Revoking nationality is no way to face Israel

The Supreme Administrative Court ruled last Saturday to revoke the nationality of Egyptians married to Israeli women, adding that the Council of Ministers should decide upon each marriage case individually.

The interior and foreign ministries, which have courageously rejected the ruling, now face a predicament: they have entered into confrontation with the judiciary, a body that has always been revered for protecting freedoms and civil rights.

But the predicament was created when the State Council (of which the Administrative Court is a part), with this verdict, departed from its traditional duty of upholding justice and instead assumed the role of protecting national security, a task usually assigned to other state institutions.

Revoking the nationality of some 5000 citizens, many of whom are married to Israeli Arabs, reflects an ideology on the part of Egyptian elites that harms society at large.  One only needs to look at fascist and Nazi regimes, who implemented such policies in the past, as historical precedents. 

The official and popular fight against Israel, the last remaining racist state in the world, has failed. Our response to Israel has never transcended the level of insults directed against the Israeli state and those who normalize relations with it. Meanwhile, we’ve neglected more important priorities, such as the need to fight poverty and illiteracy in Egypt.

Simply watching average Egyptians comment on satellite channels and websites reveals many people’s simplistic understanding of world affairs, and their extremism on matters where their personal stakes are very low, like insulting Israel and dropping the nationalities of Egyptians.

It’s shameful that our gestures towards the Palestinians–who have requested our support–have not surpassed mere humanitarian support and kind words.

Since the 1978 Camp David Accords, Egypt’s real challenge–which it has failed to meet–has been to compete economically with Israel by offering better quality products and services on the international market. We’ve instead excelled only at slogans, while failing to confront Israel in any meaningful way.

Amidst the jubilation over the court’s recent decision, many forget that those 5000 Egyptians went to Israel only after failing to secure a decent living back home. The sad tragedy is that Israel–an occupying power and racist state–did not consider these Egyptians enemies and instead welcomed them, while Egypt, with all its history and multicultural heritage, has failed to incorporate these people into its social and cultural fabric.

For the past 30 years, we’ve been looking at matters only through the lens of national security. We have forgotten how Egypt used to incorporate different ethnic groups into one unified national fabric.

Surprisingly, our politicians have refrained from intervening in this verdict, as they have with many other issues of national importance in the past, thus rendering the ruling party’s policies secretariat a liberal facade void of any substance. Instead the government leaves people to engage in worthless debates over such issues as long as they do not cross the political lines drawn for them.

This verdict points to a cultural stigma in Egyptian society and to severe flaws in its judicial system. It is one more addition to a recent string of misguided actions and decisions by the State Council, such as its decision to bar female judges as well as Council President Mohamed el-Husseini’s criticism of two journalists who published reports on judicial corruption.

When taken together, these recent developments point to a core problem in the judiciary’s professional standards. They only widen the gap between society and its judicial system, especially in light of the deteriorating relationship between many judges, on the one hand, and lawyers as well as members at large, on the other.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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