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Academics claim that Al-Sisi is destroying Islamic culture and boosting Israeli commerce

August 18, 2015 at 10:05 am

At a time when an official in Tel Aviv has stressed that Israel stands to benefit most from the new Suez Canal extension, two prominent Israeli academics have concluded that the celebrations organised by Egypt on its opening indicate that Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is determined to do away with the Arab and Islamic culture of the country. It is said that he wants to replace it with a pharaonic version.

In an article published in Sunday’s Haaretz, Professor Eili Foda, the Head of Orientalist Studies in the Hebrew University, and researcher Eliad Galaadi alluded to the manner in which the Suez Canal project was celebrated. Both believe that it indicates that Al-Sisi is intent on forcing Egypt back to its pharaonic past. The pharaonic-style costumes of the Scouts who received the Egyptian president and the features of the canal’s new logo are clear indications, they wrote, of where things are heading under the current regime.

The two academics explained that the designers of the “Renaissance Statue” that was erected next to the platform where Al-Sisi was sitting during the celebration covered it with pharaonic characters. They added that the designers were keen to include the image of a female figure symbolising the goddess Isis.

Foda and Galaadi also drew attention to the key role played by the army in the celebrations, pointing out that by giving it such prominence, Al-Sisi sought to reinforce its leading status in Egyptian society. They noted that the president wore an army uniform on the day, showing that he is keen to stress the centrality of the military in public life. Furthermore, stressed, Galaadi, it looks as if Al-Sisi is more interested in suppressing the deeply-rooted Islamic and Arab elements of Egyptian identity.

The two Israelis affirmed that the manner in which the Suez Canal celebration was produced indicates that Al-Sisi is not pursuing the same path as former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, despite the fact that many have sought to strike comparisons between the two. Nasser, they explained, was keen to bestow a degree of sacredness on the Arab element of Egyptian character and identity; Al-Sisi, though, wants to weaken this in favour of the pharaonic character. The media played its role by exaggerating the similarities between the scale of the Suez Canal project and the pyramids.

According to Foda and Galaadi, it will take a very long time for Al-Sisi to restore political and economic stability to Egypt.

Meanwhile, a study prepared by the Director of the Ports Authority in the Israeli Communications Ministry, and published by the National Security Research Centre, has said that Israel will be able to set up neighbouring ports to provide logistical services to the ships that sail through the canal. Yagal Moor pointed out that Egypt’s ability to implement these projects is now limited and claimed that this represents an unprecedented opportunity for Israel to improve its ability to market its own natural gas.

The head of the Israeli ports authority also believes that the current compliant regime led by Al-Sisi will secure the means by which the bulk of Israel’s overseas trade takes place. He pointed out that 90 per cent of Israeli imports and exports are seaborne.

Moor stressed the importance of the cohesiveness of the “moderate Sunni” axis, which includes Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states. This group, he believes, guarantees security in the Suez Canal, the Red Sea and the Strait of Mandab, which collectively form the main waterways through which trade between Israel and the countries of South East Asia passes.

Translated from Arabi21, 16 August, 2015.

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