problems of governing Libya, however, are far from over, particularly as its many remaining factions try to figure out what comes next at a potential second round of talks this month, presided over by the United Nations. Surt’s future will loom large in the discussions. Ever since Libya’s longtime ruler, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, was deposed and killed in Surt in 2011, the country has been divided by tribal and militia rivalries. With a population slightly larger than that of Miami, Libya has no clear central government and scant possibility of exploiting its enormous oil reserves, the ninth largest in the world. That a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli was able to dispatch a militia force to subdue the Islamic State in Surt was the first piece of good governance news in five years of vicious internecine fighting.


But even victory in Surt remains worrisome. First of all, the militias have to finish clearing out remnants of the Islamic State from the three city neighborhoods. The militias are reported to be close to accomplishing that, which will then raise the question of what they will do next. They are from Misurata, a coastal city seen as a rival of Surt. While they were nominally doing the bidding of the new, United Nations-backed Government of National Accord, or G.N.A., it is not at all clear that they will continue to accept its authority. Then there are Libya’s other factions. The government in the eastern city of Bayda, with its Parliament in Tobruk, once enjoyed international support but now relies mostly on Egypt and some Persian Gulf allies. It is also suspicious of the intentions of the Misuratans, and angry about United Nations backing of the G.N.A.


The country’s most powerful military leader, Gen. Khalifa Hifter, based in Benghazi, has almost entirely cleared that city, the east’s biggest, of the Islamic extremists who once held sway there. But he, too, is deeply suspicious of the Misurata militias, because they are dominated by Islamists. While General Hifter has been named the Libyan National Army commander, politically he operates independently. That is true as well of the third faction claiming to rule Libya, a Tripoli-based Islamist militia grouping that has a Parliament separate from that of the G.N.A.


“The government has to implement state authority over who dominates this area,” Mr. Kobler said. That the Misurata militias were acting on behalf of the G.N.A. when they ousted the Islamic State from Surt was a very positive sign, he said. “It shows the strength of the G.N.A.,” he added. “The other two governments do not exist. A government should provide security, basic services. That is not the case from those two governments.” It is important as well, he said, that an international consensus is building to support the G.N.A., with the Arab League and the African Union calling on their members not to back other factions’ claims to legitimacy; the success in Surt bolstered that consensus. The same consensus does not seem to exist in many parts of Libya. The government based in Bayda has denounced the G.N.A. In Benghazi, General Hifter has boycotted the meetings that the United Nations has convened to bring all of the factions together, and he is by far the strongest military player. When Surt finally falls, said Ahmed el-Mesmari, the spokesman for the Libyan military in the east, the militias there will abandon the new Tripoli government.


“We don’t think anyone can control these forces,” Mr. Mesmari said. “They are anarchists and extremists. They are closer to Qaeda than they are to anyone else. They would be very hard to tame.”…


[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic Links


Not Just Sports: Mixed Sentiments in Egyptian Discourse about Israel : Omer Einav , Orit Perlov & Ofir Winter, INSS, Aug. 18, 2016—The match on the judo mat between Israeli Ori Sasson and Egyptian Islam el-Shehaby in the 2016 Olympic Games went beyond sports.

The Weakening of Wilayat Sinai: Yoram Schweitzer, INSS, Aug. 31, 2016—Wilayat Sinai, an organization identified with the Islamic State, has recently suffered a series of serious blows from the Egyptian army.

Hillary Clinton Forgets Benghazi, Claims ‘We Did Not Lose a Single American’ in Libya: Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, Sept. 7, 2016 —Glossing over the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi that claimed the lives of four U.S. diplomats, Hillary Clinton on Wednesday night claimed that “we did not lose a single American” due to military intervention in Libya. Speaking at a veterans’ forum hosted by NBC News, the former secretary of state said she stands by the 2011 decision to take action in Libya and that America suffered no casualties.

Inside the Brutal But Bizarrely Bureaucratic World of the Islamic State in Libya: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Aug. 23, 2016—When the Islamic State’s religious police arrived at his door, Ahmooda Abu Amood feared he would never see his family again. The two militants drove up in a beige sport-utility vehicle, Abu Amood said, the kind used to transport anyone who broke the rules to an office to pay a fine, to get a whipping — or to jail.











Between Alliance and Rivalry: Egyptian-Israeli Relations Remain Solid, If Not Particularly Warm: Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Rubin Center, Feb. 16, 2016— The ill-advised declaration on February 6 by Infrastructure and Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz that Egypt had flooded some of Hamas’s Gazan smuggling tunnels at Israel’s request brought attention to an important development…

Three's Company: Israel, Turkey, and Egypt: Yossi Melman, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016— Last month, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, held a secret meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart, the director of Egyptian Intelligence, Maj.-Gen.Khaled Fawzy.

Hamas Is Fracturing, And Israel Should Be Worried: Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Feb. 25, 2016 — The al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called “armed wing” of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, is reeling from the recent execution of former official Mahmoud Ishtiwi at the hands of his fellow fighters.

No Hope for Gazans: Alex Fishman, Ynet, Feb. 23, 2016— Just like every year, the IDF is getting ready for another violent round of conflict in Gaza this summer.


On Topic Links


Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Gives Rare Egyptian Interview: Roee Kais & Itamar Eichner, Ynet, Feb. 24, 2016

Hamas Dances with the Devil: Paul Alster, IPT, Feb. 19, 2016

In Historical Shift, New Egyptian Textbooks to Include Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty: Breaking Israel News, Feb. 18, 2016

Egypt's "Security Threat": Churches: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 15, 2016




Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Rubin Center, Feb. 16, 2016


The ill-advised declaration on February 6 by Infrastructure and Energy Minister Yuval Steinetz that Egypt had flooded some of Hamas’s Gazan smuggling tunnels at Israel’s request brought attention to an important development: Israeli-Egyptian relations have over the last two years reached an unprecedented level of mutual understanding and cooperation, primarily on security issues.


To that end, Israel has allowed Egypt to introduce larger number of troops and heavy weapons into Sinai than allowed for in their peace treaty and Egyptian F-16s and Apache helicopters now operate against jihadi insurgents within sight of the Israeli border. The two countries are also likeminded regarding what they both view as the negative behavior of Hamas, the unwelcome efforts of Turkey to play a bigger regional role, and Iran’s power projection in the region.


Egypt’s approach to relations with Israel is two-pronged and contradictory. It is guided by a) strategic, political and economic interests and b) Egypt’s self-perception and view of “the other,” as understood by various domestic actors. It is this latter category that places fundamental limitations on the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, in addition to the continuing differences over the unsolved Palestinian-Israeli issue.


First, the half, or 3/4 full glass: The continued absence of war and extremely low likelihood of war for the foreseeable future. Egyptian military, political and economic elites have long understood that war was not in Egypt’s interest, while peace opened the door to vital American, and other Western aid and investment.


Following the gradual ascent to power of the Muslim Brotherhood following Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, Israel’s worst fears – the return of a hostile Egypt ‒ seemed on the verge of being realized. But for Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of the Brotherhood, it was a false dawn. The Sisi regime, in power since July 2013, has taken off the gloves, accusing Hamas of providing vital support to Islamist militants who are drawing the blood of Egyptian security forces in Sinai.


On the diplomatic level, the improved Egyptian-Israeli relationship is reflected in the fact that both countries are now again represented by ambassadors after a hiatus of some years.


