We visited Egypt in 1990. We spent time with an Egyptian family that we knew through medical contacts in the US. Our host had a holiday house near the Suez canal. He made it a point to show us where the Israelis had crossed the Suez Canal during the Yom Kippur war. I don’t know what he thought we would think, and we stayed non-committal in our discussion. We stayed in touch. He later came to our city for surgery, following in the footsteps of many Arab potentates, and we visited him as he recovered. Since 9/11/2001, we have not heard from him. Well, that’s not quite true; when his email catches a virus we get spammed,
My father fought in Montgomery’s 8th Army in North Africa. He spent time in Egypt. Since most Arabs were supporting Hitler, there was some tension between the troops and the local populace. The troops soon learned that that the worst insult you could shout at an Egyptian was (my phonetic transcription of an arabic phrase my father said 40 years ago) “Yehudi fon duke”, which translated into “You Jew Bastard”.
Roll forward to today’s riots. They follow recent riots against and murderous attacks on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. Some of the organizers of those attacks are no doubt involved in what’s going on now. They are Muslim Brotherhood and they hate Christians and Jews.
Here’s my point: Egypt is infected with a deep and virulent antisemitism that goes back generations. This infection is compounded by the fact that tiny Israel has humiliated Egypt in every war fought since 1948. The Yom Kippur defeat was the worst because Egypt had victory in its grasp, only to see humiliation as Israeli forces surged across the Suez Canal.
Mubarak was the bulwark between the antisemitism of Egypt at large and Israel. He respected and enforced the peace treaty that Begin and Sadat signed. That bulwark is under severe threat. If Mubarak’s successor cannot maintain that bulwark, war is inevitable. Yet, there is no sign of a successor that can do that. Mohamed Mustafa Elbaradei, the former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the man of the moment, cannot be that man. He did all he could to facilitate Iran’s drive towards nuclear weapons. He is a puppet of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Obama needs another Mubarak to keep the peace between Israel and Egypt. But he doesn’t have one. That’s his dilemma. Worse still, he has told Israelis they are on their own. As I blogged earlier, thanks to US aid, Egypt has a far more powerful military now than it had back in 1973. If the Muslim Brotherhood gains control of Egypt’s vast military, they may be tempted to avenge Yom Kippur. This time, Israel might not fool around.
Perhaps the Egyptian Army will be that bulwark. We pay for them. Maybe Obama can keep them onside. Just threatening to stop military aid might do the job.