This morning, like most political bloggers and writers focused on the Middle East, I’ve been raptly reading the headlines about Egypt (and refreshing my twitter feed). To mix things up, I’ve also been keeping up on my daily dose of good old, straight-up Israel-Palestine analyses, one of which referenced, not unusually, Gaza. And then the flow happy-sad-worried-relieved-confused-concerned-strange feelings I’d been having all morning took form:
The Egyptian army’s overthrow of Morsi reminds me of Israel’s Disengagement from Gaza in 2005.
And that is not a good thing. But I’ll get to that.
First off, here’s why:
(1) In both situations, politics/circumstances/reality made it such that there are largely two sides, For or Against [Disambiguation of terms: “For” meaning “For the Disengagement/for overthrowing Morsi’s;” “Against” meaning “Against the Disengagement/for Morsi to remain in power”]. Yes, in both cases there were/are smart writers and intellectuals who took stances that were complicated and ambivalent, but on the ground and in the broader discourse, things broke down, as they most often do, pretty neatly along the For and Against fault lines.
(2) In both situations, the Against camp was made up of right-wing ideologues, religious fundamentalists, and all sorts of other generally illiberal characters.
(3) In both situations, the end-result (Ending the Occupation of Gaza; ending Morsi’s rule) was something fully and enthusiastically supported by liberals, leftists, human rights advocates, etc.
(4) In both situations, the means (non-negotiated, non-coordinated unilateral Israeli withdrawal; Egypt’s military stepping in to overthrow a democratically elected leader) gave many of those same liberals/leftists, etc., serious pause.
(5) Because of items 1, 2 and 3, that is, because there were really only two camps, For and Against, and because the Against camp was populated by our ideological nemeses in both situations, and because we ultimately hoped that the ends could justify the means, the liberals/leftists, etc., were compelled to stifle the complexity of 4 and join the For camp.
Eight years after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from Gaza, there is a wide consensus among liberals/leftists here that the move was a disaster. The results have been instability, civil war (between the Israeli-backed PLO and the democratically elected Islamist Hamas (eep. Another parallel, on a different stream, as to why militarily overthrowing democratically elected Islamists doesn’t usually go well?), interstate/inter-thing (Gaza is not a State, but it does have some of the makings of one) war, general violence and disarray, and, ultimately, an entrenchment of exactly what we had hoped the Disengagement would begin to shift, ie., the Occupation writ large.
I pray that my parallel is wrong. I pray that the similarities are outweighed by the differences, that Political Science-y analyses fall flat here because humans are infinitely complex and unpredictable, that Egypt does not fall into a cycle of violence, civil war, interstate war (!?!), disarray and chaos, and that in eight years time, the goals of those liberals/leftists who opposed Morsi (equality, stability, secular politics, minority rights, justice) will be closer to realization. The parallel, though, once I thought of it, struck me hard.
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts.