ANALYSIS & EDITOR’S COMMENT: Breaking down barriers

Border crisis bolsters Islamists

Egypt’s main Islamist party and other opposition groups are strengthening their appeal by using images of desperate Palestinians streaming out of the Gaza Strip to provoke wider protests against President Hosni Mubarak’s 26-year-old government.

Demonstrations in Cairo and throughout the country by the Muslim Brotherhood and other political groups ostensibly have been staged to declare Egyptian solidarity with the residents of Gaza. But they are also aimed at weakening Mubarak, whom the groups accuse of oppression and criticize for economic shortcomings and close ties to Washington.

It is political theater punctuated with dangerous rhetoric. Mubarak’s vast intelligence and security forces are attempting to prevent pro-Palestinian protests from erupting into sustained nationwide anti-government rallies. But the Muslim Brotherhood and Kifaya, Arabic for “Enough,” an umbrella opposition group of leftists and nationalists, are determined to make just that happen. The Muslim Brotherhood has sponsored 80 demonstrations since Wednesday, when hundreds of thousands of Gazans began pouring into Egypt through a breached border wall. [complete article]

Editor’s Comment — However Israel, Egypt, the United States, and Mahmoud Abbas wrestle with the issue of “restoring security” along the Gaza border, the political symbolism is inescapable: Those who tear down walls will always be seen as the champions of freedom and those who struggle to raise those barriers back up will appear threatened by freedom.

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