Egypt’s Sorrows Aren’t Going Away

July 26 2018

Revisiting the historian Fouad Ajami’s 1995 essay “The Sorrows of Egypt,” Samuel Tadros finds that many, although not all, of its observations still hold true:

In 1995, Ajami accurately wrote that “it is no consolation to Egyptians that they have been spared the terror visited on less fortunate places like Syria or Iraq or the Sudan.” More than two decades later, [attitudes have changed]. Egyptians have tried the revolutionary dream [of the Arab Spring] and found it wanting. As they look around them, across the region there is nothing but misery. A common phrase heard in Egypt for the past few years captures the changed mentality: “Isn’t it better than being like Syria and Iraq?”. . .

Ajami [also] sensed early on [that] “Egypt’s primacy in Arab politics is a thing of the past.” . . . [The current president], Muhammed Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, recognizes the changed dynamics in the region. Ajami warned that “Egypt can no longer render services that are no longer in demand.” Nor for that matter can it offer services it is no longer capable of providing. So while Sisi has paid lip service to notions of Arab solidarity and promised Egyptian military support in case the Persian Gulf’s security is threatened, when the moment of truth came in Yemen, he backtracked, offering only minimal support for the Saudi coalition [to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi rebels]. Egyptians had not forgotten what their Yemen adventure cost them in the 1960s, and no offer of Gulf financial support can change that.

Nor does the country have a role to play in countering Iran. Those dreaming of a Sunni alliance in which Egypt takes part are bound to be disappointed. Far from the sectarian divides of the Levant and the Gulf, the whole Sunni-Shiite competition is alien to a people who, while Sunni, plead for miracles at the mosques of [the early Shiite heroes] Hussein ibn Ali and Sayeda Zainab in Cairo.

As for Sisi himself, Tadros concludes:

Many observers would happily point to the country’s president as the reason for Egypt’s dismal state. Arabic speakers used to the stirring speeches of Gamal Abdel Nasser are confused by Sisi’s incoherent ramblings. . . . . More confusing for outsiders is the fact that he still enjoys widespread support. It is not simple resignation to the only available alternative that is at play here, nor is it mere toleration of a better condition than others, but rather genuine enthusiasm and support. For all his flaws, he has managed to strike a chord in his nation’s heart. Sisi is not the cause of Egypt’s sorrows, merely its inevitable product. The man who rules Egypt today is a mere reflection of the country’s state: his weaknesses shared, his illusions common, and his flaws its own.

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Read more at Hoover Institution

More about: Egypt, Fouad Ajami, General Sisi, Hosni Mubarak, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror