Activist who urged killing Israelis nominated for top EU award

52 European lawmakers propose Alaa Abdel Fattah, who also called for assassination of Egyptians, for Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah upon his release from Tora prison in Cairo, September 15, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)
Egyptian activist Alaa Abdel Fattah upon his release from Tora prison in Cairo, September 15, 2014 (photo credit: AP/Amr Nabil)

A group of over 50 European parliament members has nominated a controversial Egyptian activist for the prestigious Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, despite his having advocated the assassination of Israelis and political leaders in Egypt and called for an end to the State of Israel.

Alaa Abdel Fattah, 32, an Egyptian blogger and political activist, has been arrested numerous times by Egyptian authorities since the eruption of a popular revolution in the country in early 2011. Abdel Fattah, who boasts 626,000 followers on Twitter and 156,000 on Facebook, was released on bail September 15 after being charged with organizing an illegal protest in Cairo and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Abdel Fattah was nominated for the Sakharov Prize on September 23 along with rappers Mouad Belghouate (Morocco) and Ala Yaacoubi (Tunisia) by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Parliamentary Group, a left-wing group of 52 European parliament members representing 14 EU countries. The winner of the prize will be announced on October 16.

Named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the €50,000 ($63,000) prize is awarded to “exceptional individuals who combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression.” Laureates included South African president Nelson Mandela, UN secretary general Kofi Annan, and teenage Pakistani campaigner Malala Yousafzai.

While Abdel Fattah’s credentials as a political dissident are unimpeachable, a number of past comments published by him on Twitter raise doubts about his suitability for a prize rewarding “respect for international law, development of democracy and implementation of the rule of law.”

“Will no one form an armed organization and randomly assassinate Interior Ministry officers and be rid of them?” he tweeted on July 6, 2011, as Egypt seethed in violent protests against its military rulers. “We all know that they’re all criminals.”

On September 6, 2012, Abdel Fattah wrote that the 1981 assassination of then-Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was “a service to the nation,” since Sadat was a traitor to his people.

“A president isn’t just anyone. It is our right to kill the president if there is no other way to get rid of him. Was the killing of [former Libyan leader Muammar] Gaddafi a crime?” he wrote. Abdel Fattah added that he would consider the killing of former Egyptian general Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, who served as de facto ruler of Egypt in 2012 as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), “a patriotic act.”

“We could limit killing to presidents of the republic only,” he tweeted.

During an exchange on generalizations in the Egyptian political context, Abdel Fattah wrote: “All Zionists are criminals, all racists are stupid, all humans have rights. These are examples of acceptable generalizations.”

Debating the Palestinian issue, Abdel Fattah wrote on November 15, 2012, that “there is a critical number of Israelis that we need to kill and then the problem is solved.”

The following day, he wrote: “there should be no equal relations with Israel or any other relations. Israel must come to an end.”

“While Egypt should be leading a comprehensive boycott movement against the [Zionist] entity and anyone who cooperates with it, we have the QIZ [Qualifying Industrial Zone; a free trade area uniting Israel and Egypt], normalization, an [Israeli] embassy and tourism,” he added.

Neither Abdel Fattah nor the European parliamentary group GUE/NGL responded to a Times of Israel request for comment.

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