Nasrallah - Where's the love?
Photo: AFP
Mubarak - Stronger in poorer districts
Photo: AFP

Nasrallah's popularity waning?

Egypt's feathers are still decidedly ruffled from the Hizbullah leader's call to overthrow President Mubarak's rule and sanitation workers are reporting piles of Nasrallah and bin-Laden posters near garbage dumps

Six weeks have passed since the culmination of Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, and in Israel public discourse has long since dropped the matter from its agenda. But elsewhere in the Middle East, the operation and the events surrounding it are far from forgotten.


Perhaps more so than anything else, the Arab world remembers the very public and very unusual speech by Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, in which he urged the Egyptian public to overthrow the rule of President Hosni Mubarak – who Nasrallah accused of collaborating with Israel.


So deep ran the shock in Egypt from Nasrallah's call that the dust has yet to settle on the incident. In recent days one of the top Shi'ite leaders in Egypt launched a direct attack on Nasrallah, himself one of the most prominent figures in the Shi'ite world.


Dr. A'assam Fahim Abd al-Fatah minced no words last week when he published a statement under the headline 'Sir, Egypt is beyond any doubt!'


"No one accused Hizbullah or the Palestinian resistance of treason when they began negotiations after the hostilities. That is an understandable and natural thing," Abd al-Fatah wrote. "However it is not understandable and not natural to blame Egypt of betrayal and collaboration when it enters the diplomatic arena – as others have done and are doing."


'What about Syria and Iran?'

The comments, which ran on Tuesday in the Egyptian daily 'Al-Youm al-Sabah,' aimed directly at Nasrallah's underbelly.


"Egypt has never accepted and would never accept the presence of international forces in its territory, while UNIFIL is deployed in southern Lebanon. Would it be reasonable to accuse Lebanon or collaboration and treason? Policy is a mixture of considerations aimed at reaching the maximum profit for the minimal price, and Hizbullah made its considerations.


The statement, signed on behalf of all Shi'ites in Egypt, goes on to mock Nasrallah for demanding Egypt join the fighting in Gaza while he himself did nothing of the sort.


"He demands that Egypt enter this war, but were there not countries and organizations for whom the opportunity to exact revenge on Israel was not more important? Hizbullah says they will avenge Imad Mughniyah 'at the right time and place.' I don't know if there could be a righter time or place for that response than when the blood of innocents was being let in Gaza. Or perhaps Hizbullah had calculations of its own… of course it had – and we understand that.


"Does Syria not have land occupied in the Golan? And every day we hear of Israeli aggression on Syria's land and facilities, however Syria responded only through condemnation and complaints to the (United Nations) Security Council. Why? Does Syria have its own calculations? Yes, and we understand that.

"Is Iran not threatened by Israel, which could attacks its civilian nuclear facilities? After all, Iran is Hamas' greatest benefactor. And what did Iran do? Did it do anything meaningful that would have an impact on the events, something that Egypt didn't do? The answer is no, not at all. Does Iran have special considerations. Of course it does – and we understand this.


"We understand Syria and Iran, so why can't Egypt have considerations as others can."


'Nasrallah's all talk'

The statement goes on to vow that Shi'ite's in Egypt will "surprise" Nasrallah, but ultimately one must take into account that Shi'ites comprise a miniscule percentage of Egypt's population – which is 90% Sunni Muslims and 9% Coptic Christians.


In recent years however, particularly since the Second Lebanon War, reports of Sunnis converting to Shi'a Islam across the Middle East, including Egypt, have increased due to Nasrallah and Iran's popularity.


But that popularity may be waning. The London-based Arab-language newspaper 'Asharq Al-Awsat' reported a fortnight ago that posters bearing Nasrallah's image were popping up in garbage dump sites in Dar al-Salam, one of Cairo's poverty-stricken districts. He was not alone though, thrown out with Nasrallah were pictures of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin-Laden.


This phenomenon has two explanations. The first is the massive efforts undertaken by Egyptian authorities to rehabilitate the district, fearing that if its residents grow too disgruntled they will strengthen the opposition movements, namely the Muslim Brotherhood. In an attempt to battle this, authorities have begun cleaning up the streets, paving the main roads and generally improving infrastructure.


The leadership also sought to penetrate the local mosques, to monitor what was being preached.

The second is Nasrallah's decision to lash out against Mubarak.


"My wife hung Nasrallah's picture in the living room, against my wishes, after the 2006 war in Lebanon. Many did the same in Dar al-Salam," Ahmed, a resident of the district, was quoted as saying by the paper.


"But she got rid of it when he attacked Egypt. She felt that her brother, who fell in the 1973 war, was dishonored."


Ahmed said that many felt compelled to act as his wife did. Sanitation workers were soon reporting

pileups of posters and banners.


Naima Raadi, a civil servant who works in the district, told the paper: "people here have started to come together over the development projects. They feel that voting for a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood hasn't improved the sewage system or the weak water pressure here. I feel that bin-Laden is an illusion and that Nasrallah is all talk and nothing more.:


Cairo notes with satisfaction that lately people have stopped playing the rhetoric of Nasrallah, bin-Laden and other radical leaders on massive speakers. Will this help the government's standing? Maybe. Will it weaken Nasrallah's standing? In Egypt they certainly hope so.  


פרסום ראשון: 02.28.09, 23:32
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