Economically, on the other hand, the level of trade and investment remains low, and the whole issue of newly discovered natural gas fields in both countries suggests that they will be more competitive than cooperative on this matter in the future. On cultural and ideological levels, the dominant view among Egypt’s political classes has long been one that views Israel as an aggressive geopolitical rival and competitor. “Normalization” (“tatbi”) in the social and cultural realms remains a taboo for most Egyptians.


A recent study by Esther Webman of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies highlights another fundamental obstacle to warmer Egyptian-Israeli relations. The image of the Jew as villain, she demonstrates, has been adopted by competing political and religious factions in Egypt and other Arab countries in order to explain the changing circumstances and catastrophes that have befallen Arab societies, particularly in the wake of the Arab Spring.


Examples from Egypt abound: During the Tahrir Square protests of 2011, anti-Mubarak signs included the drawing of a Star of David on the forehead of president Mubarak. Muslim Brotherhood journalists protesting Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup in 2013 declared Sisi to be Jewish and that Egypt was now under Zionist occupation. Similar rhetoric has been directed against the Muslim Brotherhood by the pro-Sisi camp, which has created elaborate anti-Semitic conspiracy theories regarding the Brotherhood. They range from the claim that both parents of its founder, Hasan al-Banna were Moroccan Jews and Freemasons, to the Brotherhood’s supposed adoption of the plans of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” to undermine Egyptian society.


Overall, the gap between Egypt’s self-image and its capabilities is yawning. Israel’s success holds up a mirror to Egypt’s regional and domestic weaknesses, reinforcing long extant tendencies to view Israel in a negative light. Hence, the prospects for long-term improvement in Egyptian-Israeli relations will continue to be inhibited by socio-cultural and political-ideological factors that touch on the fundamental core identity and self-image of the Egyptian polity, even as the two countries quietly deepen cooperation in the security and intelligence-sharing areas. And, of course, peace between Egypt and Israel remains a comforting constant in the turbulent Middle East.                 



Yossi Melman               

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 5, 2016


Last month, the director of the CIA, John Brennan, held a secret meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his counterpart, the director of Egyptian Intelligence, Maj.-Gen.Khaled Fawzy. During the meeting, Brennan promised to increase CIA aid to Egypt to bolster its struggle against Islamic State terrorist activity in Sinai.


Brennan’s visit is yet another indicator that the US administration is making an effort to improve relations with Cairo following a few cool years that were the result of President Barack Obama’s opposition to Sisi’s ouster two years ago of president Mohamed Morsi, who, sponsored by the Muslim Brotherhood, was chosen in free and democratic elections.


The Paris-based website Intelligence Online recently reported that, up until now, the Egyptian military has mainly relied on support from Israel and France: France, by supplying Egypt with satellite images; and Israel, with intercepts. The most important signals intelligence body in IDF Military Intelligence is Unit 8200. The Shin Bet and the Mossad also have units that specialize in eavesdropping and the deciphering of information. The Shin Bet also has a special unit that for a number of years has been actively involved in the prevention of terrorism originating in Sinai.


Shin Bet head Yoram Cohen’s fiveyear term is scheduled to end in just three months’ time and it’s not clear yet whether his term will be extended for another year, as is permitted by law. Cohen is a familiar figure in the Egyptian intelligence community, as he visited Cairo a number of times during and after Operation Protective Edge to discuss activity related to Hamas and Gaza.


According to the division of labor of the three branches of Israeli intelligence, the Mossad is responsible for contacts with counterpart intelligence organizations. In the past, there were numerous reports in the media about meetings between Mossad leaders and their Egyptian counterparts, and visits from both sides in both countries were common events. Gen. Omar Suleiman, for example, was known to have visited Israel.


It’s no secret that since Sisi came into power, Egypt and Israel have been coordinating on an extraordinarily high level regarding security issues. As part of the two countries’ joint struggle against Hamas and Islamic State, Israel has allowed Egypt to bring many more troops into the Sinai Peninsula than is stipulated in the peace agreement they signed together in 1979. Egypt and Israel are keen on this cooperation, due to their shared fear of Iran’s increasing strength and its attempts to destabilize Sunni regimes in the Middle East, both directly, through its intelligence agents, and indirectly, through Hezbollah. In the past, Egyptian security services captured a number of Iranian and Hezbollah terrorist networks.


Nonetheless, this intimate relationship is not just a strategic asset but also an obstacle, as it makes it difficult for Israel to progress in its efforts to reach a settlement with Gaza and to improve its relationship with Turkey. It’s in Israel’s best interests to ease the plight of the residents of the Gaza Strip, and to put an end to the siege (or their sense of siege). The people of Gaza are currently receiving most of their supplies and goods from Israel. Every day, about 800 trucks pass through the border crossings. But the border is effectively closed to the movement of people, except for humanitarian reasons, such as for medical treatment; religious reasons, such as for Christians on Christmas, or Muslims going on pilgrimage to Mecca, or students going to study at universities.


The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt is closed almost all year round. In all of 2015, the Rafah crossing was open to people for a total of less than 30 (nonconsecutive) days. What this means is that the people responsible for restricting Gazans and who are imposing a tight siege on Gaza are actually the Egyptians, not the Israelis.


But this fact has not made things easier for the Israeli authorities. The Israelis’ concern is that in the end, this sense of suffocation will become so great that, against its will, Hamas (Ismail Haniyeh, the vice chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, said this week that his organization has no desire for conflict with Israel) will fire rockets or carry out some other act of terrorism, such as an offensive using the tunnels they’ve been digging under Israeli territory.


The IDF leadership is of the opinion that Hamas does not want to engage in a war against Israel, and that it fears Israel’s strength, which is acting as a deterrence. This, however, is not preventing Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities and digging tunnels, some of which apparently have come very close to, or possibly even infiltrated, Israeli territory. Hamas is building outposts along the border and producing longer-range rockets with enhanced precision.


What the upper echelons at the IDF fear is that, in the face of this deterrence, and despite the Hamas leadership’s (political and military, local and international) desire to avoid another conflict with Israel, one small incident could create a spark that would ignite the whole area, and then the situation might escalate into a full-fledged war in 2016…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



                   Jonathan Schanzer                                                       

Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Feb. 25, 2016


The al-Qassam Brigades, the so-called “armed wing” of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, is reeling from the recent execution of former official Mahmoud Ishtiwi at the hands of his fellow fighters. Several members of the Hamas fighting force resigned in protest, arguing that Ishtiwi was killed because of internal arguments within Hamas rather than immoral behavior, as was first reported. The schism has produced a new breakaway faction—the Free Qassam Members (al-Qassamiyoun al-Ahrar) which is openly speaking out against the al-Qassam Brigades leadership and calling for an investigation.


The schism amongst Hamas fighters comes at a difficult time for the group. Leaders from the group’s Politburo, its main policy-making body, are also squabbling. It doesn’t help that these figures are scattered across the Middle East, in places like Turkey, Qatar, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and beyond. The exile stems from Hamas’s fallout with Iran and Syria in 2012 over the slaughter in Syria. Hamas had been operating out of Damascus since the 1990s, but elected to leave after President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, with Iranian assistance, began its mass slaughter of Syrian Sunnis and Palestinians in Syrian refugee camps. The rupture not only forced Hamas to relinquish its Syrian headquarters; it also led to a cutoff in Iranian funding.


Yet, not all Hamas members have accepted the divorce with Iran as final. Tehran has continued to provide the al-Qassam Brigades in Gaza with rocket technology to wage war with Israel, and possibly weapons for the group’s underground operatives in the West Bank. Last week, Hamas sent a high-level delegation to Iran to celebrate the Islamic Republic’s 37th anniversary. The delegation included Osama Hamdan, the group’s Lebanon–based head of international relations, Khalid al-Qaddumi, the permanent Hamas representative to Iran, and Politburo member Mohammed Nasser. Their very presence suggests that Iran could yet again gain vast influence over the Palestinian militant group, particularly its armed wing.


But Hamdan and company don’t lead the Hamas Politburo. That distinction goes to Khaled Meshaal, who has been operating out of Qatar since his exile from Syria. Qatar has become a key funder for the group in recent years. The former emir, Sheikh Hamad, was the first world leader to visit the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where he pledged $400 million in 2012. Qatari aid continues to flow today, including through channels approved by Israel to contribute to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after the devastating war with Israel in 2014.


Qatar’s assistance, while crucial to the survival of Hamas, is not without its controversies. The Free Qassam Members, who have pledged their allegiance to Meshaal, claim that Ishtiwi’s executioners targeted him for contacting Hamas leaders abroad. This seems to suggest a growing and open rift between the military and political wings of the movement.


Hamas’s various leaders and factions, at the very least, are having trouble communicating. This was made clear with the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June 2014. That attack was planned and financed by a Hamas leader, Saleh Arouri, in yet another center of gravity for the group—Turkey. It is questionable whether Arouri conferred with his Hamas colleagues before ordering the operation. If he did, his colleagues somehow didn’t foresee that the attack could lead to a brutal war. And brutal it was, lasting 50 days, with Israel responding to Hamas’s nearly 5,000 rocket attacks with punishing reprisals.


The summer 2014 war was one from which the Gaza Strip has yet to recover. Nearly two years later, the Hamas government is under fire from its own constituents for failing to rebuild. The Hamas government has grown cautious—amid the current wave of stabbings and attacks in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip remains uncharacteristically quiet.


True, Hamas exhorts its followers in the West Bank to strike Israelis, but the group is cheering for a war it won’t have to fight. And yes, the al-Qassam Brigades are believed to be digging underground commando tunnels for the next war. But Israel’s leaders have signaled, knowingly or not, that this activity is unlikely to prompt a full-blown conflict.


Thus, while its founding charter has not changed, Hamas appears to be lacking direction. Its military wing and a gaggle of political leaders in exile are locked in a competition. Add to that the public frustration with the Gaza-based government leadership, and it’s hard to pinpoint which faction or which leader is actually steering the organization.


One could argue that this is a positive development for Israel, or even for the overall security of the Middle East. To be sure, a fractured Hamas is a weakened one. But a fractured terrorist organization can also be more unpredictable. Hamas lacks command and control. A single faction could launch a war that the rest of the organization does not want—and one that Israel or Western intelligence might be less likely to predict.




                 Alex Fishman     

                                                          Ynet, Feb. 23, 2016


Just like every year, the IDF is getting ready for another violent round of conflict in Gaza this summer. The IDF chief of staff has created a deadline for the IDF to be prepared, focusing on equipment updates and training. No one knows the timing or what will be the direct cause of the next flare up, but it is clear that this near-yearly ritual illustrates the inescapable reality. Yet, this is not only the Israeli mindset.


The residents of Gaza who have left the Strip and spoken to Israelis reveal that this fatalistic mindset is also on the other side. In their opinion, a military confrontation is a certainty. They also believe that it will be a lot more aggressive, that Israel is sick of playing these games with Hamas, and that Israel will do everything to eliminate the organization. Meanwhile, Hamas is planning to surprise Israel with its firepower, and will hit Israel's civilian population in order to break both the status-quo and the blockade. When the two populations are convinced that a flare up will happen, the leadership will not fail to disappoint.


But it seems that the next round being cooked up may surprise the leadership since they will not be in control of the events. It is likely that the confrontation won't start because of some mistake, provocation, or some sort of planned military action based on political logic. There is a high probability that the timing and the intensity of the confrontation will be determined by the Gazan population, which will blow up in Hamas's face, and will spillover onto Israel, the West Bank, and even into Egypt.

Gaza has turned into a human transit camp which every day tests the limits of its population. In Israel, we often see the infrastructure crisis in Gaza – electricity and water shortages, and broken sewage systems. But that only scratches the surface: Gazan society has started to disintegrate.


The number of suicides has reached unprecedented levels. The number of instances of murder within the family has grown: for instance, there is a phenomenon whereby women are stabbing their unemployed husbands. Every third person is on anti-depressants. There has been an increase in drug use and the overall scope of crime has increased, mainly prostitution, as well as the phenomenon of teenagers marrying much older men who are able to support them as a second or third wife. On the other hand, there is no money, young people aren't getting married, and the average age of marriage is rising.


The Palestinian Authority, which is responsible for transfering aid money to the Strip, is not transfering funds for health or education in an organized fashion. In Gaza, there is no proper psychological treatment. There is a rise in the number of children born with deformities – deformities linked with incestual marriages. Due to the current world wide refugee crisis, UNWRA is receiving less money, and fewer families are able to keep their heads above water.


On top of all of this is the constant fear of Israeli airstrikes. For the Gazans, there is no sanctuary – they have nowhere to run, and they have no influence over events. They are mad that Hamas has built for themselves what amount to underground cities, while they are left without bomb shelters.


Young people who are caught trying to cross the fence into Israel say they do it because there is no food at home, or because they are escaping violence in the family. 50 percent of the youth in Gaza have said in different surveys that they want to leave Gaza forever. The IDF is keenly aware of the phenomenon: students who obtain entry permits into Israel through Erez crossing kiss the ground when they leave the Strip. For them, they are free from jail. The ethos of return has been broken – let them leave.


Until the middle of 2015, families who could afford it got themselves smuggled out through the tunnels into Egypt or Libya, and from there take a boat to Europe. Hundreds of Palestinians drowned along the way. The Egyptians succeeded in destroying most of the tunnels, and the route has been cut off.


Now, the number of people falsifying documents "proving" they are sick has grown, and these people are being taken from Gaza to the West Bank for "treatment," but never return. Several people in Gaza have already set themselves on fire in protest. In Tunis, this action led to the "Arab Spring." Gaza is also starting flare up. While it is true that the population is religious, traditional, and more willing to accept its fate, the pot is still about to boil over. When the human time-bomb explodes, there will be no warning, and the shrapnel will hit us all.



On Topic


Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Gives Rare Egyptian Interview: Roee Kais & Itamar Eichner, Ynet, Feb. 24, 2016 —Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Haim Koren gave a rare interview to Egyptian journalists in his residence in Cairo on Tuesday, and surprisingly, the transcript of the interview was published, and what's more, the journalists were not afraid to expose the fact that they had spoken to the representative from Israel.

Hamas Dances with the Devil: Paul Alster, IPT, Feb. 19, 2016 —The Gaza-based Hamas terror organization has more than its fair share of problems at the moment. Quite likely against its better judgment, it is becoming increasingly reliant on a controversial and dangerous relationship with Sinai Province, the vicious ISIS affiliate in Sinai.

In Historical Shift, New Egyptian Textbooks to Include Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty: Breaking Israel News, Feb. 18, 2016—A history textbook to be used in Egyptian schools will discuss the country’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel for the first time, Israel’s Army Radio reported.

Egypt's "Security Threat": Churches: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 15, 2016—On February 1, Tharwat Bukhit, a Coptic Christian member of Egypt's parliament, announced "there are approximately 50 churches in Egypt closed for reasons of security."













