My views, observations, questions about everything in this world ....and that country they call Egypt.

17 September 2011

Israel Is Not An Enemy

I was raised in Egypt with the mindset that Israel is our sworn enemy. I was bombarded by the media since childhood of images explicit and implicit of a good-vs-evil type relationship between the two countries, and you can guess who was the evil. One example that comes to mind is the Egyptian 'pocket books' series for youth called “Ragol El Mustaheel” or “Man of the Impossible” which was and still is immensely popular. This James Bond-type fiction is littered with overt anti-Israeli attitudes. Virtually all the Israeli characters in those books were sneaky, conniving, immoral, brutish villains willing to do ANYTHING to further their means. I must have read about 150+ of these books. This is in addition to other forms of media, teachers, and general public attitude when it comes to Israel resulting in a self-propagating brainwash wave. A sociologist/psychologist can provide a scientific opinion on this type phenomenon but that's my two-cents. It is so as-a-matter-of-fact in Egypt that I've never seen someone pose the question: Why is Israel the enemy?

Differentiating anti-Israeli/anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism is always tricky but I would say that what I experienced was mostly the former with a little bit of the latter. Anti-Semitism seemed to have been more popular with the religious. I'm sure this general anti-Israeli sentiment rampant in Egypt is evident in polls, and I know it to be true having lived in there and seen it first hand.

I propose that this is only the case because of non-rational, dogmatic behavior stemming from the Palestinian issue as I explain below. Israel is not Egypt's enemy unless Egypt makes it so and continues with this attitude creating a form of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Palestinian question is not Egypt's problem, though in the recent history of war between Egypt & Israel, you'll find the drivers to be related to that same issue. Why has Egypt cared more about the Palestinian issue than any other world crisis? There is obviously the proximity factor but why should Egypt take the Palestinian side? Objectively, the Palestinian issue is quite complicated historically, morally, and philosophically; having a virtually 100% population support for the Palestinian side is a clear indication that there is a bias. The question is why the bias to the Palestinians? Should we even be biased IF they are genetically closer to us? The answer is no. I am not sure if we are even genetically closer to the Palestinians but what we have in common linguistically and culturally for the most part is due to the Muslim conquests 1400 years ago or so. Unfortunately this 'new' Arab culture displaced a lot of the native Egyptian and Palestinian cultures and hence the commonality -however much that is- that we have now. Should we take sides with another country because we were invaded –and had our cultures somewhat overwritten- by the same people a few hundred years ago? That’s not reason enough for me.

Israel should not be an enemy; she's a neighbour and a potential friend. A healthy relationship between the two countries and people will be mutually beneficial. There are many things to be respected, learned, and shared about Israel, like many other countries with a rich history. I'm sure there are also a few shameful moments in its history, also like many other countries, including Egypt. And I don’t find those moments to be more frequent or severe with Israel than anyone else.

In fact, Egypt does not need new enemies, period. Creating enemies for no reason when you have substantial issues like corruption, illiteracy, population, and extremism to name a few, doesn't make sense one bit. Israel has shown the world some incredible achievements in a short amount of time and a small population. We need to get rid of our irrational bias so we can learn from this A-grade student. There is no doubt in my mind that more trade agreements, information exchange etc with Israel would help both countries. It's unfortunate when you make an enemy for the wrong reasons. It's ill-advised if they are permanently residing next door. And it's just plain stupid if you can help each other instead.