Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry caused an angry stir in the Arab world on Sunday when he said that Israel’s actions do not constitute terrorism against Palestinians.
The comment, made at a Q&A session with students at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, was in response to a question about why the Egyptian government does not condemn Israeli and American actions in the Middle East as acts of terrorism, reported Ynet.
“We can look at this issue and define it as a ‘rule by force,'” replied Shoukry. “However, there is nothing to suggest that there is any connection between Israel and terrorist organizations. There is nothing that leads to this conclusion.”
He continued on to defend Israel’s protective measures, suggesting that from some perspectives, Israel’s strength in terms of security is a result of “dealing with a lot of challenges” which have threatened that security ever since the state was established in 1948.
Shoukry also told his students that as the international community has “yet to come to a consensus as to what constitutes terror”, Israel’s actions could not be described as terrorism.
The comments come as ties warm between Israel and Egypt. The two countries have consistently worked together to fight ISIS, a rising threat in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Arab media quickly seized on Shoukry’s comments, sparking angry headlines throughout the world. A London-based Arab newspaper ran a heading reading, “Samah Shoukry: the murder of Palestinian children by Israel isn’t terrorism.”
While Israel and Egypt enjoy diplomatic relations at a government level, the sentiment is not often reflected in the Egyptian populace, which in large part remains anti-Israel.
The complexities of the Egyptian-Israeli relationship came to the world’s attention last week at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, when Egyptian athlete Islam El Shehaby refused to shake his Israeli opponent’s hand after losing to him in a judo match.
El Shehaby had been under social media pressure not to compete against the Israeli judoka, Ori Sasson, with Facebook and Twitter followers threatening him with “shaming an entire nation” should he lose.
After the incident, Egyptian officials sent a message to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasizing that the athlete’s actions were not representative of the Egyptian public.