Egypt – January 25.

I know I said I’d write about the Palestine Papers as the week moved ahead, but as the week moved ahead, not only were my days still too packed to allow the rumination I needed, but then Egypt exploded.

So instead, I’m going to write a little about what’s going on in Egypt and the one thing an American can do to try to help the Egyptian people.

The protests began on Tuesday (January 25), Egypt’s Police Day (a national holiday), the date chosen as an opposition “Day of Anger.” The original protest was apparently organized by a group of Egyptian lawyers, the point being to protest the rampant police corruption that Egyptians face on a daily basis.

In the meantime, of course, the protests have just exploded. There’s a lot of speculation that Tunisia’s recent revolt is one of the reasons that the protests have gotten so big — but I always think it’s important to remember that a spark won’t start a conflagration unless there’s something there to burn. The Egyptian people have been brutally held down by their government for decades, living under a State of Emergency since 1967. As an Israeli, I’m sad to say that part of what the Egyptian people appear to hate about their government is the ongoing peace with Israel — I wouldn’t want to think of what would happen if that peace treaty is abrogated.

But having said that, if I’m going to fight for social justice in this country and fight for social justice in Israel and Palestine, how can I possibly do anything but wish the Egyptian people the best? They hate the peace with Israel in no small part because Israel continues to oppress the Palestinian people — at a certain point, I can’t fight the fact that just like people, countries often reap what they sow.

I have real concerns that the situation in Tunisia won’t actually be a whole lot better for the people there than what they were living with before, and if the end result of Egypt’s protests is a take-over by the military (which is what appears to be a real possibility as of this writing), I’m not sure that’s all that great either. Having said that, I’ve been much heartened by reports that, unlike in Iran in 2009, Egyptians protesters and security forces have had many shared moments over the past several days, including one moment in which (according to CNN) the sides greeted each other with open arms. No one knows what will happen, and the unfortunate truth is that, far more often than not in human history, “people power” all too often leads not to true revolution, but to a new kind of oppression.

So, we’ll see. My fingers are crossed, and my heart is with the Egyptian people today.

Among the very few things that Americans can do to support the drive for liberty and justice in Egypt right now is to write to their government to ask it to act on that support. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) has asked people to write a letter to the White House, “urging pressure on Egyptian govt to release of M. El-Baradei, stop violence against protestors.” I called his office to ask “letters? Do you mean emails, faxes – what would be best?” and a staffer told me to send emails via the White House contact page (click here).

Following is the letter I wrote, just to give you an idea — obviously your own words are best.

Dear President Obama,

I write today to express my support for the Egyptian people. As an American-Israeli with an academic and professional background in the Middle East, I have watched Egypt closely for years, and I want to urge you to act in support of civil society and democratic institutions. Please use whatever resources are at your disposal to aid the Egyptian people as they seek to enjoy the kinds of rights & freedoms that we enjoy every day in the US.

Sincerely, Emily L. Hauser


A few interesting resources:

Why Egypt matters – BBC: “Egypt matters, in a way that tiny Tunisia – key catalyst that it has been in the current wave of protest – does not. It matters because its destiny affects, in a range of ways, not only Arab interests but Israeli, Iranian and Western interests, too.”

Washington eyes a fateful day in Egypt – Foreign Policy: “It’s easy for me, as an analyst, to push the United States to be forceful in support of the Egyptian protestors (sic) but I can understand why the administration appears cautious. That said, the arguments for caution are crumbling rapidly.”

Egyptian Activists’ Action Plan: Translated – The Atlantic: “Egyptian activists have been circulating a kind of primer to Friday’s planned protest. We were sent the plan by two separate sources and have decided to publish excerpts here, with translations  into English.”

Liveblogging Egypt – The Atlantic: “Tracking the ongoing demonstrations and government response in Egypt.”

Note: The links that I’ve embedded in the above text will also take you to a lot of good information.

1 Comment

  1. I should note that hints of US involvement in Iran’s protests was used by the government there to attack the protesters. Not sure if that works in Egypt, but I’d be cautious if I was Obama.