BY DAVID ISAAC, SHMUELKATZ.COM
“Notwithstanding all internal feuds, rivalries, even mutual bloodletting, that have always marked inter-Arab relations, notwithstanding differences in nuances and in tactics, the destruction of the Jewish State remains the common ambition of all the Arab states.” — Shmuel Katz, (“Mutuality of Interests” (The Jerusalem Post, Aug. 26, 1983)
“At the moment, they have a peace treaty with Mubarak, but not one with the Egyptian people,” said Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed El-Baradei in an interview with Der Spiegel on February 6th.
El-Baradei’s point was that Israel would be better off making peace with a democracy than with a dictator, but his seemingly sensible argument is complete hokum, for at least two reasons. First, he glosses over the viciously anti-Semitic nature of the Arab street, which is why, among Arabs, the more democratic the vote, the more anti-Semitic the result. Secondly, he ignores the fact that Israel didn’t have a peace treaty with Mubarak either.
While it’s true that in a contest between the two evils of Hosni Mubarak and the Muslim Brotherhood, (likely to emerge as the dominant force in free elections) Mubarak is the lesser evil, the reality is that he ignored virtually all the provisions of the peace treaty with Israel. As early as 1984, five years after the treaty was signed, King Hassan of Morocco reported that Mubarak had told him the treaty was empty of substance since “Cairo had obtained from it what it could,” i.e. full Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula.
From Israel’s perspective the peace treaty with Israel would achieve a transformation of relations between Israel and its most important Arab neighbor. Begin gave up the Abu Rodeis oil fields, with their promise of energy independence, the Sinai settlements (of which Yamit was the most important), which Begin had sworn in the early stage of negotiations that Israel would never relinquish, the Etzion air base, crucial to Israel’s defense, and the great spaces of the Sinai desert that allowed Israel to deploy its aircraft — all this to change the nature of relations between the two countries, to establish “normal and friendly relations.”
As Rael Jean Isaac noted in “The Real Lessons of Camp David” (Commentary Magazine, Dec. 1993), “To Israel, ending the ‘teaching of contempt’ was such a central target that it had put the promise ‘to abstain from hostile propaganda’ into the text of the treaty itself.” She notes that some 50 side agreements were signed, all designed to transform attitudes, from cultural and educational exchanges to exchanges of radio and TV programs and cultural and scientific films to joint youth and sport activities.
But Egypt simply ignored the agreements it signed. In “Lessons the Arabs Taught”, (The Jerusalem Post, Feb. 1, 1985), Shmuel noted:
he campaign of vilification of Israel had never ceased (a flagrant breach of the treaty), signifying Cairo’s intention not to guide the public to thoughts of peace with Israel and rather to perpetuate attitudes of hatred and contempt – precisely as in pre-treaty days.
As Shmuel wrote in “The Meaning of Peace”, (The Jerusalem Post, May 6, 1983), it was obvious the Egyptians never had any intention of honoring the treaty.
The only material difference in relations effected by the peace treaty – and the only one that cannot be cancelled by a stroke of the pen – is that whereas before it was signed Sinai was held by Israel, now Sinai is in Egyptian hands.
Egyptians will admit that that indeed is all the peace treaty was intended to achieve.
Mubarak did admit it, and revealed his own anti-Semitic attitudes during an address to Cairo University students in 1991. According to Ephraim Dowek, author of “Israeli-Egyptian Relations: 1980-2000″ (Routledge, 2001), Mubarak, disturbed by criticisms of Egypt’s behavior during the Gulf crisis, dispensed with his prepared remarks and instead spoke from the heart in “vernacular Egyptian Arabic”.
”Against us stood the most intelligent people on earth – a people that controls the international press, the world economy and world finances. We succeeded in compelling the Jews to do what we wanted; we received all our land back up to the last grain of sand! We have outwitted them, and what have we given them in return? A piece of paper! … We were shrewder than the shrewdest people on earth! We managed to hamper their steps in every direction. We have established sophisticated machinery to control and limit to the minimum contacts with the Jews. We have proven that making peace with Israel does not entail Jewish domination and that there is no obligation to develop relations with Israel beyond those we desire”.
Egyptian anti-Semitism is old and runs deep. Newspapers, books, television shows, religious broadcasts – they all portray the Jew in a maleficent light. In “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” (Bantam Books, 1973), Shmuel noted how much of the anti-Semitic writings coming out of the Arab world were assumed to be a “fringe literature”. But as he explained:
Nothing could be further from the truth.
This literature consists of hundreds of books published since 1948 in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, in addition to thousands of articles. They range from the vulgar and the primitive to the sophisticated and pseudo-scholarly. Their theme is that the liquidation of Israel is not only a political necessity, but also a moral imperative; that Israel and its people – indeed, the Jewish people as a whole – are by their very nature evil; that it is thus not only desirable, but even permissible, to destroy them. This doctrine has been compounded by a large measure of old-fashioned anti-Semitism.
In comprehensiveness and absence of restraint, the Arab demonology probably goes farther even than the worst excesses by the German Nazis heralding their “final solution” of the Jewish problem.
Almost twenty years ago Rivka Yadlin of Hebrew University’s Truman Center documented that only Iran could compete with Egypt as the world center for publication and dissemination of both original and ‘classic’ anti-Semitic literature. Nor were there any favorable portrayals of Israel in any forum to counter the poison. Nothing has changed since.
Mubarak rode the tiger of “Arab demonology” for decades, motivated, as Shmuel said, by “Cairo’s overriding desire to resume its place in the Arab family”, and no doubt, by the need to give the frustrated Egyptian populace a foreign object on which to vent their rage.
His strategy seemed to have worked up until three weeks ago.
The tiger has turned and is poised to swallow him. Of the many anti-Semitic images in Tahrir Square, none is so pervasive as that of Mubarak with a Magen David etched into his forehead. He has become the Jew, the ultimate villain, a monster not of his own making, but one which he helped nurture and grow. Mubarak ends his career having himself become an anti-Semitic slur.
It’s a fitting end for one who fostered Jew hate and rejected an unparalleled, three-decade opportunity to humanize the Jewish people and bring the Middle East closer to peace.