Flag at Feet. Heroes of Arab Spring Have Shown Their True Face, Smashing Up Israeli Embassy in Cairo

Text of report by the website of government-owned Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 12 September

Report by Maksim Makarychev: "Flag at Feet. Heroes of Arab Spring Have Shown Their True Face, Smashing Up Israeli Embassy in Cairo"

On the night of 9 September the Israeli Embassy in Cairo in one of the multistory buildings in the capital’s district of Giza was smashed up to the roar of a crowd. Foreign observers are already comparing the "revolt on the streets of Cairo" in terms of stunning effect to the consequences of the "25 January revolution," which led to the end of the 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak. Under him, as the BBC writes, the smashing up of the embassy would have been impossible.

The incident on the streets of Cairo on the night of 9 September took place according to all the rules of a revolt. It was as senseless, vehement, and merciless. After Friday prayers within a matter of hours thousands of enraged and extremely agitated people raced to the district where the Israeli Embassy in Egypt is located. Many of them, as to a demonstration in Soviet times, came here with their families, holding young children by the hand. Nothing presaged the storm — after all, in the daytime on Cairo’s central Tahrir Square the demonstrators gathered there from among the participants in the "25 January revolution" had assured the authorities that their "actions cannot cause damage to public and private property." Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis altogether refused to take part in the demonstrations. In response the Egyptian Ministry of Interior made the decision to withdraw all police patrols from the square for 24 hours. Later the authorities acknowledged that the security forces had "believed absolutely in vain."

With the onset of darkness several hundred young people made an attempt to penetrate the ministry building, and they shattered and destroyed all the signs on it. And then the anger of the provocateurs descended on the enclosure around the multistory building in the capital’s district of Giza, which turned out to be a real "weak link" that night. Israel’s diplomatic representation was located on the upper floors of this building, and the multistory building itself was encircled by a concrete wall almost three meters high. It was built two weeks ago, after mass protest actions started at the building in response to the murder by the Israelis on 18 August of five Egyptian soldiers on the border of the two countries.

And so the crowd, with the assistance of metal pipes, built something like a battering ram. One group of demonstrators tried to break down the wall itself, in the end making a breach in it; the other climbed over the enclosure and rushed to the building. The security forces guarding the embassy tried to impede the rebels, but the forces of the uncontrollable crowd and the military were unequal. After 10 minutes the rioters had reached the Jewish mission itself on the 17th floor, which Israeli diplomats led by the ambassador and his wife had already managed to leave. The picture of the incident was reminiscent rather of a scene from disaster movies than of reality: Out of the windows at the top of the multistory building diplomatic dispatches flew into the sky, and by the building itself minors burned the Israeli flag. However, as the police reported, the rioters penetrated only the consulate but were not able to enter the closed part of the embassy. Shortly afterward the hooligans entered into real fighting with security force subunits that had arrived. They continued until dawn. The riot was "impressive" in scale — three people died, the number of injured approached a thousand, and 38 most active participants in the pogroms landed in jail.

BOTh the domestic and foreign policy consequences of the events of 11 September could turn out to be much more serious. "Egypt is experiencing a real calamity which threatens our statehood; it is necessary to fight this in the most resolute manner" — Egyptian Information Minister Usamah Haykal came out with this statement on 11 September based on the results of an extraordinary session with the participation of the government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of the republic. At this meeting Prime Minist er Isam Sharaf requested to resign. The prime minister’s request was refused.

The "25 January revolution" has turned out to be a disobedient genie, and the Arab Spring, it seems, is also starting to undergo a real durability check. "The pictures that we have seen, and particularly the pictures of the siege of the Israeli Embassy, indicate that violence has gained the upper hand over democratic values. Among those who welcomed the ‘Arab Spring’ this can only give rise to disappointment," Franco Frattini, head of the Italian Foreign Ministry, declared. He said directly that for the moment Egyptian freedom is being acquired not through democracy but through violence. The tone of observers’ comments is unanimous — both the inability of the Egyptian opposition to take power and the possibility of the current temporary military leadership of Egypt to control the situation in the country to the full have shown up plainly. Protest actions will probably be on the rise until the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which is ruling in Egypt establishes a clear timetable for the handover of power into the hands of civil society. And, after all, apart from that in the package of "insistent proposals" to the authorities the opposition has presented demands to finally rid the country of poverty and the abuse of officials, and also of the wave of criminality that engulfed it after the revolution. To a large degree because of this Egypt is precipitously losing its attractive tourist image. And although during the unrest in Cairo Russian citizens were not injured, the Federal Agency for Tourism [Rosturizm] has already appealed to tour operators with a request not to sell tours to the country of pyramids. In the opinion of experts, it is perfectly probable that the military authorities, despite the protests of leading political forces, will all the same be forced to apply to the full the emergency law that has been operating in Egypt for almost 30 years and bestows on the security structures the widest powers. "All the provisions of the emergency law will be applied in order to preserve the state and its institutions," Usamah Haykal, the information minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt, said, confirming this supposition. It is a question of the "rapid and rigorous suppression of acts of violence."

Despite the calls sounding ever more frequently in Cairo to review and even break off the Camp David Accords, according to the results of which in 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty, the current Egyptian authorities will most probably not take that step. Of course the authorities of the Arab Republic of Egypt will continue to demand official apologies from Tel Aviv and a quick investigation in order to punish those guilty of the murder of its soldiers. But, despite all the domestic political pressure, official Cairo will hardly want to "lay itself open" — to enter into open confrontation with Tel Aviv, which is demonstrating peacableness, appearing in the role of "grave digger" of the Arab Spring and "igniter" of a new war in the restless region.

Source: Rossiyskaya Gazeta website, Moscow, in Russian 12 Sep 11

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