Two weeks ago, we stood in awe as we followed the news on the protests that took place in front of the Israeli embassy in Cairo. One man gave hope to thousands of Egyptians and Arabs alike; Ahmed Elshahat dubbed as “Flagman” succeeded to climb the 22-story building which housed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, and he took down the Israeli flag. This was considered an act of heroism among many Arabs and especially Palestinians. Artists drew cartoons of him, he was featured on many news articles and was interviewed on many TV stations; he was the people’s hero. The impact he had wasn’t just emotional, it was lifesaving. As Ali Abunimah said:
“Israel appears to have backed away from an even more massive assault on Gaza largely because of protests in Egypt […] this is an enormous victory for people power, and as a result lives have undoubtedly been saved.”
On September 9th, Egyptians took to the streets again to protest the military rule in Egypt. Hundreds of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square demanding an end to military trials and the military rule. In the hours of afternoon, Egyptians moved to different locations including the Ministry of Interior and the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Those who moved to the Israeli embassy in Cairo went holding sledgehammers aiming to destroy the wall built around the Israeli embassy; they succeeded.
To me, this footage is spirit-lifting! Brave Egyptians take matters into their own hands when their government fails to bring them the justice they deserve! This symbolic action brings to mind the taking down of the Berlin Wall few decades ago. But at the same time, it is something every Palestinian wishes to see happening in Palestine, the tearing down of the Israeli apartheid wall.
Photo by: Moustafa El-Masouny
After the wall was taken down, 3 Egyptian youth climbed up, again, the 20-story building to bring down the Israeli flag, and they succeeded. Flagman, the sequel!
Video footage by: Jonathan Rashad
Later on, protestors managed to get into the building from the balcony. Witnesses say that papers were thrown out of the windows of the embassy! This sparked many issues; the action of breaking into a foreign embassy could have strong legal consequences which would backfire on Egyptian revolutionaries. Now the actions of protestors were driven by emotions, people said that they accepted the “Wall” and “Flag” actions as symbolic, but breaking into the embassy and messing with documents is going too far. But, moments after reports were emerging of people breaking into the embassy, Reuters reported:
No one can get a clear view on the situation now at the Israeli embassy. But what is confirmed is that 4 hours after protestors took down the flag, Al Jazeera journalists and activists on the ground reported that Egyptian police have fired tear gas to disperse the crowd around the Israeli embassy, the military has not intervened at all, except to ease the confrontations between protestors and police by parking their armored vehicles in between. One death has been reported.
The situation is developing as I write, but I am sure this will have a strong impact on the diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel. There are rumors that the Israeli ambassador might leave Egypt; everything is possible. According to International law, breaking into the embassy is wrong. But, Israel breaks international law all the time by breaking into another country’s sovereignty, kill citizens, attack UN headquarters, build illegal settlements and etc… Who is Israel to talk about international law?
But something has left many wondering, why didn’t the Egyptian Military Council intervene at all to stop actions before it developed into this at the Israeli embassy?
Update: It is official, the Israeli ambassador, his family and his team have left Cairo towards Tel Aviv! Historic moment, but I wonder where it would lead.