Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Using the Issue of Normalization to Pressure the Egyptians - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

Mr. Najib Mahfuz, God have mercy on his soul, considered peace to be the natural relationship between men. However, in a society that has suffered for a long time from the lack of what is natural in the field of politics as a result of decades of consecutive revolutionary governments, it is inevitable that the elite will feel afraid of a natural relationship with unknown dimensions with Israel.

From this stemmed all the movements of confrontation and resisting the normalization between Egypt and Israel. The most prominent slogan raised in this field is that the normalization card is the last card we have in the Arab-Israeli conflict to exert pressure on Israel to compel it to proceed along the way of peace with the ultimate aim of establishing the Palestinian State.

This means that non-normalization is not an end in itself, but it is nearly an ultimate means to exert pressure on Israel. Thus we can understand without a clear announcement by these movements that peace between Egypt and Israel is the strategy they pursue. As war, according to Clausewitz, is an extension of peace through other means, the peace activists in Egypt – who naturally are a minority – consider that the peace relations make it imperative to have new political relations between the two sides in order to remove the shadow of war, and consolidate confidence between the two sides so that Egypt can dedicate itself to solving its problems, which are well known to every man on the face of the earth.

However, any close or distant observer of the movement of the Egyptian society will discover easily that the problem of normalization does not represent an Egyptian preoccupation. This is in the sense that it does not occupy an area of the thinking of the Egyptian people as one of the people’s pressing problems. So far we have not heard of an Egyptian citizen who woke up in the morning disconcerted and gloomy, asking with perplexity and pain: O God, what will I do about the problem of normalization?

Moreover, I also claim that it does not constitute a preoccupation for the intelligentsia, but it is merely an interest to which they restricted their activities as an alternative to commitment to public work, and as a way to escape from the real battles imposed by the peace relations in the fields of knowledge, culture, arts, sports, scientific research, commerce, and industry. Obviously, all this does not hinder the real struggle to establish the Palestinian State; it even might give this struggle a strong push forward.

When we look carefully into the story of the alleged pressure, we will notice that hostility to normalization does not constitute, and has not constituted from the beginning a pressure card on the Israelis. It only has been restricted to being an extremely strong pressure card on the Egyptians outside the official circles, i.e. in the fields of arts, ideas, and culture; all these keys are not in the pockets of the intelligentsia, and even if they were with the intelligentsia, the safety valves are in the offices of the officials.

There are commercial projects in any fields between Egypt and Israel, and there is cooperation in the Al-Kuwayz project in exporting duty-free goods to the United States. However, the movements resisting normalization are not concerned about these issues, because their keys are not in their hands, and hence they escape the hammer of non-normalization.

The strongest heavy blow has been the call to strip the Egyptians working in Israel and married to Israeli women of their Egyptian nationality; what is meant by Israeli women are Muslim and Christian Palestinian Arab women, naturally in addition to those married to Jewish women. The aim of this – as they think – is to protect the national security. Here, you will realize that the “pressure” is imposed on the Egyptian Government, on the Egyptians, and on women belonging to the three religions who are married to Egyptians. This is a clear step aimed at ruining the homes of the Egyptians working there.

So far, you will fail to find any kind of pressure imposed on Israel, as a state or as a government.

Here, we come to the field of arts. An Egyptian actor participates in a US film in which an Israeli actor or actress takes part; immediately voices rise, and with them the hammer: Hold it, here is a normalizationist; O actors’ syndicate, hold it, interrogate him, and fire him.

Immediately the syndicate official appears and says: Of course, do you think we will leave him alone? If it appears that he knew that she was an Israeli, and acted with her in one scene, or even in the same film, we will immediately fire him. No one should sacrifice the Palestinian people for the sake of international stardom.

It is as if when a star is asked to play a role in a foreign film, he is required to ensure that all those working in the film have nothing to do with Israel from near or far. Do you see any pressure in this on anyone other than the Egyptians?

Then we come to football. An Egyptian player signed a contract with a Belgian club, but the research and investigation branch of the anti-normalization groups discovers that a player with Israeli nationality plays for the Belgian club. Again the pressure hammer is raised, and the voices are raised: Hold it, a normalizationist; where is the Football Association? Are we going to let this undisciplined player cause the loss of the Palestinian cause?

When we reached this level of absurdity, some writers took the risk and started to denounce this strange behavior that prevents the Egyptians from progress and movement. However all these writers are doing so with the sword of normalization charges pointing at their necks, and the normalization hammer hovering over their heads. Therefore, they are keen to start their article with a “password,” which is the famous phrase: I am against normalization; however…

If the front for steadfastness against and confrontation of normalization allows me to work as its adviser, as I am an old normalization expert, I will advise them about what they should do so that people will appreciate their activities. It is not appropriate in front of the world to prevent an actor from working in a film in which an Israeli actor or technician works, but we can issue a resolution that the director should adhere to not filming the two together, i.e. he can film each of them alone and then combine the scene during the montage stage. In case of an Israeli actress, the Egyptian actor should refuse the role if he is required to love her or even to treat her amicably in the film; it would be better that he kills her in the film. In case the film is introduced at Cannes Film Festival, the star refrains from walking on the red carpet with any actor or actress; he has to walk on the ground outside the carpet, or on the opposite pavement.

As for the field of football, the Football Association ought to have a standard contract we impose on all the clubs of the world, in which we allow the Egyptian player to play in a team that includes one Israeli player, on condition that he does not “pass” the ball to him, and neither does he receive it from him, even if the Egyptian player is in front of the “goal post” and can score a goal from it; and if the Israeli player passes the ball to the Egyptian in order to entrap him into normalization, the Egyptian is obliged to send it immediately outside the field.

Do you think that I am joking? By God, no; it is only you who are making us the laughingstock for all God’s creatures.

Ali Salem

Ali Salem

Ali Salem is a renowned Egyptian playwright and humorist. He is the author of several books, including Journey into Israel. He is based in Cairo.

More Posts