News / Middle East

Egypt Grapples with Anti-Israel Sentiment

Egypt Leaders Grapple with Anti-Israel Sentimenti
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March 19, 2013 1:37 PM
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has raised questions about the commitment of Islamist leaders to the peace treaty with Israel. Although President Mohamed Morsi has pledged to honor the deal, he must grapple with long-held Egyptian opposition to the Israeli state. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott reports from Cairo.
Egypt Leaders Grapple with Anti-Israel Sentiment
Elizabeth Arrott
The rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has raised questions about the Islamist leaders' commitment to the peace treaty brokered with Israel 30 years ago.

President Mohamed Morsi has pledged to honor the deal, despite the brotherhood's long opposition to the Israeli state.
"Definitely the peace has to be based on justice, OK, but Egypt is in no position right now to get into conflict with anybody," says Amr Darrag, a senior official in the brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. "As a responsible political force, we respect all the commitments of the state with others, whether we like it or not, at the times these commitments were made.”

As a sign of how unpopular the peace deal is among Egyptians, even such hedged promises draw criticism, not just from Morsi's fundamentalist rivals, but also from his secular, liberal opponents.  

"Part of the criticism to Morsi is that he has proven himself a bit too pragmatic to many of us," says political activist Wael Khalil. "This is the brotherhood who...this is central to politics. This was most central thing to their politics, the question of Palestine, the question of occupation.”

The issue is central to Egyptians across the political spectrum, according to Khalil.
"It is a passage to politicization of many of us," he says. "I was politicized on the Palestinian question, the street protests and the opposition to [former president] Mubarak started in solidarity with the uprising, the second uprising intifada in 2000 and 2002.”   
Khalil concedes some Egyptians interchange the ideas of anti-Zionism and prejudice toward Jews.   
Prior to his political rise, Morsi was videotaped making anti-Jewish slurs, which he now argues were comments critical of Zionism.  

Despite a once-thriving Jewish community in Egypt, both sentiments now appear deeply engrained.
Former intelligence officer Sameh Saif al-Yazal says politicians know that all too well.
"That's a card that lots of people play," al-Yazal says. "When you attack Israel, then you get a reputation in the street. The people, they do that in Egypt because of that.”

But al-Yazal argues practicality trumps rhetoric, pointing to frequent, close contact between Israel and Egypt on economic, military and political matters.
"Forget about what you see in the newspaper and what you hear on the TV," he says. "The reality is that the two countries are doing normal, just like in Mubarak's time.”

Like Morsi's liberal and conservative critics, al Yazal agrees little has changed with Israel since the Islamist leader came to power, nor does it appear likely much will anytime soon.

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Comment Sorting
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 19, 2013 11:02 AM
"That's.... al-Yazal says. "When you attack Israel, then you get a reputation in the street." Sadly Israel and the Jewish people are very convinient scapegoats for when nations and politicians have problems due to their incompetent performance; or when dastardly politicians want to look tough, they pick on Israel/Jews; they have been doing so for more than a milenia. This type of deliberate attacks, "Israel bashing", can even be seen amongst some EU elites; such granstanding fuels anti-semitism, a rapidly growing threat to Jews in Europe, clear racism. This dastardly racism needs to stop.
In Response

by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 19, 2013 9:05 PM
maryam - Since you bring the issue of the Palestinians for info- 1.5 Million Arab Muslims live in Israel with full citizenship rights, they even have their own members in the Israeli Knesset, one of the only places in the ME were they have full rightst...; in Gaza, that is under full Pal control, zero Isr Jews live, and once almost 40% of the citizens were Christian, now less than 3% are Christians...Same sit we see all over the ME, all Jews and Christians have been cleansed out. And as far as the economy of the Pals, in Gaza they were able to buy/launch 22,000 rockets at Isr, that money could have been better spent on the necessities of life, it just shows the ability to get weapons in...; over 36 billion US $ went into the Pal sectors, to set up the economy,over 12 yrs what happened to it...???? For 5 yrs the Isr gvmt has been wating for a peace deal, all they get is projectiles/blown up buses, and attacks on peaceful civilians, so wake up and get your leaders to the negotiating table! and stop the terrorism.
In Response

by: maryam from: USA
March 19, 2013 11:41 AM
if any one wants the TRUTH about racist/zionists all they need to do is SEE what is happening to PALESTINE. Palestinians are prisoners on their own land; homes destroyed' children killed; economy non-existent and THAT is what racist/zkionists are doing!!!

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