September 9, 2011: The Israeli Embassy was in flames yesterday. Angry demonstrators broke down the protective wall surrounding the building and set it on fire. As a precaution, the Israeli ambassador has left the country. The military police has sealed off the area and taken control of the situation.
It has long been evident that the majority of the population, unlike all previous governments, rejects the normalisation of political relations with Israel. Recently, too, there have been many incidents that have ignited the anger of normal citizens, be it the business contracts at the cost of the Egyptian tax payers (i.e. the sale of Egyptian gas to Israel way below world market price, that has been maintained after the revolution) or the killing of five Egyptian soldiers at the Sinai border, which was declared to be an accident and has had no diplomatic consequences.
Nevertheless, there is the question of how an enraged mob could attack the Israeli Embassy and tear down a strong high wall in a narrow street that could easily and quickly be closed on both sides by two tanks or lorries and that is strongly guarded day and night by several riot police lorries on standby.
In every mob there are some people ready to go to extremes, who can misuse group dynamics for their purposes. The majority of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square had very clear demands pertaining to domestic politics, the future of the country, elections and how to deal with the arrested representatives of the old Mubarak regime.
One should distinguish these demonstrations very clearly from the violent attacks on the embassy. The latter can only occur through deliberate whipping up of the masses in order to fulfil a clear agenda.
The question is who is going to profit from the recent events?
The media broadcast the events, and the whole world suddenly looks spellbound at Egypt again. It is very easy to instrumentalise these events.
The military can now safely flex its muscles and impose stricter controls on the masses. Demonstrations can be restricted without the military being accused of impeding the democratic process because now security is the issue. In recent years, this argument had been used in the US and in Germany in order to legally restrict citizens’ rights.
Egypt’s image as a land full of unrest allows for sanctions against the people and their revolutionary demands. The fire in the Israeli embassy will probably not turn into a wildfire; but it might suffocate the democratic beginnings in the bud.