The Nile turns blood-red
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Hebrew media review

The Nile turns blood-red

Israeli press takes stock after at least 300 are killed in clashes between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi carry an injured protester at a sit-in camp in Cairo, August 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Asad)
Supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi carry an injured protester at a sit-in camp in Cairo, August 14, 2013. (photo credit: AP/Mohammed Asad)

Large-scale slaughter in Egypt makes front page news in Israel as clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and the police leave an estimated 300 dead. Yedioth Ahronoth and Israel Hayom say Egypt is in a state of emergency following the clashes, and the latter sports the headline “Blood on the Nile” on its front page. Haaretz and Maariv contend that after revolution and counter-revolution, Egypt is now descending into civil war between Islamists and the military.

Israel Hayom reports that the 17-year-old daughter of Mohammed al-Balgati, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, was killed in the skirmish that aimed to clear out pro-Morsi protest encampments in central Cairo. Enraged at the military, he employed an expression that ignited the Egyptian imagination and raised eyebrows in Israel: “Even the Zionists didn’t do in Gaza in 2008 what [the military] did here!”

Maariv reports that the military-run interim government said the number of casualties exceeded 200, but the Muslim Brotherhood charged that thousands were slain. “In the streets of the cities of Egypt, and the capital Cairo in particular, chaos reigned [Wednesday],” the paper writes. “On one side: armed police forces using armored cars and bulldozers, and the other: Muslim Brotherhood protesters, most of whom were also armed.”

Gideon Kotz writes in the paper that the sympathies of the West and Israel lie with the secular camp, not the Muslim Brotherhood, which is said to have hijacked the revolution. Moreover they support the military, “which is a source of stability for us and for the West and is responsible for perpetuating the peace agreement and guaranteeing security in the Sinai.”

He says, however, that the images broadcast from Egypt of unarmed protesters being mowed down by police conflict with those sentiments. “The protesters, the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Morsi, are they who will be etched in the mind because of the great many who have fallen and will fall among them,” he writes in Maariv.

“Global public opinion will be outraged, to their benefit.”

As of Wednesday night, Haaretz reports, the death toll spiked to 278, including 43 police officers and two journalists. Nearly 2,000 were injured in the melees, and rows of bloody bodies take up much of the front page.

Columnist Zvi Bar’el writes that the skirmishes of the past six weeks since president Mohammed Morsi was ousted are “no longer a fight to disperse demonstrations. It has become a political-military battle for control of the country.” The military, once again in control, has come down as clearly anti-Muslim Brotherhood.

The crackdown against the Islamist group that ruled Egypt for the past year poses a dilemma for the liberal elements of Egyptian politics, however, Bar’el writes. “They can’t oppose the army’s fight against the Muslim Brotherhood because they were the ones who began the revolution against Morsi and needed the army to win. But they also can’t agree to the army’s dictatorial control.”

“The fear is that clashes will spread to other cities and even deteriorate into urban guerrilla warfare between the army and the Brotherhood,” he writes, noting that some Egyptian reports indicated that anti-Morsi protesters have organized defense groups to protect government buildings, and may take up arms to do so.

Professor Eyal Zisser writes in Israel Hayom that Morsi’s removal of Egyptian general and defense minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi last year was viewed as a power play to remove a strong Mubarak-era figure, but it paved the way for the rise of young-blooded Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

“With el-Sissi’s appointment the Egyptian military returned to itself, and in a two-stage move struck at the Muslim Brotherhood,” he writes. “First he threw out their representative from the presidency, and now he is casting out Muslim Brotherhood men from the streets.”

“Soon they will be driven out, of course, from the public and media fora, just like during the days of [former president] Hosni Mubarak,” Zisser contends.

By far the most interesting perspective on the violence is found in Yedioth Ahronoth, which has an Egyptian Hebrew teacher from Cairo write an op-ed for the paper.

“For 45 years already we’ve been waiting for this moment, and we knew that the moment that Ramadan ended the army would do what it needed and clear out the Muslim Brotherhood strongholds,” Monir Mohammed writes.

“The final card left for the Muslim Brotherhood, or at least the radicals among them, is to cry ‘massacre, massacre, massacre’ in every language that would cause the West to have mercy on them — but they won’t deter us,” Mohammed, a secular Egyptian activist, says.

“We, tens of millions of Egyptians, especially the youths in the Tamarod movement, declared in a loud voice that we won’t let them hijack the revolution again. Now we just hope that the difficult moments will pass soon.”

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