Let me insert here a metaphor for understanding contemporary Arab politics. Arab nationalists have been hitting their heads against a stone wall for 60 years, trying to destroy Israel, defeat the West, and reestablish a great empire. The few moderate pragmatists propose to stop this madness. Instead, the Islamists explain that the way to piety, glory, and total victory is to spend 60 years more battering their heads against that stone wall much harder. Guess who is winning the debate?
One such wall, a flimsy fence actually, marks the Egypt-Israel border. A group of terrorists recently cut through it so they could attack and kill Israeli civilians on a nearby road inside Israel.
Since the terrorists sought to exterminate Israel and stage a revolution in Egypt, this was the kind of event that should bring neighboring countries to work together against a common threat. That would have happened during the Mubarak regime. Now, however, with that government gone, a junta fearful of the mob, partly sharing its views, and denied the tools of repression stands aside.
Well, in Israel’s case that band is located in Egypt, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Iran, and in several other places (including a surprising number of Western university campuses) and is now opening a new franchise in Turkey.
Some other walls and murderous bands are within Egypt itself. These include protective walls built by Christians around churches. Mobs of Egyptian Muslims attack these walls as police or soldiers stand by and don’t intervene, albeit ready to spring into action to shoot or arrest the Christians defending themselves. There is a word in Jewish history for such situations: pogroms.
The underlying basis of these attacks is Sharia, Islamic law, that mandates no synagogue or church can be built anew or repaired in lands (or, as we are starting to see in Europe, even urban neighborhoods) ruled by Islam. Why? Because the Sharia’s “tolerance” is merely a form of patience: let the non-Muslim places of worship crumble; those people will lose their religion, and eventually become Muslims.
Of course, such Sharia laws have often gone unenforced over the centuries, or were circumvented by bribes. That’s why there are still lots of churches despite the Sharia’s dictates. Why is today different? Not because Islam is eternal, unchanging, and inevitably oppressive. but precisely because a “modern” systematic ideology called Islamism insists that Sharia must be interpreted and enforced in a consistent, intransigent manner. And have no doubt that in an Egypt largely dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood those laws will be enforced. An actual Muslim individual can be flexible due to different interpretations, pragmatism, sloth, liberality, ineptitude, or venality; an Islamist Muslim cannot.
Now, the wall around the Israeli embassy, undefended by the police and security forces, fell to the assault. The mob’s minimal goal, a symbolic target or a preface to what they intend to do to Israel itself — was to tear down Israel’s flag. Americans know something about the significance of such situations. They even incorporated one into their national anthem:
“Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”
If the flag had come down over Fort McHenry, the British could perhaps have conquered America entirely, the treaty of recognition they had signed a quarter-century earlier might have been torn up. But Egypt is not at war with Israel. Under international law, the Egyptian authorities are responsible for defending the embassy but didn’t do so because that is unpopular with the mob. After the elections, the mob will be in charge.
As part of their attack on Israel’s embassy, the demonstrators broke pieces from the nearby statue “Egypt’s Awakening.” The symbolism is perfect. Egypt’s Awakening is equated with killing the Jews, yet it is in fact Egypt’s Awakening being sacrificed in the obsessive, ultimately suicidal, hatred against Israel.
This reminds me of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 1857 Dred Scott case upholding the legality of slavery. The chief justice explained that those with black skin were “So far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
Unfortunately, that is how Jews and Christian minorities are seen in Egypt and the other lands in the region: they have no rights that a Muslim or Arab is “bound to respect.” Those who make peace with Israel, and the agreements themselves, are by definition illegitimate, to be overturned as soon as possible, with any gains used legitimately to wipe Israel off the map. The land must always remain Muslim and Arab.
Such views are not completely inevitable but they are extraordinarily powerful. Moderate Arabs or Muslims can reject that view — as King Hussein of Jordan and Presidents Sadat and Mubarak did — but moderates nowadays are few in number and even fewer in power. And no matter what their pretense or Western gullibility, no populist regime or Islamist can defy the lynch mob.
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As Egyptian mobs assault the walls protecting Christian churches and Israel’s embassy, the “international community” assaults the borders and policies protecting Israel. How can anyone still seriously claim that there will be a two-state solution, all strife will end, and everyone will live happily ever after? The dream of prosperity, social progress, peace, or better lives for one’s children — none of these things can withstand the demand for revenge, raw hatred, denial of any rights to the “other.” What you in the West think matters nothing — look with your eyes, listen with your ears, and see what the reality is.