Our national elites like to call relations between the Arab countries and Israel “normalisation”, but the truth is that what these countries are being subject to due to their relationship is not normal at all; it has other names.
If we consider Egypt as an example of this due to the fact that it was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in 1979, we can discuss the press conference held by General Amos Yadlin, the then head of Israeli military intelligence, in late 2010, when he was announcing his retirement. During his presentation he noted his accomplishments, one of the most important of which, he claimed, was his officials’ “penetration” of the major Arab and Islamic countries.
“Egypt represents the biggest playing field for Israeli military intelligence activity,” he said. “We have penetrated Egypt in many areas, including the political, security, economic, and military spheres. We have succeeded in promoting sectarian and social tension in the country.”
The former official also noted that this created a permanent atmosphere of turmoil, in order to deepen the discord between society and the Egyptian government and make it difficult for any regime following that of Hosni Mubarak to mend the rifts in society. When Yadlin said this, Hosni Mubarak was still ruling Egypt and many believed that his regime was solid, despite popular hatred of it.
After the outbreak of the January 25 Revolution and Mubarak’s removal from power in 2011, and subsequent events, it is evident that Yadlin knew exactly what he was talking about and was serious in what he said. Post-Mubarak Egypt has not been stable in any way, shape or form.
Before Yadlin’s remarks, we believed that the Israeli penetration of Egyptian society was limited to the framework of the Camp David agreement and its annexes, which require Egypt to have normalised economic, political and cultural relations with Israel. This normalisation was only activated in the field of agriculture and was only marginal in other aspects of relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv, probably due to the resistance of the Egyptian people who rejected such relations.
The dangerous effects of agricultural normalisation, including the health of the people and farm animals, as well as the cleanliness of the environment, became clear to the people of Egypt. Such dangers were manifested clearly by the spread of malignant diseases, such as cancer, kidney failure, hepatitis and infertility.
Dr Mohamed Ghoneim, one of Egypt’s leading experts on urinary tract and kidney disease and a well-known political activist, said that the number of liver and kidney disease cases in Egypt outnumbers the rate in any other country by up to 600 per cent. Egypt is ranked as the number one country in the world in terms of the spread of cancer and liver disease; a study conducted by Mansoura University revealed that 100,000 Egyptians are diagnosed with cancer every year attributed to contaminated food and water; 35,000 are diagnosed with kidney failure; and 30 per cent of Egyptians suffer from liver disease. A conference on food safety held last October confirmed that 30 million Egyptians suffer from chronic diseases arising from agricultural contamination.
It is clear that the Israeli agricultural products exported to Egypt were used by security agents to strike a chemical and biological blow against the Egyptians. These agents also worked against Egypt on another front, which is actually more dangerous; they took advantage of their contacts in Washington to recruit individuals from within the Egyptian ex-pat community which allowed them to penetrate the core of domestic affairs in Egypt and influence all aspects of life. As a result of this penetration, we find chaos, violence, instability and signs of internal strife plaguing Egypt today.
With regards to the effect that the normalisation of relations with Tel Aviv has had on Egyptian agriculture, Dr Mohammed Abbas, the former Agricultural Attaché in Washington and ex-First Undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, said in a study he conducted and presented to Hosni Mubarak that agricultural development in Egypt was stopped in favour of Israel.
The United States played an important role in pressuring the Egyptian authorities by means of its annual aid and support it provided to the agriculture sector in order to normalise relations with Israel and to implement tripartite links between Cairo, Washington and Tel Aviv across the multiple aspects of agriculture. Projects such as the “Narb” project, were used to seize Egyptian production chains, like “Pima Cotton”, with the full knowledge of Washington and Tel Aviv.
The Camp David Spring
Experts in Cairo consider the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s as the springtime of normalisation with Tel Aviv.
I remember listening to the speech made by Dr Youssef Wali, former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture, at a symposium that was held especially for him at the University of Cairo in the late 1990s, during which he addressed hundreds of professors and attacked those who criticised the normalisation of relations with Tel Aviv. He said that if he were the prime minister, he would order an investigation of any minister in his government who does not normalise relations with Israel in their respective fields.
Wali, who was also the Secretary-General of the ruling National Democratic Party in Egypt at the time, sent young members of the party to the Shimon Peres Centre for Peace in Tel Aviv in order to receive training within a network of future leaders alongside young people from Israel, Jordan the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. He was not content with this, and proceeded to commission the Israeli Virusoft Company to establish an agricultural information network for Egypt linking all departments of the Ministry of Agriculture. The Egyptian institutions realised the danger of this project and succeeded in stopping it.
It is important to point out that after the January 25 Revolution, normalisation with Israel was almost completely stopped and nearly became a bad memory, especially during President Mohamed Morsi’s period in office. He insisted that Egypt should stop buying agricultural supplies from Israel and stop weaving and spinning projects in an effort to reduce and weaken cooperation between the two countries.
Egyptian agricultural products, especially fruits and vegetables, began to recover from the contamination by Israel; this was reflected in their improved quality and taste as they ripened naturally and did not lose their freshness quickly. However, since President Morsi was deposed and the coup-led government was appointed, Wali’s student Dr Ayman Farid Abu Hadid has taken responsibility for Egyptian agriculture and renewed contact with Israel to resume normalisation.
According to some sources, a secret meeting was held between Egyptian and Israeli agriculture ministers on the margins of an international gathering at the beginning of this year in Germany. The two sides agreed to resume agricultural normalisation.
Solutions and proposals
Due to the current lack of political will to prevent Israeli penetration or stop agricultural normalisation with Tel Aviv, agricultural and health experts in Cairo have proposed some guidelines for dealing with contaminated fruits and vegetables. These include the recommendation to wash all produce thoroughly with vinegar and some disinfectant, as well as running water, which do not harm humans.
These guidelines are merely suggestions and put off the inevitable, as they do not prevent the effects of the accumulation of nitrates and chemicals within the tissues of the fruit and vegetables, nor do they prevent the effects of the accumulation of genetically-engineered feed within the tissues of fish, meat, poultry and livestock.
It was necessary to find radical solutions for the danger coming from Israel; the importance of the roles that could be played by the state agencies concerned with national security emerged, as well as the role of regulatory bodies monitoring exports and imports in a manner that protects the health of the citizens and prevents environmental pollution.
I want to emphasise that the role of these agencies is not enough, and there is a dire need for a political decision that protects the country and provides it with modern equipment and highly qualified staff in order to prevent the leakage of any agricultural or non-agricultural products or any harmful production supplies into Egypt. There is also a need to intensify security at all ports and borders to prevent the smuggling of these harmful substances into the country.
What applies to Egypt could apply to any Arab country, especially those that have begun to normalise relations with Israel. It is also worth noting that European and American companies are marketing Israeli supplies in various Arab markets.
Translated from Al Jazeera net 27 April, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.