A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Embassy Attack: a Rorschach Test for Commentators

 The Friday night/Saturday morning assault on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo has provoked not only the expected international reactions (alarm in Israel, expressions of concern in Washington), but has also has proven to be a sort of Rorschach test for commentators. Israelis and strong supporters of Israel see it as a sign that the "Arab Spring" marks a radicalization of the Arab world and is to be lamented; secularists worry that it suggests a victory for radical Islam (though most of the demonstrators were football support groups, the Ahly "Ultras" and Zamalek White Knights, who are sports enthusiasts rather than Islamists); many young revolutionaries suspect the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces allowed it to happen in order to spread a sense of growing disorder, thus justifying continued military rule and a postponement of elections.

So far, the worst prognostications have not been borne out; Egyptian-Israeli relations are at a low ebb, but neither side seems eager to terminate them. Whether the SCAF really is allowing increasing \clashes to occur for its own ends or due to its own haplessness is a matter of opinion. Here's a selection of English-language commentary from a variety of Egyptian and Israeli sources.

First, a Video from Al-Masry Al-Youm:

A timeline of the events here, from the Jerusalem Post.

A claim that Egypt had asked Israel to have its Ambassador take a holiday from Ahram Online here; and an Israeli take on that report at Haaretz here; Details of the continuing arrests here,  the Muslim Brotherhood's official response, which devotes only a couple of lines to the Israeli embassy but condemns the violence overall; and a Salafi reaction here (it works in favor of Israel and "was not well thought out."

Several of the regular contributors at The Arabist have offered views:  Issandr El Amrani here; Steve Negus here; and Ursula Lindsey on the role of the Ultras here. Also see Bassem Sabry at Bikya Masr, and the always observant Zeinobia. (And her earlier post here.)

Haaretz on the state of relations here. The Jerusalem Post on reoopening the embassy here.

Related or not, there's a growing crackdown by the government on foreign media, especially satellite TV; Al Jazeera's live channel from Egypt,  Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, has been raided and suspended.

The crackdown may also be why Saudi Arabia is shifting its satellite transmissions from Egypt's Nilesat to the inter-Arab Arabsat.

Certainly the Embassy attack is a serious moment in the history of the Egyptian revolution, or could spell trouble for its future; but the many and varied responses so far suggest the current commentary often has more to do with the preconceptions of the commentators than the actual facts. A dangerous time nonetheless.

No comments: