Saturday, March 5, 2011

Egypt: American Know-Nothings Play With the Lives of Millions of People

By Barry Rubin

This article by Benjamin Kerstein is so good that I have to quote from it extensively:

“[Peter] Beinart’s take on the [Egypt] situation—and I do not think it is an unusual one among American Jewish leftists and American leftists in general—is equal parts wishful thinking and willful self-deception. His thesis…is that Israel is opposed to the Egyptian revolution because it is opposed to Arab democracy. The reason Israel is opposed to Arab democracy is that a democratic Arab world would make it much harder for Israel to do evil unto the Palestinians. Beinart presents no evidence whatsoever that this is actually the case, and it should be noted that the Israeli government has thus far declared no opposition to democracy in Egypt, though it has expressed strong concerns about where the current upheaval in that country may be leading.

"In Beinart’s eyes, however, even this elementary skepticism is simply incomprehensible and unconscionable. While he admits that `a theocracy that abrogated Egypt’s peace treaty with the Jewish state would be bad for Israel,’ he informs us that this is `unlikely’ because Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood `abandoned violence decades ago, and declared that it would pursue its Islamist vision through the democratic process.’ He asks, `Might the Brotherhood act differently if it gained absolute power? Sure, but it’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that happens,’ and reassures us that `Mohammed ElBaradei, the closest thing the Egyptian protest movement has to a leader, has called the peace treaty with Israel ‘rock solid.’ Indeed, Beinart appears to believe that Israel’s concerns about radical Islam are caused by nothing more than paranoia and craven self-interest.”

I'll add that if someone can make a statement like—let the Brotherhood take power in Egypt and let’s see what happens because we don’t really know—is so irresponsible that they should be ashamed to show their face in public. Beinart has conducted no research on the Brotherhood. Surely, he has never read a single speech delivered by a Brotherhood leader or article appearing in a Brotherhood publication in Arabic (even in English translation.) How dare he make such absurd and ill-informed statements. Such a person should lose all credibility. Yet this is the man invited—initially as the sole speaker—by the Reform Jewish organization to address its annual meeting.

He indicates no awareness that both Hizballah and Hamas—not to mention the Russian Communists and German fascists—participated in democratic processes as part of the way they attained power.

Moreover, the Brotherhood did not abandon violence but—why is this so hard to understand?—only abandoned using violence within Egypt so that its leaders would not be sent back to concentration camps by the regime. It has always and continued to endorse terrorism against Israeli civilians. Indeed, it has endorsed the genocidal extermination of Israeli Jews. Why is this so hard to comprehend since the Brotherhood has never made a secret of its views? Directly contrary to Beinart’s statements ElBaradei has called for the unilateral revising of the treaty to suit Egypt’s tastes.

One need not assume the Brotherhood is going to take power in Egypt in the next elections--I don't think that will happen--but we might be at the beginning of a process that would bring them to power in a decade. Moreover, they are better situated to help the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood overthrow the government there and to aid Hamas in attacking Israel and trying to overthrow the Palestinian Authority.

And  there also must be consideration of a radical nationalist regime--more likely than an Islamist one for the shorter-term--and how that might behave in the region.

The lives of millions of people are at stake and the irresponsibility of ridiculing concerns is criminal. As the people whose lives are most directly at stake after the Egyptians themselves, Israelis will scornfully disregard such advice. And Americans should laugh with disgust at those who make arguments about Egypt while knowing zero about the country, its history, society, and politics.

I have never seen an issue on which the American political-intellectual elite has been so insanely stupid and inaccurate. Easily ascertainable facts are simply ignored and censored out of the mass media. What is happening now makes the Western misreading of fascism in the 1930s and Communism in the 1940s look like a picnic. Some of us at least—who, as punishment, will essentially be denied access to any major American newspaper or television show to explain reality—remember the past consequences of those mistakes.

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