Forty Years after Israel Ceded the Sinai, the Territory Remains a Source of Trouble for Egypt

Last month, Egypt celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, which it had lost in the Six-Day War. Since then Cairo has not used the territory to launch attacks against the Jewish state, but it has once again become a bastion of terror—most of which has been associated with Islamic State and aimed at the Egyptian government. Jonny Essa and Ofir Winter examine the situation in the Sinai, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s recent speech on the subject, and the implications for Israel:

Over the past decade, terrorism in Sinai’s northern governorate has led to the loss of thousands of lives of Egyptian civilians and military and security forces, and prompted ongoing instability. . . . The Sinai insurgency is fueled by localized grievances as well as wider regional developments. Its upsurge was boosted partly by the 2011 and 2013 revolutions, which created a conducive environment for insurgency against the Cairo regime, and partly by the influx of Islamic State foreign elements, as some local Bedouin tribes have joined militant Salafi-jihadist groups in a “marriage of convenience.”

As President Sisi implicitly admitted, a major underlying cause of the conflict is Bedouin anger at the Egyptian state’s longstanding economic, social, and political policies that discriminate against and marginalize the Bedouin. These include insufficient political representation of the Bedouin, denial of land rights, and exclusion from the Sinai’s tourism industry. . . . Denied legitimate economic opportunities, some Bedouin elements have turned increasingly to illicit activities, notably smuggling of weapons, drugs, and goods to Gaza and Israel.

Sisi has sought to remedy the situation by investing billions of dollars in economic development and infrastructure in the peninsula, but it remains to be seen whether these efforts will bring any real improvements. In the meantime, after a few years of declining terror, the Sinai in the past several months has seen an upswing in the number of attacks.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Islamic State, Sinai Peninsula

Gaza’s Quiet Dissenters

Last year, the Dubai-based television channel Al-Arabiya, the Times of Israel, and several other media organizations worked together to conduct numerous interviews with residents of the Gaza Strip, taking great pains to protect their identities. The result is a video series titled Whispers in Gaza, which presents a picture of life under Hamas’s tyranny unlike anything that can be found in the press. Jeff Jacoby writes:

Through official intimidation or social pressure, Gazans may face intense pressure to show support for Hamas and its murderous policies. So when Hamas organizes gaudy street revels to celebrate a terrorist attack—like the fireworks and sweets it arranged after a gunman murdered seven Israelis outside a Jerusalem synagogue Friday night—it can be a challenge to remember that there are many Palestinians who don’t rejoice at the murder of innocent Jews.

In one [interview], “Fatima” describes the persecution endured by her brother, a humble vegetable seller, after he refused to pay protection money to Hamas. The police arrested him on a trumped-up drug charge and locked him in prison. “They beat him repeatedly to make him confess to things he had nothing to do with,” she says. Then they threatened to kill him. Eventually he fled the country, leaving behind a family devastated by his absence.

For those of us who detest Hamas no less than for those who defend it, it is powerful to hear the voices of Palestinians like “Layla,” who is sickened by the constant exaltation of war and “resistance” in the Palestinian media. “If you’re a Gazan citizen who opposes war and says, ‘I don’t want war,’ you’re branded a traitor,” she tells her interviewer. “It’s forbidden to say you don’t want war.” So people keep quiet, she explains, for fear of being tarred as disloyal.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Boston Globe

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian dissidents, Palestinian public opinion