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August 23, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 4095

Reactions in Arab Press to Eilat Attacks Part II - Majority of Writers Continue to Blame Israel, U.S.; Egyptian Daily: 'We Cannot Rule Out that the Attack in Eilat Was Carried Out by Israel'

August 23, 2011
Syria, Palestine, Iran, Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 4095

Israel's military response to the attacks near Eilat sparked an uproar in the Arab press. Articles published in the Arab dailies two days after the attacks claimed that Israel, supported by the U.S., was responsible for the attacks, and that even if it was not responsible, it was the one who had benefited from them. There were also those who blamed Syria, Iran, and Hamas, claiming that they had hoped to distract public attention from the crisis in Syria. To view Part I, visit Editorials in Arab Press Justify Eilat Attacks.

Following are excerpts from some of the articles:

1. Blaming Israel and the U.S.

As mentioned, the majority of articles held Israel and the U.S. responsible for the events. Some stated that Israel's policy had prompted the hostility against it, while others stressed that it was Israel and the U.S. that benefited the most from the attacks. Some even claimed that Israel had planned and carried out the attacks itself.

Al-Ahram: Stop the Normalization and Peace Process with Israel

An August 22, 2011 editorial in the Egyptian government daily Al-Ahram said that Israel was responsible for the escalation in Sinai, and called to end the normalization and peace process with it: "He errs who thinks that the events in Sinai were not premeditated by Israel and by terror organizations that have been infiltrated by the Israeli security apparatuses... The leaders in Tel Aviv must understand that the Egyptian people's rage at Mubarak is deep and intense... and that, from now on, [Egypt's] leaders will express the people's [views] and do what it wants...

"The people, which never accepted the peace with [Israel]... will not be dragged [into doing] a stupid [deed] or into providing Israel with free excuses to be used against Egypt. What is certain is that Israel has opened the gates of hell for itself with its own hands. This hell will not be a military hell, but a hell of a different sort: it will begin by [our] giving a powerful boost to the Palestinian cause, and by enlisting Arab public opinion to pressure the Arab governments to remove all [manifestations] of normalization, return to the starting point, and end the pathetic farce called the peace process."[1]

Editor of Egyptian Daily: There Is an Israeli-American Plot to Take Over Part of Sinai

Yasser Rizq, editor of the Egyptian daily Al-Akhbar, wrote: "My head almost exploded with rage... How saddening [to think of] the blood of our five martyrs spilled by the Israeli bullets... The desire for revenge is raging in my breast, tearing it asunder. The blood of all the Zionist soldiers will not be [sufficient] compensation for even a single drop of the Egyptian blood that was shed.

"My mind is inclined to believe that our martyred and injured [soldiers] were hit by accident, in an unpremeditated incident, and that the [intended] target of the Zionist forces' bullets and helicopters was the cell suspected of carrying out the [operation] in Eilat... My mind is inclined to believe that Israel does not want a military escalation with Egypt, since it knows full well that the Egypt's response to any aggression against it... will outdo [any Israeli aggression]! But my heart will not obey my mind, and is leery of Israel's intentions – yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It refuses to believe [Israel]...

"We will be drawing the wrong conclusions if we consider this criminal event apart from a logical sequence that begins with confirmed information regarding the existence of an Israeli-American plan, supported by maps, for solving the Palestinian problem at the expense of Egyptian land between Rafah and Al-'Arish. [The sequence] continues with indications that Israeli hands were behind [various] operations aimed at undermining stability in northern Sinai. It ends with leaked [information] regarding Israeli intentions to establish a security buffer zone, seven kilometers deep, along the border on the Egyptian side, on the pretext of securing Israel against the armed groups, and based on the claim that Egypt is incapable of securing the border – as if the Egyptian forces are a policeman [whose job is] to protect the Zionist state!... The Israeli government wants to use this event [i.e., the Eilat attacks] and its outcomes to assess what it sees as 'a situation of Egyptian weakness.' If [the assessment] turns out to be correct, [Israel] will see this as an opportunity... to start carrying out its plans...

"There is no choice but to quickly conclude the stages of political activity, and set a timeframe, so that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [SCAF] can pass the rule to the new parliament and the elected president. This will [allow] the army to return to its bases, and [then] its commanders, who defended the revolution and supported the demands of the people, will be able to focus on their primary and sacred duty... [namely] defending the security and peace of the homeland...

