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Joseph: Hello and welcome to today’s EMET webinar. My name is Joseph Epstein, and I am EMET’s Director of Legislative Affairs. It is my pleasure to host Khalid Hassan Zakaria. Khalid is a national security and counter-terrorism researcher. He is an Egyptian and a native Arabic speaker. His research interests include propaganda and antisemitism in the Arab world, terrorism, and extremism. He leads the Western Security Network, a non-profit organization established to promote Western national security interests. The Western Security Network works to counter the threat of extremism and to combat authoritarianism. Khalid holds an MA in intelligence and national security. He has over 14 years of experience working in intelligence, political analysis, risk and crisis management. He partners with the private sector and with international and government organizations. While in Egypt, Khalid was a young ambassador of the Arab Peace Initiative, seeking to end the Arab-Israeli conflict. Today, Khalid will examine decriminalization of support for terrorism. In recent years, there has been a growing debate around the effectiveness of existing anti-terrorism laws. This is true particularly as regards those using philanthropic organizations to transmit support to designated terrorist organizations.

Before we start, I would like to mention that our work at EMET is only possible with your support. If you find what we do informative and helpful, please consider sponsoring a future webinar or contributing to EMET. It is your help and support that allows us to continue our work promoting truth on Capitol Hill. Specifically, we work to ensure a prosperous and peaceful Israel in the Middle East, fight the influence of the Iranian regime, increase US national security, and improve the welfare of Jewish Americans.

Today’s webinar will be recorded for future viewing, and I encourage those of you who find the webinar informative to share the link once it has been sent out. If you have any questions for our speaker, please feel free to write them in the Q&A function at the bottom of your screen. Without further ado, I would like to introduce Khalid Hassan.

Khalid: Hi Joseph. Thanks for having me.

Joseph: We are really glad for you to be here. So, before we discuss the topic of today’s webinar, please introduce yourself and tell us your story. It is a fascinating one and I think our audience would be really interested in it.

Khalid: Thank you very much. I am a British Egyptian. I was born in Cairo in 1990 and I am Egyptian born and bred. I come from a middle-class non-traditional Muslim Egyptian family. My family was relatively liberal and I was educated at an American school. Attending an American school with access to English-speaking resources, helped make me who I am today. Over the years, I started to become resentful of what I observed around me.

The 2011 Arab Spring was the turning point for me. After a couple of years of massive protests, the Muslim Brotherhood took over Egypt. My undergraduate degree focused on business, economics and information technology. After that, I worked in Cairo with the United Nations Volunteers Program, and the United Nations Development Program. As a result, I became more and more interested in public affairs generally and developed a huge interest in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Over the years, I found myself working with two former ministers of foreign affairs in Egypt. My association with them helped me understand how and why things work the way they do in the Middle East. In 2016, prior to leaving Egypt for the UK, I was a member of President Sisi’s presidential campaign. I was also nominated by the US Ambassador in Cairo to the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). The IVLP is a US State Department soft power program, which invests in emerging leaders. I could not join the IVLP because they nominated me just as I was moving to the UK. However, I did work with American diplomats and different organizations across the region.

I was greatly impacted by my involvement in a program sponsored by the EU and other organizations. The objective of this program was to unite Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli youth. We spent a week together in Cyprus. We got to know each other and spoke respectfully to each other. I was responsible for organizing the Egyptian delegation. I realized what the Egyptian delegation was saying publicly did not match their private views at all. They would engage in discussions about peace in public and then approach me after and ask why they were even attending the program. They knew they would never make peace with the Jews. For me, the difference between their public utterances and private opinions, was really quite staggering.

I think the gathering took place in 2014. This was the first time I had engaged with Israelis in person. Although I have a Muslim name, I was never really a Muslim. As I mentioned, I grew up in a relatively liberal family and I was non-religious in every way. I lived a very Westernized lifestyle. I had a girlfriend and drank alcohol, as did many Egyptians. Over the years, I developed an interest in Judaism as well. I believe in God. I believe this universe did not develop accidentally and nothing happens coincidentally. I started reading about different religions, and I ended up converting to Judaism. That is a short summary of my very long story.

