Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
I Shall Weep for Egypt Until the Military
Dictatorship Crumbles Down
By Uri Avnery
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, September 2, 2013
Cry, Beloved Country
I DIDN’T want to write this article, but I
I love Egypt. I love the Egyptian people. I have spent some
of the happiest days of my life there.
My heart bleeds when I think
of Egypt. And these days I think about Egypt all the time.
remain silent when I see what is happening there, an hour’s flight from my
LET’S PUT on the table right from the beginning what’s
happening there now.
Egypt has fallen into
the hands of a brutal, merciless military dictatorship, pure and
Not on the way to democracy. Not a temporary transition
regime. Not anything like it.
Like the locusts of old, the military
officers have fallen upon the land. They are not likely ever to give
it up voluntarily.
Even before, the Egyptian military had enormous
assets and privileges. They control vast corporations, are free of any
oversight and live off the fat of a skinny land.
Now they control
everything. Why should they give it up?
Those who believe that they
will do so, of their own free will, should have their head examined.
IT IS enough to look at the pictures. What do they remind us of?
This row of over-decorated, beribboned, well-fed generals who have never
fought a war, with their gold-braided, ostentatious peaked hats – where have
we seen them before?
In the Greece of the colonels? The Chile of
Pinochet? The Argentina of the torturers? Any of a dozen other
South-American states? The Congo of Mobutu?
All these generals look
the same. The frozen faces. The self-confidence. The total belief that they
are the only guardians of the nation. The total belief that all their
opponents are traitors who must be caught, imprisoned, tortured, killed.
HOW DID this come about? How did a glorious
revolution turn into this disgusting spectacle?
How did the millions
of happy people, who had liberated themselves from a brutal dictatorship,
who had breathed the first heady whiffs of liberty, who had turned
Liberation Square (that’s what Tahrir means) into a beacon of hope for all
mankind, slide into this dismal situation?
In the beginning, it
seemed that they did all the right things. It was easy to embrace the Arab
Spring. They reached out to each other, secular and religious stood together
and dared the forces of the aging dictator. The army seemed to support and
But the fatal faults were already obvious, as we
pointed out at the time. Faults that were not particularly Egyptian. They
were common to all the recent popular movements for democracy, liberty and
social justice throughout the world, including Israel.
These are the faults of a generation brought up on the “social
media”, the immediacy of the internet, the effortlessness of instant mass
communication. These fostered a sense of empowerment without effort, of the
ability to change things without the arduous process of mass-organization,
political power-building, of ideology, of leadership, of parties. A happy
and anarchistic attitude that, alas, cannot stand up against real power.
When democracy came for a glorious moment and fair elections were
in the offing, this whole amorphous mass of young people were faced with a
force that had all they themselves lacked: organization, discipline,
ideology, leadership, experience, cohesion.
The Muslim Brotherhood.
THE BROTHERHOOD and its Islamist allies easily won the free,
democratic elections against the motley anarchic field of
secular and liberal groups and personalities. This has happened
other Arab countries, such as Algeria and Palestine.
The Islamic Arab masses are not fanatical, but basically religious (as are
the Jews who came to Israel from Arab countries.) Voting for the first
time in free elections, they tend to vote for religious parties, though they
are by no means fundamentalist.
The wise thing for the brotherhood
to do was to reach out to other parties, including secular and liberal ones,
and lay the foundation for a robust, inclusive democratic regime. This would
have been to their own advantage in the long run.
At the beginning
it seemed that Mohamed Morsi, the freely elected president, would do so. But
he soon changed course, using his democratic powers to change the
constitution, exclude everybody else and start to establish the sole
domination of his movement.
That was unwise, but understandable.
After many decades of suffering from state persecution, including
imprisonment, systematic torture and even executions, the movement was
thirsty for power. Once it got hold of it, it could not restrain itself. It
tried to gobble up everything.
THAT WAS especially unwise, because
the brotherhood regime was sitting next to a crocodile, which only seemed to
be asleep, as crocodiles often do.
At the beginning of his
reign, Morsi drove out the old generals, who had served under Hosni Mubarak.
He was applauded. But this just replaced the old, tired crocodile with a
young and very hungry one.
It is difficult to guess what was going
on in the military mind at the time. The generals sacrificed Mubarak, who
was one of them, in order to protect themselves. They became the darling of
the people, especially the young, secular, liberal people. “The army and the
people are one!” – How nice. How naïve. How utterly inane.
quite clear now that during the Morsi months, the generals were waiting for
their opportunity. When Morsi made his fatal mistakes and announced that he
was going to change the constitution – they pounced.
juntas like to pose, in the beginning, as the saviors of democracy.
Abd-al-Fatah al-Sisi does not have an exciting ideology, as did
Gamal Abd-al-Nasser (pan-Arabism) when he carried out his bloodless coup in
1952. He has no vision like Anwar al-Sadat (peace), the dictator who
inherited power. He was not the anointed heir of his predecessor, sworn to
continue his vision, as was Hosni Mubarak. He is a military dictator, pure
and simple (or rather, not so pure and not so simple).
Israelis to blame? The Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says
so. It’s all the making of Israel. We engineered the Egyptian coup.
Very flattering, But, I’m afraid, slightly exaggerated.
Israeli establishment is afraid of an Islamic Arab world. It detests the
Muslim Brotherhood, the mother of Hamas and other Islamic movements which
are committed to fighting Israel. It enjoys a cosy relationship with the
If the Egyptian generals had asked their Israeli
colleagues and friends for advice on the coup, the Israelis would have
promised them their enthusiastic support. But there is nothing much they
could have done about it.
Except one thing. It is Israel that has
assured the Egyptian military for decades its annual big US aid package.
Using its control of the US Congress, Israel has prevented the termination
of this grant through all these years. At this moment, the huge Israeli
power-machine in the US is busy ensuring the continuation of the 1.3 billion
or so of US aid to the generals. But this is not crucial, since the Arab
Gulf oligarchies are ready to finance the generals to the hilt.
is crucial for the generals is American political and military support.
There cannot be the slightest doubt that before acting, the generals asked
for American permission, and that this support was readily given.
The US president does not really direct American policy. He can make
beautiful speeches, elevating democracy to divine status, but he cannot do
much about it. Policy is made by a political-economic-military complex, for
which he is just the figurehead.
This complex does not care a damn
for “American Values”. It serves American (and its own) interests. A
military dictatorship in Egypt serves these interests – as it does the
perceived interests of Israel.
DOES IT really serve them? Perhaps
in the short run. But an enduring civil war - on the ground or under ground
– will ruin Egypt’s shaky economy and drive away crucial investors and
tourists. Military dictatorships are notably incompetent administrations. In
a few months or years this dictatorship will crumble – as have all other
military dictatorships in the world.
Until that day,
I shall weep for Egypt.