Grapel meets with Netanyahu 311.
(photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
Ilan Grapel – the dual US-Israeli citizen arrested in Egypt this summer on
charges of espionage – said Monday he does not regret traveling to the country
and defended his conduct there as helping strengthen understanding between
Egyptians and Israelis.
In a Washington Post op-ed, the 27-year-old law
student said his visit was neither reckless nor wrong and “forgave” Egyptian
authorities for wrongly imprisoning him.
Israeli story of the year: Gilad Schalit’s release
Ilan Grapel: I want to thank the Israeli people
Grapel traveled to Egypt in May
2011 to work at a nongovernmental organization that provides legal assistance to
asylum-seekers from conflict zones. In June he was arrested at his Cairo hotel
on suspicion of working for Israeli intelligence to foment sectarian strife and
gather intelligence on the country in the wake of president Hosni Mubarak’s
“I hoped that my summer would prove that my Zionist ideals could
coexist with support for the right of human migration and sanctuary,” he wrote
in the op-ed.
Grapel was freed on October 25 – a week after the Gilad
Schalit prisoner swap – in exchange for 25 Egyptian prisoners.
Grapel reiterated that his behavior was neither reckless nor
“Israeli journalists... continue to travel to the Arab world for a
story,” he wrote on this reporter’s Facebook page. “If the same thing happened
but I was there because of journalistic reasons, the opprobrium would have been
unjustly much less.
“[T]he release of minors and prisoners who completed
or were near completion of their sentence was not humiliating to Israel. There
is a reason that Israel was the only one negotiating on the ground, and it was
not because American [sic] forced them to,” he wrote.
“With regards to my
hasbara [public diplomacy], it was not the cause of my detention (nor my main
reason for going), but it facilitated my release...Because I sometimes
told people and friends I was from Israel, the prosecutor and the mookhabarat
[secret police] strained to believe their story after a couple of
The Queens, New York, native had visited Egypt before, including
a stint studying Arabic in Cairo. During those previous visits, he wrote in the
, he had been able to engage Egyptians – even Muslim Brotherhood
members – about Israel and change some of their misconceptions.
during the summer I emphasized my Israeli background, even when I entered Egypt
as an American,” Grapel wrote. “I identified as a Zionist Israeli to all of my
Egyptian friends, taught them Hebrew and showed them Israeli movies. In return,
I received lessons in Arabic, Islam and Egyptian culture.”
served two years in the IDF and been wounded in the 2006 Second Lebanon War. He
is currently studying law at Atlanta’s Emory University.
Hebrew term that refers to efforts to explain the Israeli viewpoint, has much to
gain from such a strategy, given the pernicious myths about Israel and Jews
prevalent in much of the Arab world,” Grapel wrote.
“My hasbara provided
a viewpoint that changed the mentalities of former Muslim Brotherhood members,
the prosecutor and my guards, whose last words were ‘Shalom, we hope you forgive
us,’” he wrote. “Israelis and Arabs can continue to maintain the status quo of
mutual avoidance or they can dare to coexist. To those who wrongly held me, I
say simply, I forgive you.”
In contrast to the fanfare accompanying the
Schalit swap, Grapel’s release received relatively little coverage in Israel.
Many Israelis viewed the latter’s conduct in Egypt as ill-advised if not
downright reckless: Grapel was photographed carrying protest signs in Cairo’s
Tahrir Square and in June joked on his Facebook page that he was “preaching at
Al-Azhar,” the city’s iconic thousand-year-old mosque.Jerusalem Post
staff contributed to this report.