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Anti-Israel Protests Threaten Future of Moderate Arab Governments - 2002-04-10


Demonstrations in Egypt turned deadly late Tuesday and political analysts are saying anger on the streets may threaten the future of moderate Arab governments.

A law student was killed and dozens of others were injured when an anti-Israel protest turned violent Tuesday at Egypt's Alexandria University.

As many as 33 police officers were also injured after students began attacking cars and local shops. The Interior Ministry says police battled rock-throwing students with tear gas and water cannon before bringing the situation under control.

Mohammed Aly el Sakka, a third-year law student at the university was killed during the confrontation. It was not revealed how the student died.

The confrontation occurred following more than a week of daily demonstrations at the university. Protesters turned violent at Cairo University last week when students took to the streets and destroyed several businesses, including some American-owned stores.

Political and religious analysts in Egypt say the demonstrations are pressuring Arab governments to take more action in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Milad Hanna, a religious analyst at the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, says the future of moderate Arab governments could be threatened by growing anger throughout the Middle East.

"The overall tendency is a growing anger and mixed with hatred and I am afraid to say that the way back will not be so easy," he said. "Human beings are not just push button machines to be having a reverse cycle with one decision or with one negotiation. Today's action is influencing the moderate leaders. The streets are blackmailing the moderate leaders, and if they are not very cautious they will be overthrown and they will be changed by more radical people."

Political analyst Fahmy Howeidi, of the government-run Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram, says the government is allowing greater freedom of expression in an effort to appease growing anger. But, he says, the level of frustration and anger could lead to a critical turning point throughout the region.

"The situation is becoming different now, and we may see a new page of history in this area," he added. "While the armies were changing regimes in the past, now I think the streets would have a chance to do something concerning the change of the regimes. This is why the regimes are very much conscious of the fact that the masses should be dealt with in a very delicate way and they should not ignore what they are talking about."

The Egyptian Interior Ministry says it will allow freedom of expression, but not violent behavior.

Mr. Howeidi says moderate Arab governments must be concerned about the impact the intensity of anger in the region may be having on Arab youth, because they will be the political leaders of the future.

In that respect, it may be worth noting that two Egyptian brothers, were safely returned to their parents this week in Cairo, after being located at Egypt's border with the Palestinian territories.

The boys disappeared over the weekend after having written a note to their parents indicating they were going to help the Palestinians fight Israeli occupation. The boys are aged 11 and 12.

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