The Egyptian Revolt: Is it good for the Jews?

Egyptian Protests: Mubarek poster; is it good for the Jews?The Egyptian government, faced with widespread citizen protest against the dictatorship of Mubarek, has followed a standard textbook play: It released prisoners from jails, and sent police out on looting sprees, in an attempt to justify repressing the disorder with deadly military force. It could then claim that the disorder is worse than Mubarak. Make no mistake: There is looting, but most looting is being done by the police.

Al Jezeera has been shut down, also all Egyptian Internet routers and cell phones shut down. But despite the government’s best efforts, they’ve not succeeded in hiding Egypt from view; so they don’t have the free hand they’d like. News and videos are easily coming out.

The government’s strategy won’t work. The army is not firing except to defend the antiquities museum. That’s because the Egyptian army consists of conscripts, not different in demographic composition from those demonstrating.

It was first reported that the police were doing nothing against protests, that they’d been pulled off the street. But it was also reported that police killed about fifty people in one city. And then BBC reported many dead in Alexandria. Many were killed by tear gas canisters fired directly into crowd, others by actual bullet fire. Of course, police are greatly outnumbered. Later came reports of over one hundred dead in the country.

Many Americans, and the well-educated Egyptian city folk, hope that El Baradi will soon be leading the country. The sad reality is that even under that best possible outcome, the transition will weaken the educated intellectuals who had a lock on power via Mubarak, and will strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood (who murdered Sadat).

I hope they’re right about El Baradi ending up on top. But I fear it will end up more like Iran. The demagogues will blame Israel (rather than education) for the Egyptian disparity of wealth; and Egypt will abrogate the peace treaty.

In Iran, the Shah was ousted by a near universal revolt, including the westernized city folk who wanted more democracy, and the rural masses who wanted Islamic fundamentalism. After the Shah was ousted, there was a long period of violent transition before the rurals beat the democrats.

Israel doesn’t need another Iran for a neighbor. The Egyptian army is no longer inept. Nowadays, they have more of the latest American tanks than does Israel; and their tank leaders have been trained at West Point. Israel needs to watch closely. It would be shame to have given away the Sinai and all of that oil for nothing.

In Iran, the army was rural peasantry, happy to shoot at the westernized city Iranians. Egypt, with its conscripted army, has a better chance of avoiding Iran’s fate.

Americans always have the same difficulty: On the one hand, we like to see civilized persons in charge; on the other hand we feel compelled to support any popular democratic movement, even if unaccompanied by any conception of individual rights, even if it evolves into a popular democratic movement by barbarians.

Egypt could swing either way. But whether it ends up more democratic or violently fundamentalist, it will be weaker in its support for peace with Israel.  An educated citizenry is a necessary ingredient in any democracy.  As long as 40% of Egyptians are uneducated, living on less than $2 per day, and taught to blame Israel for their woes rather than identifying their need for education, democracy in the Middle East will remain precarious.

, , , , , , , ,

  1. #1 by Mark on February 6, 2011 - 7:00 pm

    No, no. You’re entirely confused. When the 30 year ‘president’ steps down, or passes out, nearly all will back and vote for el baredi, who will live up to his nobel prize, and lead the middle east into a new age of peace and prosperity for all people, sign a new joint tourism marketing campaign with Israel, and all will have a group hug.

    kumbaya …. kumbaya ….

  2. #2 by Jewish Jihad on February 6, 2011 - 7:01 pm

    From your mouth to God’s ears.

  3. #3 by Mark on February 8, 2011 - 2:12 am

    The next time hundreds of thousands of people are in the street yelling for my blood, I think I’ll not run for re-election.

    kubaya … kumbaya ..

(will not be published)