A 7-year-old girl drew a Palestinian flag with her coloured pencils; a 10-year-old boy chanted while carrying his school bag, “No way, no how, we will not give up the land” and a 15-year-old girl wrote the word Gaza on her hands.
Perhaps Israel does not realise the extent of the repercussions left by its brutal war on the Gaza Strip, which continues in its fourth week. It has reaped widespread popular rejection within the Egyptian street, erasing what it had tried to build over 44 years, since the signing of the Camp David Accords with Egypt in 1978.
Over the decades, this was accompanied by the adoption of political, economic, media, cultural and religious agendas that attempted to dissolve the psychological walls towards the Occupying State, in an effort to move it from the axis of historical enemies to a trusted ally, until 7 October, 2023, came to turn the tables.
The results are disastrous for the Israeli side and may be difficult to rectify, given the collapse of the fragile wall of normalisation between the two countries, amidst Egyptian applause for the Resistance operations, widespread circulation of the statements of the Qassam Brigades spokesman, and popular rejoicing at the high number of Israeli deaths in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.
7 October students
In the Imbaba neighbourhood of the Giza Governorate (near Cairo), students and teenagers chanted, “One, two, where is the Arab army?” and “With our soul and our blood, we will sacrifice for you, Palestine.” These are the same chants that we have become accustomed to hearing as we walk around the streets of the Egyptian capital.
Teenage girls adorn themselves with the Palestinian flag drawn on their faces, and others sing resistance songs instead of love songs, in addition to the map of Palestine being displayed on their personal social media accounts and on the screens of their mobile phones.
We are witnessing a generation whose passion shifted from following the goals of England’s Liverpool star, the Egyptian Mohamed Salah, and the latest hip songs to reading the developments of the Gaza war and having conversations about the death toll, and where the Resistance missiles reached inside Israel.
When you walk down one of the streets in the Faisal neighbourhood (west of the capital), one of the most famous and densely populated neighbourhoods in Egypt, you will be surprised to find that your feet are stepping on the Israeli flag which was painted on the street, in a clear symbolic indication of the growing popular rejection of Israel.
The Egyptian academic and literary critic, Dr Mohamed Abdel Basset Eid, expressed this situation when he wrote, referring to the masked Abu Ubaida (Al-Qassam spokesman), on his personal Facebook page that “he has become the dream boy in the eyes of teenage girls, and has a special place in people’s hearts.”
Perhaps we are facing a generation that will certainly change from how they were before 7 October, with the birth of a new understanding and awareness of the Palestinian issue, which rejects the weakness of the official position of presidents and governments and mocks the summits of the Arab League and the statements of Arab officials.
A generation that, within a matter of weeks, has memorised the names of villages and cities in Gaza and the West Bank and the names of Resistance leaders, and is using the remote not to watch a movie or football match, but to watch the rockets targeting the Occupation’s settlements, amid unmistakable joy. The implications of this cannot be ignored.
Perhaps Tel Aviv does not realise the extent of the losses it has suffered on the Arab popular level, specifically in Egypt, the most populous Arab country (with more than 100 million people). This is a position that differs radically from the official position, which places restrictions on demonstrations and support provided to the Palestinians.
In fact, the matter may be more dangerous than that, with the development of an emerging situation that attempts to break the barrier of fear, with a call to follow the example of the Egyptian solider, Mohamed Salah, who infiltrated the Al-Awja border crossing and killed three Israeli soldiers last June. We saw this repeated when an Egyptian policeman shot two Israeli tourists in the city of Alexandria (north of the country), causing their deaths, on 8 October.
A new generation
With the number of casualties in the Gaza Strip rising to more than 8,000 martyrs, nearly half of whom are children, and the continuing tragic scenes of killing, it seems that Israel is creating a new Palestinian generation that will inevitably move toward recruitment into the Resistance factions.
The circulating video showing an injured child mourning his brother who was killed in an Israeli bombing on the Gaza Strip, saying, “By God, I will avenge you, my brother,” and telling his father, “tomorrow, you will enlist me in Saraya Al-Quds” may be the state of others in a generation growing up to the scenes of bombing and destruction, and they may undoubtedly seek to retaliate the blow with double the blow.
An eyewitness in a school in the Haram area (near Cairo) said that one of the teachers set fire to the Israeli flag during morning assembly, amid loud cheers from the school’s students, indicating that the students were talking among themselves about the necessity of going out to fight against Israel.
14-year-old Ali, a student at a private school in Nasr City (east of Cairo), said, “If Egypt opened the door to jihad, I would go, and even if I don’t know how to use a weapon, I would go and do anything, like held the wounded.”
In his interview with Middle East Monitor, political researcher, Anas Al-Masry, suggested that the effects of war, both psychological and social, will extend to children and adolescents, from Gaza to Egypt and the countries of the region. The main reasons for this include the growing state of sympathy, the increasing desire for imitation and the spread of the culture of sacrifice in defence of the homeland and sanctities.
The normalisation train took off strongly in 2000, and Saudi Arabia was ready to ride it after the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, but it has stopped until further notice. The current situation may end its trips after Riyadh decided to suspend normalisation talks with Israel and inform the American officials who are sponsoring the discussions of this decision.
The situation in Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries that have had peace agreements with Israel for decades, is getting much worse, with the growing intensity of popular anger against Israeli policies, which has prompted the Israeli Foreign Ministry to demand that its citizens in Egypt, especially in Sinai (north-east), leave as soon as possible.
Jordanian security forces had to use force to prevent thousands of demonstrators from reaching the border with the Palestinian Territories, chanting, “The people want to liberate Palestine”, “Open, open the borders, let us discipline the Jews”, and “We are going to Jerusalem in the millions of martyrs.”
Of course, the matter goes beyond the literal meaning of the chants, with the restoration of the tone of historical hostility towards Israel, and the summoning of the religious aspect of the conflict with the Jews. This means that 7 October will remain a day stuck in the memory of Egyptians, Arabs and Muslims, and they may seek to repeat it.
We are witnessing a prominent shift in the interests of children and adolescents, at a time when this generation was seen as having fallen completely into the clutches of shallowness and ignorance through the tools of the media, football and security repression. However, today, it is displaying a model of interaction that was ruled out even by the polling centres and political sociology experts.
Egyptian researcher, Imad Al-Sayed, explains this by saying that this generation’s awareness of the Palestinian issue changed 360 degrees within days, and it is an awareness that started from the top of the pyramid of awareness, which is described as “shocking” and is the highest point in the path of awareness according to social scientists. Instead of moving through the chronological phases of awareness surrounding the issue, starting with introducing it and then studying it in depth, the generation is exposed to an earthquake of crimes against humanity committed by the Occupation Forces. All of this has caused a shock in the consciousness of the new generation, especially in light of their addiction to social media platforms filled with thousands of video clips documenting the crimes of the Israeli state.
He continues to Middle East Monitor, that the issue of forming awareness naturally requires many years, but the Al-Aqsa Flood accelerated it greatly, and post-7 October, will not be the same as pre-7 October about the map of Egyptian awareness regarding the Palestinian issue. This is what makes the idea of protecting the Camp David Accords from collapse, which is an idea that has been established for years, a complete delusion. There is no doubt that this awareness that sent billions spent to promote normalisation to the garbage and confirmed that the embers of the issue will continue to burn in the souls of future generations.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.