The Muslim Brotherhood is calling for Friday protests against the most recent assaults by the Israeli army on the Gaza Strip. They are calling for all Egyptians to join them “in announcing their wrath and condemnation of the Israeli attacks.”
Israel has responded to rocket fire this week with bombings that left seven dead. Egypt assisted the two sides reach a tenuous truce, but there is still fear of escalation in the Gazan fighting.
The Brotherhood issued a statement saying that Arabs are not distracted by domestic issues, and still hold the Palestinian cause as their top priority. They called for a boycott, public awareness, and solidarity with Palestinian resistance and the refugees’ right of return.
The Brotherhood is tapping into widespread anger in Egypt over what is happening in Gaza, but it is unclear if they will be joined this weekend in their protests as they themselves have increasingly become the target of protests.
“They will definitely have their followers, they always have 750,000 cadres that they can mobilise, from all over the country, to be in Tahrir at such and such an hour,” said Saad Eddin Ibrahim, author of the book Sociology of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. “They have done this repeatedly, they have the capacity to mobilise.”
The purposes of the march may also be to redirect the public gaze on a weekend that could prove troublesome for the Brotherhood. This week marks the anniversary of police violence against protesters at Mohamed Mahmoud Street, where dozens were killed ten months after Hosni Mubarak left power. The Brotherhood has been criticised for being absent at the time, while its leaders publicly derided the protests.
“Of course everybody in Egypt is upset by what is going on in Gaza,” said Ibrahim. “The Muslim Brotherhood, being the party in power, want to lead that public anger and channel it in a way that will not undermine public order. They don’t want disturbances, they don’t want the protests to go beyond a certain limit.”
There is also a question, with the power they wield both domestically and geopolitically, whether or not the Brotherhood could do more for the people of Gaza than simply march through downtown.
Ibrahim did point out, “one option is to use more force to restore the situation in Sinai and Rafah,” which has been the site of incursions into Israel, but also repeated attacks this week on Egyptian military personnel.
While there is a desire to express exasperation with Israeli action, Ibrahim said the Egyptian government, under its current Brotherhood control, is hesitant to overplay its hand in Sinai, for fear that security could unravel further. “They are really, in a way, walking a tight rope,” Ibrahim concluded.