Willful blindness in Gaza

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The drumbeat of anti-Semitic and anti-American incitement marches on in the Egyptian government-controlled press. In recent weeks, the media in Egypt has come out with a series of articles that, like the long and continuous stream of their poisonous predecessors, dehumanize Jews, and criminalize both Israel and the United States.


In one recent piece in the ruling National Democratic Party's newspaper Al-Liwaa Al-Islami, Dr. Rif'at Sayyed Ahmad wrote a dirge of Holocaust denial entitled "The lie about the burning of the Jews." Like most Holocaust denials, this one argues that the Jews made up the Holocaust in order to blackmail the world into giving the Jews a state where they proceeded to carry out a "holocaust" against the Arabs.

In another article, in the government's religious magazine Aqidati, columnist Hussam Wahba penned a long blood libel against the Jews in which he argued repeatedly that the Talmud demands that Jews murder non-Jews wherever they are to be found. And, of course, that Jews murder non-Jews in ritual killings to make Passover matzot.

Less graphically, two Egyptian government magazines, Al-Ahram Al-Arabi Weekly and Al-Ahram Weekly published articles claiming that US concern about the genocide being carried out in the Darfur region of Sudan is really just a ruse for Washington to gain control over the Sudanese oil fields.

Unfortunately, if it weren't for the Middle East Media Research Institute's painstaking translations of these articles, there would be almost no way for us to know about the Egyptian government's continuous campaign to hammer deep and enduring hatred of the Jews, Israel, and the US into the hearts and minds of the Egyptian people.


The Israeli government rarely bats an eyelash in response to these expressions by Hosni Mubarak's media. It certainly doesn't link Israel's willingness to treat Egypt with deference to the cessation of this Nazi-like dehumanization of the Jewish people. And it doesn't seem to consider that the deep and abiding hatred for all things Jewish that is so studiously inculcated into the Egyptian consciousness may have policy implications for the stability of the cold war that exists between our two countries.


To the contrary, as Egyptians ingest their daily diet of venom, Israeli generals are vigorously engaging their Egyptian counterparts in discussions on the role that the Egyptian military will play in a post-Israeli withdrawal Gaza.


Earlier this month a high-ranking delegation of Egyptian generals, led by Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, was treated to televised embraces by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and his underlings at the Defense Ministry. Next month, our generals are scheduled to fly to Cairo for a reciprocal visit. The aim of these friendly parleys is to work out the Egyptian role in Gaza after an IDF withdrawal.


Egypt's engagement of Israel is part of its two-pronged strategy for Gaza. At the same time that it discusses altering the 1979 treaty with Israel in a manner that will allow the Egyptian military to deploy up to 15,000 troops along the border with Israel, and perhaps in Gaza itself, it is holding discussions with the PA, Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad to put together a plan for what Gaza will look like after these terrorists take full control of the area.


Both Egyptian and Israeli sources involved in the bilateral security talks have informed the press that Egypt has laid down four conditions for its support for Sharon's unilateral Israeli retreat from Gaza. These conditions involve (1) the transfer of control over the 10-kilometer-long Gaza-Egypt border to Egypt; (2) full Palestinian control over the Rafah border terminal with Egypt, the PA airport in Dahaniya, and the Gaza seaport; (3) the reopening of the "safe passage" route connecting Gaza and Judea to enable uninhibited Palestinian travel through Israel; and (4) an Israeli commitment not to reoccupy or attack the Gaza Strip after an IDF withdrawal.


These demands, breathtaking in their effrontery, would endanger the national security of Israel. Yet Mofaz did not cancel the talks. Indeed the government continues to behave as if the Egyptians are being helpful.


Maj. General (res.) Doron Almog, who commanded the Southern Command from 2000-03 authored an article in the current issue of The Middle East Quarterly entitled "Tunnel Vision in Gaza." Almog argues that transferring control over the Gaza-Egypt border, or the so-called Philidelphi corridor to the Egyptian military, would be disastrous not merely to the stability of Gaza, which he claims is liable to quickly deteriorate into a "mini-Afghanistan" as a result. The move, he writes, could well destabilize the entire region by encouraging Egypt to abrogate the peace treaty.



