FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Israeli Media Fears the New Egypt

by NEVE GORDON

During the climatic days of the unprecedented demonstrations, television news programmes spent most of their airtime covering the protests, while the daily papers dedicated half the news and opinion pages to the unfolding events.

Rather than excitement at watching history in the making, however, the dominant attitude here, particularly on television, was of anxiety– a sense that the developments in Egypt were inimical to Israel’s interests. Egypt’s revolution, in other words, was bad news.

It took a while for Israel’s experts on “Arab Affairs” to get a grip on what was happening. During the early days of unrest, the recurrent refrain was that “Egypt is not Tunis”.

Commentators assured the public that the security apparatuses in Egypt are loyal to the regime and that consequently there was little if any chance that President Hosni Mubarak’s government would fall.

Media switch

Once it became clear that this line of analysis was erroneous, most commentators followed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s lead and criticised President Barack Obama’s Administration for not supporting Mubarak. The Foreign News editor of one channel noted that: “The fact that the White House is permitting the protests is reason for worry;” while the prominent political analyst Ben Kaspit expressed his longing for President George W. Bush.

“We remember 2003 when George Bush invaded and took over Iraq with a sense of yearning”, Ben Kaspit wrote. “Libya immediately changed course and allied itself with the West. Iran suspended its military nuclear program. Arafat was harnessed. Syria shook with fear. Not that the invasion of Iraq was a wise move (not at all, Iran is the real problem, not Iraq), but in the Middle East whoever does not walk around with a big bat in his hand receives the bat on his head.”

Israeli commentators are equivocal on the issue of Egyptian democracy. One columnist explained that it takes years for democratic institutions to be established and for people to internalise the practices appropriate for democracy, while Amir Hazroni from NRG went so far as to write an ode to colonialism:

“When we try to think how and why the United States and the West lost Egypt, Tunis, Yemen and perhaps other countries in the Middle East, people forget that. The original sin began right after WWII, when a wonderful form of government that protected security and peace in the Middle East (and in other parts of the Third Word) departed from this world following pressure from the United States and Soviet Union… More than sixty years have passed since the Arab states and the countries of Africa were liberated from the ‘colonial yoke,’ but there still isn’t an Arab university, an African scientist or a Middle Eastern consumer product that has made a mark on our world.”

Fear and the brotherhood

While only a few commentators are as reactionary as Hazroni, an Orientalist perspective permeated most of the discussion about Egypt, thus helping to bolster the already existing Jewish citizenry’s fear of Islam. Political Islam is constantly presented and conceived as an ominous force that is antithetical to democracy.

Thus, in the eyes of Israeli analysts, the protestors- that Facebook and Twitter generation- are deserving of empathy but also extremely naïve. There is a shared sense that their fate will end up being identical to that of the Iranian intellectuals who led the protests against the Shah.

Channel Two’s expert on “Arab Affairs” explained that: “The fact that you do not see the Muslim Brotherhood does not mean they are not there,” and another expert warned his viewers not to “be misled by ElBaradei’s Viennese spirit, behind him is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

According to these pundits, the Muslim Brotherhood made a tactical decision not to distribute Islamists banners or to take an active part in leading the protests. One commentator declared that if the Muslim Brotherhood wins, then “elections are the end of the [democratic] process, not its beginning,” while an anchorman for Channel Ten asked former Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer whether “the person who says to himself: ‘How wonderful, at last the state of Egypt is a democracy,’ is naïve?”

The Minister responded: “Allow me even to laugh. We wanted a democracy in Iran and in Gaza. The person who talks like this is ignoring the fact that for over a decade there has been a struggle of giants between the Sunni and Shia with tons of blood spilled. The person who talks about democracy does not live in the reality we live in.”

Democratic threat

Ben-Eliezer’s response is telling, not least because it is well known that Israel supported the Shah regime in Iran and has not proven itself to be a particularly staunch supporter of Palestinian democracy. Democracy in the Middle East is, after all, conceived by this and prior Israeli governments as a threat to Israel’s interests.

Dan Margalit, a well-known commentator, made this point clear when he explained that Israel does not disapprove of a democracy in the largest Arab country but simply privileges Israel’s peace agreement with Egypt over internal Arab affairs.

Israel, one should note, is not alone in this self-serving approach; most western countries constantly lament the absence of democracy in the Arab world, while supporting the dictators and helping them remain in office. In English this kind of approach has a very clear name – it is called hypocrisy.

NEVE GORDON is an Israeli activist and the author of and author of Israel’s Occupation (University of California Press, 2008). He can be contacted through his website www.israelsoccupation.info

 

 

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail