When I started writing this piece, a sound from deep inside my soul came out: Are you serious? Are you about to compare Egyptian position to Turkey’s position on Palestine? Where were you living for the last sixty-five years? Didn’t you read any page, paragraph, or even a sentence of the history for more than a thousand years? Didn’t you read the story of the Palestinian resistance to the Zionist invasion of Palestine, and who initiated it, supported it, sustained it, had the world’s gates open to it, and brought it to where it is today? And many, many more questions that meant to say that it was ridiculous to even attempt to start such a comparison. This is like comparing the faith of Saint Paul in Jesus Christ to that of a recently converted Christian, or comparing the faith of Abu-Hanifah Al-Nouaman to that of the Imam of your neighbourhood mosque. It is an insult to Egypt and the Egyptian people to initiate such an attempt to compare Egypt’s commitment, support, and sacrifices for the Palestinian cause to that of Turkey or any other country; Arab, Muslim, or otherwise.
Nevertheless, I will go ahead with the comparison; just to respond to some uninformed people who dare say that Turkey’s position on the latest Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza was better than that of Egypt’s position; a view that is probably influenced by propaganda spread by Muslim-Brotherhood-friendly media (such as Al-Jazeera and its sisters). Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood movement – the Ikhwaan – has a lot to do with spreading that anti-Egypt propaganda for one obvious reason; the current regime in Egypt is responsible for removing the Ikhwaan from ruling Egypt, thereby ending for a long time, if not forever, their dream to rule the entire Arab World. In return, the Ikhwaan want nothing more than the failure of the Egyptian state. In their pursuit of that objective, the Ikhwaan will stop at nothing and will do anything and everything to deny Egypt any credit for any positive development or change in the Arab World, Egypt, or Palestine; indeed, especially in Palestine.
Let us go with the comparison…. But, from where do I start?
In an attempt to not transform this post into a book, I intend to limit the comparison between Egypt and Turkey on the question of Palestine to facts relating to these two countries’ contributions to limiting/reducing Palestinian suffering during the recent Israeli onslaught against the Palestinian people in Gaza. I do not intend to go through the history of Egypt’s sacrifices and assistance to the Palestinian cause; they are so enormous that it would be impossible to be accounted for in one article. Furthermore, I do not wish to remind the readers of the long history of cooperation and alliance – military, civil, and otherwise – between Turkey and the state of Israel throughout six decades since the establishment of the Zionist state on the ruins of Palestinian society.
On the humanitarian side, what actually happened? And who did what? On August 2, 2014, Reuters news agency reported that during the three-week period between July 8, 2014, when the Israeli attack on Gaza started and August 1, 2014, “Egypt has added an extra seven megawatts to the 27 it feeds into Gaza and plans to increase that by 15 megawatts more in an effort to alleviate the electricity crisis.” Reuters added: “Egypt has allowed 2,800 tonnes of medicine and medical items, 800 tonnes of food, 10 ambulances and 49 tonnes of dates through the Rafah crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border.” Further, Reuters continued: “3,100 patients and 1,200 Palestinians with foreign passports as well as 2,000 Egyptians and Palestinian holders of Egyptian passports were allowed into Egypt through the crossing.” Keep in mind that Reuters’ report was dated August 2, 2014, and therefore Egyptian assistance has definitely increased since then. What did Turkey give Palestinians in Gaza other than their verbal attack on Israeli officials, for which we thank Turkey? I am not aware of any material assistance, but I do not wish to be presumptuous. Therefore, if anyone is aware of any such assistance, please let me know, and I promise to post it on this blog.
On the political side, let me focus on what actually took place; not what certain media outlets (such as Al-Jazeera and its sisters) propagate. While Turkey’s then prime minister Recep Erdogan was shouting and screaming about the Israeli attacks on Gaza, after playing a soccer match that was prearranged for his presidential campaign, Abdul-Fattah El-Sisi’s government of Egypt – including foreign affairs, presidential establishment, and the secret service – were fully engaged with the unified Palestinian National Unity government officials in drafting an initiative the sole purpose of which was to stop the Israeli onslaught on Gaza. This fact was made public by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen); not by the Egyptians. Egypt introduced its initiative that was accepted by the Israelis but unfortunately rejected by Hamas after consultation with Turkey and others. Hamas, and other Palestinian factions, heeded the ill-advised advice of their Turkish friend, Erdogan, and rejected the Egyptian initiative. Many bloody weeks later, and after more than two thousand additional Palestinian deaths, more than ten thousand additional Palestinian injuries, more than hundred thousand additional Palestinians becoming homeless as their homes were destroyed, and massive additional destruction of Gaza and its infrastructure including Gaza’s sole electricity-generating plant, Hamas accepted the very Egyptian initiative that it rejected only a few bloody weeks earlier.
Therefore, El-Sisi’s Egypt’s position towards the Palestinian people is far friendlier and more effective than that of Erdogan’s Turkey, which gave Palestinians in Gaza a lot of words, tears, and prayers but “did” nothing – absolutely nothing – to actually stop Palestinian bloodletting. Egypt, in the meantime, was the only country in the entire world that persisted and continued to work around the clock – while being accused of treason, conspiracy, and God knows what else by many parties, including Erdogan and the Ikhwaan – and finally succeeded in stopping the Israeli murderous assault on Gaza. And there is where we stand today.
Furthermore, it is El-Sisi’s Egyptian government that invited “all” parties to go to Cairo – within a month of the effective day of ceasefire – to negotiate terms and conditions of a long-term arrangement that would aim at hopefully stopping another assault by the Israeli military against the Palestinian people of Gaza. Egypt works with the Palestinian leadership to coordinate efforts and formulate positions while Turkey continues to attack the state of Israel with words, a little less than Venezuela does. While Palestinians thank Turkey, Venezuela, and other countries for their moral support, Egypt stands tall and strong – just as its great pyramids that defy time itself – insisting: “No thanks for doing one’s duty!” This reminds me of a poetry verse by one of the great Arab poets and philosophers; Abul-Alaa’a El-Ma’arri.
يقول أبو العلاء المعرّي في رائعته: ألا في سبيل المجد:
فَوَاعَجَبًا كَم يَدَّعِي الفَضلَ نَاقِصٌ وَوَاأَسَفًا كَم يُظهِرُ النَّقصَ فَاضِلُ
Roughly translated: How pitiful a stingy claims generosity and how sorrowful a pious shows modesty!
In my reading of facts – not propaganda by mainly Ikhwaan-friendly media – El-Sisi’s Egypt provided material assistance to Palestinians in Gaza and successfully acted to stop Palestinian bloodletting, while Erdogan’s Turkey attacked Israel with words, encouraged Hamas to reject the Egyptian initiative – thereby resulting in more Palestinian deaths and suffering, and gave the Palestinians nothing more than words, tears, and prayers. The two stands do not even come close to qualify for comparison; for that is just another chapter of the story of Turkey the stingy, and Egypt the pious, on Palestine.
Hope is the stuff from which life is made!