Yair Lapid asks Egyptian intellectuals whether Israel is truly the source of their troubles.
by Yair Lapid
I’ve been looking for your face amidst the masses on TV for more than two weeks now. For one elusive moment, it appeared that I spotted you at al-Tahrir Square, surrounded by strangers, photographing the soldiers with your cellular phone – but maybe it was just my imagination.
Like many Israelis, your revolution is making me both hopeful and concerned. I hope it works out, because you deserve it, just like any person in the world deserves to be a free man living under a democratic regime and able to determine his own fate. Nonetheless, I’m concerned, because it is precisely you and your colleagues, Egypt’s intellectuals, who for years now have been leading the hate and scaremongering campaign against Israel, and I cannot help but ask you: Is this where you want to take your new Egypt?
Will you be annulling our peace treaty? Do you too intend to keep blaming us for all your country’s failures? Will you join forces with the Muslim Brotherhood in order to build yet another struggling Mideast state of woman-haters, democracy-haters, and Jew haters? Or perhaps I need to first ask you another question: What is your definition of an intellectual?
I do not expect you for a moment to agree with our policy towards the Palestinians; often I don’t agree with it either. However, intellectuals are people who are able to answer the question of “who am I?” not only through the question of “who am I against?” Intellectuals know how to answer the question “what God do I believe in?” not only through the question of “what God do I abhor?” Intellectuals can also answer the question of “what flag do I wave?” without having to answer the question of “what flag do I burn.”
Egypt has existed for more than 5,000 years now, you invented geometry, astronomy and paper, and you are an ancient, proud people that is responsible for its own fate. Nobody except you is responsible for what happened to you. Nobody except you is responsible for what is yet to come. I read the hateful publications in your newspapers, the calls for boycott, the clearly anti-Semitic statements, and instead of getting mad I ask myself: How is it that the claim that we’re to blame for all your troubles doesn’t insult you?
Wicked, pathetic lie
You are an educated person, my friend, you read all the great works, ranging from Rousseau’s On the Social Contract to Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy, and you know just like I do – or even better than me – that hatred is the pathetic, dangerous comfort of those who do not love themselves. Look inside you for a moment, take a good, deep look, and tell me: Is Israel truly the source of all of Egypt’s troubles? Don’t you know, deep in your heart, that this is a ridiculous claim?
Does Israel prevent young Egyptians from finding honest work offering decent pay? Did we prompt your officials to plunder the public coffers? Did we forge your election results? Did we prevent you from building a public healthcare system? And what about an education system? Modern agriculture? Developed industry? And even if we wanted to do all that, do you really think we’d be able to? Believe me, my friend, we’re not that talented. We too have our own troubles, our own poor people, and even our own bullets, which murder leaders who dare dream.
Intellectuals are people who manage the world in their head. They look at life and try to see some kind of truth, and if they cannot find it, they attempt to create it. You have an opportunity to rebuild your country, but do you wish to premise it on truth, or on a wicked, pathetic lie that will doom you to another 100 years of anger?
Our common forefather, Abraham, said: “Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your herdsmen and my herdsmen, for we are kinsmen.” We have no conflict with you, my friend. We also make no pretenses of deciding for you how your country shall look, or who should run it. We offer you our friendship, the continued peace-of-the-equals that prevails between us, and our recognition that nobody except you can manage your life as a free man.
The answer you offer us will determine much more than the future relations with a small state separated from you by a desert, as after you complete your struggle against the regime, a much greater battle shall start: What kind of country to you wish to live in? What will its principles be? What kind of character will it have? Will you choose the easy solution and blame others for your trouble? Or will you choose the brave, difficult solution that will require you to face your people and tell them: It depends on us alone.