Mohammad Salah
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
August 22, 2011 - 12:00am

Very innocent, pure and chaste are the feelings of pride that erupted among Egyptians when a young man was able to climb the tall building, the last floor of which is occupied by the Israeli embassy, bringing down the flag of the Hebrew state and raising the Egyptian flag in its stead. For more than quarter of a century, walking alongside the building or near it remained an endeavor rife with danger (the embassy was located in Iran Street in the Dokki district, before it moved to a building overlooking the Nile in Giza). And if one were to raise their head to look at the Israeli flag, they would perhaps be exposed to questioning, or they might find themselves lowering their gaze in shame or to avoid seeing something they would not like. The young man Ahmed Shehata, who is one from among the thousands of young people protesting in the “rise of Egypt square” near the building, climbed 18 stories, pursued by yells of support and cries of joy, while the army’s armored vehicles and the soldiers of the Military Police watched the scene, and perhaps approved of it. And after completing his task, having brought down the Israeli flag and raised that of his country, he climbed atop an armored vehicle to receive congratulations.

Before that, young people were trying to burn the flag by firing flares and fireworks that can cross distances, but they failed, after earning the honor of having tried. It was thus inevitable for one of them to fly up without a plane and remove the flag to raise another. Indeed, Israel takes pride in its unmanned planes, while Egyptians rejoiced in the man who flew without a plane. Certainly the embassy will raise another Israeli flag, but this means that the hatred will increase. Indeed, Shehata and the thousands of people who protested in front of the building are not just those who saw the scene or participated in it, or were part of it, but the majority of Egyptians, who encouraged it and took pride in it.

Egyptians excelled at drawing comparisons and returning to their memories. They compared bringing down the Israeli flag from the top of the building in Giza, and bringing it down at the Bar Lev line in the war of October 1973, and mixed between how Shehata climbed the building from the front and how Egyptian soldiers climbed the Bar Lev line on the coast of the Suez Canal to remove a flag and raise another.

Far from the kind of excess or political adolescence that overlooks international laws or the balance of power and the rules that govern relations between states, the most important of what was revealed by the events of the past few days in Giza or at Egypt’s Eastern border is that the peace treaty between Egypt and the Hebrew state was very unfair to Egypt, and that the Camp David framework on the basis of which the treaty was ratified gave Israel every guarantee while overlooking most of the rights of Egyptians. Yes, one might hear in the streets those demanding war, shutting down the embassy, expelling the ambassador or increasing the number of troops in the Sinai, and these are all calls that find their source in feelings that had remained repressed and that exploded with the Revolution or as a result of it. Yet wishes alone do not sustain nations. Indeed, the Sinai, which has been neglected for over three decades, needs Egyptians to rebuild, reconsider and form views that exceed the statements of officials in the press and their displays in front of cameras and projectors on satellite television. Israel will not be pleased with the development of the Sinai or with gathering millions of Egyptians to work and live there. Indeed, the peninsula is for the Hebrew state the scene of a potential future war, and a stage for displaying its capabilities and military might to the world if a clash were to take place with Egypt under the restrictions imposed by the peace treaty on Egyptian military presence there.

Rising tension at the border certainly works in favor of Israel, and when attacks by unknown individuals took place against police stations and security centers in the Sinai, it was noted that the attacks occurred on the same day in which Islamists made a strong appearance on Tahrir Square on the “Friday of Unity”. Does the matter not call for wondering and asking questions? Would it not be possible for Israeli intelligence services to infiltrate local Egyptian groups and organizations, drive them to disturb the peace and smear the Islamists, or frighten the world from the “peaceful” scene in Tahrir and the military scene in the Sinai? Does Israel not seek to restore the situation at the Rafah crossing to what it had been before the Revolution, so that it may always be closed to Palestinians from both sides? Egypt after the Revolution needs to rebuild what was “swept away” by a regime which for 30 years continued to deal with the Sinai only as a resort or as a potential “refuge”. And until Egypt restores its influence, “the embassy in the building” will remain. But other young men will appear who will fly… without planes.


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