Cairo: A visit this week by a prominent Egyptian academic to Israel has sparked an outcry in Egypt, with some critics demanding he be tried for “treason”.
Sa’ad Al Deen Ebrahim, a sociology professor who is also a US citizen, on Tuesday gave a lecture on Egyptian-Israeli relations at the Tel Aviv University.
The visit comes as feelings against Israel and the US are running high in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world.
Last month, US President Donald Trump recognised Occupied Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a move that triggered street protests in the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Ebrahim’s visit to Israel earned him in Egypt branding of a “traitor”.
“It is necessary to try this traitor, who has defied feelings of the Arab people,” said Egyptian Member of Parliament Mustafa Bakri in a tweet.
Atef Abdul Jawad, another lawmaker, demanded Ebrahim be stripped of his Egyptian nationality.
“This visit means direct normalisation with Israel. This is high treason that necessitates withdrawing nationality from him and a court trial for him,” Abdul Jawad added in a press statement.
Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has diplomatic links with Tel Aviv amid public boycott.
Ebrahim heads the non-governmental Ibn Khaldun Centre for Development Studies in Cairo. The centre did not comment on the uproar, tersely saying that Ebrahim is now on holiday in Spain.
Egypt’s semi-official newspaper Al Ahram quoted Ebrahim as defending his visit in an interview with an Israeli television.
The 79-year-old academic told the broadcaster that the trip was his third to Israel in 20 years, according to Al Ahram. He was quoted as saying that he was accompanied by some of his students in Egypt to meet with their Israeli counterparts. Al Ahram also reported that Ebrahim had urged Arabs to cope with “global changes”.
There has been no official comment in Egypt on the row.
Relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv have often been frosty. The Egyptian parliament and professional unions ban their members from visiting Israel or contacting Israelis.
In 2016, the Egyptian legislature revoked membership of Tawfik Okasha after he had met the Israeli ambassador in Cairo.