Originally published on January 25, 2011
Practically no conclusions have been drawn by the mainstream U.S. media about the highly disturbing images of Cairo protesters holding signs that depict Hosni Mubarak with the Star of David on his forehead and the vicious anti-Semitic/anti-Israel wording that has accompanied many of these signs. And that’s if they mention the topic at all.
These images have appeared in the Israeli press and elsewhere in the Middle East as well as in the blogosphere. For example, Haaretz had this caption under one of the photos it published: A man in Cairo holds a sketch portraying Hosni Mubarak with a Star of David on his forehead, January 30, 2011. The caption reads: ‘30 years of devastation and treason,’ referring to Israel-Egypt peace.
This is all particularly noteworthy because for far too many journalists and pundits in the mainstream media these signs contradict the liberal spin on events in Egypt that they have been putting forth–and this spin has been accepted by the media and U.S. politicians nearly universally. Let’s agree that the narrative that many news professionals are seeking so very hard to establish in the American mind can be summarized this way: these protesters are not extremists and they want democracy to emerge in their county and that they are therefore a better alternative than the dictatorship of Mubarak or the extremism of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But the true story is there for the telling and it is infinitely more complex. These photos are not something independent of the protest movement that started these demonstrations. The group commonly known as the April 6 youth movement ovement originated on Facebook and generated the initial excitement for the current protests. A year ago the New York Times profiled the university students behind the April 6 organization and reported that the movement’s first large-scale public action was a protest against the Mubarak regime during Israel’s incursion into Gaza in late 2008/early 2009. These demonstrators criticized Mubarak for not intervening on behalf of Hamas and against Israel. “(M)ore than 2,000 protesters marched through the streets of downtown Cairo, carrying Palestinian flags.” In today’s Islamic world being pro-democracy has no impact on whether you hate Israel or buy into dark anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
And all of this–the rest of the Egypt story–is now being ignored by the press here and in Europe.
The easier story to relate is a vastly simpler one. The problem is that the image that is being crafted is not just patently false. It is dangerous because it builds up American hopes and assumptions about what a future Egyptian society will look like in the post-Mubarak era.
The future of Egypt is in these signs showing Hosni Mubarak with the Star of David on his forehead.
After Mubarak is gone Egyptians may well produce a society that features freedom of the press and open elections and where the Muslim Brotherhood is marginalized and poses little threat to the nation’s stability. What should be clear though is that even with these changes it is entirely likely that the average Egyptian (university-educated or not) will continue to hate the state of Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people.
There is no evidence to the contrary.