During the years of Mubarak’s rule, he had only three true supporters: his wife Suzanne and his sons Gamal and Alaa. All of the other figures that surrounded Mubarak were politicians and sycophants who took advantage of their proximity to the president to extract favors as long as he was able to grant them. The moment that they felt that he was weak, they abandoned him to the fate of dismissal and the defendant’s cage. In contrast, in Mursi’s case there were, and still are, tens of millions of supporters who are ready at a moment’s notice to fight to the end, in order to return him to power. This is the reason for the contrast between the ease with which Mubarak was taken down and the difficulties that the army has been experiencing in its attempts to stabilize the state since Mursi was thrown out of office about three months ago, at the beginning of July of this year (2013).
The most important and sensitive indicator of the current state of political stability is what is happening in the educational system: If the schools open on schedule, students go to school as usual and studies in all of the institutions are conducted normally, it is a sign of a stable state, and a functional government, based on legitimacy and wide public acceptance. When life is disrupted, the first thing to be harmed is the educational system because parents don’t send their children out into the streets in a situation that they consider to be dangerous.
The Egyptian school year was supposed to begin these days. But despite the fact that many of its leaders are behind bars, the Muslim Brotherhood came out with the rhyming slogan: “La Dirasa wala tadris hata yarga al-Rais” – “No school and no instruction until the president’s return”.
The universities are more than just institutions of higher learning, because they also serve as a meeting place, a place to express solidarity and a field of activity for the young guard, the energetic ones of the Muslim Brotherhood, who are quite aware that after they successfully finish their academic studies, there will be several years of searching for work in their field, and many frustrations and disappointments stemming from the widespread protectionism that exists within the Egyptian job market, and certainly within the governmental job market.
Today, when the average age of marriage has risen to over thirty years of age because of economic difficulties, the young men and women channel their energies, their frustrations and their aggression into the political arena, in the absence of any other legitimate channel in a conservative society such as Egypt’s. Because of their age and family status, the pupils and students do not yet need to submit to the need for bribery and flattery that family heads have to, in order to maintain their livelihood, and this allows them to say, and even to shout, truth to power and its henchmen.
In high schools, colleges and universities throughout Egypt, and especially those in indigent and traditional areas, there are many demonstrations these days. Although these demonstrations are mostly peaceful in character, they express the emotions of the masses, who are enraged that the revolution has led to the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of the youths are armed, mainly with knives and handguns, and there is high potential for violence to break out.
In parallel with the teachers’ strike there have been attempts to organize commercial strikes, but these attempts have failed because many of the unemployed in Egypt are street vendors who are not unionized, so it is difficult to get them to cooperate, since their income will suffer.
As of this writing, the UN Economic Council in New York is currently conducting activities, where Egypt is represented by Nabil Fahmi, the army-appointed Foreign Minister in the current military government. This is another reason for ferment among the supporters of the deposed president, Mursi, and they have been organizing protest demonstrations in front of UN representatives in Egypt. These demonstrations, should they become habitual, might bring about a violent response from the army, similar to the violent evacuation of Rabia al-Adawiya Square last month (August, 2013), which cost the lives of dozens of people.
A Third Intifada?
These days, the Hamas movement has been trying to reignite the Palestinian arena by using social networking sites and the active support of the al-Jazeera channel. It has already been decided that Friday, the 27th of September, will be called “Al-Aqsa Friday”. The end of September will mark thirteen years since the second intifada broke out, which was called the “Al-Aqsa” Intifada. The current use of this motif is intended to give the intifada a religious dimension and the weight of an Islamic obligation to go to jihad to free al-Aqsa from the Zionists’ grip.
Three factors are currently fanning the flames of the call for intifada: one is the competition between the PLO and the government in Ramallah on one hand, and Hamas and the government of Gaza on the other. The more one side progresses in making peaceful contacts with Israel, the more the other one attempts to set the area afire in order to pull the rug out from under the negotiators, and to negate any possibility of arriving at an agreement that would leave Israel even one square centimeter of “Palestine”. So paradoxically, it is the peace negotiations themselves that are actually fueling terrorism and causing deaths and injuries, for example the deaths of the two soldiers in recent days.
Here, we must note that one of them – Tomer Hazan – was killed by an imprisoned terrorist’s brother in order to serve as a bargaining chip to free the imprisoned brother. Hazan was a victim of the twisted practice of freeing murderers, which is something that only Israel engages in, of all the countries in the world. If Israel behaved like the United States, Britain, France or the rest of the democratic countries and did not negotiate with terrorists about the freeing of murderers, Israeli soldiers would not be kidnapped to be used as bargaining chips, and Tomer Hazan would still be among the living.
The dead end that the Hamas government in Gaza finds itself in, also adds to the desire to shake up the stable system that has consolidated around the Gaza Strip. Hamas leaders hate the name that the jihadists have given them, “Mishamer haGaful” (“Border Patrol”), as if they are the guarding Israel’s borders against the jihadists’ operations. Hamas’ motivation, at least in the third intifada also comes from their desire to shake off this name.
The second factor leading toward a third intifada is the situation in the Arab world, especially in Syria. Potential jihadists see that by waging a stubborn and determined battle, they can turn a functional state into a torn and splintered country, and can threaten even a strong regime and send a tyrant to the edge of the abyss, where he must defend himself by the use of chemical weapons. The involvement of jihadists, who came from all parts of the world to take part in jihad against Asad the infidel, emphasizes the specifically Islamic aspect of the battle for Syria. The situation in Syria encourages organizations like Hamas and Islamic Jihad to try to copy the model of the battle in Syria to Israel as well, not only to get rid of the “Occupation of 1967” but also to bring to an end to the “Occupation of 1948”.
The rage over what has happened in Egypt also worries the “Palestinian” jihadists, and they are especially angry about the “act of mass murder” that was carried out – according to them – by the infidel Egyptian army against their Muslim brothers in the Sinai Peninsula. The operation in Sinai also has a negative influence on the state of Hamas in Gaza, and this is another reason for the increasing rage among the “Palestinian” Islamists. The fact that Israel supports the military regime in Egypt and helps it in its fight against the jihadists of Sinai, increases the motivation to direct their rage specifically toward Israel, and also because that’s what exists in the PA as well.
The Third factor that is encouraging people to begin a third intifada is the wave of violence driven by Islamist motivations in many places the world over: the takeover by “Shabab al-Mujahidin” militias – a branch of al-Qaeda in Somalia – on the mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which attracted world-wide media attention; the slaughter that Boko Haram (“the West is Forbidden”) carried out in Nigeria in which about 150 Christians were murdered; the daily massacres in Iraq; the slaughter in the church in Peshawar, Pakistan; the American failure to depose Asad, the infidel, despite his use of chemical weapons; the increasing influence on events in the Middle East exerted by the Russians, which itself has murdered Chechen Muslims, and supports Asad the murderer of Muslims.
In the midst of such an unstable environment, both near and far, the fact that Israel enjoys peace and quiet is especially aggravating to the Palestinian Islamists and motivates them to use the same methods that Islamic fighters use, who currently dictate the agenda of many countries in the world.
Israel must keep its finger on the pulse, and must not sink into the euphoria of a “house in the jungle” [a peaceful, civilized haven in the midst of a barbaric environment] or of being the “only democracy in the Middle East”. Specifically because it is a democratic, peaceful, secure country, scrupulous about human rights and political freedoms, these specific qualities raise the envy and ire of its enemies, and they long very much to undermine its stability, even if the outcome will leave them in a worse situation.
Islam raises the flag of the “tzabar” (native Israeli) quality – “patience and the ability to tolerate difficulties and hardships” – and promises the suffering Muslim “al-Farj b’ad al-shida” – redemption after the difficulties. Therefore, even if the third intifada causes a deterioration of the quality of life, the price is still worth it, because for them, the freeing of all of Palestine – in the future, in sha Allah – justifies the suffering and the hardships.
Israelis tend to assess the likelihood for an intifada to break out according to cost and benefit considerations, characteristic of Western societies. These considerations, as worthy and important as they are, are not always the considerations of Muslims who live among us and near us.
Al-Jazeera again appears to be promoting Islamic violence these days, in Egypt and in Israel. Only for comparison: Egypt occupies only a marginal amount of space in the news of the Arab world today, and Syria is front and center of media interest. On al-Jazeera – in contrast – Egypt still occupies a central position, with many reports and details about the actions of the masses – especially those of the Muslim Brotherhood – against the military rule. Al-Jazeera gives intensive coverage to the school and commercial strikes that are currently occurring in some of the cities of Egypt.
This is the reason that the Egyptian regime has closed the offices of al-Jazeera in that country, and the channel has been forced to base its reports on rebel videos from video sharing sites such as YouTube. Israel must consider whether it should do as the Egyptians have, because al-Jazeera’s media jihad is not limited to Egypt, and Israel is a permanent target of jihad.
If there is any medium that can ignite the spirit of a third intifada, it is al-Jazeera. Israel must remove jihadist media from its territory before the entire country is set afire.
Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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