a cold peace

where is this place מצרים? Is it the Egypt we know?

I ask these ques­tions in my Hag­gadah. And I answer:

Yes, though only the name of the place is the same, the peo­ple have changed. In fact we are at peace and allied with the Egypt of today.
The Egypt of the Hag­gadah is more than a place, it is more than a nation state, it is a state of mind.
Our Hebrew word for that place is “Mitzra’yim”, that is: the straits, or nar­rows. The geo­graph­i­cal Mitzra’yim is a pinched green strip of land in the midst of desert along the shores of the Nile Riv­er. The metaphor­i­cal Mitzra’yim is any restric­tion.

I find it very sad to note that most of the Egypt­ian pop­u­la­tion seems to live in the metaphor­i­cal Mitzray’im even as their world expands due to their efforts of the events of the “Arab Spring”.

In an odd coin­ci­dence, The New York Review of Books, in its cur­rent issue (Sep­tem­ber 2, 2011), pub­lished an arti­cle by Yas­mine El Rashi­di, a for­mer colum­nist for the Wall Street Jour­nal, titled Egypt’s Israel Prob­lem.

And then, Fri­day night (Sep­tem­ber 9, 2011) Al Jazeera report­ed:
Egyp­tians break into Israeli embassy in Cairo

Inte­ri­or min­istry declares state of alert and prime min­is­ter sum­mons cab­i­net cri­sis team to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion.

Actu­al­ly, the com­ments on the NYRB arti­cle are not half bad. I’m sur­prised at the lev­el of knowl­edge (and what com­ments get “liked”), in par­tic­u­lar this item by Steve Runci­man (no not that Steven Runci­man; there seem to be a num­ber of pos­si­bil­i­ties; who he is is unclear) on 09/04/2011 09:13 AM:

The arti­cle is some­what mis­lead­ing. Accord­ing to Israel, three of the ter­ror­ists, who killed civil­ians, were Egyp­tians and it seems undis­put­ed they emerged from right under an Egypt­ian army post. Does the Egypt­ian pub­lic know this, or care? The exact cir­cum­stances of the Egypt­ian deaths are unclear still — some of them may have been killed by the ter­ror­ists. But why wait for the facts when you can blame Israel? In addi­tion, left unstat­ed, is why is there this “deep root­ed” ani­mos­i­ty to Israel? Just say­ing Pales­tine is not enough. If the King­dom of Jor­dan occu­pied all of Pales­tine, would there be “deep root­ed” ani­mos­i­ty? Some­how I doubt it. No deep root­ed ani­mos­i­ty to Syr­ia when it occu­pied Lebanon. Pales­tine is just a word. The rea­son for the deep root­ed ani­mos­i­ty is pure­ly reli­gious. Why not acknowl­edge that? Because it would inter­fere with the pho­ny lib­er­al nar­ra­tive pre­sent­ed to the West.

deep rooted animosity

I saw some of the basis for this encour­aged ani­mos­i­ty when in Cairo in June 2007, where the book­store of the Cairo Sher­a­ton hotel in which we stayed car­ried an unpleas­ant selec­tion.

books at cairo sheraton

yes, that is Mein Kampf on the left in the sec­ond row

more examples (selected from many) of encouraged animosity

august 18, 2011

Let’s take anoth­er look at the August 18, 2011 event, so we can have it here on record. It seems to be the imme­di­ate cat­a­lyst for the destruc­tion of the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Israelis killed in attacks near Egypt bor­der
Gun­men attack a bus car­ry­ing sol­diers, a car and a mil­i­tary patrol near south­ern resort of Eilat

Then a few hours lat­er…

Egypt army offi­cer, 2 secu­ri­ty men killed in Israeli bor­der raid

We are told: “The three [Egyp­tians] were killed as the Israeli mil­i­tary chased mil­i­tants along the bor­der of Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Taba in South Sinai and the Israeli city of Eilat.”

I’ve been to Taba, it’s an easy walk from the Israeli bor­der cross­ing to what was an Israeli-built resort, the Taba Hilton.

at the border crossing

cross­ing from Israel to Egypt at Taba, Decem­ber 31, 1997


the taba resort in egypt

This is where the events occurred:

taba to eilat route

bor­der & route from taba to eilat

three weeks and onward

How dif­fer­ent Egyp­tians saw the night of the Israeli Embassy break-in

While the events of the past three weeks are dispir­it­ing, and Fri­day night’s events in Cairo are par­tic­u­lar­ly upset­ting, I do not want to allow them to col­or my hopes for the Egypt­ian peo­ple. I know very lit­tle about Egypt­ian pol­i­tics. I have not watched the Twit­ter feed recent­ly and am not aware of any Twit­ter hash­tag for the events. @SmithSofia, a young (Egypt­ian?) woman I encoun­tered dur­ing this summer’s Flotil­la attempt does not seem to be par­tic­u­lar­ly involved in what hap­pened at the embassy. I do, how­ev­er peri­od­i­cal­ly catch the tweets of a fel­low named @abuhatem a self-described “clas­si­cal lib­er­al”, who shared this thought on Sep­tem­ber 6.