After I returned to Egypt, I met with the most senior diplomats in Cairo. I met with the Arab League, the EU and different Egyptian diplomats to promote the Arab Peace Initiative. I believed in the Arab Peace Initiative. However, today, on Twitter, I am often accused of not really caring about Palestinians. This is because I am against the creation of a Palestinian state. I do not believe a Palestinian state should exist right now but not because I do not believe in Palestinians. My objection stems from my understanding of what a Palestinian state actually means. Palestinians themselves have told me that a Palestinian state is just a milestone towards the destruction of the state of Israel. As such, it would be dishonest and immoral of me to suggest otherwise.

I come from an initial position of believing Israel could have peace with the Palestinians. I believed peace could be achieved in the same way it had been achieved with Egypt and Jordan. I believed in the land for peace paradigm and I assumed it would work to create peace with the Palestinians. I was convinced there would be peace if Israel was to give up half of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. Given my experience, I now realize this view was naive. Unfortunately, many in the West cling to the belief that a two-state solution will lead to a sustainable peace in the Middle East. Those who have actually engaged with Palestinians, know this is not true. President Mubarak, President Sadat and President Clinton all said publicly that they gave the Palestinians the land they demanded but to no avail. I think President Clinton said he gave them almost 97% of the land they wanted in Judea and Samaria, and they still refused.

Those engaging in this conflict in an in-depth manner will understand that a Palestinian state is not possible. Given my experience in this arena, I have concluded that the two-state solution is a fantasy which is not achievable. I went from a position of believing in the Arab Peace Initiative to one of believing the Palestinians do not deserve a state at this point. That is my view.

I do not focus on providing historical arguments when putting forward my objection to a Palestinian state. This is because detractors will deny any historical facts or context. As an example, they will deny that Tel Aviv was built by Jews irrespective of any historical fact. As such, I prefer to concentrate on the argument that a Palestinian state means rewarding Hamas. A Palestinian state rewards terrorism and provides an incentive for Palestinians to attack Israel again and again in the future.

Joseph: I really appreciate your perspective. It surprises me that such an initiative was even able to exist in a place like Egypt. During Sadat’s time, he tried to open up cultural ties between Israel and Egypt. I think Sadat opened the Israeli Cultural Center. After he was assassinated, the initiative to develop cultural ties between the two countries was closed down. Was the initiative you were part of organized in cooperation with the Egyptian government?

Khalid: No. The Egyptian government was not part of it at all. I took the initiative to meet with diplomats and suggest new ideas but it was very challenging. I think a good way to describe it might be to compare it to the situation in Iran. Many people in Iran are quite pro-Israel even though the government is completely anti-Israel. In Egypt, the opposite is true. The government is somewhat pro-Israel. They have a good understanding of Israel’s position when it comes to Hamas and have a common understanding with Israel in other areas as well. President Sisi mentioned Egypt’s unprecedented cooperation with the Israelis on different occasions. He has actually spoken about the Israelis in a very positive way. The people in Egypt, however, are inherently antisemitic. This means that anyone who actually calls for peace is regarded negatively.

After I returned to Egypt, I was invited to attend a political gathering for young Egyptian men and women. Those were the years of the Moslem Brotherhood and of great political instability. Somebody in the gathering blamed all of the instability in Egypt on a Zionist conspiracy. I remember pushing back and trying to discuss what I had learned from the Israelis I met. I wanted to let them know that the Israelis meant them no harm. Before I could finish my sentence, I was called a traitor, and was loudly booed. It was a huge gathering and I was forced to leave. So, that is the problem. The people are systematically, culturally, and socially antisemitic to such an extent that anyone who calls for peace should be really scared for their lives.

Joseph: Yeah. The situation in Egypt is really unfortunate. Peace between Egypt and Israel has never actually been a warm peace even though I think Anwar Sadat intended it to be.

Let’s get to the subject of decriminalization of support for terrorism. Can you tell us in general, what that trend is in Western countries?