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Egyptian Historian: Drop the Palestinians, Normalize With Israel: Ari Soffer, Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015— A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel."

Egypt's Religious Freedom Farce: Oren Kessler, National Interest, May 21, 2015 — President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer.

Egyptian Bishop: Security Services Complicit in Anti-Christian Violence: Raymond Ibrahim, Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015 — In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack.

The Last Seven Jews in Egypt: Mina Thabet, Real Clear World, May 15, 2015 — Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish.


On Topic Links


Israel and Egypt Grow Closer, but Anti-Semitism Remains Part of the Equation: Sean Savage, JNS, June 8, 2015

Egypt Dismisses Human Rights Report as Politicized, Biased: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015

Why I Am Suing Al Jazeera: An Open Letter From Mohamed Fahmy: Egyptian Streets, June 3, 2015

Turkey: Muslim Brothers' Protector: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 9, 2015





Ari Soffer                                                                                                            

Arutz Sheva, June 1, 2015


A prominent Egyptian historian took to national television last week to make an unusually open and robust case for Egypt to "drop the Palestinian cause and normalize relations with Israel." In a lengthy interview with Egypt's Mehwar TV on May 28 – segments of which were translated by MEMRI – historian Maged Farag insisted it was time for Egyptians to leave "the old ideology and cultural heritage on which we were raised" – namely, rabid anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism – in favor of a more rational focus on Egypt's own national interests.


"What I'm saying is that we should pay attention to the interests of our country," he told his interviewer. "There are no such things as eternal enmity or eternal love. There are only eternal interests. We should identify our country's interest. Churchill once said that he was ready to cooperate with the Devil in the interest of his country. As a man who knows a little bit about history and about international relations, I believe that it is in our interest to maintain normal relations with Israel."


Noting that in practice there already is close cooperation on security, political and other issues between the two countries' respective governments, Farag asserted: "The state is not the problem. The problem lies with the people, who still live the old ideology and the cultural heritage on which we were raised. Our generation was raised upon hatred and upon these people being barbaric…" Indeed, despite Israel and Egypt successfully maintaining an official peace treaty since 1979, popular sentiment inside Egypt is still largely – though not exclusively – anti-Israel. Anti-Semitism is also rife in the country, which is the most populous Arab state in the world.  Egypt was home to around 80,000 Jews in 1948, but expelled most of them and seized their property as part of a wider campaign of ethnic-cleansing carried out by Arab states in "revenge" for the defeat of Arab armies by the nascent State of Israel in 1948.


Key to that outdated mentality was Egypt's continued support for the "Palestinian cause," Farag posited. Since Egypt had achieved a just peace with the State of Israel, there was no rational or logical reason for it to maintain any hostility towards the Jewish state, he said – particularly when the Palestinians themselves "have no interest" in actually ending the conflict, short of annihilating Israel altogether. "For over 70 years, the Palestinian cause has brought upon Egypt and the Egyptians nothing but harm, destruction, and expense. We have been preoccupied all our lives with the Palestinian cause. "The Palestinian cause is Palestinian," he continued. "Egypt's problem has been resolved."


Referring to the Sinai Peninsula – which Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War, and handed over to Egypt as part of their 1979 peace treaty – he added: "The occupied land has been liberated. End of story, as far as I'm concerned. Let us now live and care about the interests of my country." "Am I supposed to shackle myself to the Palestinian cause? Let the (Palestinians) resolve it… We have tried to help them many times." "They don't think it is in their interest," he said of the Palestinians themselves. "They don't want to resolve their own problem."


Farag also brushed off criticism of a recent visit he paid to Israel, during which he posted pictures of himself at famous Muslim, Christian and Jewish sites, as well as other Israeli attractions. He retorted that he was "not afraid" of openly visiting a neighboring country, and noted that many other Egyptians work and have relations with Israel and Israelis, but simply don't admit to it. "I still don't understand what the big deal is. I met many Egyptians there, and many Egyptians have visited Israel. I don't understand why my visit there made people so angry," he said.


Farag also busted a common Egyptian myth that a large sign exists outside of Israel's Knesset declaring the country's attempt to expand "from the Nile to the Euphrates." "This is not true. There is no such thing," he informed viewers. "We all know that this is not true, but people keep saying this to heat up the hostility."


His vision for Israeli-Egyptian relations is one of total cooperation – citing by way of example the relationship between Germany and France, who until the latter half of the twentieth century had been at war on and off for hundreds of years. "Normal relations require, first of all, cultural exchange," he explained. "I must not fear the other. So long as I fear the other, nothing good can develop. We should not fear (Israel). We should visit there. There should be tourist exchange, and economic exchange. There are Israeli companies that specialize in modern drip irrigation. They have very advanced irrigation technology. We have a water problem. We have a shortage of water. Why can't we take advantage of their technology, of their thought, and of the results of their research?”


"They used this technology to cultivate the desert, so why can't we use it here? Why can't I benefit from someone who used to be my enemy? I'm not looking to force him to become my friend. I want him as a partner in developing agriculture and industry in Egypt." Challenged by his interviewer as to how Egyptian schools should teach about the numerous wars between Israel and Egypt, he stated simply: "We should teach that there were wars in '48, '56, '67, and '73, and that these wars came to an end, that we signed a peace treaty, and we should set our eyes on the future. That's it.  Israel exists, whether we like it or not, and it will continue to exist, whether we like it or not. So let's just accept this."                                        






Oren Kessler                                                                                                                                  

National Interest, May 21, 2015


President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt presents himself as an Islamic reformer. He has challenged the sheikhs of Al-Azhar University—Sunni Islam’s preeminent religious institution—to promote moderation, and took the bold step (by Egyptian standards) of wishing worshippers a merry Christmas in Cairo’s Coptic cathedral. The moves are commendable, but do little to alter an unfortunate reality: while Egypt’s penal code prohibits “insulting heavenly religions or those following it,” the law is enforced for just one faith: Sunni Islam.


Egypt takes religion seriously. By law, Egyptians are only allowed to practice one of the three recognized monotheistic religions: Islam (implicitly Sunni Islam—the faith of the overwhelming majority), Christianity (representing some ten percent of the population) and Judaism (today, Egypt has exactly seven Jews, down from 75,000 in 1947). Still, Egyptians may only practice the creed they’re born into—the government does not recognize Muslim conversions to Christianity, and conversion from either faith to Judaism is nonexistent—unless the target faith is Islam.


The latest annual report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, issued earlier this month, found that while the majority of Egypt’s blasphemy charges were levied against members of the Sunni majority, the bulk of prison sentences were doled out to Christians, followed by Shiite Muslims and atheists.


In June 2014, shortly after Sisi’s election, a court in Luxor sentenced four Christians to up to six years in prison for posting photos to Facebook deemed insulting to Islam. The same month, a journalist (a Muslim who had begun practicing Christianity in an unrecognized conversion) was given five years in jail for supposedly offending Islam by reporting on anti-Christian violence in Upper Egypt (some of the charges were later dropped, but he remains imprisoned). The punishments for these alleged verbal slights against Islam come as mob attacks against Coptic churches regularly go unpunished.


