EGYPT: Cairo calls Hezbollah terrorist organization
After the recent arrest of an alleged Hezbollah cell in its territories, Egypt for the first time is classifying Hezbollah as a terrorist group, an abrupt change in polemics. In Arab discourse, the group has long been referred to as an anti-Israeli resistance movement.
“We say to the Hezbollah group who exports terrorism to our territories: Egypt cannot be a field where you experiment your ideas and plans,” Safwat Sherif, the head of the parliament upper house said Sunday while discussing the matter in the Shura Council.
“The blow that security authorities dealt to the terrorist Hezbollah group is a warning message to anyone who might think of messing with Egypt’s security,” added Sherif, the secretary general of the ruling National Democratic Party.
Sherif was not the only prominent figure inside the establishment to use the term "terrorist." “What Hassan Nassrallah is doing moves his group from the category of resistance movements to the category of terrorist movements,” Mofeed Shehab, minister of state for parliamentary and legal affairs, said at the same parliamentary session.
By describing the group as a terrorist organization, Egypt is echoing U.S.-Israeli language that came to the fore during President Bush’s administration. This deviates from the usual Arab practice of classifying anti-Israeli groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah as resistance movements.
It seems to be Egypt’s turn to bash Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who launched a war of words against the Egyptian regime during the Israeli assault on Gaza. Nasrallah accused Cairo of abandoning the Palestinians and tightening the siege on the Gaza Strip. In the speech he gave last week in response to the announcement of the arrest of Hezbollah agents in Egypt, Nasrallah repeated the accusations.
“It is the Egyptian regime that should be convicted because it still besieges the Gaza Strip and works day and night to destroy the tunnels that are considered the only artery available to the strip,” said Nasrallah in a televised speech Friday.
The state-owned media have already launched a campaign accusing Hassan Nasrallah of breeding terrorism in the region. Nasrallah "put the ones he deceived in a tuff position. What would they say today not just after the exposure of Hezbollah terrorism in Egypt but also after the confessions that he made in his speech?” wrote Osama Saraya in a front-page article in Monday's Al Ahram daily.
“This little Mullah did not know anything in his life except how to breach legitimacy, violate the law and exercise political and military anarchy in his country,” Saraya wrote.
The government-owned media did not stop there. Nasrallah was called names such as " thug" by some editors who are considered staunch supporters of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
Yet, for some observers, Egypt has gone too far by labeling Hezbollah a terrorist movement. “These harsh and exaggerated accusations show that the Egyptian position is more extremist than the position of the new American administration and many circles in the West in general which consider the necessity of holding dialogues with groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and of drawing a distinction between the terrorist and the political in these groups,” said Amr Choubaki, a political analyst with Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“Hezbollah made a terrible mistake by forming a group in Egypt; this is very provocative and humiliating to Egyptians," Choubaki added. "However, this does not mean we make exaggerated accusations and describe Hezbollah as a terrorist group,”
-- Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo
Photo: Hassan Nasrallah. Credit: BBC