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Yes, But How Do You Feel About Egypt?

Where American Jews stand

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Graffiti in Cairo.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times reported a few days ago that American Jewish communal leaders have felt torn watching the events in Cairo. On the one hand, Israel’s wellbeing is obviously on their minds; on the other hand, if any group can sympathize with the desire of a people to be freed of a Pharoah … .

But how do you feel about, um, everything? Consider this an open comments thread. And to make it interesting, the person with the best comment will get a free advanced reader’s copy of Sacred Trash, the Nextbook Press book about the Cairo Geniza forthcoming in April.

I think I’ve pretty much laid my cards on the table. What’s in your hand?

Jews in U.S. Are Wary In Happiness for Egypt [NYT]
Sacred Trash [Nextbook Press]
Earlier: The Brotherhood Goes Mainstream

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The most likely outcome of the turmoil in Egypt, at this point, is continued military rule under a new strongman, probably more anti-Western, anti-US and anti-Israel than Mubarak. The next most likely outcome is a gradual takeover by an Islamist government tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Indeed, the two outcomes are not necessarily mutually exclusive.)

The ideal outcome–peaceful democracy–is absurdly unlikely for a whole host of reasons: lack of anything in the country’s history even resembling democratic experience; lack of anything like an organized democratic movement with significant popular support; lack of the kind of civilian institutions on which democracy depends for its defense; lack of any social, cultural or religious traditions on which a democratic spirit might be based.

Why, then, do so many people seem to treat this remote possibility as a reason for ambivalence about what should be a straightforwardly, unambiguously grim situation? Partly, no doubt, it’s simple fear of facing the ugly reality of the world as it is. But I think there’s an even more important reason.

Since the 1960s, American culture has worshipped the young, idealistic protester as a kind of symbol of everything good and noble (in both senses of the word). To be young, beautiful, idle and petulantly demanding is to live the American aristocratic ideal, the way to be wealthy, hedonistic and decadent is to live the European aristocratic ideal. Thus, for well-educated, affluent Americans (like most American Jews), doubting the protestors in Egypt today is like doubting the protestors in America in the 1960s–or today, for that matter; it’s tantamount to doubting the very values on which their culture and identity are based. By comparison, hanging onto an infinitesimally slender reed of hope that Egyptian mobs will somehow vindicate the American model of youthful protest seems like a relatively safe, comforting option.

Cautious optimism seems the middle path, the reasonable and moral road in this case. Of course, I’m not doing much walking…just watching and wringing my hands.

Daniel says:

How do I feel? I feel that no matter what happens from here, our billions of investment into the Egyptian government was a very poor investment indeed. Was it an investment to prop up the Muarak regime? In that case, all wasted. Was it to spur reform in Egypt by Mubarak? In that case, reform never happened, all wasted.

Danny Steinmetz says:

After all this caterwauling about Israel a democracy not being safe being surrounded by dictators, now this nostalgia for dictators.

Democracy is uncertain, but we know that stagnation is also not stable.

In the long run, the possible arrival of democracy in the Middle East gives me great hope. As an American Jew who values democracy in the US and democracy in Israel (with all the imperfections in both places) I would be ashamed to want anything less for the Arab world.

Can anyone name a real democracy among the Arab states?

Marcia Almey says:

I can only agree with what Danny Steinmetz says. I thought that the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries were exciting, inspiring and truly breathtaking. They reminded me of (the much less successful) uprisings and movements for reform in the Eastern Europe (Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany)in the fifties, sixties and seventies), and how people must have felt when they heard or viewed them. The parallels and differences are striking, and I wonder how much of the differences are due to the presence of the Internet and social media. We live in a changed world and all we can do is embrace that change and hope for the very best. It is truly awe-inspiring to see formerly cowed peoples rise up and protest.

I have been a cautious viewer of the Egyptian turmoil, but my eventual, my American opinion, is that it doesn’t matter what I think and it shouldn’t. America didn’t have a traditional of democracy either. And it still was not a democracy after the revolution until you were a white land owner. The language of our constitution allowed for gradual democratic changes. That’s my hope for Egypt—that whatever they come up with allows for growth and change.

American Jews for the most part are liberals who have substituted their Judaism for liberalism. They are anti-Israel and against the occupation. They don’t want to hear that Israel offered the territories for a peace treaty with the Arabs but they refuse. After every war there is a victor and a loser. They lost but still there is no peace. Now we have a 31 year old American Jew condemning the occupation. Do Jews know what is going to happen if the Arabs win? A good example is that TV reporter Logan who was raped by an Arab mob in Cairo.

Bill Levy

How do American Protestants feel about Egypt? How do American Catholics feel about Egypt? How do African Americans feel, Puertio Ricans feel, Indian Americans, Cambodian Americans? Etc. Etc. Etc. How should any AMerican feel ? How much will this cost America in treasure and blood? How many Americans died for Demcoracy in Iraq? Besides, how do you know what kind of government will eventually assume power in Egypt? Another President woith a thirty yhea term?

the jew hating egyptians can drop dead

a plague on them

Nina Wouk says:

Too soon to be sure of much. I feel apprehensive but so do my Muslim on-line friends.

