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.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -