Media Watch: ‘The Pharaoh In The Fuhrerbunker’

German papers know that cheers can turn to chills.

02/01/11
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The Jewish people weren’t born in Egypt, but our insecurity was. The first Jewish quote in the Bible was Abraham fearing he’d be murdered there. It was in Egypt that Joseph was framed on a rape charge and forgotten by a pharaoh. Jews were slaves and abused for 12 years under the Nazis, but were slaves and abused for 210 years in Egypt, only to be chased by chariots after being freed.

Between 1948 and 1973, Israel fought four full-blown wars with Egypt, each beginning with chilling broadcasts from Egypt calling upon the Arab world to not only defeat Israel but extinguish it. Even when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat came to Israel in peace, Israeli sharpshooters prepared for a Trojan horse on the tarmac.

Now, with Egypt about to blow, leave it to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung to create the perfect headline (Jan. 31) encompassing our 3,000 years of fears: “The Pharaoh In The Fuhrerbunker.”

In fact, Mubarak has been neither pharaoh nor fuhrer, no more, no less than his predecessor, the sainted and martyred Sadat. During the Pax Mubarak, Israel fought two wars with Lebanon, a war with Gaza, two intifadas, and destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor (yes, Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction) without Israel ever having to worry about Mubarak’s army interfering or opening a second front.

If Mubarak was such a terrible dictator, to hear the media now tell it, no one in the American media bothered to say so with any urgency over the past 30 years. If there was one Middle Eastern leader who’s been demonized as a great threat to democracy it’s been Israel’s democratically elected Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, or Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Jackson Diehl, columnist for The Washington Post (Jan. 27) noticed that the Obama administration “regularly ripped” Netanyahu but was so gentle with Mubarak.

Mike Lupica, the sportswriter who also does a weekly political column in the Daily News (Jan. 31), is typical of journalists who were never bothered by Mubarak but now can’t wait to see him gone. Lupica is promoting Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt’s opposition leader, as “a brave, learned man … standing up over these past few days the way the heroes always do in these moments.”

ElBaradei once lived in New York, “enough for the city to claim him, proudly,” writes Lupica. “Now he stands up and tells the United States to support the people of Egypt, not some cheap dictator. He isn’t the president of Egypt yet. He just acts like one. We talk a lot here about the need for real heroes in politics. They found one in Tahrir Square.”

Not a word about ElBaradei’s apparent alliance with the radical anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood, or what this might mean for Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, a dull fact worth repeating with all this talk of democracy.

The Nation’s Ari Berman (Jan. 31), writing about Egypt’s “pro-democracy” movement, notes, “ElBaradei’s emergence has angered pro-Mubarak neoconservatives … there is a neoconservative smear campaign against ElBaradei.” For proof, Berman gives us Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who says ElBaradei is a wolf in sheep’s clothing: “There is a myth being created that ElBaradei is a human rights activist. He is a stooge of Iran, and I don’t use the term lightly.”

The German media is suspicious, as well. “We have reason to be worried,” says an editorial in the mass circulation Bilde. “Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians or more want a different kind of freedom from the freedom we mean. They want to be free to turn their country into a fundamentalist theocracy. They want the freedom to declare Israel as an enemy again after decades of peace.”

Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post (Jan. 28) explains that ElBaradei, while head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, “repeatedly ignored evidence indicating that Iran’s nuclear program was a military program rather than a civilian energy program. When the evidence became too glaring to ignore, ElBaradei continued to lobby against significant UN Security Council sanctions or other actions against Iran and obscenely equated Israel’s purported nuclear program to Iran’s. His actions won him the support of the Iranian regime which he continues to defend.”

Adds Glick, “ElBaradei’s support for the Iranian ayatollahs is matched by his support for the Muslim Brotherhood. This group, which forms the largest and best-organized opposition movement to the Mubarak regime, is the progenitor of Hamas and al-Qaida.”

When quizzed about this by Der Spiegel (Jan. 25), ElBaradei insisted, “We should stop demonizing the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Glick fears “the peace treaty is doomed.”

The uprising in Egypt is very much about Israel, writes Bouthaina Shaaban in the Gulf News (Jan. 31). For all the domestic irritants, the Egyptian discontent is “also a result of the humiliation over [Palestine], occupied since 1948,” note 1948, not even 1967, “and being killed on a daily basis amidst total Arab impotence.”

Shaaban says Mubarak’s peace with Israel “infuriated people time and again… [The] question of Palestine and the necessity of liberating it from Israeli occupation is a major factor in what is happening…”

Dar Al Hayat, one of the largest pan-Arabist papers, and said to be a liberal one, amped up the anti-Israel fervor, in sync with the Egyptian protests. Columnist Jihad l-Khazen explains (Jan. 28) that “Israel fits the profile for all crime … Its mere establishment on Palestinian land is a crime … Israel is the only remaining neo-Nazi state in the world,” and this is the state with which Mubarak is at peace.

Elsewhere in Dar Al Hayat: Mohammad el-Ashab recalls (Jan. 30) how the “defeat of the June 1967 war caused the Egyptian street to explode in sorrow and anger.” Today, “the children and grandchildren of those marchers are demanding that the regime be reformed.”

Egypt’s domestic problems could be “justified by the need to fight the battle against the Israeli enemy,” writes el-Ashab. But if Mubarak would not fight the enemy, “then the difficulties of Egyptian life are no longer justified.”

Talal Aukal, a political analyst, tells the Palestinian news agency Maan (Jan. 31), if Mubarak falls, Sadat’s peace falls with him: “Any new regime will never adopt the same policies towards Israel.”

The Times headlined Nicholas Kristof’s column (Feb. 1), “Exhilarated By The Hope In Cairo.” Many “Egyptian pro-democracy advocates said they feel betrayed,” writes Kristof, because some Americans are “obsessing” over what could go wrong for Israel, among other things, instead of focusing on what this means for Egypt. Kristof admits, “Maybe I’m too caught up in the giddiness … but I think the protesters have a point.”

Through it all, the German papers repeat their solemn warning: When exhilarated crowds are cheering, they may not be cheering for you.

E-mail: jonathan@jewishweek.org

Last Update:

02/01/2011 - 21:55

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