"As for the possible reactions to the event... all diplomatic, trade, and economic possibilities must be considered, beginning with scaling back diplomatic delegations and reassessing the export of gas and oil to Israel, since it is illogical that Egyptian [oil and gas] should fuel Israel's planes and tanks. However, we must avoid emotionality, which will lead us to make hasty and unsound decisions that will only exacerbate the tension and escalation, and lead us straight into an ambush that will ignite the entire region..."[2]

Al-Gumhouriyya: U.S. Responsible for Deterioration in Region

An editorial in the Egyptian government daily Al-Gumhouriyya read: "The news of Washington's intentions to demand that the [Security] Council condemn only the attacks on Eilat – without even a word of condemnation against the brutal attacks on Palestinian women and children in Gaza and on the Egyptian soldiers in Sinai – is both astonishing and disgusting.

"Responsibility for the deterioration in the region sits squarely with the U.S., ever since it exploited its sponsorship of the Middle East peace process to promote Israel's interests and justify [Israel's] policy of aggression and expansion. This, without considering the destructive effects of this unreserved sponsorship on the U.S.'s credibility in the region and its activity for peace, on the establishment of a Palestinian state, and on the rest of the promises – which [all] melt away when they come into conflict with the reality of the American-Israeli pact against the Arab peoples."[3]

Egyptian Columnist: Israel May Be Trying to Distract the Public from the Social Protests

Ahmad Abu Douh, columnist for the Egyptian daily Al-Dustour, wrote: "Israel closely followed the events in Sinai and mapped out the course of action it would take if the Egyptian side failed to control the security situation there...

"We cannot rule out that the attack in Eilat was carried out by Israel [itself], considering that it coincided with the escalation of protests within Israel against the current government. This is why it was necessary to occupy public opinion in Israel [with other matters] and calm the atmosphere there. This move was successful, [because] some of the student leaders decided to cancel some of the protests scheduled for yesterday [August 19], in light of this operation. But Israel was not satisfied with distracting [the Israeli public] from the protest against [Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu, and made a fatal error when its forces shot five Egyptian soldiers. I think that the killing of the Egyptian soldiers was premeditated, and disagree with... those commentators who accept the [Israeli] account [according to which the soldiers were killed by crossfire during the chase after the attackers].

"Strategically, Egypt now has a golden opportunity to turn the tables and to take advantage of the Israeli claims regarding [Egypt's] inability to secure Sinai in order to increase the number of [its] forces and [military] gear concentrated along the borders..."[4]

Al-Quds Al-Arabi: Revoke the Camp David Accords

The editor of the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, who is known for his support of the resistance, claimed that Israel was responsible for the attacks because its tyranny had prompted the emergence of extremist groups. He said that the "fidai" [self-sacrifice] operation near Eilat had put the Arab revolutions back on track: "This attack put the spotlight back on the most important struggle – [the struggle] for the honor of the Arab and Islamic nation, which Israel has harmed with the disgraceful collaboration of the Arab dictatorships... [These dictatorships] entered into a false peace process [with Israel], thereby providing it with 40 years of security and stability that it did not at all deserve. Resistance is a legitimate right as long as land is occupied and the people and holy places are humiliated... Any democratic change that is born out of the Arab revolutions but does not embrace the resistance will be [only] a partial and superficial change, incompatible with the principles of Arab and Muslim honor. Democratic revolution and resistance to the occupation are two parallel lines... complementing one another...

"The Eilat operation, as I see it, corrected the course of the Arab revolutions and refocused them on the most dangerous disease, namely the Israeli tyranny. This disease is the cause of all the defects that have afflicted the region for the past 65 years...

"The Israeli attack [on the Egyptian soldiers] is not only an opportunity for the SCAF, which rules Egypt, to reopen [the issue of] the Camp David Accords and restore full Egyptian sovereignty to Sinai; it is also [a chance] to gradually revoke these accords in practice, as long as Israel is not committed to them. Israel's policy, which is directed toward, and even takes pleasure in, the abasement of the Arabs and Muslims, and which securely relies on American and Western support and on the submissiveness of the Arab dictatorships... is responsible for this operation and for all future operations of its kind. [This policy] is what killed the peace and sowed the seeds of extremism. Whether Al-Qaeda is behind the Eilat operation, or whether it is Palestinian or Arab groups that have adopted [Al-Qaeda's] ideology, it is the extremist right-wing Israeli government, and the Israeli people who elected it, that summoned Al-Qaeda and prepared the ground for the seeds of extremism and for the enlistment of frustrated and humiliated [people] into its cells.

"We must not forget that Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the new Al-Qaeda leader, emerged from the womb of the Egyptian [Islamic] Jihad organization, which killed [Egyptian] president Muhammad Anwar Al-Sadat, the godfather of the Camp David Accords... The entire Arab region has witnessed fundamental changes. The Arab spring will yet reach Palestine, the heart [of the region]... It is bound to reach Jerusalem, even if the road [there] is long."[5]

Saudi Daily: Those Who Carried Out the Attacks Did a Great Service to Israel

An August 20 editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Watan stated: "The Thursday attack in Eilat on two buses, one of which was transporting [Israeli] soldiers, will undoubtedly ignite the region precisely at the moment when Israel needs such an operation in order to exacerbate the [security situation] in an attempt to dodge [its] commitments to peace. If Israel itself was not behind this operation and its planning, then those who carried it out did it a great service [by carrying it out] precisely at this time...

"The repercussions of this attack and the resulting Israeli escalation will bring the region to a further escalation, and the tense atmosphere will [cause] all sides to harden their positions, especially the Israelis, who are yearning for an opportunity to ignite the region and escape their commitment to advance the peace process. It is essential that the international community exert pressure on Israel, for if it does not, the region will find itself [sliding] ever more [deeply] into a dark tunnel of escalation."[6]

Qatari Daily: Targeting the Soldiers of the Occupation is a Legitimate Right

An editorial of the Qatari daily Al-Raya stated: "It is the continued bombing of Gazan civilians by the planes of the Israeli occupation, and the continued deaths of civilians, that trigger a retaliation by the Palestinian resistance in the form of missile attacks [on Israel]. [These attacks] are aimed at protecting the Palestinian people in Gaza, whom 'Israel' murders on a daily basis while claiming that [the Gazans' acts of] self-defense against its war machine and planes count as terrorism!..."

"The role of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and of the Egyptian army deployed along the Palestinian border... is not to protect the Israeli occupation state, which was unable to deal with the military operation in 'Eilat.' The aim of the operation was [to target] the soldiers of the occupation army. This is a legitimate right of the Palestinian people, which seeks to defend itself, its land and its holy places, and it is sanctioned by international laws...

"The occupation state will continue to pay for its occupation of the Palestinian territories in the blood of its settlers and soldiers, so long as it continues to reject the option of peace and to refuse recognizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to freedom, independence and the establishment of a state with Jerusalem as its capital."[7]

Mustafa Barghouti: Israel Planned the Massacre Months Ago

Senior officials in Fatah and the Palestinian Authority (PA) claimed that Netanyahu's government was striving to create a security crisis in order to distract public opinion from the Palestinians' September initiative[8] or from the social protests in Israel.

Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, who has been proposed as a compromise candidate for PA prime minister, claimed that Israel "planned the massacre several months ago as a way out of its internal social crisis."[9] In an article titled "Netanyahu Planned the Eilat Operation," posted on a Fatah-affiliated website, Saeb Arafat claimed that "in the [current] state of indecision, hesitation, and a political, economic, security, and social crisis, Netanyahu thought of an escalated [security] situation as a means to export the deepening domestic crisis threatening his government."[10] Fatah spokesman Faez Abu 'Ayta called on the Palestinians to unite, saying that his movement would be "the vanguard of the forces that will protect our people by any means possible."[11]

2. Accusations against Iran, Syria and Hamas

Alongside those who blamed Israel and the U.S. for the attacks, a handful of articles lay the blame on Iran, Syria, and Hamas.

Palestinian Columnists: The Operation Served a Foreign Agenda

Yahya Rabbah, former PLO ambassador to Yemen and columnist for the PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, criticized those who had carried out the attacks: "The Palestinians' problem is that the armed Palestinian groups do not respect the priorities of their people. The behavior of some of them even serves [foreign] agendas... and comes at the expense of top Palestinian priorities."[12]

Writing on the website of the PA news agency Maan, Ayman Al-Nimr said that certain Arab states were behind the attacks, meant as a distraction from their domestic unrest: "There is no argument that a military operation such as the one carried out in the south of Palestine did not [promote] the Palestinian interest, since all Palestinian sides, especially the sides [party to] the internal reconciliation [between Fatah and Hamas], agree that the current stage is one of tahdiah [calm], dedicated to internal rebuilding and a thorough examination of the Palestinian affairs. There is no need for events that will disrupt this atmosphere...

"Throughout [our] history, we have become accustomed to operations coming at the worst possible time, politically speaking, and reality proved more than once that these operations had a clear [foreign] agenda. To be specific, the peoples in some Arab countries are now tightening the rope around the necks of their regimes, and [these regimes] need a means of easing the media and political pressure, both Arab and international. The media spotlights can only be drawn away from these regimes by [sparking] an explosion in some other [arena], which is in any case ready for it – [namely] the arena of the struggle with the Israeli occupation..."[13]

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: Iran and Syria Are behind the Attacks

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat editor Tariq Alhomayed, known as a critic of the Syrian regime, wrote that the ones behind the operation are Syria and Iran, who wish to distract the world from what is happening in Syria and thereby save Assad's regime:

"The Egyptian's response... to the Israeli aggression in Sinai clearly indicates that they have forgotten, or else failed to notice in the midst of their revolution, the statements made by Rami Makhlouf, cousin of the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Al-Assad... In a late May interview with the New York Times, he said, 'There will be no stability in Israel as long as there is no stability in Syria...' And what happened next? Assad's regime encouraged the Palestinians [to march towards] the Israeli border in the Golan, after a similar attempt in Lebanon failed... The move [in the Golan] failed as well, [and several] Palestinians were killed... Then the Assad regime tried to court Israel by recognizing the 1967 borders... But none of this calmed the rebelling Syrian protesters. And then came the [attack] from Gaza and Sinai, aimed at saving Assad's collapsing regime. All this was obviously done with Iranian assistance..."[14]

'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, secretary-general of Al-Arabiya TV and a columnist for Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote in a similar vein, and emphasized that Hamas is likely to pay a price for its support of Syria: "The forgotten Israeli front has suddenly come to life. Two busses were attacked, seven Israelis were killed, and a Grad missile hit Ashdod, wounding six Israelis. Israel, in turn, did not miss the opportunity to bomb Gaza, and also took the unprecedented [move] of crossing the Egyptian border... In all probability, the aim of this [operation] was to draw attention away from the Syrian arena...

"The Hamas movement, ally to the Syrian and Iranian regimes, opened a front against Israel from Gaza, while turning a blind eye to the attacks on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria by the security forces and the regime's shabiha [thugs]... The attempt to shift the attention from Syria to Palestine by sparking a confrontation with Israel will [only] harm Hamas. There are still doubts as to [this movement's] independence of the Syrian and Iranian regimes."[15]

Egyptian Columnist: Hamas Allows the Extremists Freedom of Movement

Farag Isma'il, columnist for the independent Egyptian daily Al-Misriyoun, criticized Hamas for allowing the extremists freedom of movement, which, he said, would ultimately lead to the internationalization of Sinai and to the resettlement of the Palestinians there: "Hamas must help the Egyptians capture destructive elements who are operating out of the Gaza Strip and who are arming the outlaws in Sinai... These elements killed Egyptians over the recent weeks, created an atmosphere of anarchy in the Sinai Peninsula, and published announcements in Al-Qaeda's name in order to create the impression that this organization has taken over Sinai – to the point that some Western commentators got carried away and said that [Al-Qaeda's] strategy under its new leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, was to transfer [its] operations from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Sinai, and to [focus them] not on the U.S. but on Israel.

"This will serve Israel as an opportunity to strike the Gaza Strip, invade it, and deport its residents to Sinai. It will also give [Israel] an excuse to [persuade] foreign countries that Egypt is incapable of implementing the clause of the Camp David Accords according to which Sinai must not be a source of threat to Israel's security after being placed under Egyptian sovereignty. If this claim is adopted at the international level by the U.N., which legally sponsors the accords, we will begin to see dangerous signs of Sinai becoming internationalized and transformed into a national homeland for the Palestinians, in place of their legitimate homeland. While our anger at Israel is great, our reprimand to our brothers in Gaza is even sterner, due to the freedom of movement [they] grant to extremist groups that are fed by outside, regional, and international forces. This is because the Egyptian blood [spilled] is very dear to us, and we will not abandon it, whether the murderer is a Zionist, a [foreign] agent, an extremist, or a corrupter from among us."[16]


Endnotes:

[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt) August 22, 2011.

[2] Al-Akhbar (Egypt), August 21, 2011.

[3] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), August 21, 2011.

[4] Al-Dustour (Egypt), August 20, 2011.

[5] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), August 21, 2011.

[6] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), August 20, 2011.

[7] Al-Raya (Kuwait), August 21, 2011.

[8] This claim was made, for instance, by Muhammad Sbeih, the PA's representative in the Arab League. WAFA (PA), August 20, 2011.

[9] Maannews.net, August 20, 2011.

[10] Amad.ps, August 21, 2011.

[11] WAFA (PA), August 20, 2011.

[12] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), August 20, 2011.

[13] Maannews.net, August 20, 2011.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 21, 2011.

[15] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), August 21, 2011.

[16] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), August 21, 2011.

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