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Egyptian regime surrenders last semblance of independent thought

Since the July 2013 coup Egypt's judiciary has undergone a complete transformation. Once renowned as a pillar of justice, it has become a rubber stamp used by the military junta to settle political scores with the Muslim Brotherhood. The decline reached its nadir this week when a Cairo court began proceedings to declare the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) a "terrorist organisation".

Given all that has happened in the last seven months it would come as no surprise if the court does rule against Hamas. In so doing, it would mark the end of Egypt's journey from being a champion of decolonisation to being an instrument of the apartheid state of Israel.

Is it a coincidence, therefore, that the military regime's efforts to outlaw the Palestinian resistance movement should coincide with attempts by Israel to impose its sovereignty over Al Aqsa Mosque? It most certainly is not.

With no obvious policy to confront Israel's Judaisation of the Islamic sanctuaries, the Egyptian ministry of religious endowments has taken the shocking step of dissolving the Council for Jerusalem. The ministry claimed disingenuously that the body was formed by the Morsi government for the purpose of serving Hamas and not the Palestinian cause.

Contrary to the way that the Egyptians would like it to appear, this step was seen exactly for what it is: a spineless surrender to the occupier and disregard of their duty toward Jerusalem at one of the most critical moments in its history. That is the general consensus about this shameful decision. The regime in Cairo has surrendered the last semblance of independent thought and action.

However, we should not be too surprised, for this is a regime led by the "Camp David Army", as it is known across the region. Time and again it has proven that its raison d'être is to protect the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel even if it entails denying Palestinian rights.

That the court proceedings against the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas came one week after coup leader Field Marshal Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi visited Russia was part of the choreography. Egged on by his legions of yes men in the media, Al-Sisi wants desperately to promote his own personality cult linked to the late General Gamal Abdul Nasser. The latter turned to Russia after the Suez crisis and developed the Egyptian army with Russian arms and expertise from then until 1973.

When Al-Sisi visited Moscow last week supporters of the junta were quick to project it as an attempt to defy America. Nothing is further from the truth; the Russians, for sure, did not see it that way. They have no illusions about the degree of control exercised by the Pentagon over the Egyptian military. Thus, reports of a major arms deal were all wishful thinking, so the Americans duly dismissed them as such.

Since Camp David the US has not only armed the Egyptian army, it has also indoctrinated its top brass, including Al-Sisi. He could not have gone to Russia without the express approval of his masters in the Pentagon. Only one outcome was possible from the visit; the procurement of tactical weapons to crush the internal opposition: tear gas, rubber bullets and the like. Instead of having any strategic importance, it is believed that Al-Sisi's visit was actually undertaken at the behest of the Americans to lobby the Russians to put pressure on the African Union to end its post-coup boycott of Egypt.

Indeed, as soon as the field marshal had returned from Moscow the head of South Africa's State Security Agency visited Cairo. The junta, it seems, is well aware that if the AU is going to change its stance on Egypt, it needs to win over Pretoria. That is unlikely to happen, because the South African government has taken a principled stand not to recognise regimes that stem from the military overthrow of elected governments.

Africa will have no truck with the designation of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas as terrorist organisations. It may, however, be endorsed by the few Arab countries which sponsor the coup.

Ultimately, no one will benefit more from the designation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation than Israel. It would be welcomed in the apartheid state as an important step to undermine the resistance and tighten the siege on the Gaza Strip.

As far as the junta is concerned the current court case is yet another desperate move to gain international acceptance, this time at the expense of Hamas and the Palestinian people. Not even the Mubarak regime went this far. Clearly the purpose is not just to marginalise Hamas as a movement but equally to sow discord among the Palestinian people and force them to surrender to Israel.

Instead of achieving its aims, Egypt's looming designation of Hamas will actually distinguish the men of words from the men of action. Everyone will have to decide where they stand. Most importantly, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah will be forced to reveal whether it sees this as an opportunity to make temporary political gains over its main rival or whether the move is viewed as a threat to the efforts for national reconciliation. If it opts for the former, it too will have abandoned any pretence of independence in what it says, thinks and does.

AfricaCommentary & AnalysisEgypt
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