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Stopping Al-Jazeera and the Nile

Over the past few days, Cairo has launched sudden attacks in various directions, starting with a summons for Qatar’s chargé d’affaires in protest at alleged intervention in Egyptian affairs and demanding the extradition of wanted Egyptian individuals. In addition, we have seen the interim government making threats to Ethiopia and demanding the suspension of the construction of the Al-Nahda Dam which, claims Egypt, poses a threat to its water security, as well as the announcement of the prosecution of Israeli Mossad agents (which, fortunately for Netanyahu, have not been arrested yet).


All of these attacks have occurred around the time that we learnt of Field Marshall Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s nomination for the Egyptian presidency. Of course, the term nomination isn’t quite accurate because the people “ordered” him and gave him a “mandate” to stand. I find it appropriate to quote Adel Imam’s famous saying, “Are they going to fight?” Or, perhaps it is the opposite, maybe Al-Sisi “ordered” and “mandated” Interim President Adly Mansour to pick a fight with the world in order for him to ride to the rescue and bring about peace and reconciliation.

Whatever the case, the two “Brotherhood presidents”, Obama and Morsi, are no doubt sighing with relief today because the Egyptian authorities will be too preoccupied for the time being and won’t be able to accuse them of conspiring against Cairo. Moreover, the alert level in the US will go down to orange, after the US secured Egypt’s intercontinental television missiles. As for Addis Ababa, Doha and Tel Aviv, they must get ready and put up their guard. Furthermore, those working for Al-Jadidah must wear protective gear and put sand bags around their headquarters in anticipation of Lamis El-Hadidy missiles. Meanwhile, Netanyahu is being eliminated and Ethiopia and the rest of the Nile Basin countries will be in limbo.

There is what seems to be a historical inevitability telling us that the state of popular hysteria in Egypt nowadays will reap destructive foreign wars. We have seen this before in Nazi Germany, Serbia and Rwanda, and we are currently witnessing it in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. It all starts with an internal rabidity targeting specific communities in the society, then it escalates because the fire of hatred is not satisfied with only consuming itself, and it is never satisfied until it consumes everything around it, or it is extinguished by pouring the cold water of reality on its flames, but usually too late.

Of course, we understand Egypt’s concern over the threat to its water security, but the bold policies exercised by the Egyptian regime, such as attempts to stifle society, will not accomplish much, especially since it is sleeping in the lap of dictatorship and has neglected, for a long time, interaction with the Nile Basin countries, while the world continued to change around it. The Egyptian regime’s recent actions do not suggest that it is waking from its comatose state.

What is not understandable is its obsession with Al-Jazeera, which only devotes a very small proportion of its daily output to Egyptian affairs, compared to what pro-coup media outlets and allies in the Gulf pump out to the world. Is this an explicit admission of failure by the government and its media outlets in the political and moral battle, just as its policy of repression and foreign policy failed?

There is no doubt that the reputation and position of Al-Jazeera has declined somewhat with the divisions and polarisations that hit the Arab societies. However, this did not change anything in the equation that made Al-Jazeera always on the right side of history and logic of the media. What distinguishes Al-Jazeera from its competitors, including rival Western media (as in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), is that it excels by providing information, while its competitors want to win by hiding information. Needless to say, the ostrich strategy pursued by some regimes and political movements is useless in the information era. Moreover, the policy pursued by Egypt of overlooking the facts about the developments in the Nile Basin caused it to find a new world, different to the one that existed before it buried its head in the sand.

In any case, if Al-Jazeera adheres to what some people want to impose on it, then it would die as a phenomenon and, instead, become like the hundreds of other channels that no one pays attention to. I remember last year, when I was sitting with a group of prominent intellectuals in an Arab capital, and some of them, especially those who support the Gulf regimes, would attack Al-Jazeera and its coverage continuously every time we stopped for a break during our meeting. At one point, I got fed up and asked, “Who is forcing you to watch Al-Jazeera? There are many other channels that provide you with the material you are craving, and I personally stopped watching Al-Jazeera months ago, and the only thing I feel I am missing is my high blood pressure. However, you and everyone else cannot keep yourselves away from Al-Jazeera, and that is enough proof that it is going down the right path.”

The Egyptian case in particular and the Arab condition in general is chronically ill. I am working on a book at the moment about the causes and manifestations of this illness. Perhaps one of the most prominent symptoms of the disease is sinking deep into self-deception, as in the case of Al-Sisi, who “ordered” the “people” to “order” him to do this or that, then he along with his supporters emerge and tell the people that “the people” are the ones who “ordered” him to do this or that, forgetting that they told us live on the air who is actually giving the orders. As such, some paid thugs take to the streets to protest, while the real people are prohibited from demonstrating or even speaking out, and then a statement is made saying that the “people” want him to do this or that.

Such delusions in the world of self-deception would be considered a travesty and an entertaining comedy, if it weren’t for the disastrous consequences. This obsession is contagious and deadly, and will end, almost inevitably, in disaster for Egypt and its neighbours, as well as the Gulf States, which still haven’t learned any lessons from their previous ventures. These countries have funded Gulf wars with Iraq and against it, and all the signs are that the most recent Egyptian venture will end with the most serious disaster for everyone.

This is a translation of the Arabic text published in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on February 6, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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