Khalid: To be honest, I think the trend is very grim and it keeps me up at night. In Egypt, there is support for terrorism on cultural and societal levels. People support Hamas as a resistance organization. However, the moment somebody calls for Jihad in a public forum, they are arrested. In Egypt they are arrested and dealt with very strictly. In London, that is not the case. After October 7th, someone called for Jihad from the heart of London. The police justified this by saying that Jihad could mean an internal struggle and could mean different things. I found this attempt to justify calls for Jihad absolutely unbelievable.

In the West, we develop social media platforms. These social media platforms are now being used by terrorist organizations to promote terrorism. They are being exploited by Islamists and by extremist Muslims. They are being used by Iran, by Russia and by everyone against us in the West. We are not doing anything about this because we believe it is freedom of expression. We believe we should allow systematic and sustained attacks against us in social media. The mainstream media is following a similar path. As an example, the BBC does not call Hamas terrorists, because for them that is a politicized term. As such, the BBC is essentially the same as Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar, which funds Hamas. So, this is where we are now.

Our mainstream media, social media and politicians, are too terrified to address the fact that over 50% of British Muslims are sympathetic towards Hamas. This was revealed as part of the results of a recent survey. No one talks about it because no one wants to be accused of racism or Islamophobia. So, on every single level, people are either indifferent or complicit in normalizing support for terrorism. Even Biden and Pelosi are involved in this.

Recently, Nancy Pelosi actually referred to allegations from a Hamas report as legitimate. She used figures from a Hamas report to assert that Israel killed over 34,000 innocent Palestinians, and civilians. Can you imagine if someone had told us to use an Al-Qaeda report as a legitimate source a few years ago? It is nonsense and it is unbelievable. We have now reached the point where the leader of the free world, Biden, is actually repeating and parroting Hamas lies, and no one is doing anything about it. That is where we are now. Support for terrorism has been mainstreamed and normalized. That is the challenge we are facing.

The American constitution, and the right to freedom of speech means that anyone can say anything with very limited restrictions. In the UK, if somebody calls Hamas a resistance movement worthy of support, it is a criminal offense. They should be arrested for supporting terrorism. That is the law in the UK and in most countries in the EU as well. Unfortunately, we are seeing this change all of a sudden. People now go on TV and openly support terrorism. This is apocalyptic. I am not sure if you have heard about an incident that occurred a couple of days ago. The police arrested three people planning to carry out an ISIS-style attack against British Jews. They were actually going to use machine guns to carry out an ISIS-style attack on a synagogue or other community here in the UK. We are starting to see the culmination of all of the hateful rhetoric. However, no one is doing anything about it because there is no political will. No one is willing to do anything about this.

Joseph: What do you think needs to happen before this threat is addressed? In European countries, the threat is not just to Jews.

Khalid: Honestly, it is a very difficult question because the answer is difficult. I think it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. It is going to get a lot worse before anyone is willing to do anything about it. At this stage, I think it is a feature of our system, and not a bug. Rishi Sunak is our prime minister but I suspect he will have to call for an early election before the end of next year, at the latest. So, his term will end in months and not years and there is no incentive for him to deal with this problem?

We have many extremists in our Muslim society. We have been investigating and reporting on Imams cursing Jews in mosques during their Friday sermons. They are openly stating that God curses the Jews and they are calling on their congregations to support their brothers in Hamas. They are supporting Jihad quite freely. I think nobody is willing to do anything about it, because it does not really impact most people. We know that people tend not to respond to risks unless they believe they will be affected immediately. If you know of someone near you who is poor and struggling with healthcare, you are unlikely to make his issue your immediate priority. However, if you observe your next-door neighbor and everyone around you struggling with this same issue, you may start to become concerned that the issue could impact you personally. That is what I think is going to happen.

After October 7th, I spoke to my neighbor about the war with Hamas. He is an average Christian British guy with no connection to Israel. His immediate response was that the situation is very complicated. He did not even acknowledge the atrocities committed by Hamas. It is always very complicated and that is the challenge. No one is recognizing the threat. People have been talking about the threat of extremism in Europe for ten or twenty years. They have been discussing the growing threat of extremism across the UK, especially within the Muslim community. I am not going to lie to you, the threat of extremism in the UK is a fact. Our internal secret service agency recognizes that Islamist terrorism is the principal threat to the UK. This is because we have many extremists in Muslim communities.

