Sunday, July 8, 2012
Making Peace – Israel’s way or the US way?
The US refers to those nations with whom they have a strategic interest in accommodating, as ‘our friends,’ and with that designation those friends receive military and financial aid. It does not help to change fundamental attitudes to war and peace and it only works for as long as it is in the interest of the recipient nation to let it work. Like George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth, propaganda and historical revisionism are tools used by nations to mould the national mood, dictate behaviours and manipulate the past to create the future.
The basic requirements for making Peace with Israel were never fulfilled either by Anwar Sadat or his successor Hosni Mubarak. The fundamental requirement for peaceful co-existence, the humanisation of the enemy, was never permitted to take root in Egyptian soil.
We may never know how or even if Anwar El-Sadat would have nurtured the Israeli-Egyptian peace had he lived but we do know that he was conflicted by virtue of his faith. According to Salim Mansur “Sadat, the Quran, and Jews in the Holy Land” (Centre for Security Policy Jan. 22, 2007) Sadat’s journey to Jerusalem was a spiritual acceptance of the Jews right to their homeland and it was a repudiation of the Philo-Nazi ideology of the Brotherhood. He was however unable to reconcile his journey with his Koranic learning which ridiculed Jewish faith and delegitimized its followers humanity.
Israel’s problem is that Egypt, being the most populous and powerful of the Arab nations never intended to fully honour its commitments under the peace accord it signed in Washington in 1979, either to Israel or to the United States. It prevented its citizens from visiting Israel. It encouraged its racist press to incite against Israelis as Jews, and by focusing popular discontent against Israel as a religious obligation, denied Israelis the same right to self-determination that it demanded and continues to demand for the Palestinians. In effect it dismissed the Peace Treaty it signed with Israel as no more than a piece of paper. It blocked cultural exchanges and ensured minimal interaction between Israelis and Egyptians as undesirable.
Hosni Mubarak famously stated that “….We [Egypt] have outwitted them, and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper! We managed to hamper their steps in every direction. We have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews.” (Ephraim Dowek, Israeli-Egyptian Relations 1980-2000. London: Cass, 2001. pp. 120-21).
It became the accepted wisdom that with the signing of the Peace Agreement with Egypt there would be no cooperation with Israel other than in matters concerning security. As such, the Peace with Egypt was destined to eventually fail because it was predicated on the Arab assumption that Israel would itself eventually fall.
The failure of Arab and overall Muslim imagination is inherent in the hypothesis that Islam is the perfection of human development and that therefore its enemies must eventually succumb to its superiority. This innate prejudice is hardly surprising. A nation in maintaining peace with an adversary does so for its own benefit not because of some spurious altruistic intent. The Islamic neighbourhood is neither ready nor able to provide either guarantees or a willingness to pursue peaceful intentions with Israel or for that matter, with any one else, unless that is, the alternative is a collapse of its own enterprise. As I have referred to in other blogs (see “Mira Awad boycotted by Arabs” 6th June 2012), the third stage in this war against Israel is “the international campaign to delegitimize the state as it seeks the dehumanisation of the Jewish citizens of that state”. This propaganda war is a logical consequence of assuming ‘the fall’.
Some years after the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, Egyptian Arab farmers sued the State of Israel before the Egyptian Supreme Court to regain the property they claim Saladin gave their forefathers 900 years ago. That property is the Wailing Wall, the Jewish peoples’ holiest religious site. Those farmers won their case.
Egyptians generally do not make any distinction between Jewish people and Israelis. Israelis are seen as the enemy, so likewise are Jews. Thus wrote Michael Slackman in an article for the New York Times on September 7, 2009. The problem is that peaceful co-existence between neighbours is dependent not just on the foreign policy pursued by neighbours but on the attitudes and behaviours of its society. Egypt is misogynistic (as emphasised in the May/June 2012 Foreign Policy Magazine “The Sex Issue”), ethnically racist against its non-Arab inhabitants and religiously bigoted; a problem given that Islam is the invader and its 10 million Coptic Christians, the persecuted native minority.
The greatest impediment to peace and not just with Egypt but with the entire Muslim world is our reluctance to fight as Jews for our rights in our homeland against a Muslim hegemonic and racist theology that precludes minority rights. Israel’s enemies are legion. Until they also fear as Israel fears, they will be unstoppable. Only with acceptance by the Islamic world (and not just the Islamic world) of the equality of all peoples: Kurds, Assyrians (Chaldeans), Turkmen and Copts, Christians, Jews, polytheists and pagans, will peace be possible in the Near-East.
Former Army Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon, said that Egypt facilitated arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip allowing the Palestinians to continue smuggling arms from Sinai into Gaza despite Israeli protests. It is no longer wise to pretend that Egypt will honour its commitment to sealing its international border with Israel. And honouring ones neighbours sovereignty is a basic requirement for peaceful co-existence.
Israel’s Western border (Southern Command) will have to be renewed. This is going to cost billions of dollars in hardware and new bases as well as a significant increase in the size of the standing army. The State of Israel can no longer afford the coalition wrangling over mass deferments and exemptions from conscription that have plagued the national debate over the last few decades.
Israel is located in a region where the inalienable right to secure borders and to living ones life with an absence of fear is deemed conditional and transitory. In March 2012, 33 years after the signing of the second framework agreement, ending a state of war that had existed between Israel and Egypt for almost as long (31 years), Egypt’s parliament issued a report that referred to Israel as “The Zionist Entity.” So let me make a controversial statement. The trappings of democracy do not guarantee peace.
Security is an attitude to human rights which has little to do with democracy. Those people in the West that support the Palestinians (Arabs) usually insist on their ‘inalienable rights’ but omit the three inextricably linked concepts that must attach to those rights in order for all people to live in peace and harmony. Those words are ‘mutuality,’ ‘respect’ and ‘truth’. We all have an inalienable right to live life without fear of persecution, violence, discrimination or dehumanisation.
The June 17, 2012 decision to rewrite the constitution effectively makes the President of Egypt a disempowered figurehead. A military coup – with the stroke of a pen has for now, shunted aside the Muslim Brotherhood and slowed its political ascendancy. Extremism can only increase with the inevitable slide towards economic failure. Israel will remain as always, a whipping boy to be used as the means of focusing and diverting popular discontent. Unless that is, it is no longer advantageous for Israel to be that whipping boy and for that to happen, incitement must be rendered unpalatable to all who think it acceptable.