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Monday, December 24, 2012

Egyptian blogger gets to say his piece in Jerusalem

In an earlier post, I reported that Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad had been shouted down by Arab students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Fortunately, that turned out to be a slight exaggeration. The students were eventually expelled from the hall and Nabil got to say his piece.
Nabil’s support for Israel is not as black and white as some activists would like it to be. In the simplest view, Israel is all bad, Palestinians are all good. Instead, Nabil sees shades of grey and lots of nuance. “We should differentiate between supporting Palestinian rights and being anti-Israel,” Nabil said at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Sunday. Nabil's lecture about Egypt’s historical relationship with Israel drew hundreds of students to Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and more than 50 students were turned away. “Supporting Palestinian state rights doesn’t mean that we have to deny the right of Israel to exist,” Nabil said.

“Me and my friends understand we won’t achieve democracy without peace,” Nabil explained. “[Israel and Egypt’s] fates are linked together. As long as dictatorships and authoritarian governments are using security to take our rights and our freedoms from us we will be losing our rights and moving backwards,” he said.

Nabil stressed that he had serious reservations about Israel: he doesn’t support Netanyahu, Likud, or the army’s compulsory draft. He doesn’t like the fact that religion and state are so closely intertwined or the treatment of women by the ultra-Orthodox. He is furious with Israel for propping up President Hosni Mubarak’s decades of dictatorship. And he blames Israel for making it impossible for Egyptians to visit – Nabil said he tried for two years to get a visa to visit Israel and begin a dialogue, but the Israeli embassy in Cairo refused to even meet with him.

But disagreeing with key aspects of the state doesn’t mean Egyptians should strike down the 30-year peace treaty with Israel, he stressed.  Nabil wants to concentrate on fostering an environment for Egypt’s nascent democracy to grow and thrive. Democracy cannot happen without peace and stability, he said, including peace with Israel.

“I am not saying that I am able to make a huge achievement,” said Nabil. “I just want to open a door for people who are like me, who want to approach the other side and cross these borders and break these walls and try to make a change.”
I'm kind of surprised that our embassy in Cairo wouldn't even  talk about giving him a visa. We constantly see complaints (or at least we did until Mubarak was overthrown) that hundreds of Israelis visit Egypt (including yours truly in 1980) while no Egyptians visit here. Maybe they thought he was a terrorist....

In any event, Nabil is now living in Germany. Isn't Arab democracy great?

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At 6:54 AM, Blogger Dan said...

I assume he was denied an Israeli visa to avoid alienating the Mubarak regime, which doubtless didn't care for his views...


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