A Shameful Day for Egypt / Zvi Mazel

Sept.11 2011
The tall building at No6 Ibn Malek street on the West bank of the Nile river is well known to the people of Cairo. The Israeli flag has flown from its 19th floor since it was first raised thirty years ago in a moving ceremony. It was hoped that the move would herald a new era of peace with Egypt and with our other neighbors. It did not quite happen like that. A cold peace and ongoing media incitement threw a pall over the building. Though it has provided a safe haven for the succeeding teams of Israeli diplomats, though Egyptians and Palestinians came daily to arrange consular matters or receive visas; though foreign ambassadors came to exchange views with their Israeli counterpart, there was a feeling that “something was bound to happen.” Something did happen last week. The flag was violently taken down by an Egyptian “hero”, thrown to the ground and fire was set to it while the mob exulted. The following day the “hero” had become the darling of the press and even received an award from the governor of Giza.

The great country so proud of its magnificent past has now found its modern hero. Not a philosopher, a scientist, not the founder of a start-up company making a successful exit; not a chess player, not even an athlete. Just a hooligan climbing up the walls to defile the flag of a neighboring country spurred by the shouts of a hanging mob. The attack on the embassy itself a few days later shows that the mob had understood that it had the blessings of the media and of the authorities.

The whole world then saw that Egypt could not enforce the safety and integrity of a foreign embassy, could not abide by the most elementary rules of international law and respect the treaties to which it is a signatory. The lesson will not be forgotten, nor will the pictures of the mob attacking the building, getting access to the embassy, defacing the walls, destroying property. Not something to inspire confidence or to encourage tourists to visit at a time when Egypt needs more than ever the understanding and support of the international community for its failing economy.

Egypt finds itself at a crossroads. Mass demonstrations and the toppling of Mubarak have brought no breakthrough for the country’s social and economic problems. The Supreme Military Council ruling the country has been exposed in all its weakness; it has been unable to show the people a new road map leading to the drafting of a new constitution, the election of new parliamentary institutions and much needed social and economic reforms. On the contrary, the situation is getting from bad to worse. There were no liberal parties ready to guide the revolution and work for the establishment of a democratic regime able to enforce the respect of human rights and the rights of women, as well as those of the Coptic minority. Instead, the Muslim Brothers and the ultra nationalist movements, long repressed by the previous regime are now controlling the street and dictating their will to the army – while each fighting to shape the country their way. The naïve and fearless youngsters who took to the street on January 25 to demand change and better conditions have lost. Hatred towards Israel is the only common ground for the deeply divided forces battling for control in Egypt.

Yet today Egypt urgently needs to take care of its economy, to provide work and hope for its hungry masses. To do so it needs stability of the kind that the peace treaty with Israel provides. The two neighboring countries need to cooperate to fight terror groups menacing their lengthy border. The ongoing dialogue at the higher level has never stopped, and the U.S is doing its share to help. Cool heads are needed on both sides of the border to defuse the situation. It may not be easy, but there is no other way.

Zvi Mazel is Ex - Ambassador to Egypt and Sweden.

Pubished by personal permossion of the author

No virus found in this incoming message.
Checked by AVG - www.avg.com
Version: 8.5.449 / Virus Database: 271.1.1/3889 - Release Date: 09/10/11 18:44:00

Post new comment

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.