For the past few days, foreigners have been protesting in my country. Activists, mostly from the US and Europe, are on a march to enter Gaza and the Egyptian government is preventing most of them from passing through our borders.
For some background, read this BBC story dated Dec 28
Gaza marchers on hunger strike in Egypt
Since I started following these protests, I’ve gone through a rather wide range of feelings. I summarized those feelings in some tweets today:
NadiaE: Let me find a way to say what I want to say in short 140 character tweets about current foreign protests in Cairo…
NadiaE: My initial feeling was “how cute”. It was rather endearing to see foreigners camping out on 1 of Cairo’s important intersections in protest
NadiaE: It was also a bit funny learning that our police weren’t quite sure how to deal with it all, while they normally know exactly what to do
NadiaE: I continued to follow tweets and tweeps and some traditional media. The foreign protestors were getting more bold.
NadiaE: I understood yesterday (or was that the day before?) that they were in Tahrir Sq and at the Cairo Museum
NadiaE: Let me stop here for a sec: I am one of the ppl old enough to vividly remember our spate of terroristic attacks in the 90s
NadiaE: Although I do not condone the general prohibition of peaceful protests and gatherings in my country..
NadiaE: I do understand why such gatherings should not happen anywhere near tourist spots. Our police are OBLIGATED to protect our tourists
NadiaE: And it is much more difficult to protect tourists when there is chaos and large gatherings of protestors
NadiaE: And when the police started physically moving protestors from these hot spots (remember they left them sleep in the street b4)…
NadiaE: …the protestors whine about police brutality!
NadiaE: Back to my feelings. I like talking about feelings. I’m a feelings kinda person…
NadiaE: Yesterday I wasn’t really sure how to feel about these protestors. There were foreigners protesting in my country and causing trouble
NadiaE: And I wasn’t happy with some of the attitude I was seeing from them. One protestor tweeted this yesterday morning:…
NadiaE: Protestor tweet: :”Alright,up and ready to go. Let’s show Cairo what we’re made of.” Am I the only one that finds that insulting??
NadiaE: And then, in that same protestor’s blog, I read this today: “At the end of the protest, myself and other internationals decided..
NadiaE: “it would be best to escort the Egyptian citizens who bravely took part in the march, out of the area by holding on to their hands.”
NadiaE: “If the Egyptians were left alone then the riot police would attack them mercilessly so as we filed out,”
NadiaE: “we did so while holding on to one another until we were a bit away from the police.”
NadiaE: Please tell me that I’m not the only one who finds this statement just wrong and demeaning
NadiaE: But you know how I really feel today? I went back to thinking about the intentions of these protestors
NadiaE: These are not Arabs, or Muslims, or Palestinians, or Egyptians. These are ppl who have gone out of their way because they see injustice..
NadiaE: They have left their homes, warm beds, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and children..
NadiaE: They come knowing that this region of the world can be brutal, oppressive, abusive..
NadiaE: They come knowing that they are more unwelcome than welcome..
NadiaE: And they do come with an attitude problem…but if we try to look beyond that…
NadiaE: these are people who believe in something so much that they are willing to risk everything precious to stand up for it
NadiaE: Now…I thought that was US! I thought WE were all willing to die for Palestine. We say so ALL THE TIME
NadiaE: I thought WE were willing to stand up to dictators and get our butts kicked for Palestine. We say so ALL THE TIME
NadiaE: How many years have we been saying so? Someone remind me?
NadiaE: So after going through the feelings of “how cute” and “they have an attitude problem”, today I simply feel ASHAMED
NadiaE: I know first-hand the hurt Palestinians feel towards their Arab bretheren for leaving them without help for so long
NadiaE: And our excuses have been: its our governments; we have no armies; dont go to Palestine cuz that’s normalization with Israel
NadiaE: And then here come the foreigners..not even armies. Just normal ppl like you and me. And no matter how silly they seem theyr doing something
NadiaE: So that’s the short story of how I feel today. Not impressed by foreign protestors attitude but impressed with their resolve…
NadiaE: and utterly ASHAMED by Arab impotence (for the most part) for the past 62 years. Utterly ashamed
NadiaE: And let me tell you, in our part of the world, impotence for men is one of the most shameful states a man can ever be in
NadiaE: So let me say this loud and clear: Arab men have been impotent about Palestine for too long!
NadiaE: *gets down off her soapbox*
Simmer down and dont throw down the river the blood shed by Egyptians in the past and the repercussions Egypt continues to endure today. All to redress a historical wrong. These” foreign” demonstrators should be demonstrating in front of Israeli embassies in their own countries or in Israel proper. As Egyptians it behooves us to protect ourselves and our country first. You must agree that the kinder world in general and Egyptians in particular are more cognizant of the suffering Palestinians still living in tents than their own leaderships who is just concerned about ideology and filling their pockets with the donations destined to relieve Palestinian suffering. This is just for short, I am most willing to discuss these issues at length. I do admire your eloquence and appreciate your passion.
