Egyptian MP and popular TV talk show host Tawfik Okasha was ousted from Egypt’s parliament this week. More than two-thirds (465) of the members of the Egyptian parliament voted for a bill that deprived Okasha of his seat.
Okasha was removed from the parliament after he met with Israeli Ambassador Haim Koren in his home last week.
Okasha arranged the meeting to ask the Israeli ambassador to mediate between Egypt and Ethiopia in their conflict about the building of a dam on the Nile. The meeting caused a firestorm and Okasha was described as a “traitor” and a “collaborator” with Israel.
When Okasha posted photos of the meeting on his Facebook account, his fellow MP’s and members of the Egyptian press got even more outraged and demanded his ouster from parliament.
Mustafa Bakri, an Egyptian journalist leading the anti-Okasha campaign tweeted that “Tawfiq Okasha welcoming the enemy Israeli ambassador at his house is a scandal, without exception.”
“The Camp David Accords are no excuse for him and others like him to meet with the Zionist ambassador while ignoring the blood of those slain in the homeland and Islamic nation,” the Israeli news site Ynetquoted Bakri.
Others said Okasha should now become a member of the Knesset in Israel and distributed conspiracy stories about Okasha. One report in the Egyptian media falsely claimed that Okasha’s uncle had been executed for spying for Israel while he was serving in the Egyptian army.
Egyptian lawyer Samir Sabri filed an official complaint with the Egyptian attorney general for state security and demanded that Okasha should be stripped of his parliamentary immunity and that he should be banned from leaving the country.
Okasha remained unfazed, however.
“I recognize the State of Israel and all of our agreements are consistent with my worldview,” the Egyptian MP told the paper Al-Tahrir. He also announced he would soon travel to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But on Wednesday Okasha lost his seat in parliament after he was attacked with a shoe by one his colleagues earlier this week.
This video shows the moment Okasha is banned from entering the Egyptian parliament
The Ethiopian plans to build a dam on the Nile has caused tensions between the two countries since the time of the coup that ousted former President Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).
The way the Morsi government handled the issue was one of the reasons behind the decision of the Egyptian army to topple the MB-dominated government in 2013.
A month before his government was overthrown, President Morsi convened his Cabinet to discuss the crisis with Ethiopia over the dam in the Nile.
Morsi seemed to be the only one who knew that the meeting was broadcasted live on Egyptian TV and did not succeed in preventing the members of his cabinet from discussing freely how to destabilize the Ethiopian government and from weighing the option of going to war against Israel and the U.S. over the issue.
One of the ministers even launched a new conspiracy theory against Israel when he suggested “the Nile could not fly to Israel but that the river might get some ‘subterranean wings,’” a reference to a possible Israeli plan to build a pipeline that would bring water from the Nile to the Jewish state.
Conspiracy theories about Israel are rampant in Egypt that signed a peace agreement with the Jewish state in Camp David in 1979.
As Western Journalism reported in January 2015, “the Egyptian media often publish fantastic stories that blame the Jews for every misfortune that befalls Egypt. Very often, these stories resemble classic anti-Semitic blood libels.”
One of these stories claimed that Israel was exporting carcinogenic pesticides to kill Egypt’s population.
After a shark killed a German tourist in Sharm el-Sheikh, a seaside resort in the Sinai desert, the regional governor claimed it was possible the Mossad “had placed the shark in the sea to damage Egypt’s tourism industry,” we wrote at the time.
The anti-Israel hatred in Egypt is a result of anti-Semitism that dates back to the early days of Islam. Anti-Israel conspiracies and anti-Semitic blood libels are normal in the education on Egyptian schools, as was proven by the personal story of an Egyptian girl who for a long time didn’t know that she was Jewish and fled with her family to Israel in 2005.
The girl, Meira Ovadia, now works at Palestinian Media Watch, a media watchdog that focuses on incitement against Israel and anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Media.
Ovadia first studied at a Muslim school in Egypt where she learned to hate Jews. “I was taught to hate Jews, that they were creatures with horns, a long nose and a tail, and to hate Israel, the cruelest country in the world,” she told the Hebrew paper Yediot Acharonot.
The paper wrote that “after the second Intifada broke out in 2000, solidarity with the Palestinian people and hatred of Israel were on the rise at the Muslim school that Ovadia attended,” and quoted the young woman as saying: ”On the wall in the classroom, there were two pictures. One was Muhammad Al-Dura, the child that, they explained to us, the Israelis had murdered. There was one picture taken just before he had died, and a second picture taken when he was already dead, on a stretcher. That’s what was in front of the children’s eyes – a child’s corpse.”
Ovadia’s parents eventually decided to transfer her to a Coptic Christian school where things were slightly better. They immigrated to Israel in 2005 after a Muslim gang broke into their home, told them that they were not welcome in Egypt and started searching for the males in the Jewish family.
Ovadia told Yediot Acharonot about the harrowing incident…
“Five bearded men, with weapons and clubs, broke into the house. At first, they broke the glass of the electronic gate at the entrance, and then they came inside yelling ‘Ald Al-Yahud,’ ‘the Jewish family,’ and just started to destroy the entire house. They demanded to know where the men were, but none of the men – my father, uncle, and grandfather – were home.The attackers pushed my mother and she fell. We screamed. My brother and cousin were on the roof. The attackers went up there, trampled them and shot next to their heads to scare them. We heard the shots downstairs. It was horrifying. They left the house eventually, the police came, and we took Mom to the hospital.”
The attack caused the grandfather to reveal finally to the children they were Jewish and they would soon go to Israel to build a new life in Jerusalem.
Ovadia relayed how she would check if orthodox Jews had indeed a tail after she arrived in Jerusalem. It took her a very long time to get rid of anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli stereotypes in her thinking
Itamar Marcus, her boss at Palestinian Media Watch, said that hate education from a young age has “tremendous effects and Ovadia’s story demonstrates this.”
There are no signs, however, the situation in Egypt has changed for the better since Ovadia left the country, and the story of Tawfik Okasha illustrates this.
There have been numerous reports about close security cooperation and warming ties between Egypt and Israel since current President al-Sisi took office, but Okasha’s ouster from parliament shows that freelance journalist Michael Totten’s description of the country is still relevant.
Totten, who visits the country often, called Egypt “the most anti-Semitic country in the world.”