If there are two par­ties plat­forms that could tru­ly build a mod­ern and free Egypt and be exam­ple to Arab world: Hamzawy’s [Free­dom Egypt Par­ty] and [the] Free Egyp­tians [Par­ty].

I nev­er see ref­er­ence to these groups in the press that I have avail­able to me. I do not know what role they, or their members/followers, played in the events of this past week­end. I hope that, even if they do not expect to be the best of friends with Israel and the Jew­ish peo­ple, they will at least rec­og­nize the val­ue of the qui­et that we cur­rent­ly share if not a hoped for warm peace.

When I began think­ing about this sit­u­a­tion the valid­i­ty of the phrase

a cold peace is better than a hot war

came to mind. We have long felt that the peace sit­u­a­tion between Israel and Egypt had not lived up to the hopes expressed when Begin and Sadat met in Jerusalem in Novem­ber 19–20, 1977. It is not as warm as it could be, but it has def­i­nite­ly been bet­ter than war. I won­dered where the phrase “cold peace” orig­i­nat­ed. “Cold War” in con­trast with “hot war” is a phrase that seems to have been used first by George Orwell. When I searched for the phrase in Google, I did not come up with any­thing help­ful.

so I enlisted Jay

On a site that’s appar­ent­ly devot­ed to soc­cer an ongo­ing thread from at least 1999 has a 2002 com­ment with the phrase. A book from 2003 (which I have no inter­est in read­ing) cred­its Netanyahu with say­ing it (p. 67). A newslet­ter from an insti­tute at Ben Guri­on Uni­ver­si­ty notes that Arieh Naor used the phrase in a lec­ture he gave in 2004.

Most of the ref­er­ences seem to be to the Mid­dle East. One that brings up the phrase in the con­text of Bosnia is from

In 2002 a gamer used the phrase — seems to me in the con­text of an MMOG.

Jay added:
“Is there an orig­i­nal source? Had I known that nobody claimed it, I’d hap­pi­ly have tried to take out a copy­right on it. It’s strange that it doesn’t seem to have some­one his­toric behind it.”

Search­ing on quo­ta­tions sites, I quick­ly came to what appears to be the urtext:

The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war.

Desiderius Eras­mus (1469−1536) [an old­er contemporary/neighbor of Spin­oza; ah that Dutch renais­sance was a great time/place]

Amaz­ing­ly enough the Eras­mus’ phrase turns up (at the top, in alpha­bet­i­cal order) on a site devot­ed to Yid­dish Say­ings as though it had been invent­ed by Jews!

Regard­less of the phrase’s ori­gins, it’s valid­i­ty is real. I remem­ber how thrilled we were when Sadat vis­it­ed Jerusalem caus­ing a major shift in per­cep­tions through­out the region. One of the lim­i­ta­tions of the peace treaty signed by Sadat and Begin at Camp David was that it was signed by an Egypt­ian auto­crat, regard­less of how for­ward look­ing he may have been. A major com­plaint of the Egypt­ian peo­ple relates to the fact that they were not involved in the process of arrang­ing a peace treaty with Israel. That is rec­ti­fi­able. The Gene­va Accord, an Israeli-Pales­tin­ian Ini­tia­tive to End the Con­flict, like the People’s Peace Treaty of Viet­nam War days, offers us all that oppor­tu­ni­ty. We can grow beyond our con­strict­ing bounds, reach out to one anoth­er and make the מצרים of the Hag­gadah no more than a metaphor for the past.

begin sadat button

للسلام שלום

I have had this but­ton for many years, though I’ve nev­er worn it. at 10.16 cen­time­ters (over 4″) in diam­e­ter, it’s a bit large and heavy. It is more of a sou­venir piece than a wear­able but­ton. Nonethe­less, I’m glad I have it, and I share it now as a reminder of a hope that peo­ple thought was impos­si­ble, yet came to be.

Date: 1977
Size: 10.16
Pin Form: clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text للسلام שלום



Prime Min­is­ter Men­achem Begin Pres­i­dent Anwar el-Sadat


NOV. 19–20, 1977


your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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