|I thought that posting this would contribute greatly to the understanding of how things really work in the Malthusian disaster otherwise known as the Middle-East, and why there is such a short supply of hope around here.
What follows is an unusually candid view of the Sinai terror attacks, by a very unusual Palestinian journalist.
The Sinai: tourist destination, arms bazaar and battlefield (info # 010605/6 EV) [analysis]
By Sami El Soudi © Metula News Agency
Translated from the French by Sandra Kaufman and Llewellyn Brown
“The Egyptian security forces number millions of useless members," added the sheik, "instead of playing a security role, they fulfill a political function: they are, together with their families, live ramparts for president Mubarak and his rotting regime."
We all have our faults and nobody could accuse me of seeking to hide ours. But Westerners have a habit whose logic escapes to me: when they strive to understand a situation that does not correspond to their standards, they transpose it into familiar terms, even if most of the time the meaning gets lost in the process. However the Middle East is neither Europe nor the United States. It is high time that they understood this, and that they stop seeing the world in a Manichean way, in terms of nice guys who resemble them and diabolical bad guys.
They know nothing about the Sinai, where three attacks took place yesterday. It is not a desert, it is a jungle of sand, an extremely vast territory where everything is negotiated, bought and sold. And it is not enough to have spent one week scuba diving at Sharm-el-Sheik to seriously claim one knows the entire peninsula.
This desert belongs to the Bedouins, or more precisely to ten tribes of these nomads, who persist in crisscrossing the desert, establishing their encampments according to opportunity. Like sand running between one’s fingers, these men are slippery both literally and figuratively. First figuratively, their social life is governed by ancestral laws that flout the laws of the states that successively dominate the Sinai. The occupants and their rules pass while the Bedouins remain with their traditions. And even if these often seem to us unfathomable and useless, they have proved to be well adapted to the conditions of this very special environment.
In the literal sense, the Sinai Bedouin is a wild beast that cannot be domesticated. He likes whom he pleases and he hates whoever bothers him or defaces his living space, while not giving a hoot about political borders. After the 1967 war when the Israelis drove Nasser’s army out of the peninsula, some Jewish reservists, before returning home, rigged up for the Bedouins some hydraulic pumps with the engines of vehicles the Egyptians had abandoned in their flight. It was the first time since Lawrence that somebody had taken some sort of interest in their well being, and this disinterested act on the part of a few soldiers of the Hebrew State helped seal an enduring friendship.
But to tell the truth, the Bedouins do not have friends – they count only on themselves and the knowledge they have of their environment. And this independence, this ability to disappear into the horizon when someone bothers them, irritates all the governments around them. Starting with the people of Cairo, whom these Gypsies of the sands reproach for having tried to “Egyptize” the Sinai. It is true that since the Israeli withdrawal the authorities across the Suez Canal have developed the seaside resorts of Sharm, Dahab and that of Taba, bordering on Eilat. There they have built numerous imposing hotels, imported their own employees and brought tourists in droves, which only moderately pleases the Bedouins. And then, they have filled the peninsula with their soldiers, their police officers, their secret agents, as well as their innumerable security services, as numerous as they are incompetent. The Bedouins have the unpleasant feeling that the Egyptians are trampling their turf and that they are being forced to play the leftover roles of nice savages for the holiday charters.
Since the preferred business of these peddlers is the smuggling of anything of value, when it’s a question of making the tourists scram and seriously hurting the Egyptian economy, they will make you a generous deal! Yesterday’s collective assassination – whose semi-official toll is about thirty dead and more than 150 wounded – is the third in a murderous series. The Dahab one apparently planted the last nail in the coffin in the country of the Pharaohs’ tourism industry. In 2004, 34 people had already lost their lives in the explosions of Taba and Ras an, near the Israeli border; last July, the Islamist attackers assassinated 64 people at Sharm-el-Sheik, most of them tourists.
Those who know the Sinai a little know that these terrorist acts could certainly not have occurred withou