by Khaled Abu Toameh
The ruling military dictatorship in Egypt should not be allowed to avoid responsibility for the assault on the Israeli embassy in Cairo last week.
Failure to take severe steps against the assailants will only encourage the rioters and enemies of peace. Today it is the Israeli embassy. Tomorrow it could be the embassy of the US or Denmark or any other country.
This is a case where the writing was on the wall.
A few days before the mob stormed the embassy, the Egyptian authorities honored a young man for climbing more than 20 floors to remove the Israeli flag from the offices of the Israeli embassy.
According to a report in Egypt's Al Masry Al Youm newspaper, Sharqiya Governor Azazy Ali Azazy, honored the man who climbed the building that houses the embassy and tore down the Israeli flag.
Ahmed al-Shahat, 23, affectionately nicknamed "Flagman," was awarded a flat and a job for his "courageous" deed.
"I wish I were in his place to enjoy that honor," the governor said, referring to the young man.
The Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has since sought to distance itself from the decision to honor al-Shahat by claiming that the governor had acted on his own initiative.
By honoring al-Shahat, who is being hailed as a hero in his country, the Egyptian authorities paved the way for the mob attack on the embassy, which, by miracle, did not end in the lynching of the Israelis inside the embassy offices.
The Egyptian authorities are being hypocritical when they say that they plan to prosecute those responsible for the assault on the embassy.
By rewarding the young man with a flat and a job, the government in Cairo sent a message that not only does it condone the attack, but actually regards it as a heroic act that deserves a precious award.
There is no doubt that the thousands of young Egyptian protesters who attacked the embassy were also expecting to be praised and honored by their government, especially if one takes into account the severe housing shortage and high rate of unemployment in Egypt.
The protesters who stormed the embassy were not only inspired by the "heroic" act of al-Shahat, however -- they were also influenced by the continued incitement against Israel in the Egyptian media.
Ever since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak's regime, there have been calls in Egypt for halting the sale of natural gas to Israel and cutting off diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. These calls did not only come from ordinary Egyptians, but also from senior journalists and politicians, as well as representatives of various political groups.
The ruling military council, which is clearly afraid of the Egyptian "street," has done nothing to stop the incitement. The council has been concerned only about its reputation;that is why it has been cracking down on any Egyptian who dares to criticize the new rulers of Egypt and their policies.
The attack on the Israeli embassy is an insult not only to Israel, but to the credibility of the Egyptian military council.
If the Egyptian authorities are really keen on maintaining the peace treaty with Israel, they must stop the anti-Israel incitement and attempts to de-legitimize Israel and demonize Jews.Khaled Abu Toameh
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