Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hamas Invasion of Egypt!

After several weeks of travel, I am finally back home. I had a lot of interesting feedback to my essay about my visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Most interesting was the change in the feedback I had from some of my friends & family from Egypt. The email feedback was generally negative or just sarcastic about me going and about my pro normalization comments. By the time I made it to Alexandria and Cairo the Gaza / Egypt crossing had taken place.
Sadly in a way for the Palestinians, and fortunately in a way for the Egyptians and Israelis, Hamas had done what 30 years of peace could not achieve. Most Egyptians I met for the first time, since the first days after the Sadat visit to Jerusalem, looked at Israelis as normal people and some used words such as "the right is on Israel” ..or “what can they do?" Even very religious people were re-examining the recently normal hatred of all things Jewish and discovering references in Islam and in Islamic history about friendship and harmony with Jews. The same people who sent me disapproving emails just a couple of weeks before were now asking me more what Tel Aviv was like, Did you really go running on the beach and in the streets of Tel Aviv? Did people know you were Egyptians? Etc.
The Egyptian press was strange; cruel in a way, in stirring up anger at the ordinary Palestinians, but also fair in reminding people of the suffering of Egypt for the Palestinian cause. Some editors referred to the “Hamas invasion of Egypt”, others were full of praise of Sadat, “the hero of war & peace” and drudging up decades old anger at the Palestinians by reminding the readers of the joy of Arafat and the Palestinians at the news of the death of Sadat and the fact that no Palestinian leader has yet showed the courage and decency to visit Sadat’s grave.
Essam El Areean of the Brotherhood wrote in one of the opposition papers in support of Hamas and clearly felt the need to articulate the whole case for Hamas and what it is doing in Gaza, both in terms of rejecting Abbas’s approach for peace with Israel and taking control. The fact that he had to repeat the argument put forward verbatim by Hamas made me wonder if they were feeling that they were losing the average Hassan on the streets of Cairo.
For a long time advocate of peace and reconciliation, it was really good to see the change in Egypt. Sadly, as a supporter of the rights of the Palestinians I was also sad to see that anger at Hamas was turning Egyptians into anger at the Palestinians as a whole.
It is hard for me to characterize the opinion in Egypt from very few days in Cairo and Alexandria. But I don’t remember anything like this in Egypt for many years.
Anyhow, always fun to be in Egypt, but great to be back in the snow!
February 26, 2008

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