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Friday, February 04, 2011

Egyptian conspiracy theories involving Israel spread

From Al Masry al-Youm:

On Wednesday night, the Egyptian satellite TV station al-Mehwar broadcast a live interview with Shaimaa, a former journalist, who claimed to be trained by Jews in the US to destabilize the political regime in Egypt. Shaimaa said on air that many of the anti-Mubarak protesters at Tahrir Square have received similar training and have been applying it over the past week through organized demonstrations.

Rumors about Israel being the mastermind behind the Egyptian uprising spread on al-Qasr al-Aini Street. This morning, a pharmacist on the street claimed to have seen Egyptian troops arresting two Israelis at Tahrir demonstrations.

Close to al-Qasr al-Aini Hospital, a juice seller refused to sell water bottles to two Al-Masry Al-Youm reporters, who wanted to deliver them with medical supplies to the injured at Tahrir Square. “Israelis are killing our children and destroying our lives. I will take no part in supporting them,” he exclaimed.

Nevertheless, it remains unclear how many Egyptians truly believe that Israel constitutes the mastermind behind recent events.

Sherif Younis, a historian, attributes the dissemination of the rumors to a group of National Security Services members, secret police, NDP members, businessmen and media agencies—both government-owned and self-claimed independents--whose interests are tied to the existing political regime.

...

The media has been spreading a culture of fear among the Egyptian public, highlighting events of vandalism, looting and violence due to the absence of security forces. “Protect Egypt” has become a recurring slogan across various TV stations.

Last week, the Muslim Brotherhood was accused of organizing the protests. When this narrative failed to gain popular support, the recurring scenario of Israel emerged, said Younis.

For decades, Israel has been blamed as the root cause of all evil in Egypt. Despite the 1979 peace accords, the public continues to perceive it as a “symbol of evil or even Satan,” explained Younis. Egyptian media has been nurturing this narrative for years, with Egyptian cinema and TV showing Israelis as villains in various scenarios regardless of the genre of the movie.

Conspiracy theories are commonly accepted in Egypt, Younis said. Accusations of conspiring with Israel are common among opposition parties as well as the regime, he adds. The allegation was even used during sectarian strife earlier this year.

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“Israeli-phobia” has become a characteristic of Egyptian national identity, which the state has been building over the past decades, said Younis.

Peaceful relations with Israel remain unacceptable to the majority of the Egyptian public, something acknowledged by the Israeli government in wikileaks documents released last year to the Jerusalem Post. Despite Israel’s unpopularity in Egypt, however, the Mubarak’s regime has remained one of its main supporters.
(h/t Clark)