Meanwhile, slander of the Jewish faith and its adherents is a fixture of contemporary Egyptian life. Anecdotal and statistical evidence puts Egypt in the running for the world’s most anti-Semitic nation: with 98 percent of the public expressing unfavorable opinions of Jews, it exceeds even the accomplished records of its Arab neighbors. The story of Egyptian Judeophobia is a long one, but today, Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion are mainstays of Cairo book kiosks, and foreign journalists are beaten and sexually assaulted on imaginary charges of being Jewish. Mainstream, otherwise liberal actors appear in grotesque Judeophobic entertainment, and Sisi’s election nearly a year ago has done nothing to slow the flow of anti-Jewish calumnies on public and private television.


Jews and Christians, however, at least enjoy the nominal right to live according to their beliefs. Woe to anyone who follows neither of the three state-approved faiths: atheism remains grounds for ostracism, and members of Egypt’s Shia community are treated like lepers. Late last year, the Religious Endowments Ministry launched a campaign to warn imams of the “growing threat” of the Baha’i creed, lest citizens fall prey to “deviant thoughts that destroy the minds of young people.” Baha'is—at most a few thousands out of the country’s 82 million people—“threaten Islam specifically and Egyptian society in general,” the ministry said, which last month expanded the campaign to counter atheism and Shia Islam.


Egypt is, by any measure, a conservative country. A comprehensive Pew poll conducted in 2013 found three-quarters of the country’s Muslims want to live under sharia, while an earlier survey found eight in ten endorse stoning adulterers and maiming thieves. Nearly nine in ten favor the death penalty for apostasy from Islam. Views among Christians, while less austere, are also less than liberal. Marriage is only through the Church, while divorce requires permission from the Coptic Pope and is exceedingly rare. Even when granted, divorced parties are almost always prevented from remarrying.


Egypt’s Sunni Muslims need not worry—the country’s demographics ensure their faith will forever exert a stronger cultural pull than any other. Still, it’s bad enough that Egypt gives its citizens three religions to choose from. A government claiming to uphold religious diversity must do more to protect those choosing the unpopular creed or none at all. One of best gauges of a country’s freedom is the security the majority affords minorities. For Sisi’s Egypt to credibly claim the mantle of religious pluralism, it must extend that protection equally.                





SECURITY SERVICES COMPLICIT IN ANTI-CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE                                                 

Raymond Ibrahim

Coptic Solidarity, May 4, 2015


In a 25-minute interview on Arabic satellite TV with Dr. Mona Roman, Coptic Christian Bishop Agathon fully exposed the plight of his Christian flock in Minya, Egypt—a region that has a large Coptic minority that is steadily under attack. While several important points were made, most notable was that the Egyptian State itself is often behind the persecution of and discrimination against Christians.


According to the frustrated-sounding bishop, local governmental authorities—including the State Security apparatus—are not just ignoring the attacks on Copts, but are often the very ones behind them. For example, when the Copts were having a serious council meeting with government officials about the possibility of building a church, one of the authorities actually contacted the Islamic sheikhs of the village asking whether they "stand with the Coptic church or with the State?" If the latter, each Muslim household was instructed to send one family member to protest against the proposed building of a church—so that security can then point to the mob and, as usual, just tell the Copts, "Sorry, no can do."


Other times, State Security is complicit: Male and female Christian minors—currently 21 from just Minya alone said the Coptic leader—are habitually abducted by surrounding Muslims. At the moment, the youngest Christian girl abducted had just started elementary school. Whenever any of these attacks occur, Copts, working with the church, prepare bundles of documents, including photos and other verifications, incriminating the culprits. These then are placed into the hands of top officials, to make sure they don't get "lost" or "misplaced" by underlings. The bishop named many of these top people—at no small risk to himself—and said he even put such proofs and documents into the hands of the Director of Intelligence himself. "Absolutely nothing was done," said the despondent Christian.


He discussed the difficulties that Copts encounter whenever they want to build a church—due to their dearth, some of the current churches serve tens of thousands of Christians—or even make simple repairs. By way of example, he explained how the Virgin Mary Church in Safaniya village has no bathrooms or running water. Christians "tried time and time again to get approval to build bathrooms, to no avail." The bishop lamented how elderly and sick people sometimes urinate on themselves during service, while mothers must change their crying babies' diapers right on the pews. In response, authorities told the bishop to "Go and ask the Muslims of your region if they will approve the building of a church, or bathroom, or anything—and if they do, so will we."


It should be noted that Islamic law specifically bans the construction or repair of churches. Clearly frustrated, the bishop added: "We as Copts are human beings. And envy takes us when we see our Muslim brothers build mosques where they will, how they will, at any place and at any time. And the State helps them! But as for us, we cannot build anything and that which is already open is being closed…. We, the Copts, are citizens with rights; and we see Muslims get whatever they want, while we are always prevented."


The Coptic bishop also said that sometimes Christians are punished whenever they go and "bother" authorities about their treatment. For example, when a Coptic delegation went to make a formal complaint, one of them was immediately kidnapped. His kidnappers demanded and received 120,000 Egyptian pounds for his release. Police were notified—even told where the exchange of money for hostage was to take place—but did absolutely nothing. The bishop referred to this incident as a "punishment" while Dr. Roman, the Coptic hostess, called Minya, Egypt a "State of Retribution" against those Copts who dare refuse to suffer quietly," adding, "Al-Minya is apparently not an Egyptian province; it is governed by ISIS."


Finally, Bishop Agathon made clear the despondency he and the average Christian in Egypt feel, repeatedly saying that, no matter which official they talk to, "nothing will change." If anything, the plight of Egypt's Christians has gone "from bad to worse," said the bishop: "We hear beautiful words but no solution." Dr. Roman concluded by imploring Egyptian President Sisi, saying: "I've said it before: President Sisi is very meticulous and aware of the nation's issues. Why, then, is it that the Coptic plight in Minya is being ignored? Why is he turning a blind eye toward it?" Bishop Agathon concluded by saying that "Copts are between a state anvil and aggressor hammers," meaning that, the state serves only to keep its Christian citizens in place while Islamic radicals pound away at them.                                  




THE LAST SEVEN JEWS IN EGYPT                                                                                         

Mina Thabet                                              

Real Clear World, May 15, 2015


Egyptian Jews are having to face the ugly truth that their community appears bound to vanish. As recently as 1947, Egypt's Jewish community numbered up to 80,000. Today, by most accounts, there are just seven Egyptian Jews left, most of whom are elderly women in need of daily medical care. The last time I met Nadia Haroun, one of the last survivors of Egypt's Jewish community, was in November 2013. I remember that day because I met her at the same time as her older sister Magda, the community's leader.

Jews represent the oldest religious community in Egypt, which has faced a wave of propaganda, defamation and hate speech over the years. That legacy is still felt today through stereotypes and slurs that persist in everyday language. I was criticized for writing an article in Arabic entitled, "We are sorry, Jews." Some wondered how a Christian could defend Jews, who some blame for taking part in the crucifixion of Jesus. Ironically, many of those critics are Muslims extremists, some of whom themselves discriminate against Christians.


Unfortunately, Egyptian history is full of violations of the essential rights of minorities and vulnerable groups. On Nov. 2, 1945, anti-British, anti-Zionist (and anti-Jewish) demonstrations took place in Cairo on the occasion of the 28th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. A synagogue was burned down, 27 Torah scrolls were desecrated, and among the buildings damaged or destroyed were a soup kitchen, a home for the elderly, a shelter for poor transients, the Jewish hospital, the quarters of the Art Society and several Jewish public buildings.


