February 15, 2011
Why Am I Not Saying a Prayer Yet for Egypt? By Rabbi Asher Lopatin
Rav Yosef’s prayer about events in Egypt got my juices flowing: There is something that is bothering me about what is going on in Egypt, but even more so about how the media and the Obama administration is handling it. Please allow me to speak as a Jew and a Zionist:
When President Obama gave his famous Cairo speech, we were bothered that he took out the 4000 year old Zionist dream of the Jewish people, and replaced it with pandering to the Arab world. That pandering that directly led us to where we are now: We now have a situation where moderately pro-Western, and barely pro-Israel regimes are under attack - or have been driven out - without any strong, pro-Western, reasonable voices to take their place. The administration spent two years focusing on Israel’s “settlements” in Jerusalem, and cut funds for democratic voices in Egypt, Iran and elsewhere that could have been ready to help guide these countries into an era of true democracy, of true positive change for the Arab and Muslim world. No! The idea was to get kudos from the Arab world by appearing balanced: In other words, beat up on Israel, and let Arab and Muslim dictatorships (Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Tunisia, Yemen, etc.) do whatever they wanted with their people, and hope that the Arab and Muslim world sees that America is on their side.
Well, America is still being accused of being the pawns of the Zionists, and, not only that, we are accused of propping up a bunch of corrupt regimes. And we are nowhere with the Palestinians - who actually came much farther under George Bush, who didn’t make a big deal of Jews living in Jerusalem. The mobs in Tahrir Square enabled the military to take over - a peaceful coup - and they are celebrating dissolving parliament and their constitution. Hmm… Maybe they will get lucky and rebuild everything, but it sounds to me like the Egyptian military, not a great fighting machine, now has an even better chance of consolidating their corrupt ownership of the Egyptian private sector and of maintaining even better the power they had under Nassir, Sadat and Mubarak. That is not democracy.
Who are the democratic elements? From the religious Right, the Muslim Brotherhood, who want to destroy Israel and destroy the West - including democracy and everything that goes with it. From the left, the secularist parties also talk about doing away with the peace treaty with Israel. Where are the voices who will rebuild a moral, ethical and just Egypt? Nowhere.
So, if we really care about the Egyptian people, and Arab and Muslim people of the world let’s stop pandering:
First, America needs to be balanced: We recognize Damascus as capital of Syria, and Cairo as capital of Egypt: So America needs to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
Second: A majority of Jordan is Palestinian. They need to be given their full civil rights, and Jordan needs to be recognized as a Palestinian state.
Third: The powers in Egypt - including the media - should be ashamed at how cold they kept the peace treaty with Israel. America needs to let every party in Egypt know that not only do the Americans expect the new government of Egypt to keep all its existing treaties, but for over a billion dollars we expect to see good, warm relations with Israel. Israel should be the model for Arabs for a state with a strong military and yet a strong democracy that can allow the army not to take over. America should be flying Egyptian leaders to Israel to observe how a true democracy works. And even if no one goes, that is the expectation. If you want us to admire your courage, if you want us to think that something is happening beyond the demagoguery and lies of Nassir’s populist United Arab Republic, then the Arab world is going to have to shape up.
When I hear something like that coming from the Obama administration, then I’ll write a prayer.