Pro-Israeli Egyptian Activist Receives Hostile Welcome in Tel Aviv

Egyptian peace blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad gets heckled and insulted by Arab-Israeli protesters.

Lolita Brayman
Lolita Brayman
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Lolita Brayman
Lolita Brayman

Egyptian peace activist-blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad – on his first visit to Israel after being denied travel permits by Egyptian authorities and the Israeli embassy in Cairo - was heckled and insulted during a Wednesday-evening appearance at Tel Aviv University.

Israeli Arab protesters interrupted Sanad's speech to an assembly of international students on several occasions, challenging him to answer difficult questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the occupation and Palestinian hunger strikers in Israeli prisons. The protestors, who numbered five at the most, interrupted Sanad's presentation by cursing him in Arabic. University security finally escorted them out of the hall after one had run up to the podium screaming and calling Sanad a traitor. One demonstrator asked why Sanad had not scheduled a similar presentation in Ramallah, and asked, “Are you happy the Jews clap for you? You are a traitor and a spy.”

Currently, Sanad is studying for a Master’s degree in Public Policy in Erfurt University, Germany, but he is a human rights activist first and foremost and was sentenced to a 3 year prison term in 2011 for his political activity and outspoken published articles about the Egyptian military's human rights violations. He founded the “No Compulsory Military Service Movement” in 2009 against obligatory military conscription in Egypt.

He was released from prison only after a 130 day hunger strike and the intervention of the Geneva-based advocacy group, UN Watch.

The activist and blogger says the aim of his Israeli trip is to emulate the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, who visited Israel in 1977 and signed a peace treaty in 1979, and to end the monopoly that governments have over peace processes. He says he wants to promote peaceful Israeli-Egyptian relations, which he contends will enable the development of true democracy in Egypt, and calls for an end to what he calls the dictatorships of former president Hosni Mubarak and current President Mohamed Morsi.

Sanad remained calm despite the tumult during his TAU speech. He responded to his hecklers with a popular Egyptian saying: “Raising your voice is evidence of your weak position.”

Sanad was also the target of some respectful criticism from an international Arab student in the audience who accused the Egyptian of pro-Israel activism. “I do understand why the Arab Israelis were upset but that is no justification for their rude behavior,” the student said, calling Sanad and the protestors “immature” and suggesting that “reasonable adults” take over.

Jay Rosen, director of TAU's International Program in Conflict Resolution and Mediation which co-sponsored the event, regretted that a guest of the university was insulted on TAU grounds. Rosen called the protesters' behavior “a perfect example of how and what we teach our students not to do when addressing the thorniest of issues.”

Hecklers at Tel Aviv University.Credit: Lolita Brayman

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