For Americans of a certain generation the phrase “Kill the Pig” is reminder of a bygone era, embarrassing, comical and childishly futile. For Egyptians of recent vintage it is deadly serious. A few years ago, a hysteria about swine flu overtook the country. It was totally manufactured and it resulted in the killing of practically every pig (the actual animal) in Egypt, with an almost sadistic relish. Muslims, like Jews, view pigs as unclean, and only Christians own them. Specifically the Coptic group “Zabaleen” who are the universal trash collectors/recycling agents in Egypt. These are people at the lowest rung of the economic ladder yet maintain a dignified and productive life (They were the subject of a recent movie by the same name). Some years ago the Mubarak government, in a fit of corruption, tried to take away their livelihood by awarding expensive contracts to ineffectual foreign companies. Now President Mursi, in his first official exhortation to the people of Egypt, is asking them to “pick up the garbage”. No one can disagree with the goal, except in that the people most able to deal with the issue, as well as most affected, are completely sidelined. The dog whistle implicit in it is very clear. As clear as the pigs are dead.
Discrimination comes in a thousand guises.
Words are usually too valuable to waste on rebuttals. Occasionally, however, some targets are enticing enough to warrant lowering the standards, training the sight and squeezing the trigger. One such target is Prof. Joseph Massad’s article in the Al Jazeera propaganda network.
Prof. Massad thunders at wealthy Egyptians for abandoning the Palestinians’ struggle from his comfortable perch atop Morningside Heights. He implies that concern for preserving an open and cosmopolitan society in Egypt is a pretext for selling the country to Israel. This is the same logic that led prof. Massad to conclude that respecting the civil rights of homosexuals in the Arab world is a form of Western Imperialism. A point-by-point explanation of all that is wrong with that article would be as lengthy as it is non-constructive. Egypt can be criticized not for caring, but for caring too much and too ineptly. Let us, instead, roll back history a bit.
The Palestinians, as Edward Said once said, are victims of victims. Their suffering, due to the Zionist project, is real and can not be ignored. In the rogues gallery of misbehavior that is the modern Near East, it ranks slightly above the middle range, well behind such horrors as Darfour or Southern Sudan. The Palestinians’ plight is also the result of the pathology of modern Arab history and the project of Political Islam. From 1930’s onward, opposition to the establishment of Israel was drenched less in the language of righteousness than in the discourse of hate. The doleful Mufti of Jerusalem consorted with the Nazis. The Muslim Brotherhood dispatched armed groups to Palestine with hateful exhortations about the cowardly Jew and the valiant Muslim. The latter got his behind soundly kicked by the former and so it can only be corruption at the highest level that made it possible. Next King Farouk was dispatched for his efforts to cozy up to the Brothers. Then the great Nasser lost the Sinai twice, never once displaying sufficient acumen or respect for Israel to truly help the Palestinians. In the process Egypt was bankrupted, made narrow and provincial. Palestinians living in Egypt often mocked Egyptian ineptness with more clarity of vision than a surfeit of gratitude. Sadat recovered the Sinai and lost his life. His assassins now free to be members of the Government and to insist on repeating the errors of the past hoping for a different outcome. In the meantime, Israel prospered. Exactly how would prof. Massad explain this course of action as a sensible template for helping the Palestinians?
Had the Arabs worried more about helping the Palestinians than hurting the Jews we might now have two prosperous states, instead of one on a path of self-destruction through arrogance. Had the Islamists accepted that they can live with “the other”, rather insisting on marginalizing him, Egypt would be far more prosperous (including its Palestinian inhabitants). and perhaps better able to help other Palestinians. Prof. Massad displays profound contempt for Egyptians who wish to put their country first. Some Egyptians are the biggest danger to their fellow Egyptians, yet prof. Massad insists on honking exhortations about how foreigners have humiliated and robbed Egyptians. He would like Egyptians to marginalize and dismiss their countrymen who do not wish to sacrifice the last Egyptian in the vain hope of assisting the “cause of Palestine”.
Helpful advice indeed.