Egyptian activist faces pro-Israel backlash after award nomination
Published Thursday, May 2, 2013
The nomination of an Egyptian activist to receive a human rights award has led to uproar by pro-Israeli media over her comments supporting resistance against Israeli occupation.
The Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders, also known as “the Nobel Prize for human rights,” had chosen Mona Seif as one of three contending activists to receive the annual award.
Seif, a biology graduate student researching breast cancer mutations, became a prominent activist documenting the 2011 Egyptian uprising from Tahrir Square. She later started the group ‘No to Military Trials for Civilians’ to denounce the Supreme Council of Armed Forces’ (SCAF) abuses of power.
Her nomination sparked a backlash from pro-Israeli organizations, who accuse her of “supporting terrorism.”
On Tuesday, American Jewish Committee-affiliated group UN Watch sent a letter to the Martin Ennals Foundation urging the organization to “immediately cancel Ms. Seif’s nomination on grounds of her public advocacy of violence against civilians, terrorism and war crimes, which is in gross breach of the Award criteria of ‘promotion and protection of human rights.’”
UN Watch cited several of Seif’s tweets during the Israeli attack on Gaza, in which she condemned calls by some NGOs for both sides of the conflict to stop the violence.
— Mona Seif (@Monasosh) November 20, 2012
She also made public her support of the destruction of pipes in the Sinai transporting gas from Egypt to Israel.
UN Watch’s criticisms were widely shared by publications such as the conservative Canada Free Press, whose headline read “Top Rights Prize Nominee Tweets for Terror.”
The American weekly The Jewish Free Press slammed Seif’s “darker side” and her “propensity to express the most vulgar kind of hatred towards Israel,” as the newspaper took particular offense with Seif’s use of the hashtag #FuckIsrael.
Yet another conservative publication, The Washington Free Beacon, incorrectly called Seif a “radical Egyptian Islamist.”
Seif could not be reached for comment by Al-Akhbar, although she has publicly defended herself from accusations of being a “terrorism supporter,” while affirming her support of the Palestinian resistance against Israel.
i support a nation's right to resist occupation! Sending me tweets calling me a terrorist wont change the fact that real terrorist is Israel
— Mona Seif (@Monasosh) April 30, 2013
“I have never called for nor celebrated attacks on civilians,” Seif wrote on Facebook.
“My position is very clear: I support people’s right to resist occupation and I resist all attempts at portraying the siege of a predominantly civilian population by the world's 4th most powerful army as one of 'equivalence.’”
In a similar case, the US canceled handing an International Women of Courage award to Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim in March over several anti-American and anti-Israeli tweets.
In 2011, Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour was removed from the shortlist for the Lacoste Elysée Prize at the request of an unidentified official, on the grounds that her work was “too pro-Palestinian.”
The article has been edited to reflect the fact that UN Watch is currently affiliated with the American Jewish Committee (AJC), not the World Jewish Congress (WJC), as previously reported. UN Watch was established with the help of the WJC, but they have not been officially linked since 2001, according to the AJC.