Normally when I write a blog I discuss a particular topic: the Egyptian Museum, Israeli restaurants, a trip I recently took… This one is going to be a bit different. I haven’t written a blog in a while, and much has happened. Egypt has overthrown its longtime leader, Hosni Mubarak, and much of the Middle East is in a similar state of upheaval. Israel remains secure, but what will happen with the new neighbors?
I have no idea. I only know that history repeats itself, and revolutions have a sneaky way of ending very differently than they began. What started as a call for freedom often ends up with one individual, or a group of individuals, consolidating power and suppressing the people as bad, or worse, than the group against which everyone originally revolted. Not always, but it’s happened enough that the risk should be evaluated.
Those that brush off the risk of extremists like the Muslim Brotherhood taking power, naively facebooking that Egypt is now free and democratic as though the storm has passed, have not fully evaluated the situation. The country is being run by the military and the constitution is suspended. I believe there will be free elections in the fall, but who’s to say who will win, and how that will affect future policies? I believe groups like the Brotherhood will have a very successful election year, for they are the most organized and the most likely to receive worldwide funding from extremist groups.
Do you honestly believe that those who hate the West and wish to see Sharia law implemented will not do everything they can to control Egypt, one of the richest, largest, and most strategically positioned countries in the Middle East?
Meanwhile, most of us have hopped on the revolutionary bandwagon as though we are ignorant hippies who know nothing of world affairs or history. We’ve applauded what has been termed a “peaceful” revolution that was not really all that peaceful, saying that there’s nothing anti-American or anti-Israeli occurring when almost every major American news outlet had their reporters physically abused. Christiane Amanpour was explicitly told, “We hate you… We hate America…” and a CBS reporter was gang raped by 200 frantic, ecstatic “free” Egyptians who yelled “Jew!” while abusing her. None of that sounds particularly friendly to the West in my opinion. But I could be wrong, and I hope I am.
*Also-Special note from Amin, who offered first-hand insight into the revolution. Most Egyptians aren’t “crazies” like those you see in the videos, and during the revolution itself, anyone who tried to make it religious was immediately shushed.* I remain cautious of the revolution being usurped, but am very supportive of genuine freedom-loving Egyptians.
On a different but similar note, I went to Jerusalem this weekend and ran into six “Cairo kids,” though only three had been there the full fall semester, like me. Most were there for about 10 days before their schools forced them to evacuate and now consider themselves experts on all things Egyptian. They were snooty and condescending, making no secret of the fact that they don’t like Israel or Jews in the country that welcomed them at the last minute.
Here’s an article from the Jerusalem Post, in which two were interviewed. I find the title, “New Hebrew U Students Who Fled Cairo to See ‘Other Side'” ironic and inaccurate, seeing as they did not in any way come to Israel to see the “other side.” They came because their schools forced them to. Before reading on, it will help if you read the article.
The first girl interviewed probably has good intentions, but typifies much of the ignorant confidence that grips my generation. She speaks of Israeli racism, but somehow the Egyptians who accused her of being an Israeli spy just because she’s white aren’t racist at all. I have good friends from Cairo, many of them Egyptians who joked around with the American Jews studying abroad with no genuine animosity. That was, however, at the very affluent American University in Cairo, where many of the students have spent extensive time in Europe or America. Other areas of Egypt aren’t always as welcoming. One common tourist destination, the Siwa Oasis, had representatives unequivocally state: “Jews are not welcome as tourists…[we] despise the Israelis and…will not accept any relations whatsoever with the Jews.”
The second individual interviewed in the article, Jeremy Hodge, was one of those Jews who had a good time in Egypt. He actually studied there the full semester, spoke Arabic well, and made no secret of the fact that he was Jewish, though I don’t know how often the subject came up. I salute him and those that treated him well, and consider him far more resourceful on the issue.
I have no idea what will happen in the Middle East. I only know that revolutions often turn out quite differently than they began, and though I obviously support freedom over a dictatorship, the power vacuum and instability caused by the domino revolutions sweeping the region are not to be dismissed. Hopefully the revolutions sweeping the Middle East will lead to freedom and a legitimate representative government.
But be wary of those who are championing revolution for the sake of revolution, or jumping on the bandwagon, because revolutions often have a way of ending very differently than they began.
Author’s note: I wrote the post above in 2011, when I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University for a semester. I had just completed a semester at the American University in Cairo, leaving weeks before the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. The original publication title was “Revolutions: Bandwagon, Sincere, and Sinister.”