On Aug. 21, shortly after two Egyptians were killed in the firefight which followed an Islamist terrorist attack (launched from Egypt) near Eilat which left eight Israelis dead, thousands in Cairo protested outside the Israeli embassy demanding that the ambassador leave and all diplomatic ties with Israel cut.
While Egyptians would eventually at least partially succeed in the morally urgent task of expelling the Jewish state’s presence from the capital, the riotous crowd on that Aug. night attempted unsuccessfully, though valiantly, to set the Israeli flag, perched 20 stories above ground, afire and so had to settle for a small replica to burn instead:
However, it turned out that a Pyrrhic victory on that warm summer night would not be completely denied, as a young Egyptian man, Ahmed El Shahat, succeeded in scaling all 20 floors of the building which housed the embassy, removing the Israeli flag and pinning an Egyptian one in its place.
Recently, the Guardian commissioned nine Arab writers to reflect on events of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011. The piece,”Revolution in the Arab world“, was published in the Guardian book section on Jan. 13, and included the reflections of a Palestinian poet named Mourid Barghouti.
If a single scene could summarise the current historic moment in the Arab world it would be that horizontal image of Egypt’s dictator, Hosni Mubarak, idly, helplessly, and with half-closed eyes, lying on a stretcher behind the court bars juxtaposed with the vertical, flying image of Ahmad El Shahat, the young Egyptian who climbed the 21 floors to the top of Israel’s embassy in Cairo to rip down its flag. The future is coming.
To Barghouti, one of the most iconic and glorious images of the ‘progressive’ Arab Spring seared in his mind (the most enduring symbol of the glorious revolution) was a symbolic display of his nation’s enmity towards Israel.
Indeed, Barghouti was far from alone. As a report on Aug. 21 regarding Ahmad El Shahat’s act of heroism observed:
People [on Cairo’s streets] were chanting, cars honking and others carrying Ahmed El Shahat on their shoulders in joyful expression of the absence of the [Israeli] flag were seen shortly after the incident.
Eyewitnesses at the scene in Egypt’s capital say hundreds of people are flocking to the embassy in a massive rally of joy.
The taking down of the flag created big waves among activists on Twitter and the hashtag #FlagMan was receiving hundreds of tweets.
There are tribute videos all over YouTube dedicated to El Shahat, one which includes this cartoon by none other than Carlos Latuff.
Egypt may have just elected an illiberal Islamist majority to its new assembly. The country’s Christian minority may continue to flee in fear of a less tolerant post-revolution culture. And, the country may have to confront such daunting challenges as a sclerotic economy (Egypt has one of the lowest business start-up rates in the world) and a myriad of social problems (Egypt is ranked as worst in the region by the UN Human Development Index).
But, throughout it all, they’ll always have flagman: a symbol of Barghouti’s pride, the aspirations of an ‘Arab Spring’, and the continuing glorification of a region’s crippling fixation.
- Jews to build new bridge. Guardian characterizes it as a provocation. (cifwatch.com)
- Antisemitism without Jews: What Egyptian soccer fans’ pro-Holocaust chants say about the ‘Arab Spring’ (cifwatch.com)
- Why do they hate the Jews? The Guardian and the toxicity of liberal racism. (cifwatch.com)
- Help the Guardian improve its Eyewitness Photograph “Pro tips” (cifwatch.com)
- Phoebe Greenwood continues Guardian tradition of dishonest reporting about Palestinian incitement (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian interactive map rewrites Israeli-Arab history (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, genocidal Arab dictator whisperer, takes aim at Israel’s Prime Minister (cifwatch.com)
- The Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood Tweets: “What Palestinian incitement?” (cifwatch.com)