After the 1948 war, a hostile environment against Jews worsened, as they were suspected of acting as a "fifth column" for Israel. After the 1952 coup, Jews were subject to detention, deportation and sequestration. In the mid-1950s, then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser initiated his policy of nationalization, which had a devastating impact on the Jewish community, as it controlled a broad sector of the Egyptian economy. American diplomats noted that sequestration decisions were filed against 539 Jews by name and 105 companies, in addition to Jews covered in the sequential orders filed against British and French nationals.


In November 1956, the regime modified its citizenship and nationality laws in order to keep Jews and other minorities from becoming Egyptian citizens. The situation became more complicated at the end of November, when at least 500 Egyptian and stateless Jews had been expelled from Egypt, not including a considerable number of Jewish citizens from Britain and France. Most of the them were heads of families, and they were ordered to leave the country within days. In most cases, the individual served with a deportation order was responsible for supporting his family, so all members of the family would have to leave the country. This measure led to the mass migration of Jews, who nearly vanished from Egypt.


A small number of Jewish families stayed in Egypt, among them leftist activist Chehata Haroun and his family. According to Haroun's daughter, Magda, when her father tried to fly her older sister to Paris for medical treatment, Egyptian authorities would only approve an exit visa with no return, so his daughter died without treatment and he never left the country. When he died in 2001, his family had to bring in a French rabbi to perform the ritual prayer for him, because there was no rabbi in Egypt. The same happened with Nadia, who died in March 2014. I had the honor of attending her funeral. Egyptian state officials did not attend, even though they typically attend funerals of Al-Azhar sheikhs or bishops from the Coptic Church. Nadia left her older sister Magda alone to carry the burden of Egypt's Jewish community.


On the first anniversary of Nadia's death, Magda went to her older sister's grave along with her current Christian husband and her Muslim daughters from a previous marriage to perform their rites. She found that a group of youth had desecrated her sister's grave. They also insulted her and Judaism. I can't imagine how Magda felt about that. It's very hard for anyone to see their beloved insulted in life and death, just because they had a different religion.


Despite the fact that Egypt has some of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the world, they have been left vulnerable to desecration and vandalism. Cemeteries are not the only neglected part of Jewish legacy in Egypt. According to Magda, there are about 12 Jewish synagogues in Cairo and Alexandria left without maintenance. The majority were closed because there is no one left to pray there. There are also registers belonging to Egypt's Jewish community, which are part of history that need to be digitalized and safeguarded. The original written Torah also needs to be restored and kept in a museum, along with other parts of this dying community's heritage.


Magda once told me about her deepest fear – that after she is gone, what remains of Egypt's Jewish heritage will be lost. I remember her comments at her sister's funeral. She looked in my eye and said, "'It's your history, Mina.' Then she turned to one of her friends and said, 'It's your history, Mohamed.'"


About six decades of propaganda and hate speech finally led to the end of this country's Jewish community. The same hate speech led to the forced evictions of the Baha'i from Sohag in 2009. The same hate speech led to the brutal murder of four Shia men in June 2013. The same hate speech led to a swell of sectarian violence against Christians, with dozens of churches burned down, and dozens more Christian homes and stores looted since 2011.


Hate speech and lack of equal protection under the law inside create a hostile environment for minorities. Since 2011, at least 40 incidents of sectarian violence have occurred in Egypt. Most of these followed hate speech, which incited the perpetrators to commit the attacks. Since 2011, sectarian violence has taken the lives of at least 100 Egyptians, where the absence of accountability and protection for vulnerable groups has become all too common. We should learn from our mistakes. We should start preserving our Jewish heritage and restore our synagogues. We should face down hate speech and discrimination. We should stop sectarian violence and bring its perpetrators to justice.






On Topic


Israel and Egypt Grow Closer, but Anti-Semitism Remains Part of the Equation: Sean Savage, JNS, June 8, 2015 —As the Middle East grapples with the fallout of the so-called “Arab Spring” revolutions and the rise of terror groups like Islamic State, Arab states have sought increased cooperation with Israel in areas such as military and intelligence in order to confront ongoing threats.

Egypt Dismisses Human Rights Report as Politicized, Biased: Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2015—The Egyptian government on Tuesday dismissed a report that accused it of widespread human rights violations as politicized and lacking in objectivity and accuracy.

Why I Am Suing Al Jazeera: An Open Letter From Mohamed Fahmy: Egyptian Streets, June 3, 2015—In June 2014, Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy was sentenced to seven years imprisonment, which he is currently appealing, on charges of aiding the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, broadcasting false news and operating without an equipment and operational license.

Turkey: Muslim Brothers' Protector: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 9, 2015 —What do Syria, Egypt and Libya have common? They are all at various degrees of cold war with Turkey, which they accuse of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and similar Islamist terrorists in their countries.








No Future in France: Dire Times for French Jews
Al-Quds Day is Just a Soapbox for a Hatefest
In Egypt, Anti-Semitism Is Back in Fashion
The Sinister Alliance of the Islamist-Marxist Axis

On Topic Links


Michel Gurfinkiel
PJ Media, August 12, 2012  


"Any time young people approach me in order to get married, I ask them various questions about their future. Eighty percent of them say they do not envision any future in France." This is what one rabbi in Paris told me last week. I heard similar statements from other French rabbis and lay Jewish leaders: "We have a feeling the words are on the wall now," one leader in the Lyons area confided to me. "It is not just our situation in this country deteriorating; it is also that the process is much quicker than expected."
Even the chief rabbi of France, Gilles Bernheim, may be sharing that view now. A philosopher (holding a prestigious French agrégation degree in philosophy), a graduate of the French Rabbinical School in Paris, and a former student at some of the most orthodox yeshivoth (Talmudic academies) in Jerusalem, Bernheim was until recently very eager to reconcile traditional Judaism with Europe's "open society." He has just devoted a book to France as a nation and how Jews can contribute to France's public debates (N'oublions Pas De Penser La France), and in 2008, the year he was elected chief rabbi, he coauthored a book on Judeo-Christian dialogue (Le Rabbin et le Cardinal) with Cardinal Philippe Barbarin.
Despite all that, Bernheim suddenly warned Jewish leaders a few weeks ago about a growing "rejection" of Jews and Judaism in France, something he linked to the global passing of "Judeo-Christian values" in French society as a whole.
The immediate reason for Jewish pessimism in France and for Bernheim's change of heart may be the Toulouse massacre last March: the murder in cold blood of three Jewish children and a Jewish teacher by Mohamed Merah, a Muslim terrorist, on their school's premises. This crime, instead of instilling more compassion and understanding towards the Jewish community, has actually generated more anti-Jewish violence and hate talk, as if Merah was not seen as a vile thug but rather as a model by parts of the population.
There were no less than six cases of aggravated assault on Jewish youths or rabbis in France from March 26 to July 5, including one case in Toulouse again. According to the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations (CRIF), anti-Semitic incidents of all sorts have increased by 53% compared to the same period last year.
President François Hollande and Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls must be credited for taking the present anti-Semitic crisis seriously, a noted departure from the ambivalent attitude of the last socialist administration of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin ten years ago. On July 22—on the seventieth anniversary of the "grande raffle" ("great round-up") of Jews by the Vichy government police in 1942 —Hollande drew a parallel between the Toulouse massacre and the deportation and mass murder of Jewish children during the Holocaust. As for Valls, he not only repeatedly acknowledged that "there was an upsurge of anti-Semitism in France," but on July 8 went so far as to stigmatize the "most stupid, most dangerous new anti-Semitism" brooding among "young and not-so-young people" in the "neighborhoods" (a code word for Muslim enclaves). Quite a bold statement, since the Socialist party and the Left at large primarily derive their present electoral edge in France from the Muslim vote. Valls and his staff may also have inspired several no-nonsense reports on anti-Semitism that were recently published in the liberal, pro-socialist press.
The connection between Muslim immigration—or Muslim-influenced Third World immigration—and the rise of a new anti-Semitism is a fact all over Europe. Muslims come from countries (or are culturally attuned to countries) where unreconstructed, Nazi-style Jew-bashing dominates. They are impervious to the ethical debate about the Holocaust and the rejection of anti-Jewish stereotypes that were gradually incorporated into the European political discourse and consciousness in the second half of the 20th century (to the point that lessons on the Holocaust are frequently dropped from the curriculum at schools with a plurality or a majority of Muslim pupils), and are more likely than non-Muslims to engage in assaults, attacks, or harassment practices directed at Jews. Moreover, Muslim anti-Semitism reactivates in many places a dormant, but by no means extinct, non-Muslim European anti-Semitism. Once Muslims are unopposed, or at least unprosecuted, when they challenge the historical veracity of the Holocaust or when they refer to the The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an authentic document, a growing number of non-Muslims feel free to do the same.
Muslim immigration is nurturing European anti-Semitism in more surprising ways as well. One unintended and ironic consequence of European Islam's demographic growth is that Jews are frequently amalgamated with Muslims. Many people use a widespread concern about a growing influence of Islam in Europe as a way to hurt Jews as well, or to hit them first.…
A 2009 poll shows a 72% rejection of "ritual slaughtering" writ large. And Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, dwelled on that issue for a while.… In an even more ominous instance, Judaism has been singled out in a protracted intellectual debate in France since early June, as the fountainhead, past and present, of totalitarianism and political violence and thus as a more dangerous religion than radical Islam.…
The second half of the 20th century was a golden age for French Jews, both in terms of numbers (from 250,000 souls in 1945 to 700,000 in 1970 due to population transfers and natural growth) and in terms of religious and cultural revival. There was only one shadow: the French government's anti-Israel switch engineered by Charles de Gaulle in 1966, in part as a consequence of a more global anti-American switch. The 21st century may however be a much darker age. After a first wave of anti-Jewish violence in the early 2000s, some Jews left for Israel or North America. Emigration never really ceased since then, and may soon reach much more important proportions.

