On September 9 three thousand Egyptians gathered at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, cheering the destruction of a recently erected wall around the complex, after which nearly one hundred protestors stormed the embassy and threw official paperwork to the crowd below. The incident was a continuation of rising tensions between Egypt and Israel, following the accidental killing of six Egyptian officers during an Israeli cross-border raid pursuing Palestinian militants in Sinai.
Minister of Information Osama al-Heikal issued strong condemnation. “The incident was an insult to Egypt – it is not fair to link it to the January revolution (which) had been a genuine, peaceful revolt that sought to bring down and replace the old regime.”
Religious spokesmen echoed his sentiment, including Christian voices from the protest itself. Earlier in the day tens of thousands of mostly youthful and liberal protestors gathered in Tahrir Square, pressuring the government on several demands, including an immediate end to the use of military trials for civilians. Among the groups represented was the Maspero Youth Union, a mostly Coptic Christian organization supporting religious and political equality.
General Coordinator Rami Kamel stated, “The incident breaks all diplomatic protocols and will result in trouble for Egypt. It is our role to pressure the government in both domestic and foreign policy, but we reject the breaking of the wall and the storming of the embassy.”
Official Muslim representation also denounced the attack. Abdel Muti al-Bayoumi is a member of the Islamic Research Academy of al-Azhar University, widely respected throughout the Islamic world as its most venerable institution. Speaking from sharia law he defended the sanctity of all foreign delegates. “The Israel ambassador resides legally in Egypt on the basis of a diplomatic visa, which was granted by the Egyptian government. In sharia law this represents ‘aqd al-aman, or a compact of security, which guarantees safety to the beneficiary.”
Even the conservative Salafi Muslim groups derided the attack as “not thought out”, and implicitly accepted the peace treaty with Israel, though with a wholly different perspective. The Salafi Call Organization stated the attack “will work in favor of Israel and will transform them from perpetrators to victims. The focus will shift from our demands to amend the Camp David agreement to Israel’s calls for help to protect their embassy in Egypt. Egyptians are united in their hate for Israel, thank God. We must fight cultural normalization [with Israel] and we should push for the international isolation of Israel.”
Bishop Marcos, chairman of the Coptic Orthodox Church Public Relations Committee, concurred that the Egyptian government should take a suitable response to Israeli violations on the Egyptian border, though he declined recommending specific steps as it was not the place of the church. Nevertheless, he condemned the attack on the embassy and stated all the wise men of Egypt do likewise.
“This event is not good for our relations with other countries; we must respect all nations and even our enemies.” Though he did not know who the perpetrators were, he refused to see the incident as evidence of sectarian problems or increasing Islamic identity.
- Storming the Israeli Embassy in Cairo: The Greater Context (asenseofbelonging.wordpress.com)