Egyptian parties criticise attack on Israel embassy, as well as SCAF

Zeinab El-Gundy , Monday 12 Sep 2011

Many political groups condemned the actions of protesters in attacking the embassy, but lay the blame at the door of the ruling military council

Israeli embassy
Protesters tear down a concrete barrier wall built in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo 9 September 2011. Hundreds later stormed the embassy.(Photo by: Mai Shaheen)

The storming of the Israeli embassy on 9 September and violent clashes that followed it between protesters and police have generated a huge reaction from political parties and movements across the Egyptian political spectrum.

The Israeli embassy crisis forced political groups to deal not only with national security and regional matters but also domestic issues, especially the decision taken by the ruling military council (SCAF) and the cabinet to revive the use of emergency laws.

Most political groups denounced the storming of the Israeli embassy apartment, including those that have long held official positions against Israel and its policies.

Even some groups which blessed the demolition of the wall in front of the embassy and the removal of an Israeli flag from the building made a point of distancing themselves from the violence that erupted on that day.

However, most political groups from liberal to Islamist criticised SCAF and the Egyptian government for their weak reaction against Tel Aviv following the killing of Egyptian soldiers by Israel at the border last month.

The Revolution Youth Coalition (RYC), which was among the youth movements that called for the 9 September demonstration which started in Tahrir Square before heading to the Israeli embassy, issued a short statement about the clashes.

RYC raised questions about the excessive use of violence by the police to disperse protesters that led to the death of three people.

It described the clashes that took place as an attempt by certain forces to divert the 9 September protest from its main goals of building opposition to military trials.

The coalition later launched an online campaign in solidarity with one of its members in Assiut, Ahmed Abdel Karim, who was arrested at the Israeli embassy and could face a military trial.

Both fronts of the 6 April Youth Movement denied any role in the Israeli embassy riots.

The 6 April Youth Movement “Ahmed Maher’s Front” stated on its official Facebook page that despite its support for demolishing the wall in front of the embassy, what happened afterwards was due to what it described as“emotional enthusiasm”.

The 6 April Youth Movement “Democratic Front” published a statement saying it left the 9 September protest at 7:30pm and was distressed to see the events that took place at the embassy.

El-Adl Party issued a statement on Saturday insisting that all political groups participating in the 9 September protest in Tahrir Square played no role in the clashes that took place at the embassy or at the Giza security directorate, and rejected all attempts to blame the violence on revolutionary youth. The party warned activists not to support or participate in any future childish or careless actions. This statement angered many party activists who thought the statement took the side of the ministry of interior and its violent crackdown against protesters.

El-Adl Party, along with other liberal and centrist parties, Al-Masreyeen Al-Ahrar, the Democratic Front, Al-Hadara Party and Masr Al-Hurreyya Party issued another statement condemning the violence that took place which they considered antithetical to the peaceful goals of the Egyptian revolution, despite their sympathy with public anger following the killing of Egyptian troops by Israel and weak government reaction.

At the end of the statement the five parties demanded SCAF and the government investigate the clashes and agree to the demands of the 9 September protest.

Unlike El-Adl, the Wasat Party, a leading Islamist group, issued a strong statement on Sunday criticizing SCAF for its slow reaction to the murder of Egyptian troops on the border with Israel and its slow response to the demands of the Egyptian people in general.

The position of Islamist parties and movements was surprising to some considering Islamists' long standing record of opposing against Israel.

Al-Daoa Al-Salafiya issued a statement on Sunday describing the storming of the embassy as “irresponsible actions” that benefit Israel and weaken Egypt’s position in amending Camp David. The statement also condemned attempts to blame the police or SCAF for the clashes or criticise them for excessive use of violence.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB), the country's largest Islamist force, issued a statement on Saturday which directly criticised SCAF.

Brotherhood critics criticised the MB's statement for being too short - one paragraph - and also for not defending the protesters strongly enough.

The MB's statement said SCAF had delayed bringing about overall real change in the country and not reacted properly to the killing of Egyptian troops which caused the people to protest in this way. The Brotherhood demanded SCAF establish a timeline for a democratic transition to a civilian government.

Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, a main Islamist group, reiterated its earlier rejection of all protests in Tahrir Square and reminded the public of how it had warned of chaos in a statement it issued on Sunday.

The group said the events were part of a plan to turn Ultras fans against the army and the police in order to provoke violent clashes that would lead in the end to a civil secular presidential council. The statement called on SCAF to announce the date of parliamentary elections and called on public and political powers to stand against any attempt to delay the elections.

The Socialist Party of Egypt blamed SCAF and the Egyptian government for increasing public anger because of their inability to bring about improvement in living standards, whch then led to the outbreak of violence on Friday night. The party issued a statement that said liberating Egypt from “shameful agreements” with Israel and its sponsor country the US will not come except through a long struggle. The party also attacked attempts by the media to equate thuggery and protesting.

Potential presidential candidates also reacted strongly.

Amr Moussa, Egypt's former minister of affairs, cut short his visit to Switzerland and returned to Egypt to propose a road map for the democratic transition. He condemned the attack on the embassy as he believed it weakened Egypt’s position, despite his belief that the best answer is to face up to Israeli aggression on the borders. Moussa said the revolution’s coalitions and groups were not responsible for the clashes, according to a tweet he published on his official Twitter account.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a liberal former head of the UN atomic agency, also returned from abroad to suggest another road map to democratic transition, including a purge of the interior ministry and official media, and short term economic solutions. He did not comment directly about the Israeli embassy events or the revival of emergency laws.

Sheikh Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, an Islamist, was the most outspoken presidential candidate against SCAF. In a statement Abu Ismail said what happened was a charade, calling on youth revolution coalitions and political groups to coordinate with each other before any protest in the future in order to prevent any group spoiling the protests.

Hamdeen Sabahi, an Arab nationalist and former member of parliament, issued an official statement in which he supported and praised the demands of the 9 September protest in Tahrir yet condemned and rejected the attack on public institutions, including police stations and security directorates. He called on  the government to restructure the ministry of interior. Sabahi demanded SCAF listen to public anger at the Zionist state and restore Egyptian dignity after the Zionist aggression on Egyptian territory.

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