July 12, 2013
The Plague of Racism, Reaches Egypt
Martin Luther King once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
Such wise words perfectly depict the current situation in the Middle East.
Egypt drew attention two years ago with the success of their peaceful revolution that ended Mubarak’s three decaderule.
Two weeks ago, Egyptians planned to go out to the streets in an attempt to topple their elected president after exactly one year of ruling that did not rise up to their expectations. With the immediate intervention of the military, they succeeded.
However, the story doesn’t end there. The elected president’s supporters, who see it is their right to defend the existence of a president they voted for, did not accept it and went out to the streets themselves and remain there till this very day.
My beginning may sound much like an introduction to a news report you would hear on television. But this not an article aimed to highlight the pros and cons of what took place here in Egypt.
Rather,I would like to draw attention to a more serious and possibly permanently damaging trend that is now spreading like a plague among a slice of the Egyptian society.
I am a proud Palestinian- Jordanian, who unfortunately never had the chance to visit my homeland. I have relatives living in Nablus, Palestine; Jordan; Egypt;Emirates; Canada and other countries. I lived in three different Arab countries and my father made sure my sibling and I had the most comfortable life that could be provided in terms of education and lifestyle as well.
Throughout my twelve years of International schooling and five years of University studies, I had the chance to bond with people of different nationalities, faiths, religions and cultural backgrounds, which gave me the opportunity to know what different people think really happened and is still happening in Palestine. Never, in my 26 years of living have I felt discriminated against because of my identity, until now, in Egypt.
Whenever my friends and I talk politics and I give my humble opinion about what I think is happening in Egypt, I get bombarded with attacks blaming me for being biased towards my interests as a Palestinian.
Zionist-based sources have successfully managed to infiltrate the Arab society and feed people with lies that, of course, aim to make people hate the existence of Palestine itself. I have bluntly been told by a very well educated friend of mine that I am “blind, know nothing about my history and should go read real books that prove that ALL Palestinians sold their lands and are now greedy and want other countries’ land.”
Calmly and collectively , I tried to convince my friend that Palestinians, like all other people have loyal people with dignity among them and also have some who don’t.
However; I was shut down over and over again and was spoken to in a very condescending, superior manner.
Surprisingly, it is the educated, upper middle class people that have this ideology about Palestine, not the hoi polloi.
Famous show hosts proudly flaunt their racism towards Palestinians as well as Syrians as they believe the Syrians fleeing imminent death back home are here in Egypt to fulfil their “interests” too.
I believe many Egyptians disagree with these thoughts, however; the fact that this new faux sense of superiority has begun to appear in Arab countries is alarming.
It boils down to this:
The elected president Mohamad Morsi is on good terms with Hamas, a group seen by the world to be extreme but seen by the Palestinians as an honorable movement resisting an unjust occupation. The rumors sprouted from there.
Whenever there would be a shortage of fuel in the market, you would hear people and talk show anchors say, “Morsi is taking our fuel and giving it to the Palestinians in Gaza, his friends.”
When power cuts would occur due to the lack of maintenance in the electrical network it would be, “Morsi is taking our electricity and giving it to Gaza!”
Funny thing is, Gaza’s area is equivalent to that of a small block here in Egypt. Whenever I would hear this I would say, “Alright, what is your source?”
I would hear the response of “You are defending him because you are a Palestinian.”
This is where the negativity towards Palestinians started.
Now, logically speaking, there is no proof, besides hearsay and unreliable media sources that proved to be deceitful time after time.
Opening the Rafah borders to allow food and water to enter Gaza strip is the least any person with a shred of humanity can do. If there is a worry of extremists creeping into Egypt then that is understandable; have stronger supervision of the borders, but do not completely shut it down to stifle the population of Gaza even more.
The borders have been closed since this June 30th movement took place.
Is it the Palestinians’ fault? And should Palestinians be treated in a condescending manner from Egyptians because of these rumors that are ping ponged back and forth in the Egyptian society.
How did this turn from blaming Mubarak’s corrupt regime for Egypt’s situation to blaming Palestinians living in Gaza trying to survive with little or no food, water, medical supplies and bombs thrown at them every now and then?
Criticizing the president for his shortcomings the past year is not only acceptable but encouraged, but brutally attacking the Palestinians and their struggle to exist will not help Egypt whatsoever.
Other neighboring countries are demanding that their governments provide Palestinians living under occupation with more aid.
If the Arab countries continue to allow themselves to be fragmented then they will never rise and meet their potential.
A part of me does not blame the Egyptian people, because we, as a young generation are new to understanding and caring about politics. Most importantly, we are raised to believe in the romanticised illusion that all Arab countries are one, we find ourselves caring about the situation in countries along with the ones of which’s passports we carry.
But another part of me was in complete shock of the state we as Arabs have gotten into. If we, among ourselves,now believe that “What happens in Palestine is none of our business” then what hope do we have in getting the world to see the truth about the daily crimes committed against humanity in Palestine starting from usual checkpoint humiliation to the demolition of homes in Jerusalem to build more illegal Israeli settlements.
We as Arabs are not in a state to stand up for ourselves, let alone stand up for Palestine. So I do agree, Egypt, like many other Arab countries should have stronger economies and educational systems and minimise the sky-high rate of poverty before feeling strong enough to take action.
But does this justify some people losing their sense of humanity and compassion?
After all what is it that makes us human? It is not what political party we are cheering for or what party we want to see fail, what faith we follow or what language we speak.
We cannot accept killing as long as the victims do not share our political belief. We cannot accept violence and extremism in any form.
We cannot allow the media to stereotype people based on their religion and appearance. Looking down on a man based on his beard and traditional attire is as backwards as judging a woman because her skirt is short. With the constant heart-wrenching scenes we cannot turn a blind eye to in Palestine, Syria and Iraq.
It saddens me to see that many of us have lost the sense of sympathy towards others, towards people who wake up every day wondering if today was their last, towards mothers and fathers who look at their children every morning and feel hopeless because they cannot promise them safety and security. I cannot generalise based on the few situations I have encountered the past days , and I refuse to cave into the negativity because whenever I lose myself to despair thinking about my beloved Palestine’s fate and the fate of other Arab countries , I see a glimmer of hope in the least expected places. Returning to my opening quote by Martin Luther King, I would like to conclude my piece with another relevant quote by him, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”