Yael Taubman says:

I believe that we should bombard them with education, through voice of america, israeli radio, love bombs, education bombs…all this hatred is sooo destructive to everything, ourselves included. i know it sounds very “new agey” but I am an Zionist American-Israel who would love to see some advancement in this region. I don’t want to run away…and belive me, sometimes, I do.

Well, people of Egypt finally removed “democratically elected” president. Is it good or bad? I have great pity on everyone who thinks that this “revolution” will bring democracy. Sorry, but I got bad news for you: some new dictator will replace the old one. why? Because Islam and democracy are incompatible. As long as this awkward religion plays such big role in the society all the hopes for the brighter future are doomed: despite of the presence of computers, TV, cars and cellphones it keeps people’s mentality at the level of the twelfth century. As long as “progressive” “thinking” (but not with the head) “liberal” part of western population will continue to nourish Islam and protect it from the criticism and necessary changes people in the Arab world will continue to live under oppression and tyranny. So, the question is this one: who will be the new dictator who will replace Mubarak? As the matter of fact Mubarak was one of the least brutal and one of the most moderate among all Arab dictators. Therefore the hope that the new dictator will be better or even equal to him are quite slim.

We all dread that we are about to meet the Devil We Didn’t Know. Time spent hand wringing is not profitable. Encouraging the military government to a proper dialogue with the citizenry is.

I pray for a peacefull transition to a workable democratic government that can be a model for all and not another theocratic dictatorship. Tunisia, Iran,Yemen, Baharain, Algeria, and Libia are all watching, if not more so the people of Saudia Arabia. This is one of the most crucial times in our history. It is time to work for peace now more than ever. Words of hatred can very well poison us all.

June Getraer says:

You ask how one feels as an American Jew. I have to agree with Danny Steinmetz.

How one feels and how one thinks are not always the same. We know the bad guys but we don’t know the good ones. If the good guys find each other, and are strong enough to band together, I think there might be hope. The Military knows the Israelis through the army and they do share some cooperation. If the Military backs a strong, open good guy agenda things could turn out better for the Egyptians and better for the Israelis. Let’s hope!

Was watching the Egyptian Revolution a passive Rorschach test?

Diana Kindzred says:

I hope & pray that Egypt doesn’t become
another Iran – They “kicked” out all the
Jews in the mid 1950’s so there’s no worry
there BUTTTTT I hope that they DO NOT start
any violence with Israel – that’s all!

Those who believe in the bible should check out
Daniel 11
40.And at the time of the end shall the king of the south (Islam) push at him; and the king of the north (democratic world) shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow, as he passes through.
He shall enter also into the beauteous land (israel), and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall be delivered out of his hand, Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon (most of Jordan).
He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries; and the land of Egypt shall not escape.
But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; and the Libyans and Kush (some say it is Sudan others the Ethiopians) shall be at his steps.
But tidings out of the east (Iraq) and out of the north (Iran) shall affright him; and he shall go forth with great fury to destroy and utterly to take away many.
And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the beauteous holy mountain; (temple mount) and he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.
Chapter 12
And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence.
And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn the many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

Les Miller says:

Israel’s boast that it was the only “democracy” in the region was made as a sly criticism of their neighbors rather than an Israeli endorsement of the rights of man. Now that the region appears to be toying with “democracy”, Israel is being put to a test of values and expectations. Can Israel survive in a neighborhood of democracies? If other democracies arise in the region, will Israel be able to interact with these governments?

The Egyptian “revolt” is, at this moment, nothing more profound than an elaborate “military coup”. The chances of the Egyptian military successfully mitigating the misery that brought the masses into Tahrir Square and booted Mubarak from power are slim because the military doesn’t have the ability to raise the standard of living in Egypt. So the military will look at its ineptness and respond in the only way it knows: more of the same brutality and repression.

Unfortunately for Israel, more of the same means that Israel will continue to play the role of the bad guy in order to deflect the government’s failures. The Israeli scapegoat will be blamed for the failure of the masses to attain a decent standard of living and political representation, and the military will blame Israel for its blunders.

For Israel and the West, they are destined to remain sideline observers in the peculiar Arab struggles of the day. It is impossible to imagine that a new Arab society will emerge from the current turmoil because the problems in the Arab world cannot be re-arranged by simple regime change. Contrary to Mr. Mubarak’s assertions, Israel was not, is not, and will not be a player in the changes that may be coming to the Arab world. And because Israel can only be a maligned spectator, they will be forced to react to events. Both the US and Israel have a belief that they can influence events, but the reality of today’s world suggests that neither country has more than a desire to influence events.

The world has changed in this respect.


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Yes, But How Do You Feel About Egypt?

Where American Jews stand

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