As a woman, I am fortunate to be able to blame any outburst happening during a certain ten days of the month on my hormones. 🙂
But in all seriousness, please allow me to reply to your comment, especially since another fellow twitterer had similar reservations.
I am a journalist. Should I have been covering the Cairo protests for the media, I would have been much more factual in my statements. Even as I was typing those tweets, I was fully aware of the sacrifices thousands upon thousands of Arabs/Muslims have made in defense of Palestine.
I am also a human being with feelings, however. And just as I believe that facts are important, I also believe that feelings are legitimate. I also know that my feelings are shared by others. And I believe it’s important for feelings/sentiments to be shared and voiced – perhaps just as important as sharing facts and figures; even when feelings might be blown out of normal proportion. They are still feelings, they are still legitimate, and they should still be voiced.
This is pretty much what I was doing in this blog post. Voicing how I feel about the protests happening in Cairo at the moment. And even though I know thousands of Arabs have sacrificed themselves, and even though I know they will continue to do so, I also know that it isn’t enough. And that we should do much more. And that we CAN do much more. And watching these foreign protestors in my country who don’t have the same direct links we do with the Palestinian cause (their link is one of human rights, which is commendable. Our link is one of blood, brotherhood, religion, land, etc) protesting far from their homes and families, risking a lot to protest in countries such as our own, this made me feel ashamed – and admittedly impotent; impotent as a person and impotent as a people.
Let me end by putting this into some context (my mind’s context). A Palestinian friend recently visited Dubai and walked through its extravagant malls and streets. His reaction was one of shock. He kept saying, “this is how the Arabs are living? This is what the Arabs are spending their time doing? Have they completely forgotten Palestine?” Of course they haven’t. But put yourself in his shoes. This Palestinian friend lives his life under occupation. Travelling inside his own land is hell, let alone trying to get out. And Palestinians have one of two choices: they accept their life under occupation or they leave their land and become refugees. If they leave for more than two years (or is it one year) they lose their residency permits. They live a life of hardship every single day of their lives while we (some of us anyway) live a life of excess and for a large portion of our time here on this earth we forget about Palestine and we focus on our own petty existence.
I think my hormones are starting to show again. 🙂
Short story: I know we’ve done a lot. But like most of us, I feel very frustrated at times because I feel we aren’t doing enough. I was trying to truthfully express those feelings of frustrations in this blog. Feelings I think are felt by many, many others.
Hi Nadia, I have much respect for your womanhood and all affinities for your feelings.
Humanity and all of us are in torment for what goes on even reaching incomprehensible callousness and ambivalence sometimes because of our inabilty to imagine or fathom the extent of the suffering.
But please, please, dont talk to me about Arab Nationalism or Pan-Arabism; this infatuation was rekindled by President Nasser, he took it to the grave with him.
You mentioned facts, ok, do some research and let me know how many Syrians, Jordanians or any other nationality from the so- called Arab World died for Palestine. Compare that with the number of Egyptians who did over the last 60 years. I have not mentioned here at all the economic distress Egyptians suffered to fill the coffers of the “Arab” States. and then how do Egyptians get treated today by Arab Brethren, let alone Palestinians.
Egyptians have not only done a lot, they have done “all” at their own expense and might I add BLOOD.
Let me stop here lest this becomes a long undesirable dissertation.
One more time it is great to be a feeling person and you certainly are an accomplished one.
I agree with only the last part of your post. Ashamed is the feeling that overcame me as I watched the demonstrations on video and followed the tweets of the activists and, of course, the blog you refer to.
I have to differ with you, though, about the “attitude problem” you refer to. “Let’s show Cairo” here does not refer to Egyptians, but rather to the capital where the Egyptian regime resides. It’s like saying Washington or Tel Aviv when writing a news story. That’s how I read it, at least.
As for the part in the blog in which the foreign activists escorted the Egyptians to protect them from the police, I don’t see what’s demeaning about it. It is nothing but a sad truth, Nadia. The police would fish for those Egyptian activists and throw them in jail the minute the demonstration would be over, but they can’t do anything to the foreigners. If there’s any humiliation caused it is by the Egyptian regime and the way it treats its own people.
And for the record, the writer of this blog is an Arab, although living in the US. I’ve had private conversations with them and I assure you there is not one inch of “foreign” or “American” blood about their attitude or outlook.
I don’t think we should deal with the symptoms and ignore the real ailment. And I think you would agree with me on that. If we’ve been accepting life as sheep for so many years and forever absorbing humiliation by our own government (which is supposed to serve and protect us not itself) then let others do the job at least. The actions of the Egyptian government are not ours alone. Cairo (the regime) is a primary agent in the war crimes that are taking place in Gaza everyday, we should acknowledge this fact and thus accept the consequences of it. If it drags all the forces of Hell onto our homeland then why are we surprised? There’s a price for everything.