While in Iran President Morsi made a stirring speech about the Syrian issue that coincided with angry protests outside the Syrian Embassy in Cairo. Newspaper headlines focused on Egypt’s position regarding the Syrian revolution while talk of Gaza diminished and disappeared entirely, although it is being pummeled daily, its people martyred every day and Israel’s war minister is threatening an invasion.
Absolute support for the Syrian revolution is a moral position that is non-negotiable and uncompromising, since the weapons of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and his regional allies are pointed against the people instead of those whom the alliance claims to be targeting.
Syrian weapons have in one year killed more Arabs than Israelis have in decades, and talk of the Syrian regime’s role in the “axis of defiance” is no longer convincing. In fact, the regime and its supporters have become a burden and an insult to the resistance by continuously talking about it.
Supporting the revolution does not necessarily — or at all — mean support for its proclaimed “leadership,” especially those abroad that speak in its name in many fora while spending their days and nights at luxury hotels in world capitals. Support is not for those speaking in the name of the ones whose names are unknown to the world, but the corpses that are on display for everyone to see.
Meanwhile, linking one’s position about the revolution to these leaders is an evasion of the moral responsibility to aid the revolution, and ignores the fact that reality can be changed by activists on the ground.
Also, by definition revolution means overturning the existing balance of power, and thus no one should argue that it should not be supported because it upends the power equilibrium in the region in a way that reduces its chances of succeeding.
This interest in the Syrian revolution should not undermine attention to the core issue in the region, namely the Palestinian cause that the president referred to only once during his address in Iran. His focus was on Syria only, although the Gaza Strip has been subjected to daily shelling for over one week and the numbers of martyrs and the number of wounded is climbing every day, while Israel’s war minister is beating the drums of war against Gaza.
In the meantime, Gaza residents suffer very difficult conditions as the years-old siege on them continues; although all resistance groups in the Gaza Strip have abided by the required ceasefire to alleviate the suffering of the people, Israel did not loosen its grip and has not lifted the siege.
Egypt has not reacted to these events, whether on the level of the masses or officials. There have been no demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza while the political elite battle among themselves about issues of national security and Egypt’s regional responsibilities.
At the same time, the media has ignored what is occurring in Gaza and the political leadership has not taken any steps to alleviate the suffering of the besieged Gaza residents — whether by opening the border or allowing aid to pass through.
Neither has it taken any steps towards altering its diplomatic ties with Israel, whether by expelling the ambassador or recalling Egypt’s ambassador to Tel Aviv for consultations. It has not even called in the Israeli ambassador to Cairo to express Egypt’s protestations towards what is taking place. These are political positions that even Mubarak’s regime sometimes adopted.
There are reasons behind the dichotomy in Egypt’s position towards Syria and Palestine, including the fact that a moral position on Syria has a lower political cost because — by sheer coincidence this time — it does not contradict the opinion of the major powers with whom Egypt is connected, namely the US-Saudi Arabia-Israel axis.
It is also a “verbal” position that does require action on the ground, and Egypt is distant from it, which means it is not directly influenced by developments there. Neither is it a (direct) threat to Egypt’s national security.
The situation in Palestine is different. Attracting attention to the cause requires taking action that would be frowned upon by the aforementioned axis, and the new political leadership does not seem interested in undertaking root changes in its relations with it. At the same time, the Palestinian cause — because of its proximity and strong link to national security — requires complex positions built on a comprehensive vision that does not seem to be complete yet and not entirely independent.
Waning discussions about the Palestinians — the key frontline on the issue of independence — demonstrates the desire of Egypt’s national resolve to remain hostage to the axis of “moderation,” which supports the Syrian revolution but does not approve of support for the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights with anything more than words.
We cannot assume there is real change in Egypt’s position just because we see a change in rhetoric or that China came first on the overseas trip list instead of the US. While these are highly symbolic, they only demonstrate a partial increase in the margin of independence that was witnessed during the last years under Mubarak’s rule. But this does not correspond to where foreign policy should be after the revolution.
Real independence can only be achieved by liberating Egypt’s willpower from the influence of this axis, but this cannot be built on economic policies that erode the role of the state and public sector while increasing the influence of world financial institutions and multinational corporations whose interests are more closely tied to the states in the above-mentioned axis.
Exercising authority from the seat of power is a key test of the slogans and statements of all the political players; the one in power has gained a large part of the people’s confidence because of his patriotic positions towards the Palestinian cause. Members of the group from which the president comes were chanting “For Gaza, we will die millions of martyrs” during demonstrations before the revolution. No doubt, there is a difference between protest slogans and state policies, but this discrepancy should not be as flagrant as this.
If a balance between official support for the Syrian revolution and a more independent and firm position in confronting Israel’s continued mischief in Gaza is not reached, this would only mean that the political leadership is playing with words to whip up popular support by creating an illusion of independence. Meanwhile, Egypt will remain hostage to the axis of subordination and moderation.