ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Egyptian author, a liberal activist, forced to flee for backing Israel over Hamas

Dalia Ziada goes into hiding amid furious backlash in her country for condemning terror group’s brutal attack on Israel, saying she hopes IDF eliminates it for everyone’s sake

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of Egyptian author and liberal democracy campaigner Dalia Ziada during an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, November 22, 2023.
Screen capture from video of Egyptian author and liberal democracy campaigner Dalia Ziada during an interview with the Kan public broadcaster, November 22, 2023.

An acclaimed Egyptian author and liberal democracy activist has been forced to flee her home country amid a furious backlash after she praised Israel’s military campaign against Hamas, saying it will benefit the entire region if the terror group is eliminated.

Dalia Ziada has received death threats, while complaints have been filed with Egyptian prosecutors demanding she be put on trial as a spy for Israel and for inciting war crimes.

The uproar began when Ziada spoke with the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank, three weeks ago. Ziada panned Hamas for its October 7 massive attack on Israel that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. At least 240 people, including children and the elderly, were abducted as hostages to the Gaza Strip.

Ziada justified Israel’s military response, which is aimed at removing Hamas from power in Gaza and securing the release of the hostages, saying she hopes it succeeds.

She doubled down on her remarks in an interview with the Kan public broadcaster aired Wednesday.

The network did not reveal Ziada’s location due to the threats against her. Kan shared the Arabic-language interview, with English subtitles, on social media.

Asked how she is, Ziada responded, “Praise God, she is still alive.”

She said that she didn’t regret what she said to the INSS. “On the contrary, if I am asked, I will say it again,” Ziada said.

“I fully support what Israel is doing to eliminate Hamas,” she said, but stressed her intention was not to incite against the Palestinians.

“On the contrary, every drop of blood that is shed, whether Palestinian or Israeli, I am completely against it. These are citizens who are not to blame for what is happening.”

“But I totally support Israel’s war against Hamas. I support it 100 percent, and urge everyone to support it.”

IDF soldiers operating in the northern Gaza Strip in a handout photo released for publication on November 22, 2023. (IDF)

She speculated on what the Middle East would look like without Iran-backed Hamas or other extremist Islamist organizations.

The situation, she said, would “without a doubt be a thousand times better.”

“I hope Israel succeeds in eliminating Hamas, I fully support that,” she repeated. “I hope the Israeli army will succeed in eliminating Hamas as soon as possible, thus freeing the entire area from the evil of Hamas.”

“I will not stop condemning Hamas and the radical Islamist organizations and fight them and those who stand behind them,” she said. “Even if they are powerful countries, I will continue to fight them because that’s what I believe.”

Addressing Israelis, Ziada said, “First of all, I share your grief about what happened in the October 7 massacre.”

She spoke of videos she saw of the attack, saying, “I can’t describe the horror I saw.” Struggling to find words, she eventually added, “It was something you can’t even imagine.”

Asked if she would return to Egypt, Ziada said she hoped to but, given the death threats and the lawsuits being filed against her, “in the current situation I think that it would be a crazy thing to do. It would be like throwing myself into the fire.”

Ziada vowed to continue to work for peace between Egypt and Israel “and between all Arabs and Israel,” citing the interview with Kan as an example of her determination to speak up.

She praised Israel’s 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and the security cooperation between the neighbors.

“If it weren’t for the security collaboration of Israel with us, with Egypt… the terror organizations would still be in Sinai today,” she said, of a period of unrest in the Sinai Peninsula that was marked by deadly terror attacks on Egyptian security forces.

The terror groups behind those attacks, she noted, “were established by Hamas in Sinai.”

In her interview with the INSS, Ziada said it was a mistake to think that Hamas is fighting for the Palestinian cause and that if it cared about the Palestinians it would not have launched the October 7 massacres.

“Even a child could tell you this: If you go and attack Israeli civilians like this, of course you should expect a retaliation,” she said. “Israel is doing the thing that any country in the world would do if its citizens were attacked. They will attack the terrorist organizations that killed their people. This is normal.”

A clip from the interview was shared on social media by Israel’s embassy in Washington.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claims that over 14,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, including at least 5,500 children and 3,500 women. The figures provided by the terror group cannot be independently verified and do not differentiate between civilians and Hamas operatives, and also do not distinguish between those killed by Israeli airstrikes and those killed by failed Palestinian rocket launches such as the one that hit the Al-Ahli hospital in October.

Ziada has long campaigned for liberal democratization in Egypt. The author of several books on Middle East politics, she is chairperson of the Cairo-based Liberal Democracy Institute and executive director of MEEM Center for Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean Studies.

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