George Jonas
National Post, Aug 18, 2012


In 1979 the Ayatollah Khomeini designated the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day to signify the Islamic world’s aspirations for Jerusalem. Some say it was just an expression of piety, but whatever the founder of theocratic Iran intended, Al-Quds Day has become an annual hate-fest and expansionary symbol for vocal Islamists around the world.
Hate-tourists gather in cities with significant Arab and/or Muslim populations such as Toronto to denounce what they call “world Zionism” and express loathing for Israel. During the 2011 Al-Quds Day rally held outside the Ontario legislature, demonstrators brandished the flag of Hezbollah, while a featured speaker, Zafar Bangash, delivered himself of the view that “Allah willing, I see that day when we, the Muslims, will march on Palestine and liberate Palestine for all the people in the world.”
What the speaker saw and proclaimed last year from Queen’s Park, the grounds of Ontario’s provincial legislature, wasn’t some namby-pamby two-state solution, but the demise of the Jewish State. While he expounded on his vision, someone behind him waved the flag of a terrorist organization, which is what Hezbollah is in the view of Canada’s government. Little wonder that this strikes a person like Sayeh Hassan, a dissenter who fled the theocratic tyranny of Iran in 1987, as “a cynical abuse of Canadian pluralism and accommodation.” This week Hassan wrote an online Post column jointly with David Spiro of the Greater Toronto’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, denouncing Al-Quds Day for being “nothing less than a pep rally for an abhorrent, hate-filled ideology.”
It certainly is, I agree—but I’m not sure about cynical abuse. I think Bangash & Co. are simply using Canadian pluralism and accommodation as the manufacturer intended, which is what’s wrong with the multicultural model. Chances are they—or like-minded colleagues—will use it this year again, despite protests from Jewish organizations or Muslim dissidents, shocked at hearing the very voices they’ve tried to escape coming at them from the legislative grounds of their new country. As I’m writing this, Legislature Sergeant-at-Arms Dennis Clark has approved the use of Queen’s Park once again to the organizers of Al-Quds Day. In effect, Clark told the media that he realized the demonstrators went a little overboard last year, waving terrorist flags and all, but he approved because this year the organizers promised to behave.
“You’re big on free speech—what do you say now?” someone asked me triumphantly. He was so sure he got me, I almost felt sorry to disappoint him. I had to, though, because I’m still big on free speech. I’m just not big on providing soapboxes. I’ve always had an issue with expropriating public spaces for private or sectarian purposes (other than the annual Santa Claus parade, perhaps). Much as I abhor what Mr. Bangash is saying, I would go to the barricades for his right to say it. What I question is Sergeant-at-arms Clark’s decision to lend the grounds of Ontario’s Parliament to the ayatollahs’ agenda.
What’s free speech? It’s freedom to speak my mind on any topic about which I have an opinion. It means I can say what I like regardless of how demonstrably false it may be; how much it may grate on the sense or sensitivity of others; how profoundly it may irk or offend the powerful and the fashionable, or how painfully it may hurt the feelings or self-esteem of the impoverished. Freedom of speech protects both speech and speaker from being silenced or censored because of what others may regard as requirements of social harmony, good taste, decorum, history, science, political correctness, or the truth itself—but can’t protect anyone from being regarded by contemporaries as unpleasant, indecorous, shrill, uncouth, hysterical, tasteless, false, ignorant or stupid.
Freedom of speech isn’t my guarantee of being heard. I can’t make my freedom your obligation. Freedom of speech entitles me to the first available spot in Hyde Park. It doesn’t entitle me to halt traffic in Piccadilly Circus.  My freedom of speech isn’t a key to your front door. I’m free to speak but not to enter your parlour or your legislative building, or the public roads and parks surrounding them, or any of your spaces not specifically set aside for assemblies and demonstrations.
Those who want to limit free speech claim that it’s not absolute but this is false. Free speech is absolute; it’s just that using words doesn’t amount to a pass to break the law. It’s no licence to defraud, defame, incite a riot, enter a criminal conspiracy, betray an official secret, impersonate an officer, misrepresent a qualification, breach a fiduciary obligation, etc., nor should it be. Free speech should eliminate the censor and the “human rights” commissioner, but it’s not doing it yet. A pity….


