Violence in Sinai

16 Egyptian border guards were killed Monday by militants operating in Sinai. This is the latest in a string of incidents involving militants and disenfranchised communities in the peninsula. This latest attack was perhaps the most brazen though. After killing the border guards the militants drove stolen armored cars into the Israeli side of the border before being killed by the Israelis. Israel was quick to exploit the situation in Sinai to their advantage by calling the attack a “wake up call” for the Egyptians. As of recently Israel has been pointing its finger at Egypt and Gaza anytime an attack of this nature happens. The Israelis claim that the security vacuum is the fault of Egypt and is being exploited by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Many political commentators in Israel also chalk up this violence to President Morsi’s “close” ties to Hamas. While this may play well for the Israeli public and western governments it’s simply not true.

Sinai has always been a region plagued by violence and militancy. In 2004 a 400 pound car bomb exploded outside the Hilton Hotel in Taba killing 34 people. A year later three bombs would go off in a coordinated attack that would claim the lives of 83 people in the resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh. And in 2011 the Egyptian oil pipeline connected to Israel and Jordan was attacked a whopping 12 times. All of this violence stemmed from Egypt’s close ties to Israel, something most if not all Egyptians loath, and the abysmal living conditions of the Bedouin communities living in the Sinai peninsula. These are attacks perpetrated by groups that are fed up with the oppressive Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people and the cooperation they receive from the Egyptian political elite, as well as by groups who historically have been neglected by the Egyptian government. The Israeli narrative that this is somehow the work of Hamas or some form of Palestinian resistance group doesn’t hold up. The biggest net loser from this recent attack is Gaza. The Rafah crossing which Morsi promised to fully open is now closed. Politically speaking Israel and it’s supporters are able to use this as further evidence of a global terror campaign directed at the Jewish state. Also keep in mind that Hamas directs their attacks against Israel and not Egypt.

The biggest net winner is of course Israel. Netanyahu and his partner in crime Barak can now blame Egypt and Gaza for all their foreign policy failures. The two of them can present this to other western nations as further evidence of how weak and ineffectual Morsi is as a leader. How can Israel expect to work with Egypt if it’s president can’t control his own people? This is the same tactic that the Israelis have used time and time again. The pro-Israel warmongers here in America will start screaming bloody murder soon enough, claiming that Morsi shouldn’t be president because poor defenseless Israel who never hurt anybody might be attacked.

This recent attack is a wake up call to Egypt as much as it is to Israel. Morsi has to address the Bedouin situation in the Sinai. He can not solve the militancy problem the way Mubarak did; round up and torture every Bedouin and man with a long beard. The Egyptian military must also come to understand that they are a catalyst for much of this violence. The breif love affair that those in Tahrir Square had for the military is now over. The military’s domination of the economy must cease so that those at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder can have a chance to get ahead. President Morsi may also have to examine whether a close relationship with the Jewish state is really in Egypt’s national interest. This doesn’t mean tearing up Camp David or going to war, but it may mean asking the Israelis to put their money were their mouth is on the question of peace with the Palestinians. For Israel this should be the wake up call that they can no longer expect to do whatever they please to Arab peoples and not expect a response. Israel can no longer rely on their dear friend Mubarak to slaughter his own population; which of course was the major cause of discontent amongst Egyptians critical of Israel. The Arab world is changing and Israel needs to catch up. Gone are the days of relying on secular dictators like Mubarak to help imprison the Palestine’s in the Gaza Strip. For too long Israel has relied on the fact that Arab dictators are as afraid of Arab democracy as they are. Israel never really had to make peace with the Palestinians because no Arab leader actually cared about the plight of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. And the populations living in Arab countries had no real voice or means to press their unelected leaders. For the first time now those in Gaza have a real ally in Egypt. It is time for Israel to wake up and see that their hegemony over the Middle East is slowly ending. The easiest way to prevent violence spilling over into Israel is to stop implementing a foreign policy doctrine that oppresses Arabs. And the first step in this process is to begin a real dialogue with those nations neighboring Israel. As more leaders are democratically elected in the Arab world the less leeway Israel has to do whatever they want in the region with out serious repercussions.


UPDATE: More attacks in Sinai

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