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Egypt: Which Side in the Clash of Civilizations?

As noted in the analysis piece “Global Jihad Ongoing,” the clash of civilizations is underway, subtly in the minds of some and overwhelming in the minds of others. One player in this controversy has received positive press in the West, but maybe that positive view is the product of good public relations from the Egyptian government, while the real Egyptian agenda is obscured from the West.

Despite his bonhomie, however, a television series produced by the government-owned and controlled Egyptian Radio and Television Union and shown on the PMW website tells a very different tale of how Egypt really sees its role in history and world politics, and that of the U.S.

As Arafat’s messages in English differed greatly from his messages to his own people in Arabic, the Egyptians are telling different tales, depending on who is listening. Egypt received over $1.3 Billion dollars in aid from the U.S. last year. What did the U.S. get for its money? Here’s an example of what happened when the U.S. tried to aid an Egyptian group pushing for democratic change in Egypt.

But two U.S. senators pushed the administration, in October 2003, to become more active in trying to seed democratic change in Egypt. Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Mitch McConnell of Kentucky proposed giving $2 million to Egypt’s Ibn Khaldun Center, founded by sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who holds U.S. citizenship. The Mubarak government had ransacked the center in 2000 and arrested its founder. He then spent nearly three years in jail on charges of defaming the state and taking money illegally from European donors, before being acquitted.

Although this is one limited example and without further research into this Ibn Khaldun center, it is impossible to say whether “pro-democracy” is a euphemism or is real. The State Department compromised on the language in the grants to Egypt, back in 2003.

The State Department took Egypt’s side and sought to dilute offending language in the bill, according to Senate staff aides. After weeks of squabbling, Congress and the administration reached a compromise: The U.S. would give about $1 million to pro-democracy Egyptian groups, including the Ibn Khaldun Center, but only a small portion would come from the preexisting aid program.

And from the Palestinian Media Watch, another excerpt from the Egyptian TV program.

“Do not forget that when the crusades came to the region we resisted for 200 years,” the father reminds his son. “For 200 years there were wars. We too have the ability to resist for many years. We will not become like the Indians, put in cages for the world to watch, as they are doing now in Guantanamo with the remaining al-Qaeda.”

Although this is one TV show, it is important to note that media in Egypt is not completely free to publish any content it desires. There is some government oversight and moreso, repression following the publication of “undesirable” articles. Since this TV program is in its second season, it must have met with Egyptian government approval.

The fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has achieved some legitimate status through recent elections, the Muslim Brotherhood is not the answer for democratic change in Egypt - the exact opposite is the case.

Judith Klinghofer makes this observation regarding an Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1967.

I know history rarely repeats itself but I cannot but notice the similarities between Gamal Abd’l Nasser and Ahmadinejad, between May 1967 and April 2006. The military swagger, the mobilization of the populations, and the threats to annihilate Israel are all reminiscent of Gamal Abdul-Nasser’s Egypt. Then, as now, the real target was the US and the real goal the leadership of the greater Middle East. Then as now, the US was mired in a lengthy unpopular counter insurgency and the Israeli leadership seemed weak. Then as now, the West appeared divided and paralyzed and the UN appeasing.

Does this apply only to Iran? Or as the Global Jihad analysis demonstrates, to other countries in the Islamic world? Who has declared war on whom? Who are the players? Who are the interested parties? Who are the disinterested and the disengaged? The answers lie in the actions - not the words of a country. For Egypt, the actions speak loudly. How could Al Qaeda get access to Gaza without complicity from Egypt? The Al Qaeda terrorists were reportedly waiting in Egypt for the Israelis to withdraw from the border crossing following Sharon’s disengagement. After Israeli security departed, the terrorists moved in.

As in 1967, the enemy is the United States and the battleground is Israel. Egypt is strategically positioned for any attacks on Israel. The apparent Islamist propaganda campaign is building a society of hatred for the Jews and the United States. It appears that Egypt has taken a side in the clash of civilizations, and it appears to be the wrong side, funded by U.S. taxpayer dollars.