Voices from the Arab press: Israeli celebrations in the heart of Cairo

A selection of media reports from the Arab press relating to Israel and the Middle East.

A PALESTINIAN girl living in Egypt participates in a Nakba Day protest against Israel in Cairo in 2012 (photo credit: REUTERS)
A PALESTINIAN girl living in Egypt participates in a Nakba Day protest against Israel in Cairo in 2012
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, May 24
There is an iconic hotel in downtown Cairo frequented by the most famous Egyptian writers, actors and artists. Its prestigious lobby overlooks one of the main squares that was flooded by protesters during the January 25 [2011] revolution. Surrounding it are magnificent monuments of military leaders who led Egypt in its wars against Israel. It is therefore very curious, and certainly not coincidental, that the Israeli ambassador to Egypt decided to host his country’s 70th anniversary celebrations at this hotel.
Invitations, hand-signed by the ambassador himself, were sent to a large list of VIP guests. Photographers were hired to await invitees at the red carpet, large banners were hung at the venue and videos from the event appeared very quickly on social media platforms. Someone was working extra hard to get the word out.
Seemingly, there is nothing wrong with a country hosting its Independence Day celebrations at a public venue in Cairo. But this is not just any country. This was a celebration of the Zionist state’s founding, which coincides with the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. While the Egyptian people were on the streets marking the day with grief and sorrow, inside the hotel people were wining and dining instead of commemorating an Arab tragedy. Seventy years since the Zionist entity wiped out entire Palestinian towns and villages and expelled the rightful inhabitants from the land, there remain doubts about the Arab world’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.
The US administration, led by President Trump, has been determined from day one to bring an end to the Palestinian struggle and remove it from the international agenda. It has done so by coining the term “the deal of the century,” which is really just a euphemism used to disguise the unequivocal American backing of the Zionist agenda. One cannot help but wonder what former Egyptian leaders, whose sculptures proudly stand outside the hotel, would have said about the disgraceful celebration held inside.
How have decades of struggle and thousands of lives lost in defense of Palestine resulted in the complete collusion of Egyptian authorities with the Zionist regime?
– Adel Sleman
Al-Khaleej al-Jadid, UAE, May 21
When two airliners struck the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001, the world changed forever. Arab-American relations would never be the same – until this very day.
The rise of global terrorism meant that other areas of concern, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Iran’s nuclear program, could be temporarily overlooked. Indeed, Israeli officials began using terrorism as an excuse to maintain their belligerent policies against the Palestinians, while the Iranians made an effort to distinguish themselves, as Shi’ites, from the radical Sunni ideology that swept the world.
The pressure of appeasing and pacifying the United States shifted to Gulf states, which had to prove their unwavering loyalty to America’s war on terrorism. Gulf leaders were forced to embrace America’s stance on the Palestinian issue and adopt the American narrative on the way to move forward in the Middle East.
However, Arab leaders ought to remember that Washington is not the only actor in the chaotic regional arena. What we have seen in recent years is a growing Russian and Chinese involvement, with both powers having interests that often compete with, if not totally run counter to, American ones. Therefore, Gulf leaders cannot afford to blindly follow US President Donald Trump just for the sake of demonstrating their loyalty and winning over American support. There are greater dynamics at play that must be taken into account.
Trump might offer short-term benefits, but what is important is our long-term victory.
– Abd al-Wahab Badarkhan
Al-Arab, London, May 23
When examining the Israeli economy, one cannot help but be impressed with just how well the country is doing.
While other Middle Eastern states are facing financial and political volatility, or find themselves immersed in full-blown war, Israel enjoys stability. Investments in the Israeli economy are growing by the day and despite mounting concerns of an impending confrontation with Iran, the security situation in Israel has never been better. Furthermore, the Israeli government now enjoys the complete and unwavering support of the American administration in its regional and local battles. The recent White House decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy to the city is a testament to this.
Thus, Israel’s only threats come from its northern border, where Iran is building up its military presence. To combat this danger, Israel has taken an aggressive stance against any attempt to infiltrate its borders. The Israel Air Force conducted several assaults against Iranian targets deep within Syrian territory to challenge the Revolutionary Guards, and has faced very limited, if any, retaliation. What’s more, Tel Aviv seems to have received Russian support, even if tacit, to operate against Iran’s military buildup in Syria.
There is no doubt that Israel has the upper hand in this situation. Iran is busy dealing with the potential termination of the nuclear deal as well as with its military involvement in different campaigns throughout the region. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Iran is now turning to Hezbollah in order to revive its campaign against Israel. With the Syrian option removed from the table, Tehran is looking to mobilize Hezbollah militants against Israel.
However, here, too, there are some big advantages for Israel. Hezbollah has gained political momentum in Lebanon following the recent parliamentary elections. It has long outgrown its initial mission of liberating Palestine. Today, it is a legitimate political movement committed to taking over Lebanese politics, but, to do so, it must be recognized by international bodies as a legitimate actor. It will thus have no choice but to abandon the military option against Israel in the near future.
Israel, with both of its security threats on the northern border contained, will continue advancing its long-term goals in the region. Tel Aviv recognizes that its security is not merely guaranteed by international resolutions and understandings, but also by the way in which it leverages to its own advantage the internal cracks that have formed within the Arab world. This is exactly what it has been doing, and it has been doing it very successfully.
– Ali Amin
Al-Ahram, Egypt, May 27
With the 21st FIFA World Cup set to take place in Russia in just two weeks, security agencies in Moscow have been ramping up their presence on the streets and at the different venues in an attempt to foil any attempt to carry out attacks.
Islamic State, in particular, has been vocal about its plan to target the prominent soccer tournament. ISIS-affiliated websites have published dozens of posts, including videos and images, warning participants against attending the games. Fake photos of Argentinean football star Lionel Messi and Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo wearing orange bodysuits as they face execution have proliferated throughout the Web.
While these posts certainly induce anxiety and fear, they also demonstrate the dire circumstances Islamic State is currently facing. After sustaining a humiliating defeat in Syria and Iraq and losing most of their personnel, ISIS leaders have realized that their only means of carrying out a successful attack against Western targets is by inspiring lone wolves to act on their behalf. In other words, these propaganda materials are meant to inspire radicalized youth throughout the world to carry out an attack at the games, particularly against notable football stars, using makeshift weapons.
It is also clear that ISIS leaders understand that the security measures being taken to thwart any large-scale attack in Russia are likely to be effective. Therefore, their attention has shifted to encouraging small attacks that might go unnoticed by Russian security authorities and intelligence agencies. While this type of attack should not be undermined, it is far less dangerous than a massive attack aimed at a larger public.
Nevertheless, there is still reason to be concerned. The weakness of Islamic State could, in fact, be the main source of danger since the movement is determined to prove it is still potent. With no other means to sustain itself, ISIS might resort to targeting the tournament at any cost.
– Wahid Abd al-Majid