Joseph: Do you think part of the reason this extremism has been normalized is because of leftist sympathy with the Palestinians and with “resistance movements”, like Hamas.

Khalid: I think the problem is that Israel has tanks. It has the Iron Dome and the most sophisticated air force in the region. We are proud of this. However, Israel is now seen as an occupying force and an oppressor while the Palestinians, including Hamas, are seen as the victims. This worldview is powerful in many ways.

In 2011, I remember talking to a Jewish American who is now a very good friend of mine. We were discussing a person who had been shot after throwing stones at the IDF. At the time I argued that the person was merely throwing a stone and should not be shot as a consequence. It was easy to think of the stone thrower as the weak victim and the trained soldier as the oppressor. However, stones can kill people. They can kill people just as knives do and they can kill children. The mainstream media has been playing a horrific role in encouraging terror by convincing people to view the conflict in terms of the oppressor and the oppressed. Many in their audience are people who do not understand the conflict. They do not speak the local language and they have never spent any time living in the Arab world. Those who understand the reality of the situation, as I do, realize the Palestinians are not victims. Since October 7th, Palestinians have been receiving aid by land, air, and sea.

I think about a million people are expected to die of famine in Sudan in the next few months. They are not receiving sufficient aid to avert this catastrophe. No one is receiving aid in the way the Palestinians are. The Palestinians are not the underdog at all. Before the first and second Intifadas, Israel did not have checkpoints and fences like it does today. Israel did not create these barriers to humiliate Palestinians. They built these checkpoints to protect innocent Israeli civilians.

Joseph: Yeah. I served in a police unit and we had rocks thrown at us. What starts with rocks never ends with rocks. It leads to Molotov cocktails, and fireworks. It is an unfortunate situation, especially when there are children involved. On Jewish holidays, teachers would dismiss children early from school to come and throw rocks at us. The teachers encouraged the children in this endeavor. The teachers were obviously the real criminals in that situation. At the same time, when you are facing an immediate threat, you have to deal with it.

I would like to return to the discussion on normalization of terrorism. Why are British politicians turning a blind eye to terror when they themselves are not extremists and do not hold extremist values? They serve the British people. What do you think is motivating their behavior?

Khalid: In many cases, I think it is driven by antisemitism. Not everyone who is an antisemite wears a swastika. Many people are antisemitic without even realizing it. Many people’s antisemitic views are intertwined with their socialist and communist ideals. As somebody who grew up in Egypt, I find it quite depressing to observe. Egypt was a socialist country under Nasser. Everyone in my mom’s generation had to wait at home for their letter of appointment after they graduated. They were then instructed about where and when they needed to report to begin their jobs. There was no choice. That was part of the reality of the socialist landscape. These socialist and communist visions are 100% misleading and 100% unrealistic. I find it hilarious whenever someone living in London tells me they are a socialist, or a communist. These people are espousing ideas they know nothing about. Similarly, they need to be told they are not qualified to opine on the conflict in the Middle East and they need to stop talking about it.

They have never spent any time in the Middle East. They have not engaged sufficiently with people from the Middle East to develop educated opinions. They do not understand the conflict and have no right to opine on it. They do not talk about Syria like they talk about Israel. They do not talk about Sudan or Libya like they talk about Israel. They need to ask themselves why they discuss Israel as obsessively as they do. If they are concerned about justice and injustice, they should ask themselves why they do not have a similar level of concern and interest in the events in Libya and Yemen.

Those justifying stone-throwing should ask themselves if Egyptian policemen would accept having stones thrown at them. If somebody throws a stone at an Egyptian policeman, they will be arrested and likely beaten. They will have a criminal record, which will mean that they will probably never get a decent job. Their criminal record will affect their children as well. If their children apply to the military or the police, their father’s criminal record will count against them.

