October 10, 2023 | Policy Brief

Egyptian Kills Two Israeli Tourists and Local Guide, but Cairo Remains Silent

October 10, 2023 | Policy Brief

Egyptian Kills Two Israeli Tourists and Local Guide, but Cairo Remains Silent

The day after Hamas launched its surprise attack on Israel, an Egyptian security officer — apparently acting on his own — killed two Israeli tourists and their local tour guide in Alexandria. The action itself, as well as the Egyptian government’s silence on the matter, reflects the widespread antisemitism and hatred of Israel that prevail in Egypt forty years after the two countries made peace.

Egyptian officials remained silent about the attack and did not release information about the assailant, unlike in the attack carried out a few months ago by an Egyptian guard on the Sinai border. Only former government officials, such as former Assistant Minister of Interior Khaled Yahya, discussed the matter. He called the attack an exception and warned against exaggeration. Others insisted that Egypt is still safe for tourists. The American embassy in Cairo stated on X that the attack could be motivated by the situation in Gaza.

While the Egyptian government remained silent, Tarek Al-Awadi, a prominent lawyer and member of the Presidential Pardons Committee, said that he and many fellow lawyers had volunteered to defend the perpetrator in court.

The triple murder in Alexandria took place amid an outpouring of public support for Hamas. The Egyptian foreign ministry blamed Israel alone for the conflict. Al-Azhar, the leading institution of Islamic learning in the Sunni world, released a statement saluting Saturday’s attacks, saying, “it restored our confidence” in Palestinian capabilities. Amr Adeeb, the most-watched anchor in the Arab world, told Hamas spokesman Hazem Kassm, “our hearts are with you.” Opposition candidates for the presidential election to be held in December welcomed the attack, saying it will liberate the land. Demonstrating the fervor of the Egyptian street, soccer fans of the country’s most popular club, Al-Ahly, chanted during a game: “with our lives and souls Palestine will be liberated.” The exact opposite happened in Iran where hundreds of Iranian fans chanted for authorities to remove the Palestinian flag from the pitch (though it remained).

Despite the hatred that prevails in its popular culture, Egypt has repeatedly helped the United States de-escalate Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Yet the White House and Congress should communicate to Cairo that stoking hatred only deepens the conflict. Thus, Cairo should condemn Hamas’ deliberate killing of Israeli civilians, not just Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas that sometimes cause civilian casualties.

The White House and Congress should also press Egypt to pursue a warmer official relationship with Israel instead of the current cold peace. A first step would be selecting a senior diplomat to serve as the new ambassador to Tel Aviv who will take an active public role compared to his predecessors, who arrived and left in silence. Additionally, the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv should have an active presence on social media like other Arab embassies in the city to show ordinary Egyptians that their Jewish neighbors are human beings.

Finally, the State Department should employ a carrot and stick visa policy that prevents antisemitism spouting TV anchors from accompanying Egyptian diplomatic delegations during visits to Washington. Meanwhile, the Abraham Accords Caucus in Congress meets annually with the Egyptian ambassador to discuss his government’s efforts to promote people-to-people relations. If Cairo seeks a more stable and prosperous future for itself and the region, it must bring an end to a government policy that constantly incites hatred against Jews and indoctrinates youths to hate Israel. 

Haisam Hassanein is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he analyzes Israel’s relations with Arab and Muslim countries. Follow him on Twitter @HaisamHassanei1. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Arab Politics Egypt Israel Israel at War