Jehan Sadat, the 75-year-old widow of Anwar, might have made history of her own on Thursday morning with an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. Remembering the great peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed 30 years ago today by her husband, Mrs. Sadat blithely glossed over three decades of ruined diplomacy since then and revealed herself to be a historical revisionist of the first order.
For not only did she get many of her facts wrong (Menachem Begin, not Golda Meir, was prime minister of Israel in November, 1977 when Sadat made his first visit to Israel; Egypt did not win the 1973 Yom Kippur War but suffered one of the most humiliating routs in military history when its Third Army was surrounded by the IDF) – but she ignored some of the most important developments of the post -Camp David period which have expunged any realistic hope of a permanent peace between Israelis and Arabs.
That is because Mrs. Sadat, in offering her husband’s achievements as the model for the kind of relations that could exist between Israelis and Arabs, has ignored some inconvenient truths which cloud her arguments:
· While Egypt may well have formalized diplomatic relations with the Jewish State in March 1979, full cultural, economic and social ties were never normalized.
· Today Israeli citizens risk their lives in visiting Egypt as tourists; there are no regular lines of commercial exchange between Israel and Egypt and Israeli entrepreneurs must employ surrogates and subterfuge in selling their wares in Cairo. In addition, any Egyptian who announces his intention to visit Israel risks public slurs, death threats and even imprisonment.
· Egyptian papers lead the world in the denunciation of Israel with regular editorials comparing Israel to a Nazi state; cartoonists revel in reactivating centuries-old blood libels; and reporters have no qualms about planting the blame for Egyptian social and economic woes squarely on the shoulders of the Jewish State.
· Egyptian television has also gotten into the act and become a vehicle for some of the worst examples of anti-Semitic baiting since Josef Goebbel’s propaganda machine. In 2002 it produced the notorious 41-part series Horseman Without a Horse – a turgid soap opera which introduced an outrageous recalibration of the Czarist forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and whipped the Arab world into a further frenzy of Jew hatred.
· On the diplomatic stage, Egypt is a world leader in denunciation of Israel on all kinds of international platforms – from the United Nations (where, in the General Assembly, it consistently votes against Israel on almost every issue) to human rights panels, to economic summits to global warming conferences.
· Most notoriously Egypt has failed, to its discredit, in its Camp David commitments to protect the Egyptian/ Israeli border in the Sinai Desert. The rise of Hamas and its subsequent military capabilities was unquestionably aided and abetted by Egypt, whose border guards turned a blind eye to rampant smuggling of heavy armaments over a number of years. Israeli protests about the open collusion between the border guards and Hamas went unheeded and as a result Hamas transformed into a significant military threat on Israel‘s southern border.
But Mrs. Sadat seems to know none of this. She seems to believe that ” for nearly 30 years, Egypt and Israel have lived side-by-side in a state of peace,” as if peace is merely a non-belligerency pact that has nothing to do with the hearts, minds and will of a nation’s citizens. She fails entirely to realize that the determination of the Egyptian state to maintain its economic and cultural rejection of the Jewish state, inevitably dooms the two nations to not a state of “peace” but rather to one of continued hostility with the unspoken but ever present (and, in many Egyptian circles, ever hoped for) prospect of war.
More important than even this though, is Mrs. Sadat’s evasion of the most fundamental reason other peace attempts ( such as the Oslo Accords and the failed entreaties to Syria) have stalled: the rise of terrorism within Israel proper and its heady support within the Arab world. The Oslo Accords did not “fail” because of an absence of leadership on both sides, but because the Palestinian leaders never fulfilled any of the terms of their agreements and much like the Egyptians before them, continued to stir hatred of Israel through their media, schoolbooks and public pronouncements. The “shahids” of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, did not imbibe their martyr-centric ideology from their mosques alone. They were spoon-fed a continuous diet of hatred by Palestinian leaders, teachers and newscasters.
Perhaps these are the true “lessons of Camp David.” Egypt led the way in demonstrating how much political and diplomatic juice could be squeezed out of faux peace agreements that do little to actually generate peace but go a long way to ensuring a public state of open hostility, the necessary ingredient to keep citizens focused on a common enemy. Jordan, a country that signed its own peace treaty with Israel in 1994, has learned this lesson well, doing almost nothing over the past 15 years to alter the commonly held Jordanian view of Israel as a racist, elitist and irredentist state.
A reading of any Egyptian or Jordanian newspaper today gives one the sinking feeling that, despite the existence of formal peace treaties, both countries remain culturally and diplomatically at war with Israel and peremptorily reject the very notion of a Jewish state. One despairs at the prospect of the fall of their secular governments and the omnipresent potential of theocratic rule. For then, the Jehan Sadats of the Arab world will be quickly relegated to irrelevance and her husband’s supposed dream of “a fair, just and comprehensive peace” will be crushed beneath the wheels of a steamrolling hatred that he and many other Arab leaders did nothing to quell.