Is the Revolution Legitimate Populist Rebellion, or Part of a Plan to ‘Balkanize’ Egypt
By Michael Collins Piper
If there is anything that can be said about the crisis in Egypt—which is reverberating throughout the Middle East—it is that it is ultimately open to multiple interpretations. Any “expert” who purports to give you “the last word” on the topic is deceiving you and himself. Geopolitical strategists, armchair pundits and conspiracy theory devotees are competing to tell the world “what’s really happening and why,” but there is no single truth to the matter.
First of all, consider the issue of popular unrest in Egypt. All serious evidence indicates the Mubarak regime has sustained itself through force and oppression and, not surprisingly, support from the Egyptian military. In addition, Mubarak has maintained a close relationship with the United States and, thus, with Israel, with which it entered a controversial peace agreement in 1979 that remains today. These factors have preserved Mubarak’s rule—at least until now.
However, within Egypt, there has been long, widespread discontent among a variety of domestic sources, ranging from Islamic fundamentalists in the Muslim Brotherhood to more “Western”-oriented young people to working families struggling to pay food bills to peasants in poverty.
In short, to suggest, as some have, that the Egyptian rebellion was orchestrated solely by the United States and/or Israel would ignore genuine grassroots Egyptian concerns. Israel and the American supporters of Israel know that many Egyptians of all political stripe and religious persuasion have never been comfortable with the U.S.-Israeli-Egyptian relationship and that an element of Egyptian opposition to the Mubarak regime has been its cozy concert with Israel.
As a consequence of this, many pro-Israel elements are taking a firm stand against “democracy” in Egypt precisely because they fear a popularly elected regime replacing Mubarak could be hostile to Israel, no matter what the new regime’s religious flavor—if any at all.
Note, too, that one of the leading critics of the Mubarak regime is Nobel-Prize-winning former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei. Supporters of Israel consider ElBaradei to be problematic because he was a critic of the Bush administration’s campaign against Saddam Hussein of Iraq, raising questions about Bush claims that Saddam was engaged in building nuclear weapons. Likewise, ElBaradei has stood in the way of Israeli and American efforts to provoke a confrontation with Iran over its efforts to engage in nuclear development.
In the meantime, despite all of this, it is not a stretch of the imagination to believe that Israel could nonetheless stand to benefit from turmoil in Egypt. The average and perhaps less informed observer might find this difficult to understand.
A carefully crafted “think piece” entitled “A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s,” featured in the February 1982 edition of the World Zionist Organization’s Jerusalem-based publication Kivunim: A Journal for Judaism and Zionism, candidly put forth an Israeli strategy to wreak havoc in the Arab world, dividing the Arab states from within. The author was Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with close ties to Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
The program—which amounted to “balkanizing” the various Arab republics, splitting them into religious enclaves in which, for example, Shiite Muslims or otherwise Sunni Muslims would predominate—was an agenda which Israeli dissident Israel Shahak said, quite simply, was designed “to make an imperial Israel i nto a world power,” by disrupting the Arab states and thereby setting the stage for Israeli dominance in the Middle East. Israel would then emerge as a major global force all its own.
Such gamesmanship by Israel is part of a philosophy known as “catastrophic Zionism,” a term used almost exclusively by Israel and Jewish writers and little known to even many otherwise well-read students of the Middle East.
The theme of “catastrophic Zionism,” sometimes called “war Zionism,” suggests that Israel—as a state—relies on crisis and the potential of war with its neighbors as a foundation of its very existence. This has actually has been the belief of many hard-line “right wing” elements going back to the earliest days of Israel.
In light of the crisis in Egypt, the question remains: Is Israel willing to take the gamble again, splitting its presumed ally, Egypt, as part of a longer-term plan for Middle East expansion, to further underscore “catastrophic Zionism” as a foundation for Israel’s survival?
2011 by Michael Collins Piper