Which other country would accept having their police attacked with stones? Would the British, German or French police accept it?  We have to ask these questions and we have to hold our politicians accountable. We have to increase our influence. This is the only thing I see standing between us and watching Britain turn into an Egypt. We have to reach out to our politicians. We have to make sure that they get the educational material they need. We have to make sure that they actually experience what we are experiencing and see what we are seeing. Many different delegations visit Israel. They see what is actually happening on the ground in Israel and I hope this encourages them to make the right decisions. These delegations have been somewhat successful so far but not as successful as I would like them to be.

I will mention an example of how we can make a difference. Amer Zahr is an American Palestinian comedian. He promotes many falsehoods about the Palestinian cause on Twitter. I offered to debate him. I told him I was an Egyptian and I wanted to debate him. He told me he was coming to London at the end of April and agreed to participate in the debate at that time. I reported him to the authorities and to other organizations as well. He should not be allowed in the UK. He supports Leila Khaled, a terrorist who was involved in the kidnapping of civilians. He openly supports Hamas. He supports the Houthis and Hezbollah, prescribed terror organizations under British law. The British authorities did nothing about his visit. He came to London and gave a speech expressing his gratitude to the people who are defending his country’s North. He was referring to Hezbollah. Hezbollah is attacking Israel’s North. He was also referring to the people in Yemen who are defending his country’s interests by attacking ships. So, he came to the UK, violated our laws and went and then went back to the US.

We have been engaging with the home office, the UK interior ministry. The UK interior ministry is a ministry of security. A day or two after we contacted them, they announced they are developing a task force to block extremists from entering the UK. That is amazing news and that illustrates that our actions do have an impact. We are making sure politicians are aware of what is happening. We told them we had warned them about Amer Zahr and they had done nothing about it. As a result, he came to London and openly violated our laws. They finally took action. It is late, but it is better late than never.

Joseph: That is fascinating. I am happy to hear that you guys are able to have that impact. I think you said earlier that 51% of British Muslims are sympathetic toward Hamas. If just 10% of British Muslims are vocal about their support for Hamas, that is a massive number of people. How are you able to crack down on those extremists using British law?

Khalid: That is the most challenging question for politicians right now. They are not having the conversation we are having right now and they do not want to have it. They do not want to use the term extremist Muslim although they refer to Israeli settlers as extremists all the time. David Cameron, our foreign secretary and Biden are now saying they are going to sanction settlers because they are extremists. They say it openly. They refer to Christians as maniacs, extremists and racists but never say that about Muslims. I think they are afraid of being called racist. They also do not want to be attacked personally. They do not want the death threats which would occur if they criticized Muslims as they do other religions. If I were the British prime minister, I would enact a new citizenship law banning immigrants who are harmful to our national security and our social cohesion.

I am not sure if you heard of Bassam Yusef. Bassam’s mom taught at the university in Egypt where I completed my undergraduate degree. Bassam is obviously antisemitic and he openly promotes antisemitism. However, he is now an American national and there is nothing to stop him from doing this. We should have laws across the West ensuring those who do not belong here, have their citizenship stripped. I am talking about values and ideologies. Immigrants should have their citizenships stripped if their values and ideologies do not align with those of the West. It is as easy as that.

Joseph: Thank you. I would like to open up to questions from the audience. We have quite a few questions about the current situation in Egypt. I have heard different narratives about the reason Egypt is acting as it is. They obviously have to present an anti-Israel face publicly. This may explain their anti-Israel statements and their support for South Africa’s court case against Israel. At the same time, it seems they are truly worried about Israeli operations on the Philadelphi Corridor. The Philadelphi Corridor is the strip of land along the Gaza-Egypt border. I have heard a couple of alternatives explaining their concern about this. The first is that they think these operations are an Israeli plot to move Gaza into Egypt. The second is that they do not want Israel to expose the highway of tunnels connecting Egypt to Gaza. We knew that some tunnels existed but some are saying the tunnel network is far worse than expected and shows culpability on the side of the Egyptian government. What are your thoughts on that?

