Last February Tom Friedman reported that Egypt was on the road to democracy. Given his extensive experience in the Middle East Friedman must have considered himself especially qualified to explain the events taking place in Cairo.
Trying to reassure Times readers that Israel had nothing to worry about, Friedman wrote that the rebellion was about justice and dignity and freedom.
In his words: “For anyone who spent time in Tahrir Square these last three weeks, one thing was very obvious: Israel was not part of this story at all.”
For those who feared that the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties would hijack the revolution, Friedman said: “And, as we sit here today, the popular trend is not with the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, what makes the uprising here so impressive – and in that sense so dangerous to other autocracies in the region – is precisely the fact that it is not owned by, and was not inspired by, the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Friedman was chagrined that the Israeli government had not tried to reach out to Egypt’s new leaders. He was appalled that the Israelis had been advising the Obama administration not to abandon Hosni Mubarak.
For the record, the Saudis were offering the same advice, but Friedman tends to reserve his greatest contempt for the Netanyahu government.
Anyway, Friedman must have a very short memory, because when Egypt voted for Islamist parties in their recent elections he claimed that the outcome should not have come as a surprise.
He even suggested that the road from Mubarak to Jefferson might have to pass through Khomeini.
We are all awaiting Friedman’s open letter to the Iranian people. He will explain to them that being oppressed by the mullahs is just a way station on the road to democracy.
Not wanting to be out-duped by his op-ed colleague, Times columnist Nicholas Kirstof traveled to Egypt last month to sit down for dinner with members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Pathetically, Kristof reported that Egyptian Islamists were just a bunch of social workers who had become popular for providing services to the poor.
Kristof wrote: “Some Salafi leaders have made extremist statements — suggesting that women and Christians are unfit to be leaders, raising questions about the peace treaty with Israel, and denouncing the great Egyptian Nobel Laureate in Literature, Naguib Mahfouz, for sacrilege. But the voters I talked to were more moderate. Some did say that they liked the idea of an Islamic state or adopting some principles of Shariah law, but most viewed this as symbolic, a bit like ‘In God We Trust’ on American coins.”
Incapable of seeing that he was being played, Kristof offered the following: “’What is the West afraid of?’ said Ayman Hisham, a 24-year-old Salafi, sounding genuinely puzzled. He said that under Salafi rule, diplomatic relations with Israel would continue unchanged and ties with America would strengthen.”
As the old saying goes, if you believe that you will believe anything.
Reality tells a different story. Yesterday, Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood had his say:
“When asked whether it is a requirement for the government in Egypt to recognize Israel, Bayoumi responded by saying: ‘This is not an option, whatever the circumstances, we do not recognize Israel at all. It’s an occupying criminal enemy.’
“The deputy leader stressed during the interview that no Muslim Brotherhood members would ever meet with Israelis for negotiations. ‘I will not allow myself to sit down with criminals.’
“Bayoumi went on to say that the Muslim Brotherhood would take legal procedures towards canceling the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel that was signed in 1979.
“’The Brotherhood respects international conventions, but we will take legal action against the peace treaty with the Zionist entity,’ he told the paper.”