Egypt, Israel, and the Arab Spring (Scale)


There’s an  excellent piece about President Mohammed Mursi of Egypt by Yasmine El Rashidi in the New York Review of Books. It reads very much like an insider’s view of recent events in Egypt going back to the elections that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. The author explains why Egyptians like her were willing at first to give the Brotherhood a chance, and why they it seems to them that Mursi has now confirmed their worst initial fears about the movement’s anti-democratic intentions.

The more and more I think about politics and political order, the more and more it seems to me that it has as much to do with demographic mass as with concepts of sovereignty and constitutional process. Instead of little Israel and little Palestine, it’s now the turn of big Egypt to occupy attention about the Middle East for the next interim. The scales are incommensurable. Let’s not forget all the narrow minded fretting in the Jewish-Israeli world during and right after the Arab Spring to this day re: the rise of political Islam, and how bad it was going to be for Israel and for the Jews, and what offensive anti-Semitic dribble dribbled by Mursi two or three years ago. It may be the case that neither tiny Israel nor puny Palestine is that big on anyone’s agenda right now, not in Egypt and not in the Arab world.

Regarding Israel and Palestine, it’s an Egyptian national interest to make things work in Gaza, which means keeping out the Iranians and probably the Turks. And it’s a joint Egyptian-Israeli national interest to extend Egyptian sovereignty into the Sinai Peninsula to staunch the growing extremist presence there. All this is in the long or medium run.

In the short run, Mursi has bigger domestic political fish to fry as the massive street protests against the dictatorial, constitutional powers that the Brotherhood is trying to assume now unravel the country. In addition to El Rashidi’s profile on Mursi, it would be interesting to see a profile of the Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Khairat al-Shater, as it seems that he is the power seeking to call the shots against the street and perhaps too against the army. In the end, what matters here is what 80 million Egyptians “decide” to do.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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