Egypt Bets on Israel

In today’s New York Times, Michael Slackman offers another boilerplate criticism of Israel’s war in Gaza: that it is inflaming Islamists (or, the analytically meaningless “Arab street”), thereby undermining secular Arab regimes that are friendly to the United States.  Keeping with his pseudo-journalistic strategy of interviewing any English-speaking Egyptian he can find – whether an “expert” or just some random guy on the street – who supports his own outlook (h/t Soccer Dad), Slackman writes:

Nowhere in the Arab world is the gap between the street and the government so wide as here in Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and has refused to allow free passage of goods and people through its border with Gaza, a decision that has been attacked by Islamic and Arab leaders and proved deeply troubling to many Egyptians. And so the government of President Hosni Mubarak appeared to lean back on its standard formula for preserving authority at Friday Prayer, relying on its security forces to keep calm on the street and government religious institutions like Al Azhar to try to appease public sentiment, in this case by lashing out at the Jews in response to Gaza.

One wonders how this dog-bites-man news item made the front page of today’s paper.  Slackman should know better: the divide between Egypt’s secular authoritarian government and its vocal Islamist opponents is nothing new, and there is certainly no sign that this gap has widened over the past two weeks.  Indeed, even amidst the most minor international incidents involving Islam, anti-Semitic sermons at Al-Azhar mosque – which the Egyptian government controls – are standard fare.  (I happen to know this firsthand: I attended Friday services at Al-Azhar immediately following the Pope’s critical comments on Muhammad, and was treated to a sermon much like the one that Slackman describes – from the very same imam, no less.)

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Egypt Bets on Israel

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