Voices from the Arab press: Restoring overdue credit to Egypt

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

 BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGIST Howard Carter supervises carpenters preparing to reseal Tutankhamun’s tomb, in Luxor, Egypt.  (photo credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
BRITISH ARCHAEOLOGIST Howard Carter supervises carpenters preparing to reseal Tutankhamun’s tomb, in Luxor, Egypt.
(photo credit: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Restoring overdue credit to Egypt

Al-Ahram, Egypt, July 28

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Despite its reputation for spreading homosexuality and indecency, Netflix in some cases does justice to Egypt. A movie about Cleopatra is in the works, for which her whiteness will not be questioned. However, irrespective of her complexion, Egypt has much to gain from every cinematic portrayal of our country.

Not long after screening the documentary Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb, Netflix is now featuring a documentary masterpiece titled Unknown: The Lost Pyramid about the efforts of the Egyptian archaeologist Dr. Zahi Hawass to uncover a pyramid hidden in the Saqqara area. The drama lies in the process of discovery that Hawass narrates, comparing it with the five-year-long hard work by renowned British archaeologist Howard Carter to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun, alternating between despair and hope, yet never losing his unwavering persistence.

This time, the Egyptians are taking charge of their own affairs, yet for decades, research into their arts and sciences has been undertaken by foreigners from various countries. Since French philologist and orientalist Jean-François Champollion unlocked the secrets of the ancient Egyptian language, Egyptology departments have been formed in foreign universities that sought credit for all their successes. While local laborers and diggers were employed, much of the glory went to others. It is concerning that even today, when pharaonic history is discussed, it is only in reference to tourism and the discoveries of foreign nations. However, Hawass and his student, Dr. Mostafa Waziri, along with a new generation of Egyptian scientists, are determined to set the record straight. Through scientific investigation and patient, meticulous deliberation, they seek to ensure that this intricate history is uncovered and credited to the proper nation. – Abdel-Moneim Said

President Abbas and PM Netanyahu hosted by Erdogan

An-Nahar, Lebanon, July 23

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become a long-standing fixture in Turkish politics, serving multiple times as both party leader and head of state. His successful handling of an array of strategic challenges has demonstrated his deft political acumen. He has never shied away from taking a stand in behalf of Turkish interests, regardless of how divisive those positions may be, particularly toward Russia and the US. His deft management of both regional and international affairs has accounted for substantial gains for Turkey.

His eagerly anticipated upcoming invitation to both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to visit Turkey later this month surely reflects Turkey’s interests.

Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Benjamin Netanyahu is seen gesturing at the Knesset, on July 26, 2021. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Let’s first explore Turkey’s position in the region. Erdogan has dedicated the early part of his presidential term to increasing Turkey’s presence as a positive force in the Arab, Islamic, and international communities. He has been criticized for his prior connections to armed groups, yet now seeks to present himself as a proponent of peace, security, and stability throughout the region. This is evidenced by Turkey’s military presence in both Syria and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. While the nature of Turkey’s presence remains contested, the widespread theory is that these deployments are intended to protect Turkey’s security.

Erdogan stands out due to his ability to engage in dialogue with both Abbas and Hamas and other resistance movements. Not only can he facilitate communication between them, but he has also developed strong relationships with Iran, notwithstanding the US sanctions. Thus, Erdogan is able to mediate and build constructive relationships between conflicting parties in the region. This has earned him admiration in the Middle East, from governments and citizens alike. Erdogan has called for action by both Abbas and Netanyahu, given their respective difficult and critical positions.

Abbas is increasingly becoming more politically irrelevant, and his popularity is diminishing on a daily basis within the PA. This has been a concern for the Netanyahu government. Despite its motivations being rooted in fear of losing an important source of security and military cooperation for Israel, rather than in love for Palestine and its people, the PA attempted to prove itself effective by storming the Jenin refugee camp a week ago, arresting young resistance members. While the PA argued that this was done in an effort to prevent their assassination by occupation forces, Palestinians resisted and foiled the incursion.

Netanyahu is facing a highly problematic internal political situation, fierce protests from within his own government, and strife among the Israeli army. This has gone beyond the point of military deterrence loss and rendered Israel powerless in the face of Hezbollah’s activity at the border of Lebanon. Some of these activities include setting up camps within the occupied Shaba Farms, giving military training to Hezbollah fighters, and observing the tour of the Israeli chief of staff while he was inspecting army sites. All of this has created a precarious and exceptional situation.