Khalid: President Sisi spoke about this a couple of years ago. He said when he was head of military intelligence, he asked his bosses why Egypt was allowing that many tunnels to go from Gaza into Sinai. These tunnels were already built in the time of President Mubarak.

Many Bedouin people live in the Sinai. There are twin cities in Gaza and Egypt which are basically an extension of each other. The same applies to the communities. Many people in Sinai have relatives in Gaza. The Bedouins did not really recognize borders, until recently. They were also not allowed to serve in the Egyptian military until recently, because they were not seen as loyal or nationalist enough. They served as guides to help the military navigate the Sinai during periods like the Yom Kippur war but they did not have a military rank. The Bedouin lifestyle and skillsets help to illustrate why the issue of the border area between Egypt and Gaza is very complicated.

Personally, I do not believe that President Sisi’s government is complicit in this at all. As I mentioned, President Sisi recognized this challenge as head of military intelligence and he worked towards eliminating the threat. Before he became president, the Muslim Brotherhood were open about their objective of having terrorists set the Sinai on fire. They followed up on this threat. There were numerous attacks at that time and we know they were supported by Hamas. In 2008, Hamas actually went into Egypt and killed Egyptian soldiers. The Egyptian military and intelligence do not see Hamas as an ally at all. Of course, there could be corruption and some people on the Sinai side could be guilty of this. The point is that the Egyptian military and the Egyptian government are not complicit in this. They are not allowing the building of tunnels and they are not looking away.

I want to mention something else. After President Sisi took over as leader of Egypt, he created a buffer zone between the borders of Gaza and Egypt. This buffer zone was very controversial because it required the military to remove people from their homes. There were multiple tunnels built from Gaza directly into people’s homes there. The tunnels were invisible to those on the outside and could be used by terrorists after dark. Since terrorists could enter these homes completely undetected, the military had to evacuate an area of around four to six kilometers in the border area. This, by the way, is a huge area for a buffer zone. President Sisi spent a lot of money on this. Reportedly, the Egyptian government used gas and seawater to destroy the tunnels although Hamas begged them not to do it. Those with military experience know that what President Sisi did is not easy. People believing in conspiracy theories accused him of evacuating the area for Palestinians but I do not believe that the Egyptian government is at all complicit in the tunnels built between Gaza and Israel. That said, there is definitely the possibility of corruption. For example, a Bedouin tribe sympathetic to the Palestinians, or with business ties to Hamas could be involved.

Joseph: Israel has Gaza fully blockaded from one side. It is difficult to imagine anything would get through to Gaza from Israel. Since President Sisi undertook the operation to clear the tunnels, many weapons have been smuggled into Gaza. Fighters have also been exiting Gaza on their way to train in Iran, and then re-entering. It is hard to imagine they would be exiting and re-entering Gaza from anywhere else but Egypt. Do you think there is a chance Egypt has been persuaded to turn a blind eye to some of the tunnels? Is it possible a country like Qatar may have pressured or paid Egypt to ignore the tunnels.

Khalid: I do not think that is the case at all. On the Egyptian side, decision-making happens on many different levels. Many low-level people in the military and the police are sympathetic to Hamas. On the other hand, most senior level Egyptian government officials are very against Hamas and even against the Palestinians in general. They have had enough of the Palestinians exploiting Egypt and causing trouble in the region. So, low level people may be open to bribery. However, I do not think Qatar is in a position to drive or pressure Egypt in any way because Egypt’s relationship with Qatar is already as bad as it can be. By the way, Israel discovered a lot of tunnels from Gaza into Israel that were previously unknown. Those discoveries obviously do not mean that Israelis support Hamas. It is impossible to detect tunnels with 100% accuracy.

There is a term used in social sciences called path dependence. This means that once you have made certain choices, you are locked into a certain path whether you like it or not. Choices determine consequences. I think today Egypt is turning from a mediator in this conflict, to an adversary of Israel. This is because their society has chosen the path of antisemitism.

