Mustafa Case Highlights Uneasy Egyptian-Israeli Ties
By Elizabeth Arrott
08 October 2009
A prominent Egyptian editor faces disciplinary charges for meeting with Israel's ambassador. An inquiry by her colleagues is set for the coming days, and is expected to highlight the clash between political ends and freedom of the press.
Hala Mustafa met with Israeli ambassador Shalom Cohen last month in her office at the semi-official and wholly-powerful al-Ahram media in Cairo.
The meeting violated a long-standing rule of Egypt's press syndicate, or union, that forbids any contact between its members and Israelis.
Mustafa, who edits al-Ahram's Democracy magazine, says the position, taken in 1983, is not in keeping with national interests.
"I think that Egypt, since it represents a moderate trend in the region, adopts dialogue as a method, as a tool to deal with the world," Mustafa said. "I think we have as individuals the right to follow the same policy or to adopt the same way of thinking."
Egypt's relations with Israel are among the strongest in the Arab world. Cairo prides itself on its role in trying to restart stalled peace talks and just this week, has been trying to mediate a calm between Palestinians and Israelis over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque. The two also have strong economic and scientific ties.
But members of the press syndicate argue that cultural "normalization" represents defeat. They want to keep the ban to pressure Israel over the status of Palestinians and Israel's encroachment in Arab parts of Jerusalem.
An editorial in al-Ahram Thursday likens normalization to the defeat suffered by Native Americans who let distractions lead to their doom in the battle against European settlers.
Mustafa argues that whatever the original point of the ban, it has been so widely violated as to become meaningless. She notes that among the many Egyptian writers to not only meet with Israelis but to actually visit Israel is the chairman of al-Ahram, Abdel Moneim Said, the author of that editorial.
"That is why I am talking publicly, clearly, frankly that this resolution taken by the press syndicate in the early 80s should now be revised, to be re-thought for the interest of Egypt, for the interest of the peace, for the interest of the future of the young generations, of the coming generations," Mustafa said.
Mustafa is expected to go before her colleagues Saturday to explain her actions.
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