Published Thursday, August 25, 2011
Within a few days, Ahmed al-Shahat became a hero on Facebook. Many pages on the social-networking site were dedicated to celebrating the ‘Egyptian hero who raised Egypt’s flag atop the Israeli Embassy.’ Other pages thanked the ‘Egyptian Spiderman’ for his courage. Last Saturday, Shahat climbed up the Israeli Embassy building, ripping off the Israeli flag and replacing it with Egypt’s. Minutes later, a celebratory comment appeared on Facebook: ‘In Israel, there are planes without pilots (drones). In Egypt, there are pilots without planes’. That night in Egypt was different for many reasons, and Egyptians interrupted their Ramadan serials, which they faithfully returned to after Mubarak’s trial was postponed another month.
‘Egyptian Spiderman’ unmasked. (Photo: AFP - Khaled Desouki)
Shahat’s photo topped the walls of Facebook, the unofficial-official communications page of Egyptians. The event came as a defining moment for Egyptians amid continuous demonstrations demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador from Cairo. As expected, many Facebook pages were created to salute his actions. ‘We are all Khaled Said’ — a Facebook page dedicated to Khaled Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian who was tortured to death at the hands of two police officers in June 2010 — identified Shahat as the one who also climbed up a 12m high streetlight in Tahrir Square weeks ago, mounting the Egyptian flag there. He has been called the ‘Egyptian Spider-Man’ for his exploits. Egyptians now recognize the dramatically shifting attitude of the current generation: They once walked on eggshells during the Mubarak era, but now move confidently after the revolution.
Facebook users also posted and shared a link to The Embassy in the Building, the only movie portraying the Israeli embassy in Egypt. Many joked that the Egyptian government may consider expelling Egyptian actor Lutfi Labib (who played the Israeli ambassador in the movie) as a compromise with protester demands’ for the expulsion of the real Israeli ambassador.
Amid all the humor, Facebook pages calling for more serious responses to Israeli crimes have reemerged. One page, ‘I am the first to volunteer in the Egyptian Army if war on Israel is declared,’ now has 163,000 members.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.