Egypt army, Hamas and blaming Palestinians

More evidence that the Egyptian generals had been building a case against Mursi for a long time – and that their action last week was hardly a mere temporal response to the June 30 protests. A retired general told BBC World Service (English) that in the army’s view Mursi had collaborated with Hamas against Egypt, something the army noted since the August 2012 attack on an Egyptian border post in Sinai that left 16 dead. Brigadier General Ayman Salama said Mursi’s crime was to prevent the army releasing names of suspects at the time and resist army efforts to block and flood tunnels that allow Gaza to survive the Israeli blockade. The army’s view is that the tunnels must be blocked to stop jihadists and their weapons getting into Sinai.

“Probably there will be military charges against the deposed president being the supreme commander of the Egyptian army forces,” Shehata said, as reported by Electronic Intifada. “(The) military asked the president many times to give them orders, directives to block, to shut off all tunnels, all tunnels with Gaza but the president claimed that there have been many humanitarian actually sympathies with our neighbors in Hamas in Gaza to let them have a breath against the Israeli blockade.” Shehata went further to say that this was in the army’s view criminal action that would see prosecution and affirm that cooperation with Israel would continue: “Criminally speaking, he threatened the national and military highest security interests of the army and the whole nation by actually collaborating to Hamas against the interests of the army… especially in Sinai… Probably there will be military charges against the deposed president being the supreme commander of the Egyptian army forces.”

These comments are interesting for a number of reasons. They confirm that despite appearances that Defence Minister Abdulfattah al-Sisi and Mursi were getting on fine after Mursi removed previous incumbent Mohammed al-Tantawi after acceding office last year was no more than a facade. They suggest the military had been building a case against Mursi and the Brotherhood over a considerable period of time. They reveal the pressures the Brotherhood were under to go along with Mubarak-era policies on Gaza against their instincts, opening up to the common charge that they were doing U.S. and Israeli bidding, just like Mubarak. And they confirm once more the central, obsessive role that Hamas has in the opponents of the Brotherhood’s worldview. The belief that Hamas had a physical presence on the ground in Tahrir, as agents provocateurs collaborating with the Brotherhood during the 2011 uprising, has often been put out by Mubarak regime figures and began to bubble up in social media once Mursi took office.

Last night Brotherhood opponents began to spread on Twitter that the security guards on stage at the Brotherhood’s Rabi’a al-Adawiya protest in Cairo were from Hamas. Ahmed Sarhan, who was the main spokesman for ancien regime figure Ahmed Shafiq’s failed presidential bid last year, tweeted that: “Badie, Brotherhood Supreme Guide, addressed his people Friday in #Egypt while 4 Palestinians from Al-Qassam Brigades were his bodyguards.” Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, an Egyptian journalist formerly with CNN, tweeted that: “3 bodyguards standing by Supreme Guide of MB, Mohamed Badee3 today on stage of Raba3 Adaweya during his speech are members of Hamas.” Recent days have seen spasms of anti-Palestinian commentary on social media from some of the anti-Brotherhood activists.

Since Sadat ditched Nasser’s pan-Arabism (which extended to allowing Palestinians free education in Egyptian universities), a chauvinistic form of Egyptian nationalism developed in regime circles that held denigration of Palestinians as one of its central tenets. Ask a Palestinian in Egypt how they are treated by the state bureaucracy on a visit to the Mugamma building. Egypt grudgingly allowed children of Egyptian mothers from foreign fathers to acquire nationality in the last decade of Mubarak’s rule, but to this day – and even after the 2011 uprising – such Egyptians are treated in a humiliating manner and only a small number have succeeded in gaining their passport rights. These Egyptians – stained as Palestinians forever in the view of the ‘deep state’ – cannot get jobs in any state entity or institution. They are granted five-year laissez-passer documents for travel and must renew their residency permits in the country every five years. They risk losing that if they spend more than six months outside the country.

Following the policy shift of peace with Israel, a whole apologetic discourse developed opining the backwardness of the Arabs and putting Egyptian and Arab culture at fault every time vis-a-vis a superior West to be aped. The Brotherhood in this thinking wants to spoil the historic project to return Egypt to the Western fold and the path to modernity and civilization by involving itself in humanitarian and Islamist concerns with Palestine. Filtered down to street level, these arguments transformed into mantras you hear in casual conversation such as “Egypt did everything for the Palestinians” and “it was the Palestinians who sold their land”.

Of course, Egypt is deeply conflicted on these issues. Palestine was a huge mobilizing force for anti-Mubarak forces and the core activists involved in the 2011 uprising are careful to steer clear of the rank anti-Palestinian chauvinism often on display. But it remains a significant element of the former regime’s rallying power now as it exploits leftist and liberal fury at the Islamists to reestablish itself via this week’s military coup.

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