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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 16:48 GMT 17:48 UK
Egypt protest indicates Arab mood
By Magdi Abdelhadi
Arab affairs analyst, BBC News, Cairo

Hezbollah flags and pictures of its leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, were on display in Cairo on Wednesday as Egyptian demonstrators protested against the Israeli attack on Lebanon.

Next to them were pictures of the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser - the man who for decades symbolised Arab revolt against Western hegemony some 50 years ago.

Protesters hold pictures of Nasrallah and Nasser
Cairo protesters hold up pictures of Nasrallah and Nasser
This was a small demonstration - there are few who dare challenge emergency laws in Egypt.

Demonstrating could land you in jail, and the intimidating state security police outnumbered the protesters here.

But the slogans are very much in tune with the public mood in the region.

The protesters say that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is fighting to free Lebanese and Palestinian captives, while Arab leaders are impotent and cannot stop Israeli bombs falling over Arab cities.

Fiery speeches

The demonstrators here do not believe that Hezbollah is fighting Israel on behalf of Iran, as it is widely believed elsewhere.

But the most interesting thing about this protest was that the demonstrators were flying pictures of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah next to those of the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser - the army officer who became a symbol of Arab pride and independence from Western influence back in the 1950s.

Is Nasrallah then becoming a new kind of Nasser? Like Nasser, Nasrallah is a charismatic and populist politician who knows how to rouse the masses with fiery speeches.

He is also fiercely anti-Israeli, as was Nasser. But Nasser's battles with the Israelis ended in disaster and no-one knows yet how it will turn out for Nasrallah.

But the linkage between Nasser and Nasrallah speaks volumes about the mood of the region.

And the question is whether the Arab world is on the threshold of a new era of radical politics with characteristic hostility to Israel and the West, as dominated the region 50 years ago.

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