It is noteworthy that Erdogan recently extended an invitation to Abbas and Netanyahu to meet in Ankara, following the telephone conversation between US President Joe Biden and Netanyahu. During the call, Netanyahu spoke of “promoting regional tranquility and fostering a constructive dialogue.” Has the responsibility of bolstering regional peace and security been given to Erdogan? Without a doubt, Erdogan’s invitation to Abbas and other members of the opposition to meet with Netanyahu has been done in accordance with the US government to rescue them from their predicament. Abbas plays a vital role for both Israel and the US; hence, safeguarding his position and preserving his power have become embroiled in America’s national security. Despite the current tensions between Netanyahu and the US administration, the Israeli prime minister has become something of a certainty in the region. All discrepancies and confrontations must be put aside to help the area escape its current struggle and critical political and military situation. This is especially pertinent given the two sides’ wishes for normalization with Saudi Arabia.

In this context, how does Egypt view Turkey’s intervention in Palestinian-Palestinian reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire?

The analysis confirms that the American administration played a pivotal role in encouraging everyone – Erdogan, Abbas, and Egypt – to move forward with the noble goal of achieving peace through the convergence of Abbas and Netanyahu.

Erdogan’s efforts to prevent a deteriorating Turkish currency have, however, enabled him to cooperate within limits with the wishes of Western powers, namely the US, NATO, and Europe. Moreover, the US dollar – a force even stronger than the American administration – will continue to threaten Erdogan’s position, and he is fully aware of this. Nonetheless, he continues to strive to protect the Turkish currency and economy, with the possibility that his endeavors may be a vain illusion. – Dr. Jawad Al-Hindawi, former ambassador of Iraq to Belgium

A hot European summer

Al-Ittihad, UAE, July 28

This summer, the political and environmental climate in Europe is uncertain. The heat wave has been especially dire for southern Europe, with countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece seeing greater instances of heat, drought, and forest fires. In Greece, severe fires led to the evacuation of thousands of tourists from the popular holiday island of Rhodes. High temperatures have even caused tourist attractions such as the Acropolis archaeological site to close during the day.

As the environment continues to suffer, many look to political forces to take the necessary steps to preserve Europe’s future. Whether the coming months will bring a centrist or right-wing power shift remains to be seen.

On July 23, Spain headed to the ballots for general elections called by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Spanish Socialist Workers Party. Preelection opinion polls suggested that the conservative Popular Party was poised to build a majority in parliament. It was also supported by the hard-right Vox Party, founded in the spirit of the late dictator Francisco Franco. However, the election ended in relative disappointment for Vox, quashing any chances of entering the government. The Socialist Party and its allies gained enough seats to open dialogue with more moderate groups and continue in power. Significantly, late voting in Catalonia – remarkably high compared to expectations – contributed to the Socialists’ success, likely due to Catalans’ strong opposition to the legacy of Francoism.

In the rest of Europe, right-wing parties have had varied outcomes. Poland and Hungary are led by staunch conservative leaders, whereas in the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany, and Austria, small parties have climbed in popularity. Italy chose Giorgia Meloni for the position of prime minister, a politician linking back to Italy’s Mussolini, albeit having adopted a moderate stance so far and backing Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron, despite the rigorous opposition to his effort to prolong the retirement age, was successful in hanging on to the presidency. Britain is facing a significant challenge ahead of the upcoming general election, scheduled to take place no later than January 2025, though it is possible it could be called as early as April 2024.

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, will lead it into the election and, if successful, will have to face the big question: What will his government do with regard to its relationship with the European Union? A majority of British citizens believe that leaving the EU, better known as Brexit, was a mistake and that their economy has yet to experience the much-anticipated boom that was promised upon their country’s liberation from the rules imposed by Brussels. Indeed, Britain is projected to have the lowest growth rate in Europe, and none of the expected lucrative trade deals with non-European countries, the US included, have been realized.

The current talk of the town in Britain is about “Bregret,” a word used to describe Brexit-induced regrets. Could a return to the EU be possible? Although it is highly unlikely, less formal ties between the two entities may be mutually beneficial. Much will depend on the result of the upcoming election, as Starmer’s success might spur negotiations between London and Brussels.

US elections are also a determining factor in this matter, as Joe Biden favors closer economic ties between the UK and the EU, while Donald Trump may prove to be an impediment in that regard. – Jeffrey Kemp

Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.