Thursday, February 17, 2011

Egypt: The "Angry Arab" Speaks Truth to Naive Westerners

By Barry Rubin

While I usually don't agree with As'ad Abu Khalil, better known as the "Angry Arab," he is really on-target this time. Abu Khalil pulls the superhero trick of being a U.S. Defense Department consultant by day and an anti-American radical nationalist by night. But he does understand the Middle East better than all the instant experts in the U.S. mass media.

In a posting ridiculing Thomas Friedman, who he refers to as a "Zionist," Abu Khalil writes mockingly of Friedman's trying to argue:

"that Egyptians don't dislike Israel and that their opposition and overthrow of the regime would not change Egyptian foreign policy. Dream on, Friedman. You think that a democratically elected foreign minister of Egypt would dare hold hands with Israeli foreign minister days before assault on Gaza?"

He also notes that the only Egyptian Friedman quotes is Ali Salim "a shunned man who lives in isolation because out of a population of 85 million Egyptians he is the only one who openly calls for normalization with Israel...."

Finally, he makes fun of Friedman for writing:

"`The Arab tyrants, precisely because they were illegitimate, were the ones who fed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion.'" Of course, it is the other way round. Arab tyrants are friends of Israel and the bit of anti-Israel rhetoric that comes out of them is forced by the people on them."

I would express this point differently: Arab regimes feed their people hatred of Israel as a diversion but it is so useful as a diversion because their people already hate Israel.

What Abu Khalil is saying is that of course a democratically elected Egyptian government will be hostile to Israel (and the United States to some degree, I would add). There's no doubt about it.

Incidentally, though, while he says "Arab tyrants are friends of Israel" I can only basically think of two governments he could mean--Egypt (formerly) and Jordan--since there aren't any others. The tyrants ruling Libya, Sudan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and others are certainly not friends of Israel, nor are the leaders of Lebanon and Iraq. So he's making a bit of propaganda on this specific claim.

But his main point is quite valid.

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