In August 2013, the King of Sweden, Carl Gustaf, and his wife Queen Silvia, were visiting a museum when a Palestinian and his wife asked the royal guard for permission to give them a Palestinian shawl as a present.
They were allowed to put the shawl around the shoulders of the king and the queen, according to a Moroccan newspaper. The king wore the shawl for 33 seconds.
When the picture of the king and the queen wearing the shawl appeared in the newspapers, the Jewish lobby criticized the royal couple immediately and raised questions whether Sweden had changed its position towards Israel, especially because the phrase “Our Aqsa Not Their Solomon’s Temple” was printed on the shawl.
I believe the Palestinian citizen, Bassam Saeed, and his wife Afaf, were the smallest lobby in the world able to achieve a big goal with that one amazing, historic picture in just half a minute.
Convincing the world of our rights and interests has become essential and inevitable. How the world sees us is not just a matter of observation. It is part of our local concerns.
In this context, I would like to talk about the following ten issues:
First: The United States is still the most important superpower in the world today. Many countries have switched from a state of “conflict with America” to a state of “struggle for America.”
Second: The Arab and Islamic world, with Egypt at the heart of it, cannot lose sight of the political and cultural barriers with the United States. Nor can it ignore the imbalance of America’s position towards the Arab-Israeli conflict and many other issues.
Third: The decision-making process in the United States involves different interest and pressure groups, of which the Egyptian or Arab lobbies play no strong part.
Our presence abroad is strong but our impact is weak. This necessitates an Egyptian lobby that is not subject to ideological or partisan interests and that only works for the national interest of the Egyptian state.Ahmed al-Muslemany
Fourth: A certain group in Egypt tried to influence the American decision-making process, not for the benefit of national interest, but for its own political interests. This was a threat to our national security.
Fifth: Although the United States is the most important superpower, it is not the only power in the world. China, Russia, Japan, Germany, India and Brazil cannot be overlooked.
Sixth: Egypt has always been present in the decision-making processes of all the major capitals of the world. Today, it is more present and pressing because the January 2011 and June 2013 revolutions which globalized Egyptian politics, perhaps even more than any other country.
Seventh: The main objective of our great people throughout history has been to restore Egyptian civilization. Never was Egypt concerned with eating and drinking or clothing and housing. It has always been concerned with its civilization above material needs.
Eighth: Egyptians have for decades been saddened by the decline of their civilization. They look with grief at what was and what has become; at the politicians who destroyed the economy, at the leaders who should have stayed home, and at the Brotherhood whose project was to bring Egypt down. They want to draw a line here and start restoring their civilization.
Ninth: Egyptians know that the outside world has always been against them whenever they wanted to rise again. It is no conspiracy, but this has happened to all who tried, starting with Mohamed Ali to Anwar Sadat.
But Egyptians now believe that the two revolutions have strongly and decisively paved the way for the resumption of their civilization, the project that was interrupted for 30 years. They expect hostility from both the outside world and the internal forces working with external forces against their dreams.
Tenth: While the overwhelming majority is able to correct the internal situation and adjust the path towards national goals beyond the economy, Egypt knows that the biggest danger comes from abroad. When the political motives of the international media and Western research centers were exposed and the ignorance of politicians around the world of the simplest facts regarding our country was proven, it became imperative that we go out to them, not to explain or clarify, but to protect and uphold our dreams.
As our great ancestors went outside the borders of Egypt to face their enemies, we also must go far in order to protect. Our men and allies in the capitals of the West must protect our interests in Cairo. We will not go this time to fight or clash, but rather to carry universal human values of cooperation, peace and prosperity.
We will not be hypocrites because we failed to be warriors. We will relay our moral message that we have always carried and that was formulated by our great religion, Islam, and Arab values.
I have always called for an international Egyptian lobby. I clearly told the delegation of the Union of Egyptians Abroad, which I had the honor to welcome to the presidential palace in September 2013, that our presence abroad is strong but our impact is weak. This necessitates an Egyptian lobby that is not subject to ideological or partisan interests and that only works for the national interest of the Egyptian state.
Former President Hosni Mubarak tried to gain some influence in the United States, and former President Mohamed Mursi tried the same. Yet Mubarak was seeking protection for his own personal project, and Mursi was seeking protection for the Muslim Brotherhood.
The time has come to establish an Egyptian lobby, not for ulterior motives, but for economic, political and military interests.
Examples set by other countries
Japan spent an annual $100 million in the 1980s on its lobby in the United States and another $300 million to influence American public opinion. Japan succeeded in attracting the most powerful men of Washington to work in her favor.
China did the same through its businessmen who had obtained American citizenship. They supported the Clinton campaign in return for the development of relations with China, and they have continued to do the same with Bush and Obama.
Something worth noting is the rise of regional lobbies that were unheard of before, such as the Turkish lobby that was launched more broadly in 2010 as the Turkish -American Associations Conglomerate and the Iranian lobby that is represented by the National Iranian-American Council.
The latter contributed to the rapprochement that is taking place in the era of the newly elected President Rawhani. Former CIA officer Robert Baer referred to that council in his book “The Devil We Know.”
The Western media is now talking about the Iraqi-Kurdish lobby that was established by the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Qobad. The lobby asked General David Petraeus to be a consultant for Massoud Barzani.
So, the Israeli lobby is no longer the only one out there. There are Middle Eastern lobbies jostling for Washington’s attention as well.
Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Palestine represent some of the strongest Arab lobbies.
Thus, there is a need for an Egyptian lobby and for coordination between all Arab lobbies in the United States and the rest of the world in order to attain long-term strategies and goals.
I believe this is quite possible. I believe we can reverse the internal lobby that works against us abroad. And I believe we can capitalize on the sons of Egypt who live abroad and are faithful to their homeland.
The Indian lobby has succeeded in changing the image of India from poverty, hunger and crime to cinema, yoga and joy, while certain Egyptians abroad have given a negative image of our country in return for a few dollars.
It is time to bring the American lobby in Egypt down and launch the Egyptian lobby in America.
This article was first published in the Egypt Independent on Dec. 8 2013.
Ahmed al-Muslemany is a presidential spokesman and media advisor to Egyptian Interim-President Adly Mansour. Previously, Muslemany was a journalist and TV presenter, hosting a daily news analysis show on Egyptian and Middle Eastern current affairs.