All for One ... Egyptians Are Boycotting American and Israeli Products in Support of the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. (Boycott)
McGrath, Cam, The Middle East
"Children are dying in Palestine and the world doesn't seem to care. We have to do something," says taxi driver Hajj Mohammed Ali Rizqallah, whose view is partially obscured by the Palestinian flag stickers he has affixed to his car's windscreen. A chequered Palestinian kiffeyeh is draped over the driver's seat. Rizqallah purchased it from one of the ubiquitous scarf and flag hawkers that wander from window to window among vehicles stuck in Cairo traffic. The hawkers have become a litmus test for Egyptian sentiment, appearing in droves whenever Israel launches an offensive on the Palestinian Territories and vanishing as the situation resolves.
"[Israeli prime minister] Sharon is a terrorist," grumbles Rizqallah. "Every day. he kills Palestinian women and children while Europe and America do nothing to stop him."
When the Palestinian Intifada began in September 2000, many Egyptians believed the determination and suffering of the Palestinian people would Compel western nations to intervene and curb Israeli aggression. Two years later, with some 1,600 Palestinians and 600 Israelis dead, hope has faded for a comprehensive peace in the region.
When asked what the two-year-old uprising has accomplished, Rizqallah quickly retorts: "It's shown the world the bravery and resolve of the Palestinians." Egyptians unanimously agree.
Egyptians have always been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. For 50 years, they have sought to liberate Palestinian territory from Israeli occupation, spilling blood on the battlefield in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Since the start of the Intifada, dozens of Egyptian youths have been caught trying to sneak across the border into the Gaza Strip to join the uprising.
"All Egyptians sympathise with the Palestinian people, and many believe the government is not doing enough to support them," says sociologist Azza Korayyem. "They are desperate to help in any way they can, even if it means risking their own life."
In the late 1980s, the Egyptian government faced a formidable challenge in countering the growing tide of Islamic extremism. No sooner would it deal an effective blow to a troublesome sheikh or Islamist group than another would appear in its place.
Solidarity movements are a new multi-headed hydra that threaten to undermine the government's political hegemony. Unlike religious extremism, which draws primarily from the socially and economically disenfranchised, these movements draw from the entire population, some 67 million Palestinian sympathisers.
The Intifada has spawned dozens of pro-Palestinian organisations, attracting members from across the political, religious and social spectrum. No small task in a country characterised by 25 years of political factionalism.
Grassroots movements unite Nass-erists, communists and Islamists under the banner of the Palestinian cause. "During the last two years we worked to mobilise popular opinion and tried to create many sub-committees and expand membership," says Zoheir El Arabi, a journalist and member of the Popular Committee to Boycott Israeli, American and British Products (PCBIAB). PCBIAB encourages Egyptians to boycott the products of countries it perceives as supporting Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. A list it distributes in schools, villages and mosques names various consumer products to boycott, offering "Intifada-friendly" alternatives. The boycott has cut into the sales of the listed products, say economists, but more importantly to El Arabi, is its psychological effect. …