• Mark Lavie

Excerpt from "Throw away the axioms"

...In the Mideast, public statements play a different role than they do in the West. In the US, reporters dutifully tote up campaign promises and trot them out to show how candidates don’t keep them. In the West, if you promise something, you’re supposed to do it.

In the Mideast, not so much. Making a strong statement is often the equivalent of doing something. You’ve said it, now let’s move on.

Egypt’s media frequently run anti-Israel content. Conspiracy theories abound, blaming the Zionists and their all-powerful Mossad for everything that’s wrong. So when I started working in Egypt as a journalist in 2009, and especially after I moved there in 2011 for a two-year residence, I expected some tensions when people discovered I’m a Jew and an Israeli.

Quite the opposite. I was warmly welcomed by the dozens of Egyptians in my office, all of whom knew I’m an Israeli. Outside, people who discovered I’m Jewish didn’t tone down their positive behavior. Hating Israel is part of the culture, all right—but it’s nothing personal, and it’s not a big deal. Recently a well-versed and well-traveled expert in Arab affairs laughed with delighted approval when I observed, “Egyptians hate Israel the way I hate broccoli.”

And the fact is, Egypt and Israel have close relations in the fields of economics, military and intelligence. Most of them are out of the public eye. Even key economic agreements, like the QIZ pact that benefits millions of Egyptian workers, are not talked about.

Of course it would be nicer if these beneficial arrangements were public, and if Egyptian media stopped charging that Israel sells poisoned seeds to farmers and sends sharks to frighten tourists away. One day that might happen. But it’s not that important in the larger scheme of things...

(from "Why Are We Still Afraid?" by Mark Lavie)


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