Speaking to CNN Sunday, protesters in Egypt illustrated why the US may not be in a hurry for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
CNN’s Nic Robertson took to the streets in Alexandria, Egypt where scores of demonstrators wanted to make their voices heard. Their main message was that it was time for Mubarak to go, but there was also an underlying disdain for the US, and even more so for Israel.
“All the people hate [Mubarak]!” one protester shouted. “He’s supporting Israel! Israel is our enemy. We don’t like him… Israel and America supported him. We hate them all. We don’t like them!”
“How do you get the president out of the country?” Robertson asked.
“By revolution,” the protester replied.
“It is revolution,” another protester, sporting a beard and no mustache, added. “Who supports Hosni Mubarak? The United States of America, the British government, and Germany government, and French government. Because the United States stand beside Hosni Mubarak 100 percent. Because they know if Hosni Mubarak fail, they are, the whole people in Egypt, they’re going to be free. They’re going to be free.”
“If the people are free in Egypt… they’re going to go free Palestinians, they’re going to destroy Israel. The country who control the United States is Israel!” he exclaimed.
The “beard and no mustache look” is widely associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has long-opposed Mubarak and supported Hamas. Many experts have noted that the Brotherhood have not emerged as opposition leaders in the protests, but the group did hold a minority status in Egypt’s parliament.
“I’m not going to venture a guess at the level of Muslim Brotherhood participation but, judging from my chance encounters with protesters, any assertion that the movement is absent or very thinly represented is probably wishful thinking,” Jonathan Wright, a Reuters correspondent and translator, wrote.
The anti-American sentiment was not isolated to Alexandria.
In Cairo, a 20-meter-long message in Arabic written across Tahrir Square said: “Go Away, Mubarak, you are from the Americans, and you’re working for them!”
“The USA does not support democracy; they’re supporting Israel, which is like their baby,” 26-year-old Ahmed, a Cairo resident, told The Jerusalem Post. “They think Egypt is functional because it’s in favor of their considerations.”
“I don’t care if we have peace [with Israel] or not,” he continued. “But will Israel allow us to have a real president? For example, Turkey elected an Islamic government, but it was their choice. Will Israel give us the freedom to make the same choice?”
“We do not owe this revolution to the Muslim Brotherhood, not to anybody,” Amr Shalakany wrote in a comment to The Guardian.
“We want political rights. Please tell the people in America we want our rights. Please explain we don’t have internet. Everyone has to understand that the rights of the Egyptian people are being sold for Israel’s security. Our rights are being sold. It’s as if we are monkeys. They have one strategic consideration and that’s Israel,” he added.
There were signs Monday that a concerned Israel was urging the US to continue support for Mubarak.
“Senior Israeli officials, however, said that on Saturday night the Foreign Ministry issued a directive to around a dozen key embassies in the United States, Canada, China, Russia and several European countries,” Haaretz reported. “The ambassadors were told to stress to their host countries the importance of Egypt’s stability. In a special cable, they were told to get this word out as soon as possible.”
“The peace between Israel and Egypt has lasted for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these relations will continue to exist,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday. “We are closely monitoring events in Egypt and the region and are making efforts to preserve its security and stability.”
The New York Times‘ Nate Silver noted that public opinion of the US has been on the rise in Egypt in recent years. A recent BBC poll found 45 percent of Egyptians had a mainly positive opinion of the US, while 29 percent had a mainly negative opinion.
But Egyptians were nearly united in their dislike for Israel. Only three percent had a favorable opinion versus 92 percent who viewed Israel unfavorably.
This video is from CNN, broadcast Sunday Jan. 30, 2011.