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Dirty war against Egypt's democracy evokes memories of Palestine post-2006

May 5, 2014 at 12:57 am

The most common explanation for the political impasse in Egypt is that it stems from an ideological tussle between Islamists and liberals. That is, however, only one side of the story. The other side shows, more vividly, a struggle between a nation yearning for democracy and a minority whose objective is the return to autocracy. This contempt for the will of the Egyptian people evokes disturbing memories of the dirty war launched against the Palestinians after they voted Hamas into power in 2006.

There are still several more acts to follow before this tragic drama comes to an end. Not all the actors have taken centre stage; many are prowling in the shadows. Their identity and roles will be exposed eventually, as happened in Palestine.


Soon after the June 2007 confrontation between Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, confidential documents revealed the involvement of the Bush administration, notably Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, in the attempt to provoke a Palestinian civil war.


The failed coup against the Hamas-led government forced the resignation of David Wurmser, the Middle East adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney. He accused his political masters of “engaging in a dirty war in an effort to provide a corrupt dictatorship [led by Abbas] with victory.”

Since the ousting of the Mubarak regime, the Egyptian elite which spearhead the opposition to President Mohamed Morsi have failed to win the trust of the country’s electorate. Many held senior positions in the deposed regime. That by itself should be enough to raise doubts about their motives. However, they miscalculated and provoked public outrage with their derisive remarks about the ‘illiterate’, ‘poor’ and ‘backward’ voters.

The results of all the recent polls suggest that President Morsi still enjoys the support of most Egyptian voters. Many remember the social services and welfare programmes operated by the Muslim Brotherhood, of which he was a member.  Their experience has, in many ways, mirrored that of Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Recognising the unlikely possibility of winning an election in the foreseeable future, the motley Egyptian opposition has sought external help, as Muhammad Dahlan and his cronies did against Hamas.

Two days after losing the presidential elections in June 2012, Ahmad Shafeeq fled to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Since then he has used this refuge to plot his political comeback. Fortunately for him, he had in the person of Dubai’s chief of police, Dhahi Khalfan, a dependable and willing accomplice. The latter is an inveterate enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood. Long before Morsi was elected, Khalfan had waged a relentless media war against the Brotherhood, ostensibly because they pose a threat to the region’s stability.

To many, it seemed more than coincidence that both Dahlan and Shafeeq ended up in the UAE. Whereas the former relied on the supply of American weapons, Shafeeq, the real maestro of Egypt’s opposition, has, in addition to his foreign backers, relied on the manipulation of elements within the Egyptian judiciary.

In their attempt to wrest power from Morsi the opposition has even pandered to the fantasies of the Israeli government. This week, Khalfan endorsed Benjamin Netanyahu’s call to break the economic back of Egypt by denying it aid. Given Egypt’s strong stance during the recent eight-day war and the humiliating truce he was forced to accept, it was only a matter of time before Netanyahu sought to get level with Morsi.

In an apparent division of roles, Angela Merkel’s Germany on Monday announced the postponement of its debt relief for Egypt. It had previously planned to forego €240 million of Cairo’s debt. The reason for this, according to Development Minister, Dirk Niebel, was that his government had serious reservations about the policies of President Morsi.

A campaign of demonstrations and attacks on private and public property as witnessed in Egypt was used similarly to disrupt the democratic process in the OPT after 2006. The attacks on Morsi’s supporters resembled the attacks on the victory rally by Hamas supporters in Ramallah and Al Bireh on 27 January 2006. Likewise the killing of Morsi’s supporters has evoked memories of Gaza where Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Zahar, Saeed Siyam, Fawzi Brahoum, Atif ‘Udwan and Basim Naeem were all victims of assassination attempts. In both Gaza and Egypt calls by the Islamists for dialogue and power sharing have been rejected.

Further, the role of the media in both instances was also visible. On 14 February 2006 Mahmoud Abbas passed several presidential decrees allowing the transfer of a number of media institutions from the ministry of information to the office of the presidency or the PLO, which is dominated by his own party, Fatah. In Egypt, elements of the former regime continue to dominate the state-owned and private media, waging a relentless misinformation campaign against the democratically-elected president.

By attempting to turn the clock back, the Egyptian opposition has proven that it has learnt nothing from events in Gaza in 2007. Clearly, the safest route to power is through the ballot box. No amount of foreign support can supersede the people’s will. Is it not time that they and their shadowy backers respect the choices of the Egyptian people? If they want to challenge President Morsi, let them do it at the next election. That’s what voters in every other democracy are told, so why not in Egypt?