Almog writes that Egyptian "[t]olerance for smuggling and infiltration, like anti-Israel demonstrations in Cairo and incitement in the media, appears to be designed to relieve some of the pressure exerted by anti-Israel public opinion in Egypt." Taking his analysis a step further, the Egyptian government encourages anti-Semitism and enables terrorism against Israel in order to promote domestic stability in Egypt itself.


As Almog notes, Egypt "is an authoritarian and inefficient state that has failed to meet even minimal goals of political and economic reform." If they didn't have Israel to hate, the frustration of Egyptians with the failure of their government to enable their national advancement and promote civil liberties would turn on the regime itself. So regime stability is dependent on anti-Semitism and support for Palestinian terrorism.


Given this state of affairs, Almog argues that Israel must not provide Egypt with a role in Gaza after the withdrawal. Rather, he concludes that Israel must retain total control of the international crossing points and border zones in Gaza even though doing so will provide the Palestinians with a rhetorical basis for claiming that Israel has not withdrawn. Like Hizbullah with the Sha'ba Farms, the Palestinians will use Israeli control of the borders to justify further terrorism emanating from Gaza itself.


Almog's view of Egypt is strengthened by the Egyptian-brokered deal between the PA, Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad for the post-IDF withdrawal period in Gaza. Reports of the deal vary but they all boil down to a few common elements. Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad will not be dismantled. Rather, they will either continue to operate autonomously but in a coordinated manner with the PA militias, or they will join the Palestinian army in Gaza that Cairo is set to train.



Terrorism against Israel will not cease, but its focal point will likely move to Judea and Samaria to provoke further Israeli retreats.


Several reports this week have claimed that Marwan Barghouti, the head of Fatah in Judea and Samaria who is now serving six consecutive life sentences in Israeli prison for six separate murder convictions of Israeli citizens, has played a large role in organizing the Egyptian-sponsored agreement. Yediot Aharonot reported this week that Barghouti, who is in solitary confinement, was able to conduct these negotiations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Damascus and Beirut through meetings he has held in recent weeks with 48 different attorneys.


According to Ofer Lefler, the spokesman for Israel Prisons Service, prison authorities have no legal ability to prevent Barghouti from holding such meetings. But this is a willful misreading of the law. According to the Prisons Service Regulation 29(B), "if suspicion arises that a meeting between a prisoner and his lawyer will enable the commission of a crime that endangers the well-being or security of another person or the security of or well-being of the public or national security, the
head of the Prisons Service or the prison warden may order the prevention or interruption of such a meeting."


Barghoutis's actions are motivated by clear goals. He wishes to strengthen his own position and he wishes to continue to coordinate cooperation between Fatah, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas in the conduct of the war against Israel as he has been doing since the planning stages for the war in the summer of 2000.


Egypt's two-pronged strategy of engaging Israel and the terrorists in separate negotiations is also clear. Egypt wishes through its coordination of the various terror factions to promote relative stability in Gaza among Palestinian terrorist groups to prevent Palestinian refugees from moving into the Sinai.


At the same time, it wishes to provide a framework for cooperation to ensure that all terrorist factions remain directed against Israel and only Israel to prevent destabilization of Egypt and promote destabilization of Israel.


Finally, Egypt seeks to enhance its position in the Arab world by extending its support for global jihad from the diplomatic sphere to direct sponsorship of terror against Israel even as it wins plaudits for its "constructive role" from both Israel and the US.


While the impetus driving Egypt and Barghouti in their moves to turn Gaza into a "mini-Afghanistan" are clear, Israel's policies on the issue are incoherent yet familiar. In planning for the retreat from Gaza today, as with the Oslo accords 11 years ago and Israel's view of Egyptian intentions at the Suez Canal in 1973, Israel's strategic planners are seized by wishful thinking about the intentions of our enemies as we voluntarily abandon the means to defend ourselves.



Those earlier strategic misconceptions based on fantasies caused us thousands of otherwise preventable deaths. We can only hope that our leaders and strategists will get wise to reality this time, before we are forced to pay yet another unthinkable price for their willful blindness to reality.



Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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