We have to recognize one more issue impacting the complicated relationship between Israel and Egypt. Israel violated the Egypt-Israel peace treaty during their recent operations. According to the peace treaty, the Philadelphi corridor should be governed by the Palestinians. Israel is violating the agreement they signed. However, something else that needs to be said on that topic. Egypt violated the peace treaty when it sent soldiers and tanks to Sinai to fight its war against terror. A year or two ago, President Sisi spoke about this publicly. He said the Israelis were very understanding when Egypt violated their peace treaty because they recognized Egypt was fighting terror. So, we have to be understanding and flexible and allow the military to achieve their objectives. I think Egypt should return the favor to Israel. Egypt should support Israel in its fight against terror on the Philadelphi Corridor. President Sisi, however, cannot condone this because he will be viewed as complicit in the fate of the Gazans. According to most Egyptians, Gazans are experiencing genocide, ethnic cleansing and horrific atrocities.

Joseph: We have had a lot of questions about the threat of Egypt downgrading relations with Israel and of pulling back their ambassador. Do you think either will happen?

Khalid: I think it is inevitable. Egypt will have to downgrade relations with Israel and potentially recall their ambassador because of domestic politics. I think that parts of the peace treaty will be suspended as well. The peace treaty requires Egypt not to prosecute Israel, in international courts. Egypt is now getting involved in the ICJ case against Israel. They are partnering with South Africa to present evidence. That means that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt will have to be suspended.

Joseph: It appears the main threat to President Sisi is domestic extremism and radicalization of the Egyptian populace. From where I am standing, it appears he is not taking too many concrete steps to address this extremism. With time, it is hard to imagine that there will not be a repeat of a Mubarak situation with revolution or major uprising against Sisi’s government. Do you agree with that statement? Do you think he has been doing enough to address radicalization?

Khalid: He has been doing quite a lot to address radicalization. For instance, he is the first Egyptian president to ever attend Christmas mass. He is the first ever Egyptian president to say publicly he is renovating Egyptian synagogues, at the expense of the Egyptian government, by the way. He was offered a lot of funding from the US and others for these renovations and decided Egypt should pay for them because they are part of Egypt’s heritage. He is really challenging the oldest, religious authorities for Muslims. He is challenging them on radicalization and on Jihad. He is challenging them in areas that are not being challenged in the West.

He is doing a lot but he needs to do a lot more. Society in Egypt is inherently antisemitic and he is not recognizing it. Sisi was recorded telling Blinken that Egypt never persecuted its Jews. Those types of denials need to stop. The Egyptian government under Nasser persecuted Jews. They persecuted minorities in general and also persecuted anyone who disagreed with the government.

Joseph: How much legitimacy does the Egyptian government have? How much do you think the government can really influence the population?

Khalid: That is a really difficult question. Influencing the population in a country like Egypt or Saudi Arabia does not happen the same way it happens in the UK. I will give you an example. In Saudi Arabia, women driving was considered Haram. This means it was forbidden by Islam. The clergy dictated it should not happen and the ruling family agreed. When Crown Prince Mohamad bin Salman took the throne, he declared women should be able to drive. The clergy and others then supported his decision. Religiously speaking, there is no reason why women should not drive. So, in a way, governments in Arab countries are not influenced by the population. Rather, the population is influenced by the government.

If Sisi wants to change opinions when it comes to antisemitism and Israel, there are additional steps that he can take. It is very challenging for him because Egypt is in a very bad position economically. Because of this, I do not think he will try to change perceptions about Jews and Israelis. It would probably not be wise for him to try and change perceptions given the economic and other issues Egypt is already facing. The Muslim Brotherhood promoted the rumor that Sisi’s mom is Jewish and he is secretly a Zionist serving Israel. So, I do not think President Sisi is the right guy to change opinions in this area. He is fighting on too many fronts already.

Joseph: That makes a lot of sense. It appears we have reached the end of our time. I would like to thank you, Khalid, for talking to us today. This was a great discussion and I would like to thank the audience as well for tuning in. If you enjoy what we do, please consider sharing this webinar link and possibly even contributing. Thanks so much.

Khalid: Thanks very much. Have a good one.



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