Israel, Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

What started in Tunisia and Egypt, spread to Libya and Syria, and its aftershocks are being felt in Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Political Islam is strengthening.

The Middle East is going to look vastly different in the mid to long-term future. In political Islam, there is scant regard for what we in the West call universal human rights and the supreme value of human life. Peace agreements with non-Muslims are only honored when it is politically expedient to do so, women’s rights are not respected, and homosexuals are hunted down.

What started as a democratic movement for socioeconomic rights is turning into an Islamic political takeover which is going to look far different than a Western democracy: will there be respect for a free and independent press, civil society – will NGOs be allowed to work, will there be policies to strengthen the middle class, and perhaps most importantly, will there be a strong, independent judiciary in the countries ruled by Islamic parties?

The region is in flux, and could stay that way for quite some time. The Muslim Brotherhood do not recognize borders. They are a religious order, a cultural, religious, and political movement with branches across the region whose aim is to establish a Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East under Sharia Law. And they have time and patience.

Now the Muslim Brotherhood are the power in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, and Gaza. They will eventually be a power in Syria. But they do not, and cannot, wield absolute power in these countries.

Take Egypt for example. The Egyptian military has in its hands much of the real powers of the Presidency, and the Parliament is not in control of the country. One of the main bones of contention in Egypt between the military and the Islamists is over who will write the country’s new constitution. So far, the military has not allowed the Parliament to determine the nature of the new constitution, and it is unlikely that they will allow this in the future. In the current impossible economic and diplomatic situation that Egypt finds itself in, the military cannot allow the Islamists to create the conditions for an Islamic state ruled by Sharia law, antagonistic to the West. Egypt is on the brink of economic meltdown: tourism has taken a huge hit and their oil reserves are spent. There is a reduction in the number of ships passing through the Suez Canal because of piracy and the attendant rise in insurance costs, and in addition, the canal is still not able to support the passage of very large tankers. Add to this the recent uptick in the demands of African nations to change the Nile Waters Agreement status quo, especially South Sudan, which is demanding a redistribution of water. Internal security issues are also a challenge for the authorities. Add all of this together, and you get a picture of a country in trouble, with the ruling military council wanting desperately not to allow a slide into the abyss. Tantawi and his mates get the picture. They are not inclined to let the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood take total control of Egypt. A change in the constitution, a halt to US military and financial aid, this is too high a price for the Egyptian military. There are enough actors in Egypt who want to avoid a total Islamist takeover.

What happens in the coming few years will very much determine the nature of the regimes around us. Now is not the time to wait and see, now is the time to act, to shape, to win friends and influence people. It is not a given that every regime in the region becomes Islamist-led and fundamentalist. It’s not yet a done deal, and there are internal and external forces working to create a different alternative, and these forces must be supported.

If the Muslim Brotherhood seek western legitimacy then the West must make them accept minority rights and women’s rights (democracy’s basics), and to respect the peace with Israel.

For Israel to deal with this new situation it needs strong alliances with America, Europe, and the Christian African states in its periphery. But sadly, it must also be prepared to hunker down for a long and bitter struggle against political Islam who sees the return of the Jews to the region as a fundamental wrong that needs correcting, as a religious duty without compromise.

There is room for optimism. The future lies in open democracies developing in this region. The great thing for Israel is that it’s a genuine, open democracy. It’s not just elections, it’s a strong, independent judiciary, a free press, minority rights, gay rights, women’s rights. We need the people of this region to see that. This is why the erosion of our democracy, where and when it happens, is so dangerous.

In the meantime, God have Morsi on us all.

0 thoughts on “Israel, Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood

  1. Israel is NOT and never was intended to be a democracy as Ariel Sharon explained on May 28, 1993:

    “The terms ‘democracy’ or ‘democratic’ are totally absent from the Declaration of Independence. This is not an accident. The intention of Zionism was not to bring democracy, needless to say. It was solely motivated by the creation in Eretz-Isrel of a Jewish state belonging to all the Jewish people and to the Jewish people alone. This is why any Jew of the Diaspora has the right to immigrate to Israel and to become a citizen of Israel.”

    On page 74 of “An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel” Professor Jeff Halper explained,”An ethnocracy is the opposite of a democracy, although it might incorporate some elements of democracy such as universal citizenship and elections. It arises when one particular group-the Jews in Israel, the Russians in Russia, the Protestants in pre-1972 Northern Ireland, the whites in apartheid South Africa, the Shi’ite Muslims in Iran, the Malay in Malaysia and, if they had their way, the white Christian fundamentalists in the US-seize control of the government and armed forces in order to enforce a regime of exclusive privilege over other groups in what is in fact a multi-ethnic or multi-religious society. Ethnocracy, or ethno-nationalism, privileges ethnos over demos, whereby one’s ethnic affiliation, be it defined by race, descent, religion, language or national origin, takes precedence over citizenship in determining to whom a county actually ‘belongs.’”

    What is needed most are TRUTH Tellers and Leaders who comprehend “The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership….a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures.” – William Fulbright

    I am Eileen Fleming for US HOUSE and I approve of all of my messages.

  2. The views expressed in this post, to which this response is offered, are reminiscent of many white Southerns in the US, in the first half of the 19th century. A number of these individuals fancied themselves as noble, high minded people, fully prepared to take their place as citizens of a new, powerful nation. They congratulated themselves as more humane, certainly, then other representatives of the benighted region, to which their nation belonged. The fundamental problem was, their society had been build on the backs of an oppressed ethnic and racial minority, whose status as human beings was denied by brutal mistreatment. This society, simultaneously cultured and degraded, erected on a combination of mythology and unrequited injustice , found its end in incredible bloodshed. Similarly, on the shores of the Med, fifty years of an improbable, universally degrading occupation may continue in Israel-Palestine for a few more decades. The tragedy of the occupation is matched by the presumptive refusal of the occupiers to find – over five decades – an end to the occupation. (It surely must be obvious that it is in the power of occupiers, not the occupied, to find the way out.) This presumption to go on without end, is an invitation for forces utterly beyond the reach or influence of the occupiers to take matters out of the hands of the residents of Palestine-Israel. I suspect we are at the edge of this precipice.

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