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October 11, 2014

Pro-Israel New York Times Editorial Misses Vital Points

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Following the signing of a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, U.S. military aid to Egypt was supposed to come into effect. While some has materialized, now and then as an arm-twisting strategy American pro-Israel factions in both media and politics have never missed an opportunity to deny Egypt that aid.

It seems they have failed to consider the huge benefits that came with the fulfilment of that promise. American military aid to Egypt was designed to replace pre-1979 Russian influence and it has netted the U.S. a major advantage in the Arab world.

Instead, the present-day bottom line is this: pro-Israel forces in the U.S. are more interested in the well-being of Israel, at the cost of a militarily weak Egypt, than in the welfare of their own American people.

The most recent attempt to deny Egypt that aid came in the form of an October 4 (2014) New York Times editorial, published on the eve of the anniversary of Egypt’s liberation of the Sinai Peninsula from Israeli occupation in October 1973. The editorial’s hostile attack on Egypt omitted a number of vital facts.

For starters, it calls the Egyptian popular civilian and military movement of January 25, 2011 against Hosni Mubarak an “uprising,” but describes the similar one of June 30, 2013 against the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi (also aided by the military), as a “military coup.”

The fact that that the secular Mubarak was elected by the same democratic process as the Muslim Brotherhood’s Morsi is left unmentioned.

Only five months after being elected on November 22, 2012 Morsi had become a dictator with absolute powers and turned the entire country against him – the Christian church, Al-Azhar University, lawyers, judges, writers, artists, academics, journalists, farmers, labor, youth, women, and pro-democracy groups. The popular opposition included not only those who didn’t vote for him, but also as many who did.

In fact, the uprising that toppled Morsi was started by a youth group called Tamarad (which means “rabble”); it did not ask him to step down, but only to call for an early presidential election.

Morsi stubbornly refused, relying on false assurances that the U.S. would stand by him and that the Egyptian military wouldn’t dare to side with the people again as it had against Mubarak. That advice was not only fatal to Morsi; it also spelled doom for political Islam in Egypt and for the well-being of the whole country. Egypt has paid dearly, and is still paying, for that bad advice.

Another important fact missing from the October 4 NYT editorial was that following the uprising of June 30, 2013 the Muslim Brotherhood resorted to terrorism to advance its political agenda. It attacked churches, killed civilians and security forces, destroyed important public buildings such as universities and power stations, and labelled as “infidels” anyone – even Egypt’s Grand Imam – who spoke out against its extremist version of Islam.

The editorial conveniently mentioned that Morsi and his aides remain in prison, but didn’t note the same regarding Mubarak, his two sons and their aides; nor was it mentioned that either of the two deposed leaders and their coterie are in court for specific crimes they are accused of committing. The chances that a lower or upper Egyptian court could clear any of them are quite real.

The editorial also ignored the long and violent history of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization with branches in many countries. Since its formation during the 1920s the MB has routinely used violence to advance its aims. Not only Egypt, but also Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have listed it as a terrorist organization.

In Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood operates as Hamas, which is rightly listed by the U.S. and others as a terrorist group for its atrocities against Israeli civilians. Yet the U.S. does not call Egypt’s MB a terrorist organization for its vicious assault on ordinary people. Thus the message remains this: Israeli blood is more important to the American administration than Egyptian blood.

In fact, the editorial even argues that Egypt’s MB was “unfairly branded as terrorists,” and uses this misconception as justification for predicting that some of its “rudderless” adherents will be drawn into militancy: “Just when the United States is battling Sunni extremists in Iraq and Syria, seeking to isolate the terrorist group known as the Islamic State, Egypt’s crushing authoritarianism could well persuade a significant number of its citizens that violence is the only tool they have for fighting back.”

The Times editorial missed the irony that in 1981, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood assassinated President Anwar Sadat, the very one who signed the historic peace treaty with Israel. And while still in office Morsi, in defiance of the nation’s will, released Sadat’s killers and invited them as VIPs to celebrations marking the October 1973 Sinai liberation.

Other editorial omissions include a complete failure to mention that

- President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was democratically elected last May by an overwhelming majority, in a fair and free election monitored by international organizations from the U.S. and EU;

- Egyptians approved a new liberal constitution to replace Morsi’s Islamist one;

- Egyptians showed their trust in Sisi’s leadership by buying $10 billion worth of Government Bonds in only eight days to finance a job-creating expansion of the Suez Canal;

- Many economic reforms have been achieved in Sisi’s first 100 days in office;

- Women and youth have been given leading government positions;

- Egypt’s relations with Arab and African countries are much better now than they ever were during the all-time low of Morsi’s regime.

And finally, nothing whatsoever is mentioned about the upcoming 2014 Egyptian parliamentary elections to which international observers are being invited.

Egypt is fighting its own in-house war against Islamist terrorism, while at the same time rebuilding its economy and struggling to become a fully democratic liberal country that will advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, a region that chronically suffers from religious extremism, high unemployment and poverty.

Egypt deserves the help, not the neglect, of America. Making good on the decades-old military promise of aid would be a win-win situation.

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, an Egyptian-born Canadian, is Professor Emeritus of Computer Engineering at the University of Waterloo. He can be reached at Elmasry@thecanadiancharger.com.

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