Jeffrey Goldberg

Bloomberg, Aug 6, 2012

A travel tip for the international executive class: If you find yourself doing business in Egypt and you feel the urge to insult your interlocutor, 1) try not to insult your interlocutor; and 2) if you must, cast aspersions on the chastity of the person’s mother or sister. This insult will be taken hard, but it may eventually be forgiven.
Whatever you do, don’t accuse the person of being Jewish. That may cause an irrevocable breach, and could even provoke violence.  Anti-Semitism, the socialism of fools, is becoming the opiate of the Egyptian masses. And not just the masses. Egypt has never been notably philo-Semitic (just ask Moses), but today it’s entirely acceptable among the educated and creative classes there to demonize Jews and voice the most despicable anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Careerists know that even fleeting associations with Jews and Israelis could spell professional trouble.
The level of anti-Semitism in Egypt has consequences, of course, for Middle East peace and for the safety of Jews. But, importantly, it has consequences for the welfare of Egypt itself. The revolution that overthrew the country’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, held great promise, but it also exposed the enormous challenges facing Egyptian politics and culture. And anti-Semitism, if nothing else, has always been a sign of a deeply damaged culture.
As Walter Russell Mead has written on his blog, countries “where vicious anti-Semitism is rife are almost always backward and poor.” They aren’t backward and poor because the Elders of Zion conspire against them. They’re backward and poor because, Mead argues, they lack the ability to “see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings.” He calls anti-Semitism the “sociology of the befuddled.”
Egyptian television is filled with such sociology. One popular series depicts an Egyptian diplomat stationed in Tel Aviv who robs Israeli banks on the side. The show was promoted by a Middle East satellite channel, which claimed that it would “surprise the audience with the sweetest jokes about the cheap Jew.”
A television show called “Il Hukm Ba’d il Muzawla,” a kind of “Candid Camera” knockoff, provides further evidence that Judeophobia in Egypt has become pathological. The show lures celebrities into an interview under the pretense that it will air on a foreign television station, and then tries to discomfit them by claiming they’re actually being interviewed for an Israeli show.
Recently, the show targeted actor Ayman Kandeel. The episode didn’t proceed as smoothly as planned. According to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute, the interviewer, an Egyptian woman named Iman Mubarak, surprises Kandeel by admitting that he’s appearing on Israeli television, and not German, as he was promised. A producer named Amr Alaa appears on set and asks Kandeel if there’s a problem.…
Kandeel then attacks Alaa, slapping him and shoving him, throwing chairs and cursing. He wheels on Mubarak, slaps her — knocking her against a wall — and curses her. A staff member runs onto the set: “Ayman, please, it’s a prank. Shame on you for hitting a woman.”
Kandeel is given Mubarak’s identification card, to prove that she isn’t Israeli. Finally, he says, “She’s Egyptian?”…‘Long Live Egypt’
The next guest, the actress Mayer al-Beblawi, unburdens herself of an anti-Semitic tirade before being told the show is an Israeli production. The Israelis, she begins, “are real liars. They keep whining all the time about the Holocaust, or whatever it’s called. With all the Palestinians that you have killed, you are still whining about the Holocaust and its lousy figures?” She goes on: “They are the slayers of the prophets, what else can we say about them.”
The host, Mubarak, then provokes her: “You’ve got it wrong. They are the Chosen People.” Al-Beblawi responds: “The Chosen People? Allah did not curse the worm and the moth as much as he cursed the Jews.”
Al-Beblawi didn’t resort to violence. But the next guest, Mahmoud Abd al-Ghaffar, did, screaming at Mubarak, “You are a Jew!” and then pulling Alaa by the hair. Mubarak shouts: “Mahmoud, this is a ‘Candid Camera’ show. We are all Egyptians. Long live Egypt!”
Al Ghaffar says, “You brought me someone who looks like a Jew,” and then hugs Alaa. He turns to Mubarak: “If you weren’t a girl, the moment you told me you were Jewish … I hate the Jews to death.”
Mubarak then makes a statement that captures almost perfectly the moral perversion of the prank: “I’d like to tell you that I enjoyed today’s episode with Mahmoud. I didn’t know that there could be such patriotism, but it exists in every Egyptian who breathes the air of this country.”
In a column published last week, the Washington Post’s Colbert King correctly indicted the leadership of Iran as sponsors of “the most virulent form of state-sanctioned anti- Semitism since Nazi Germany.” It is true that the Iranian leadership is wildly anti-Semitic, but, on my visits to Iran, I’ve never personally felt the hatred of Jews on the popular level.…Any country in which anti-Semitism is considered a form of patriotism is in dire trouble
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Robert S. Wistrich

Times of Israel, August 18, 2012

Since the year 2000, there has been an increasing convergence between those who belong to the radical left and those who promote Islamism in the West. One of the key areas in cementing their rapprochement has been the Palestinian question. The new “alliance” was further reinforced during the past decade by the Iraq war, the Second Lebanon War, and the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2009.
Despite its current marginality, Palestine still remains the paradigmatic case of oppression for most left-wing militants today. Israelis, on the other hand, are not only the bad guys in this conflict; they are seen as the embodiment of capitalist-imperialist evil. Amazingly, this negative imagery has not been much affected by the Arab revolutions of 2011, despite their revelation of the cruelty, corruption, and utter cynicism of Arab regimes, highlighted by the ethnic cleansing and genocidal assault of the Assad regime on its own population in Syria.
Broadly speaking, Israel is still perceived by much of the Western left and by the Islamists as being “white,” Western, and alien to the Middle East. In other words, Israelis are seen as brutal colonialist invaders. The whole story of the Zionist project is disconnected from Jewish history and the centuries’-old link between the people of Israel and its historic homeland. The Palestinians…have, by contrast, been successfully cast in the role of “Jews,” downtrodden and ruthlessly abused by Nazi-like Israelis. A key part of this campaign has been the corrosive depiction of Israel as an “apartheid state.” This libel is endlessly repeated throughout North America and Western Europe—in Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Spain, as well as France, Germany and Great Britain. As a consequence, the anti-Israeli obsession has steadily seeped into the European chattering classes, the free professions, the churches, and nongovernmental organizations. It is especially virulent in academia and very much in tune with the postcolonial zeitgeist.
Another weapon in this global anti-Zionist transformation is the growing effort to “Nazify” Israel and thereby invert the Holocaust. The abuse of Holocaust memory as a political weapon against the Jewish state has indeed become increasingly rampant in recent years along with the popularity of antisemitic conspiracy theories. The soft version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which evokes the all-powerful “Zionist Lobby” and the alleged hidden control of “Jewish moneybags,” is in fact far more common than many people realize.
Anti-Semitism has been further stimulated by the growing worldwide influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as the racist anti-Jewish material that is funded by Saudi Arabia and openly preached in the Middle Eastern, European and American mosques or is on sale in Islamist bookshops. The “decadent” Western culture that radical Muslims endlessly execrate is seen by jihadists as being controlled and dominated by Jews. This adds a particularly inflammatory dimension to Muslim anti-Semitism, which on this point has many affinities with the Neo-Nazi right. The message of the jihadists is indeed explicitly genocidal, but it is left-wing anti-Israeli rhetoric that gives it intellectual cover and respectability.
In the midst of the London Olympics, it was rather sobering to recall that a country like Great Britain remains today the world center of the academic boycott and also of trade union efforts to economically sanction Israel….Among Western democracies, only in Britain has the boycott thus far achieved such a level of resonance — even though most Britons, if asked, would almost certainly reject it, and bilateral relations between the UK and Israel still remain fairly cordial.
The relations between France and Israel are also largely positive, but that did not prevent the lethal jihadi assault in Toulouse several months ago in which three Jewish children and a young rabbi were ruthlessly murdered in cold blood. In the two months that followed, aggressive anti-Semitic attacks in France by Muslims against Jewish adolescents surged dramatically. To even point to such naked violence in the current toxic atmosphere is to risk being labeled a “Zionist lackey,” an Islamophobe, or a racist, especially in bien-pensant leftist or liberal circles.
It should be recalled that Mohammed Merah’s brutal slaughter of innocent Jewish children in France was carried out in the name of the global jihad and “avenging Palestine.” The muted response to such atrocities in liberal “progressive” Western opinion is a badge of shame for those whose self-proclaimed banner is that of human rights. 

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