Why Sisi fears Gaza

14 Nov

IMG_1185 Huge demonstrations in Tahrir Square, Cairo, in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle during Israel’s ‘Pillar of Cloud’ onslaught in November 2012. (Photo: Kia Ora Gaza)

By Hossam el-Hamalawy, Opinion, al_Araby, 13 November, 2014

Before and after Israel’s latest war on Gaza, Egyptian media have kept up a steady stream of incitement, not just against Hamas, but the Palestinian people in general and Gaza in particular.

Hamas is routinely accused of involvement in Sinai’s decade-long Islamist insurgency and attacks across Egypt. Local newspapers close to the security services, like the state-run Al-Akhbar and the privately owned Al-Watan, even named specific Hamas commanders as masterminds of terror operations in Egypt.

One problem: they didn’t bother to check if those people were alive. Some had in fact been killed months or years ago by Israel.

The almighty Gazans are blamed for everything. Thus they were sniping at protestors in Tahrir alongside members of the secret Order of Malta while storming Egyptian prisons on the Friday of Rage. Former President Mohammed Morsi currently stands trial facing several charges including working as a “Hamas spy”.

Most of the “news reports” are based on anonymous “security” or “well placed” sources – an almost signed guarantee that they are planted by the intelligence services. They are usually accompanied by regular reports on anonymous Palestinians detained in Egypt without a visa, Palestinians caught in smuggling tunnels, etc.

As the counter-insurgency operations under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi escalated over the past weeks, anti-Gaza hysteria has reached new levels. Some propagandists, like Farouq Guweida, a poet and senior editor at the state-run daily Al-Ahram, went so far as to call for erecting an “Egyptian Berlin Wall” to separate Sinai from Gaza.

The Palestinian example

But such anti-Palestinian discourse is nothing new to Egypt’s media establishment. It dates back to the Anwar Sadat era and, while it became less sensationalist under Hosni Mubarak, it persisted. News of Israeli aggression was always coupled with almost farcical reporting on Mubarak’s efforts to mediate, stand against Israel or support the Palestinians.

Sisi fears Gaza, for the same reason Mubarak did. It’s not because of the tunnels. The tunnels have always existed. They flourished only because of the Egyptian-Israeli siege. The arms do not flow into Egypt from Gaza; it’s the other way around. Not a single concrete proof was ever given by Sisi’s propagandists or the security services implicating Hamas in any ongoing terror attacks on Egyptian soil.

Dissent is contagious

Rather, Sisi, like Mubarak before him, fears the Palestinians example. The Palestinians have always acted as a radicalizing factor for Egyptians. Dissent is contagious. There is a fine thread connecting the second Palestinian intifada, which erupted in 2000, with Tahrir Square in 2011.

The Egyptian revolution has been defeated, and the regime is back with a vengeance, unleashing its wrath on anything remotely connected to the revolt. Remember, this was a revolt that saw Palestine’s flags fly in almost every single mobilization in Tahrir Square and elsewhere; a revolt among whose demands were to close Israel’s embassy and provide direct aid to the Palestinian resistance; a revolt that demanded an end to normalization with Israel and accused regime figures of treason.

As the counterrevolution fully sinks in its teeth and nails, crushing any protest in the streets, while releasing its media hounds to smear the 25th of January Revolution as some “foreign conspiracy”, the plight of the Palestinians and their resistance have to be demonized as well. It’s part of the package.

Following the heroic steadfastness exhibited by the people of Gaza during Israel’s last onslaught, now it is Jerusalem and the cities of the West Bank that are witnessing daily protests against the Israeli occupation.

Sisi and his propagandists will watch in fear, willing Israel and Mahmoud Abbas to crush this budding rebellion. But some defeated Egyptian revolutionaries are desperately praying for a third Palestinian intifada that may well tilt the balance in Egypt once again.

Hossam-al-Hamalawy

Hossam el-Hamalawy is an Egyptian journalist, blogger, photographer and socialist activist.

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