Egyptian journalist rebukes union for retaining boycott of Israel

The shocking punitive action by the Journalists Syndicate comes against the background of a more than forty-year-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.

 Convention of the general assembly of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate, March 17, 2023 (photo credit: MEMRI)
Convention of the general assembly of Egypt's Journalists Syndicate, March 17, 2023
(photo credit: MEMRI)

A series of media articles from Israel’s largest Muslim nation neighbor Egypt provide a window into anti-Israel sentiments within the Arab country, as well as to scarce objections to Egypt’s Journalist Syndicate voting unanimously to extend its ban on normalization with the Jewish state.

One Egyptian journalist and politician, Osama Al-Ghazali Harb, bucked the anti-Israel boycott measure of his fellow journalists.

The Middle East Media Research Institute located the article by Harb and translated excerpts on May 1 of his column. MEMRI also published and translated other reports in the Egyptian and Arab media that reveal Egyptian civil society’s frosty relations with Israel and antisemitic attacks on Jews. MEMRI said "the peace between them has remained cold and normalization between the two countries is limited.” 

The shocking action comes against the background of Israel-Egypt peace agreement

The shocking punitive action by the Journalists Syndicate comes against the background of a more than forty-year-old peace agreement between Israel and Egypt. The Egyptian Writers’ Union also outlaws normalization with Israel.

 Refaat Rashad (credit: MEMRI) Refaat Rashad (credit: MEMRI)

Harb, who is also a politician, wrote in a March column in Al-Arham “Personally, I am totally against the decision passed by the general assembly of the Journalists Syndicate against normalization with the Zionist entity. In my opinion this decision is mistaken from the professional, national and legal perspectives, because a journalist is not an ordinary citizen, but a professional whose job is to seek information and verify [the truth about] incidents and events. This certainly applies to a neighboring country, and even more so when that country is a rival and a competitor.”

He continued "As an Egyptian citizen, I like to be informed about events in Israel. [In fact], there are journalists from all over the world in Israel, including from Arab countries that have normalized their relations with it, namely Jordan, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, and of course Palestinian journalists. Some Arab channels have correspondents of their own in Israel. So why this professional laziness [of ours], disguised in eager and flowery rhetoric against the Zionist entity?”

Harb added "In my assessment, this decision is wrong on the national level! Who is it that has an interest in hiding the events in Israel from the Egyptian people and the Egyptian citizen, as though Israel is covered in darkness, and thereby reviving the climate that existed before 1967, when knowing about Israel was taboo? Do you remember senior journalist Ahmed Bahaa Al-Din, who, after the Israeli aggression and the defeat of 1967, felt compelled to publish his famous book Isra'iliyya in order to explain Israel to the Egyptian people?”

He noted that "This decision of the Journalists Syndicate is [also] wrong from the legal perspective, since no institution – be it a syndicate or any other body – may deny any citizen his legal right to visit Israel before any other [destination]!

Finally, I inform my dear fellow journalists that, just for your information, more than 566,000 tourists passed through the Taba crossing [between Israel and Egypt] last year, 124,000 of whom visited Sharm Al-Sheikh and 54,000 of whom came to Cairo to tour its streets and enjoy its attractions!."

The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate voted on March,17 to continue its ban on normalization with Israel and investigate any member who commits "the crime of normalization," by means of personal action, professional action or on behalf of the syndicate. Participants at the March  meeting of the Journalists Syndicate chanted "down with Israel!" and "No to normalization with the Zionist entity."

Culture war has unfolded in Egypt

A new culture war has unfolded in Egypt and the attacks are directed at the US streaming film company Netflix and Jews.

The Netflix docudrama series “Queen Cleopatra” has created intense controversy in Egypt because it features a black actress in the role of Cleopatra.  According to MEMRI, sizable numbers of Egyptians, including officials and journalists, believe the series is "falsifying" Egyptian history by depicting Cleopatra as African when she was in fact Macedonian and therefore "light-skinned with Hellenic features."

Writing for the Al-Watan daily in early May, the Egyptian journalist Refa'at Rashad blamed Jews for the "historical distortion" in the series.

Rashad wrote "The series [about] Cleopatra is another link in the chain of mind-control by the Jews, who dominate global media and culture… We should examine [their] hidden agendas, because the matter [at stake] is not [just] a dispute about a historical issue or a case of ignorance about something the whole world knows.”

He continued “ The point is what [the Jews intend to do] after implanting certain ideas in the mind of the world, especially in the minds of the Egyptians and of the younger generations. For their aim is to uproot in advance the Egyptians' motivation to defend their history and their culture, [and the series about] Cleopatra will not be the end of the matter."