Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pro-Israel Egyptian activist: Our fates are linked

Tahrir Square activist Maikel Nabil Sanad visits Israel, wants to promote peace in order for Egyptian democracy to thrive
(JPost) As the revolution swelled in Cairo’s Tahrir Square nearly two years ago, there was a lot of passion and uncontrolled anger in the streets. But the angry momentum of a popular uprising needs short and pithy slogans. In Tahrir Square, there was no room for nuance.

Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad was a central activist in Tahrir Square. An avowed pacifist, Nabil founded of the “No to Compulsory Military Service” movement in 2009 and was one of Egypt’s first conscientious observers.

But Nabil has also been an ardent supporter of Israel. In 2010, when he refused to join the military, he posted on his blog: “I also am not willing to be a pawn on the chessboard of an arms race, struggles and bloodbaths in the region. I don't want to point a weapon at a young Israeli, recruited into obligatory service, defending his state's right to exist.”

Nabil’s support for Israel is not as black and white as some activists would like it to be. In the simplest view, Israel is all bad, Palestinians are all good. Instead, Nabil sees shades of grey and lots of nuance. “We should differentiate between supporting Palestinian rights and being anti-Israel,” Nabil said at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on Sunday. Nabil's lecture about Egypt’s historical relationship with Israel drew hundreds of students to Hebrew University's Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, and more than 50 students were turned away. “Supporting Palestinian state rights doesn’t mean that we have to deny the right of Israel to exist,” Nabil said.

“Me and my friends understand we won’t achieve democracy without peace,” Nabil explained. “[Israel and Egypt’s] fates are linked together. As long as dictatorships and authoritarian governments are using security to take our rights and our freedoms from us we will be losing our rights and moving backwards,” he said.