Protesters filled the streets of Cairo in Egypt

Pro-Palestine protests exploded in Egypt on Friday as thousands of people showed their anger at the Israel regime and the Western imperialists who support it.

Very significantly, some of the protesters also targeted their own leader president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.   

A revolutionary in Cairo told Socialist Worker, “There were two protests, one that included people from the opposition to al-Sisi. The other was an official one supporting Sisi’s call for Palestinians not to be driven into the Sinai desert.

“The opposition one ended in Tahrir Square, the historic centre of the 2011 revolutionary uprising.” 

“The main difference between the two is the tone in the chants directed to the regime. One is answering to the regime and celebrating Sisi’s stand.

“The other took more of a critical stand saying you should cut all ties with Israel, open the borders and that we are with Palestinians’ right to resist the occupation. There were even some pro-Hamas chants.

“People chanted that this was a real protest and they were not giving Sisi a mandate for his policies.

“The protests criticising Sisi were definitely smaller in size than the state-backed ones. But also it was the first protest in Tahrir in ten years so very significant in terms of breaking the idea that this would never be allowed to happen.”

“As so often, Palestine has become a key arena for opposition to our rulers because it is so linked to the relation not only to Israel but also to imperialism generally.”

In a symbolic moment, banging was heard from inside a police truck full of conscripts. The men normally sent to put down protests signalled their support for a march near Cairo’s Al-Azhar University. Outside the truck, the protesters chanted, “Gaza, Gaza, symbol of glory.”

Protests also took place in Port Said and Alexandria and at the Rafah Crossing to Gaza that the Egyptian government has sealed.

The regime is under pressure because it has made so many deals with Israel. It has to pose as an ally of the Palestinians or the opposition to its own rule will grow.

It is grudgingly allowing some protests hoping this will act as a safety-valve. But that can come crashing down if anger overwhelms the state-sanctioned limitations, or if Sisi achieves no concessions from the imperialists.

The Revolutionary Socialists said in a statement “Sisi is trying to take over the Palestine solidarity movement in order to rebuild his popularity. This has collapsed as a result of his policies of oppression and impoverishment which are crushing Egyptians. He hopes to avoid suffering a share of popular anger over the crimes of the occupation,  although he has participated hand in hand in the siege of Gaza throughout previous years of his rule.”

Sisi’s crisis could grow. Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant told the Knesset foreign and defence committee on Friday that Israel would no longer have “responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip” once its slaughter in the Gaza war was over. He added that he hoped the conflict would create “a new security reality”.

In any such scheme Egypt will become responsible for two million Palestinians—a prospect that will terrify Sisi.

Meanwhile in Yemen huge numbers filled the streets for a government-backed pro-Palestine demonstration. One report says a million took part. Another says 1.5 million. In Jordan protests have raged all week, sometimes against the regime as well as Israel.

Jordanian riot police pushed back thousands of protesters on Wednesday near the Israeli embassy in the capital, Amman. “No Zionist embassy on Arab land,” they shouted. 

Protesters demanded the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador and the end of the 1994 peace treaty with Israel, as well as the agreement to buy natural gas from Israel, which Jordan signed in 2016.

Militant protests sweeping Egypt, Jordan and elsewhere—and stirring up fury in Saudi Arabia—are a nightmare for Israel and the West.

The Tories are playing their role in trying to shore up the Western friends of Israel. Rishi Sunak flew to Saudi Arabia after visiting Israel this week. Foreign secretary James Cleverly went to Egypt and Qatar this week and was scheduled to go to  Turkey.

This tour of the dictators underlies the emptiness of the government’s claim to be backing freedom in the Middle East.

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