Follow ysgotlieb on Twitter
by RSS
Issues of the Day Why Egypt Rebelled

As an Israeli, developments in and affecting Egypt, our largest and most populous neighbor, are of acute interest. The unrest wracking the country is deeply troubling and the international media blitz surrounding it offers no real insight into why Egypt is so passionately divided.  


Buffeted by conflicting commentaries concerning the roots of the ongoing turmoil, I find myself wanting to know more about its causes, specifically why an estimated 22 million Egyptians allegedly signed a petition demanding the resignation of Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, last June in the weeks before he was deposed.


Accordingly, I decided to do some reading.


An Insular, Factional Worldview

An interesting article, "Blame Morsi" appears in Foreign Policy where its author, Michael Wahid Hanna, states that: "Despite inheriting intractable political, economic, and social problems, when Morsi ascended to power on June 30, 2012, he had choices." The decisions he adopted, though, were geared toward "factional gain, zero-sum politics, and populist demagoguery." Hanna further states that Mori's "insular, factional worldview," essentially "prioritized the Moslem Brotherhood before the nation."


How was such "Brotherhoodization" manifested?


Evidently, there are no shortage of examples. The Committee to Protect Journalists states that "Morsi and his supporters used politicized regulations, ignored differing views to push through a repressive new constitution, pursued a drumbeat of retaliatory criminal investigations, and employed widespread rhetorical and physical intimidation of critics. CPJ documented dozens of outright anti-press assaults, the large majority committed by Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters, virtually all of which went unpunished."


Fundamentalist Takeover of Civil Society

With Egypt's economy in a nose spin and at a time with direly-needed capital infusions from tourism has all but dried up, The Economist reports in an article, "Morsistan" on the deposed Egyptian president's appointment of a ranking member of Gamaa Islamiya, a group responsible for a terrorist attack on tourists and that favors imposing strict Islamic law, as governor of Luxor. Other appointments were made in this spirit in other governates and throughout the state bureaucracy.


The Egyptian novelist, Alaa Al-Aswany  suggests in an article that while Egyptian political parties are required to publish the sources of the funding, the Islamic parties under Morsi's government exempted themselves from doing so with impunity. This, despite the widespread purchase of real estate across Egypt and other shadowy economic undertakings by the Moslem Brotherhood funded by the support of Gulf states, notably Qatar.


Unemployment, Debt, Factory Closures

Egypt's economy, already problematic before he inherited it from former president Hosni Mubrak, deteriorated sharply under President Morsi. With a labor force of 27 million there are four million people unemployed. According to the BBC ten percent of the jobless are men, while 25 percent are women. Most troubling is that 82% percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unemployed.


In an article, "Going to the Dogs" last spring The Economist described some of the economic policies that had by then been adopted by the Morsi government and considerably worsened the difficult economy. Egypt's foreign reserves fell by nearly two thirds ($36 billion to$ 13 billion dollars) in a little more than a year, which was enough for only three months' worth of imported essential goods. An estimated 4,500 factories closed during that time. Electric and water supplies were erratic and there is rising malnutrition among children. The national deficit rose sharply.


Attacks on Women, the Third Sector and Minorities

Morsi's record on issues relating to civil society and women's issues was fraught with unsavory trends. As an author writing in the New Statesman states: "The worsening safety for women in Egypt’s public spaces, breakdowns in the rule of law, crackdowns on cultural activity and recent reports of alleged police abuse under have seen the electorate turn away from the Muslim Brotherhood in droves." In the public sector NGOs were repressed and Freedom House was closed amid allegations of receiving foreign funding.


Mohamed Morsi is a Moslem Brother and following his fall the country's Christian minority, ten percent of the population, has faced a chilling series of sectarian assaults on churches, businesses and other targets in recent weeks. Apparently taken to avenge their loss of power, the violence is being blamed squarely on the Brotherhood.


I am unsympathetic both to military regimes and fundamentalist organizations like the Moslem Brotherhood. The clerical ideology they uphold is chauvinist, authoritarian and anti-Semitic and offers little prospect for coexistence with non-Moslem sectors in Egypt, between religious and secular citizens and in its relations with Israel, its neighbors.


A Failed Regime Rejected

From the little research I have done so far, there is no doubt that the Morsi regime failed to deliver the progressive change it promised. The repression it practiced and the infiltration of the government structure with Moslem Brotherhood appointees, coupled with an economy that was run further into the ground and the subversion of the very democratic structures that brought Mohamed Morsi to power, helps explains why millions of Egyptians took to the street early in July and asked for their country to be rescued from its dubious leader. 

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved