print
memri
April 14, 2008 No.
864

Would-Be Egyptian Presidential Candidate: Egypt's Rulers are Afraid of Peace and Normalization Since They Don't Want Us to Become Acquainted with Democracy

The Israeli Arab weekly Kul Al-'Arab recently conducted an interview with Muhammad Farid Hassanein, a former member of the Egyptian parliament, who announced that he would like to be a candidate for the Egyptian presidency. The interview was conducted following his visit to Israel and his participation as an observer in the PA presidential elections. In the interview Hassanein is highly critical of the Egyptian regime, which, he says, ensures its survival by heightening tensions in the region, and that it does so because it is afraid of peace and stability, which would lead to democracy. In another interview, on Dubai TV, Hassanein referred to similar issues; [1] See MEMRI TV clip No. 514 at www.memritv.org.

The following are excerpts from the Kul Al-'Arab interview followed by the response from Mustafa Bakri, editor of the independent Egyptian nationalist weekly Al-Usbu': [2]

The Most Important Thing is to Bring Down President Hosni Mubarak, the Last of the Pharaohs

Question: "What led you to announce that you would like to run for the Egyptian presidency?"

Muhammad Farid Hassanein: "The poverty, the unemployment, and the bad social conditions [in Egypt] led me to understand that Egypt is deteriorating to a very bad state, and I hate to sit without doing anything while I see my people being slaughtered this way. President Mubarak, who has already been in power for 23 years, is the one who has brought Egypt to this situation…"

Question: "What would the principles of your election platform be?"

Hassanein: "The most important thing, in my opinion, is to bring down President Hosni Mubarak, the last of the Pharaohs. My dream is for Egypt to become a parliamentary republic in which the president would have a ceremonial office and power would be in the hands of the government. [I dream that] we will fulfill Egypt's agricultural and industrial potential and that workers and scientists will work together to improve living conditions in Egypt, and that it will prosper once again."

Question: "You believe that normalization with Israel is the true [way] to peace, although many [people] in Egypt oppose normalization. Could you explain your views?"

Hassanein: "Egypt's rulers are afraid of peace, since peace pushes us towards democracy, and they are not interested in that. Nor are they interested in our becoming acquainted with the cultural reality which Israel has created or with the democracy that the Israelis, together with the Jews, have implemented."

Development Can Only Be Achieved Through Democracy and Peace

Hassanein:"When I return to Egypt I will raise [the point] that the only way to save the [Egyptian] people from poverty and disease is through development. This can only be achieved through democracy and peace, and [democracy and peace] can only be achieved through normalization with this country [Israel]. [Israel] has a European culture which is becoming closer to us, while we become more distant from it and recite the words of the failed poets, preachers, and rulers. If we accept them [the Israelis] lovingly, they will accept us to the same degree."

Question: "To what democracy are you referring?! The [Israeli] Arabs see Israel as a democracy for the Jews, while they themselves suffer from despicable racist discrimination."

Hassanein: "I have seen the democracy among the Jews, and I know that the Arabs have many legitimate demands, which we will demand in the future from the Israeli government and the Israeli people. However, when I compare the living conditions of Israeli Arabs to my own living conditions in Egypt, I realize that the Israeli Arabs are more fortunate than me."

Question:"You say that the regime in Egypt is corrupt, but Prime Minister Sharon and others have [also] become involved in corruption. Is there any difference, then?"

Hassanein: "I don't defend Sharon. He is a military [ruler] who benefits from the perpetuation of tension and war. I know that he and his son are corrupt, but I cry over my people's situation in Egypt. I see the Europeans who came to Israel with a culture of freedom, and we can learn from them by becoming closer to them. There is nothing to be gained from violence and fighting. We are a nation that has never produced a tractor or a plow, so how can we produce weapons? I want us to try [the way] of love and peace, as Gandhi did…"

Question: "Aren't you concerned that people in Egypt will want to settle scores with you and will say that you support normalization and that you are an [Israeli] agent?"

Hassanein: "All my life I have had no interest in the [Egyptian] government or in its opinions. I protested against Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser, I was opposed to Sadat, and I am opposed to Hosni Mubarak. I am not interested in these ignorant people [those opposed to normalization], all of whom benefit from the state of tension…"

Question: "What do you intend to do as we near the moment of President Hosni Mubarak's reelection?"

Hassanein: "We will work to get the people to demonstrate and to surround the parliament. We will also call for bringing international observers to monitor the elections. If the observers come, Mubarak will fall and the people will tell him 'no.' If we don't succeed in this, we will meet again in the parliamentary elections, which will be held in November. [Then] we will demand the presence of observers so that a parliament reflecting the people's opinion will be elected..."

Question: "Should it be understood from what you are saying that you favor the Americans, who are attempting to impose democracy upon the Arab world by force and by oppressing the people, as is happening now in Iraq?"

Hassanein: "Change must come from the people. However, according to the opinion of the American people, the European peoples, and many rulers in Europe and America, it is poverty and oppression that are generating tensions in the world and [negatively] influencing its welfare, and thus there is no alternative but to ask for their help in making changes in Egypt."

Question: "Help through the use of force?"

Hassanein: "Help in freeing the Egyptian people from the dictator and from corruption. However, the issue is that they [Europe and America] can't find any enlightened force in Egypt that could provide an alternative to Hosni Mubarak, and all they see is the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, we want to develop an enlightened force in Egypt. The help that is needed is [in the realm of the] media, and not military aid. We need them to open their TV channels to the Egyptian opposition.

"I was opposed to and demonstrated against the occupation of Iraq. However, I know that the West saw a danger to the world in Saddam Hussein, when he claimed that he possessed weapons [of mass destruction] … when in reality he didn't have anything. The Arab rulers are financing the Iraqi resistance since they don't want democracy. Therefore, I ask the Iraqi resistance to calm down, and I hope that the puppet Iraqi government that came through [the use of] American tanks will govern for some time, and then after that we'll see."

Question: "You were an observer in the Palestinian presidential elections. Were these really democratic elections?"

Hassanein: "I saw democracy [of a kind] I've never seen in Egypt. I am 65 years old, and all I've seen in Egypt have been forged elections, whereas in Palestine I saw polling stations that were managed with transparence. I saw that the Palestinians are cultured. I stand in awe of the [Palestinian] people. Egypt has a lot to learn from them…"

The Egyptian Regime Supplies the Palestinians with Arms

Question: "Do you think that the Egyptian mediation is serious about achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?"

Hassanein: "I have never trusted the Egyptian regime and I ask the Palestinians not to trust the Egyptian rulers, since this regime's survival is dependent upon the perpetuation of dictatorship and tensions, and I suspect that the Egyptians will once again stir up tensions in Gaza."

Question: "What do you mean?"

Hassanein: "President Mubarak is interested in showing that the region is tense so that he [can present himself as] the only one who can guarantee stability. I suspect that when things calm down in Gaza, the Egyptians will stir things up by [inflaming] tensions and by supplying arms."

Egyptian Weekly Al-Usbu' Editor: Hassanein's Words are Damaging to Egypt's Security

Together with the interview, Kul Al-'Arab printed the response of Mustafa Bakri, editor of the independent Egyptian nationalist weekly Al-Usbu', who said: "This man is not normal. It is saddening that such a man used to be a member of parliament. He is a man full of contradictions. Once he was affiliated with the Wafd party, then he changed and became a Nasserist, and now he stands alongside Israel in the same trench…

"His words reflect only his personal opinion. The Egyptian people are opposed to normalization with the Zionist enemy, and stand alongside the Palestinian people. The intention of such claims [like Hassanein's] is to incite the entire world against Egypt, his birthplace. To our deep regret, he is now selling it [Egypt] to Shimon Peres and to Ariel Sharon. It seems that he has been blinded by Israeli democracy, and he should be brought to court in Egypt for his dangerous words, which are damaging to Egypt's national security. We can't rule out [the possibility] that this man speaks for Israel.

"This man can find no way to get publicity other than announcing he would like to present his candidacy for Egypt's presidency… I am willing to bet that if he were to say these things in the streets, he wouldn't get out of it unscathed…"

Endnotes:

[1] See clip MEMRI TV No. 514, ' Egyptian Presidency Candidate: Mubarak is the Last of the Pharaohs; Israel is a Democracy,' January 28, 2005, http://memritv.org/Search.asp?ACT=S9&P1=514

[2] Kul Al-'Arab (Israel), January 19, 2005.