Baskin: How Arabs & Turks really see Israel

Baskin: How Arabs & Turks really see Israel

My hat tip to Lilly Rivlin for citing this important edition of  
Gershon Baskin’s Jerusalem Post column:

‘The view from Cairo’
Since Friday I have been in Cairo. … I came to Cairo to attend a small 
meeting of MECA – the Middle East Citizens Assembly. This small 
but important organization was founded by Walid Salem, a Palestinian
peace and democracy activist from east Jerusalem who decided that for
real democracy to take root in the Arab world, citizens needed to take 
responsibility, stop acting like subjects and become active participants. 
Walid succeeded in creating a network of democracy activists from all 
over the Middle East….

Walid has consistently demanded that Israelis 
be included at every meeting. …
…. I learned of the horrible attack against the Israeli Embassy, and the 
failure of the Egyptian security forces to prevent it. My friends at the 
MECA meeting condemned the attack both publicly and in private, and 
also expressed their concern for my security and their solidarity,assuring 
me that they would protect me.

At the meeting, the well known professor and democracy activist Saad 
Eddin Ibrahim, who had been jailed and tortured by Mubarak, gave a 
brilliant presentation about the Egyptian revolution and how Tahrir square, 
and many other squares around Egypt, had been transformed into 
“Parliaments of the People.” In my speech, which followed Prof. Ibrahim’s,
I tried to express the deep concern felt by Israelis at what we saw going on 
around us in “the neighborhood.” The “Parliaments of the People,” I said, 
were beginning to look like “Parliaments of the mobs.” ….
THE NARGILA boy in the coffee shop in Zamalek asked me where I was 
from. “Falestin,” I said. “Very good,” he replied, “we love Palestine … I will 
kill all of the Israelis for you!”
I asked him why he hated Israelis so much. Did he know any Israelis, I asked? 
No, and he didn’t want to, he replied. He hated the Israelis, he said, because 
they killed Palestinians and took their land, and because now they were also 
killing Egyptians. 
I asked him what he would think if Israel ended the occupation and made peace 
with a Palestinian state. After a brief pause, he said, “if they make real peace 
and free the Palestinians and let them have a state, we will have nothing against 
Israel, ahalan w’sahalan (welcome).”

This young man, educated on the street, and by Al Jazeera, probably knows 
almost nothing about the conflict, but his views reflect those of millions of Arabs 
all over the region, and millions of Turks as well. People across this region are 
willing to accept an Israel that lives in peace with its Arab neighbors. Israel is 
hated in the Arab and Muslim world not, as many Israelis believe, simply 
because they deny our right to exist. If Israel would only understand that its 
relations with the Palestinians determine the level of its acceptance in the
region perhaps we would be at a very different place today.

 [My emphasis 
People in the MECA meeting said that the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative was still 
on the table and serves as the basis for Israel to be a welcome member throughout 
the region.

 All of the Egyptians that I have spoken with condemned the attack 
against the Israeli embassy. …
They say that these people are actively working to undermine the revolution and 
to show that post-Mubarak Egypt is a lawless society where all security has broken 
down. They hope to hijack the revolution and to bring back the old regime.

It seems there is a very real possibility that these attacks were in fact carried out by 
anti-revolutionary “agents provocateurs.”

 From my admittedly non-scientific reading 
of the Cairo street “map,” the Egyptian masses do not support the attack against the 
Israeli embassy. They do not support warm peace with Israel or forms of normalization 
because in their view Israel has not implemented the second chapter of the Israeli-
Egyptian peace treaty of Camp David – ending the occupation, but they do understand 
and support the strategic importance of the peace for Egypt. Egyptians do not want to 
go to war against Israel. ….

You can read this entire column by clicking here.

By | 2011-09-13T19:11:00-04:00 September 13th, 2011|Blog|2 Comments


  1. Benjamin September 13, 2011 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    In the case of Egypt, their animosity isn’t necessarily entirely based off Israel’s relationship/occupation/conflict with the Palestinians. As Eric Trager and the blogger Arun point out in the links below, the wars they had a (relatively) short while ago are also probably sources of anger.

    I’ve said on this blog and others my pessimism regarding anti-Jewish bigotry in the Arab/Islamic world; I don’t think I need to rehash it.


  2. chicago teamster September 17, 2011 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    Glad to hear about the Middle East Citizens Assembly and Walid Salem, but the 2nd half of this is worse than “non-scientific.” It’s anecdote on a complex subject that requires more effort.

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