Saturday, September 10, 2011

In Egypt, Israel is Still the Opium of the People

During the Israel-Gaza War in 2009, Mona Eltahawy wrote an essay that was both pleading and prescient. In, Israel, The Opium of the People, she railed against the Arab masses’obsession with Israel at the expense of protest against their own regimes. And she anticipated the absurdity of post-Arab Spring Egyptians morphing into the crazed but familiar rioters of yesterday’s Israel embassy rampage. Apparently they still have a problem with addiction:

Mona Eltahawy
“As for my country of birth, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, in power for more than 27 years, has presided over a disastrous policy that on the one hand maintains a 1979 peace treaty his predecessor Anwar Sadat signed with Israel and on the other unleashes state-owned media fury at Israel that has fanned a near-hysterical hatred for the country among ordinary Egyptians.

“Yes, Israel's occupation of Arab land angers Egyptians but there is absolutely no space in Egyptian media, culture or intellectual circles for discussing Israel as anything but an enemy. And neither is there an attempt to forge it.

“And now Mubarak, old, tired and out of new ideas, is reaping a policy that plays all sides against each other in an attempt to make his regime indispensable.

“But my question to Egyptians and others across the region incensed at Israel is where is their anger at the human rights violations, torture, and oppression in their respective countries? If such large crowds turned out onto Arab capitals every week, they could've toppled their dictators years ago!"

Read the full essay here for several other killer observations:

“And the demonstrators in Jordan and Lebanon? Who reminds them that in 1970, Jordan killed tens of thousands as it tried to control Palestinian groups based there, forcing the Palestine Liberation Army into Lebanon where in 1982, the Phalangists, Christian Lebanese militiamen, slaughtered 3,000 Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila camp?

“Not a single Phalangist has been held accountable for that massacre. An Israeli state inquiry in 1983 found Ariel Sharon, then defense minister, indirectly responsible for the killings at the refugee camps during Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But don't hold your breath for an Arab inquiry. It is Israel that gives sense to our victimhood. The horrors we visit upon each other are irrelevant.”

BTW, I found this article in my search for the use of ‘Opium of the People’ in contemporary political commentary. I will be writing about another instance of it in the next few days.

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