An Egyptian protester outside the Israeli embassy last August (Photo: AP)
Noam Chomsky’s analysis of US foreign policy after the Arab Spring boils down to this maxim: “The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world.” A newly released poll from the Pew Research Center on Egyptian political attitudes explains why Chomsky is right.
The Pew Research Center poll shows antipathy towards the US and Israel–an expected result if you follow data on Arab and Muslim attitudes towards the West and Israel.
Here are the relevant numbers: 60% of Egyptians say that US economic and military aid to Egypt has a “detrimental impact”; almost 40% want a distancing of the Egypt-US relationship; 80% view the US unfavorably; and 61% of Egyptians want to annul the peace treaty with Israel. That result is up from last year’s, which showed that 54% of Egyptians wanted to toss the treaty out.
The Pew Center also notes that “opposition to the treaty has grown significantly over the last year among young people and the highly educated. Support for annulling the treaty has increased by 14 points among 18-29 year-olds and by 18 points among the college-educated.”
The fact that about the same number of Egyptians dislike US aid and the country’s treaty with Israel is no coincidence. The $1.3 billion in funds the US transfers to Egypt’s military every year is, first and foremost, about making sure the military keeps the treaty with Israel, a sacrosanct pillar of US policy in the region.
There will be those on the right who say that these types of poll numbers show that Israel needs to hunker down in its fortress literally protected by walls on all sides. They will say that Benjamin Netanayhu, Israel’s prime minister, was right when he told the Knesset that the Arab Spring is an “Islamic, anti-Western, anti-liberal, anti-Israeli and anti-democratic wave.” Netanyahu went on to say that the Arab uprisings show why Israel cannot move forward on peace with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu’s right on one thing: the new uprisings in the Arab world are not good for Israel. But it’s precisely because of Israeli policy that a new democratic region would mean a loss of Israeli power. Egyptians want the 1979 peace treaty to be overturned because of their disgust with Israel’s system of control over the Palestinians. The treaty spoke of moving towards “autonomy” for Palestinians, something that we’re not any closer to 30-plus years later. So in fact, the precise reason why Israel’s footing in the region is off-balance is because the masses of people in the Arab world are fed up with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.
The Obama administration talks of democracy in the Middle East. But their actions speak to the truth that the US still wants to prevent authentic democracy. In March, the State Department “certified to Congress that Egypt is meeting its obligations under its Peace Treaty with Israel,” paving the way for the $1.3 billion to be forked over even as a dispute over a crackdown on NGOs in Egypt continued. The State Department announcement of the certification repeatedly praised Egypt’s new democratic turn.
Over a month later, Egyptian security forces killed 9 protesters calling for an end to the rule of Egypt’s military council. The weapons used to kill were made here and bought with US dollars–all for the purpose of quelling further protests that could destabilize an Egyptian regime eager to stay close to the US and Israel. No wonder why, as Chomsky says, “the U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world.”