I tried to tell you. “Egypt in Flux: A young pacifist versus the Egyptian army,” by Oren Kessler for the Jerusalem Post, April 22:
Hopes that post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt would be a beacon of free speech suffered a blow last week when the country”s ruling military council sentenced a well-known blogger to three years in prison. Maikel Nabil Sanad is many things that set him apart in his native country: an atheist of Coptic origin, a pacifist, and — in a country where “normalization” is often a dirty word — unabashedly pro- Israel.
Detained March 30, Sanad was given a quick show trial without his lawyers present and convicted of “insulting the military establishment” and “spreading false information.” The information he posted on his blog — on the army”s use of violence against protesters and its torture of detainees — had already been widely publicized by human rights groups like Amnesty International.
Sanad is a 25-year-old unemployed veterinarian from Asyut, a Nile-side city in Egypt’s interior near Gamal Abdel Nasser’s home village. Sanad’s blog, “Son of Ra,” can be viewed in English, Arabic and Hebrew (the last of which the blogger was studying prior to his incarceration). Reader comments in English and Hebrew gush with appreciation for the blogger’s liberal, conciliatory ideals. Those in Arabic are almost uniformly pejorative.
IN OCTOBER, Sanad announced he would refuse to serve his mandatory military service.
“Recruitment goes against my conscience,” he wrote. “I don’t want to point a weapon at a young Israeli, recruited into obligatory service, defending his state’s right to exist. I think obligatory service is a form of slavery, and I have worked for years for my freedom.”
The next week he gave an interview to the Ynet news site on how he came to be, in his own words, Egypt’s “only” pro-Israel activist.
“From a young age I read a lot about the Israeli-Arab conflict. I understood the Arab media hid facts that support Israel,” he said. “I tried to contact Israeli activists and started asking them questions, such as, “˜Is it true that Israel is a militaristic state?” or, “˜Is it true that Israel wants to expand and reach the Nile?”… Many Arabs living in Israel told me how they are really treated and how much they prefer living in Israel above any Arab state.”
He added that “if the Palestinians had a democratic leadership, everything would be solved. Take the war on Gaza for example — Hamas started it. They refused to hold elections in Gaza and took control of the regime. They planned a dictatorial and fundamentalist regime. They refused to speak to Israel, fired rockets at it and caused it to defend itself.”…