The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Column: the plot against Egypt

I picked a funny time to write a column about the various conspiracies that are being sprung against noble Egypt, apparently.

I wrote it a couple of days ago, before the news about Ilan Grapel, the alleged Israeli spy who was everywhere broke. It seems this guy managed to be in Tahrir, at the church arsons in Sol in March and Imbaba in May, and various other occasions. He's a real troublemaker, oh yes, and served in the IDF in Lebanon 2006 so is guaranteed to be an asshole.

There's much skepticism circulating about this story, of course: the previous regimes kept accusing people of the most unlikely of conspiracies, would quickly eke out a confession with torture, sent them to be tried by a crooked judge and then the whole affair would be quickly forgotten if they were lucky and acquitted on appeal. I remember the young Islamists who were supposed to have dangerous banned literature, according to the police, until the judge pointed out that he owned copies of the same books which were academic theological treatises. The Israeli spy who infiltrated the revolution, brought to you by the country with the Mossad sharks. It's easy to be a skeptic. 

With his background, of course, this guy could very well be a spy. Or stupid enough to think it's ok to be an Israeli who recently served in the IDF (mind you they have compulsory military service in Israel, so a lot of people go through that unless they have the moral courage to do national service instead and not participate in the occupation and repression of the Palestinian people) and still hang out in Egypt at a moment of massive political upheaval. But hardly anyone is going to take this seriously unless the government shows real proof, not just snapshots from Tahrir. 

What also worries me is the media coverage of the story. First, newspapers were given pictures to publish showing Grapel in Tahrir and various locations. Why? If the investigation is so serious, if he is innocent until proven guilty, why are the security services sharing this information with the media? Why are the intelligence services parading Grapel around like some kind of treasure trophy before a complete investigation, and even (according to Zenobia) offering the media a copy of his Israeli passport?) If it looks like propaganda, is probably is propaganda.  Secondly, it is ominously reported that he hung out with foreigners including foreign journalists — because of course that is suspicious in itself. More strumming of the xenophobic chord that we saw in the Mubarak era and during the revolution itself.

Spy or not, is this the way an intelligence service should behave?

Update: I forgot to add something else about the Ilan Grapel story. One of the main tasks of this alleged Mossad spy was apparently to incite the crowds in Tahrir. As if they needed incitement. This is really quite disgusting, it's a minimization of the role of activists in Tahrir at best and a reframing of the revolution as the product of Mossad at worst. Consider that today's al-Ahram top headline is "The Israeli spy incited people at al-Azhar against the army." So is the idea now that any criticism against the military is espionage? Pathetic.