IF THIS IS PEACE"...
THE STATE OF PEACE BETWEEN ISRAEL AND EGYPT
BY: JOSEPH PUDER
On the day Egyptian president Anwar Sadat came to Jerusalem, many of us felt that we were at the beginning of the Messianic Age. The euphoria on that day-November 19, 1977, was never matched by subsequent peace treaties, including the one with Jordan. Jerusalem experienced one collective case of goosebumps that will never be forgotten.
Seventeen years later, Israel must face the bitter reality that it has made peace with individual leaders (Sadat, King Hussein, Arafat) and not with the people of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians, respectively. The enmity displayed by Egyptians towards Israelis and Jews has endured longer than expected.
Beyond lamentations, however, no concrete steps have been taken by Israel and the US to redress the "cold peace" between Egypt and Israel. Both the Likud leaders who signed the 1979 Camp David Accords with Egypt, and the current dovish government of Shimon Peres must deplore this phony peace. Instead, the Rabin Government chose Cairo for the Oslo II agreement with the PLO. President Clinton invited Mubarak to the White House to share the limelight with Rabin, Arafat and Hussein. More recently, following the horrible terrorist bombing in tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Clinton and Peres selected Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) as the site for a conclave on curbing terrorism. Why should Mubarak and Egypt be rewarded for fostering hate towards Israel and Jews, and for deliberately maintaining a cold peace remains an unanswered question?
While it was expected that a peace treaty will not erase overnight the bitter conflict that caused death and suffering on both sides, no one counted on the Egyptian society to generate visceral anti-Semitism of a variety that can only be compared to Nazi propaganda. The vicious attacks in the Egyptian press on Israel and Jews have no parallel in international relations.
The hostility to Israel is not isolated to the fringe groups of fanatical Muslim or the "opposition" parties. It is sponsored at times by the government and by the intellectual elite. Anti-Israel propaganda by Egypt is carried to all corners of the world, and particularly in Africa where Egypt attempted to block the resumption of diplomatic relations between Israel and black Africa.
Perhaps the loneliest post in Israel's foreign service is that of ambassador to Egypt. The constant vilification, isolation, and insults hurled at Israel by the press, and the elite, makes the embassy feel under siege. Israel's desire to normalize relations with the Egyptians through the exchange of envoys, trade, and cultural exchange and tourism, is seem by the latter as an imposition that the US and Israel forced upon them.
Targeting Israel's academic center in Cairo and the Israeli embassy is a way for them to express their disgust with the Jewish State and its US ally.
Sasson Somekh, current director of the Israeli academic center, is reluctant to invite long-time friends in Egypt's literary and film circles to the center. "I don't want them harmed" he confessed to the Jerusalem Report (March 21, 1996). "Those who do come to the center, or worse, visit Israel, are vilified by their colleagues", he noted. Israel is excluded from the Cairo Book Fair, Israeli films are banned from the Egyptian film festival, and Israeli ambassador to Cairo David Sultan was recently ejected from a theatre hall when he arrived unannounced.
Israel's image among Egyptians is that of an aggressive, dangerous, or better yet monstrous creature whose tentacles are wrapped around the globe. This is not only in press caricatures, and in office calendars, but also how the Egyptian elite perceives Israel through Shimon Peres' book "Towards a New Middle East". It serves as proof of them that "the Jews" of Israel and their US brethren seek to subjugate Egypt and the world to their (Israel's) political and economic aggression.
According to Abe Foxman, Anti-Defamation League director who led an ADL group to Egypt recently, "There is little difference between the Egyptian government press and Islamic opposition press in their treatment of Jews." ADL stated that "the Egyptian papers frequently use anti-Semitic stereotypes reminiscent of Nazi propaganda." Foxman stated that biased reporting in Egypt fosters "greater Egyptian misunderstanding of and enmity towards Israel. When Israel and Egypt made peace seventeen years ago," he noted, "the two nations pledged to foster mutual understanding and tolerance and will, accordingly abstain from hostile propaganda against each other."
Israel's vast contributions to the Egyptian economy, and the welfare of the ordinary Egyptian is ignored. For instance, Israeli scientists brought sophisticated water reclamation techniques to Egyptian deserts, turning thousands of square kilometers into arable land. 250,000 Israelis visited and spent money in Egypt in 1994, compared to 8,000 Egyptian tourists in Israel.
Egyptian leftist intellectual Muhammed Sid Ahmed pointed out in an interview with the Jerusalem Report that "The Egyptian intelligentsia, in its bulk, is deeply resentful of any normalization. The diplomats and military men have to follow rules and talk to Israel. But with intellectuals, nothing has changes. It's even before more radical than before."
Sid Ahmed warns that "The more the Islamic trend moves forward, the less normalization will occur." Egypt, he says, counters its own fundamentalist threat by being "more radical toward Israel than the radicals." A case in point is Egypt's foreign minister Amr Moussa who attacked Israel and the US on the nuclear proliferation treaty (NPT) and scored points with Islamic extremists. Reducing Israel in size, by encouraging the Palestinians and Syrians to win more land from Israel through diplomatic pressure is a prominent feature of Egypt's foreign policy. It also seeks to weaken Israel militarily by forcing on it the NPT. Egypt would like nothing less than Israel's disappearance. Short of that, Egypt hopes to reduce Israel to a puppet's role.
The US must condition its economic and military aid to Egypt, amounting to $2.3 billion, on Egypt ending its hate propaganda against Israel, and adhering to the letter and the spirit of the Camp David Accords which forbade hostile propaganda. Moreover, US taxpayers dollars should not subsidize the build-up of the Egyptian military while its people are impoverished.
Finally, Egypt's dismal record on human rights, particularly its brutal treatment of 12 million Coptic Christians (native Egyptians) must end. America should stop subsidizing a phony and unreal peace and insist upon change. Israel, for its part, must not foster the illusion of peace, and take measures to end the Egyptian hateful and anti- Semitic attitudes.
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