16 January, 2009

"Israel as a metaphor for oppression"

Sarah Carr has some good comments on Egypt's complicated relationship to the Palestinians over here. Partly in response to my previous post where I argued that many Egyptians identify with Palestinians based on their shared experience of oppression, rather than just on basis of a shared identity, she writes:

My own feeling is that this tells us more about Egyptians' relationship with Israel and their own government, than it does about their relationship with Palestinians and Palestine - rather in the way that Germany remained a bogeyman for several generations of British people after the 2nd World War. The attitude lingers on in expressions such as “so and so is a right Nazi”.
That Israel has become a metaphor for oppression explains both the extreme governmental sensitivity surrounding anti-war protests in Egypt (the ever-present threat of protestors who have not received the MB memo vocally making the association between Israeli aggression and domestic repression) and the moral bankruptcy of the current regime in the eyes of many Egyptians.

At the very least, this provides a better understanding of the situation than the argument that "Israel is the Opium of the People."

Meanwhile, Hossam el-Hamalawy posted a note yesterday from steel workers in Helwan, who donated a day of their salary in support to the Palestinian people and called upon other workers to do the same. Initiatives like these should be seen not only as acts of solidarity, but as carrying an implicit criticism of the passivity or complicity of the ruling elite. More importantly, it's a conscious attempt to show that workers and the labour movement can provide a kind of moral leadership for the nation, in sharp contrast to the "moral bankruptcy of the current regime."

Pic above: Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian during the weekly demonstration against the Wall in the village of Bil'in, West Bank, march 2006.

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