Gaza and the conquest of Egypt

Bret Stephens:

What if Gaza were to conquer Egypt? The possibility is not as remote as it may seem just by glancing at the map.

Egypt has more than 50 times the population of its former colony and 2,800 times the landmass. But Gaza is sovereign Hamas territory, Hamas is the Palestinian branch of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, and Egypt -- not Israel -- is the country that has most to fear from a statelet that is at once the toehold, sanctuary and springboard of an Islamist revolution.

No wonder liberal Egyptians are reacting with near-hysterical alarm to last Wednesday's demolition of the border fence between the Gaza Strip and the Sinai. The Brotherhood organized at least 70 demonstrations throughout Egypt early last week to protest Israel's economic blockade of the Strip, itself a reaction to Hamas's rocket barrages into Israel. "Arm us, train us and send us to Gaza," chanted the demonstrators, along with "O rulers of Muslims, where is your honor, where is your religion?" The independent Egyptian daily Almasry Alyoum also described conversations between Hamas leader Khaled Mashal and Mohammed Mahdi Akef, the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, to coordinate their activities. "We will take to the streets and defend our brothers in Gaza, even if we are all tried in military courts," Mr. Akef was reported as saying.

As Middle Eastern power plays go, Hamas's decision to dismantle the Gaza-Sinai border was a masterstroke. Gaza's economic woes are almost wholly self-inflicted, but they are real. Dynamiting and bulldozing the border of a neighboring country is legally an act of war, but it was made to seem like a humanitarian necessity and a bid for freedom. Flooding that neighbor with hundreds of thousands of desperate people is a massive economic burden on Egypt, but one that it shirks at its political peril.

Above all, Hamas exploited the myth of pan-Arab solidarity with the Palestinians in order to explode it. Having whipped itself into its usual frenzy over Israel's "siege" of Gaza, it was a delicate matter for the state-run Egyptian press to make the government's case for deploying truncheon-wielding police to turn back the Palestinian human tide. It's an equally delicate matter for the Egyptian government to arrest Brotherhood protesters peacefully demonstrating "for Palestine," even if the Brotherhood's real target is Hosni Mubarak's regime and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty that it supports.


For the Brotherhood all this is excellent news. Yesterday, Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian minister in President Mahmoud Abbas's cabinet, reportedly sought a meeting in Cairo with Supreme Guide Akef in order to negotiate a new border arrangement. Mr. Akef declined to see him, a telling indicator of the Brotherhood's newfound political confidence. It can now lay firm claim to the Palestinian cause, never mind that its "brothers" in Hamas are the real source of current Palestinian misery.


The brotherhood of religious bigotry has spawned not only Hamas but al Qaeda and other groups of intolerant Muslims. They are the core group in the Arab world who rail not just against the west but against modernity too. They seek not to negotiate with others but to destroy them. That is why it is unrealistic to expect any peace agreements on the state of Israel. There is no one on the Palestinian side who has anything of value to offer.

In the war of ideas, the brotherhood has only bad ones based on Islamic supremacy.


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