Egypt: The Story of the Israeli Spy in Cairo

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Ilan Chaim Grapel, an American immigrant to Israel, was arrested in Egypt last Sunday. Grapel has now been detained for 15 days as he is being questioned by the State Security Prosecution over alleged espionage activities in Egypt, attempting to instigate conflict between the Egyptian people and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, and to incite religious conflict between Muslims and Copts.

In an interview published on Monday 13 June, 2011, on the Lebanese news site El Nashra, Yehia El-Gamal, Egypt's deputy prime minister in the interim cabinet, has accused Israel of being behind the sectarian tension plaguing Egypt.

Ilan Grapel in Tahrir Square carrying a poster which calls US President Barack Obama stupid. Source, Ilan Grapel's Facebook account.

Ilan Grapel in Tahrir Square carrying a poster which calls US President Barack Obama stupid. Source, Ilan Grapel's Facebook account.

Desmond Shephard reported the news on Bikya Misr blog saying:

Judge Hesham Badawi of the Supreme State Security Prosecution ordered the suspect, named as Elan Chaim Grabel, detained for 15 days on suspicion of “spying on Egypt with the aim of harming its economic and political interests,” the MENA news agency reported.

The Israeli officials on the other hand refused the accusations, and called the reports from Cairo to be unreliable.

Egyptian blogger Hossam El-Hamalawy didn't digest Grapel's espionage story, and he stated historical incidence to show that such kind of stories are usually suspicious:

When students and workers took to the streets in Alexandria, November 1968, denouncing the Nasserist regime, the state-run media announced the arrest of Israeli spies who were involved in the agitation for the protests (Arab Report and Record, 1-15 December 1968: 399).

My mother, who took part in the 1971-2 student protests against Sadat, recalls how the Central Security Forces were beating them with sticks while denouncing the students as “Israeli agents.”
During the 18 day uprising, a young woman journalist appeared on TV “confessing” she was trained by the Mossad to foment those “riots” in Tahrir. And of course it turned out to be a big lie.

And now, the government has announced it caught another Israeli spy gathering information about the protests and fomented chaos with the intent “of harming political, economic and social interests and negatively impacting the course of the revolution”… and “prosecutors suspect he paid protesters to cause friction with the military and to foment Muslim-Christian tensions.”

Seriously what a soap opera.

El-Hamalawy believes that such move was made by the intelligence agency in order to prevent people from criticizing the Army in the future:

By this latest case, the Mukhabarrat [Intelligence Agency] is trying to pull together a cheap move, so that any public criticism against the military would be depicted immediately as the work of Israeli spies. More importantly, the Mukhabarrat is trying to convince the public it’s a vital agency, in charge of protecting the country of any “foreign plots”, so as not to receive the same treatment as State Security Police.

Dear Mukhabarrat, stop treating us like children. Who the hell is this Israeli super agent who will single handedly go around fomenting protests, agitating against the army in the streets and mosques? Get a life, grow up.

The reactions on Twitter were not any different. In fact they went further to mock the whole news and they created a hashtag for it, #ElGasoos (i.e. The Spy).

@MagedZakher: Oops! Now they know where we used to demonstrate! Tahreer Square should have been kept a secret! Oh! Spies!

@mand0z: الموساد مافيهوش ولا واحد بيعرف يستخدم يوتيوب عشان كدة بعتوا جاسوس
@mand0z: Nobody in Mosad knows how to use YouTube, that's why they sent a spy
@Gue3bara: بعد البحث فى موبايل الجاسوس تم العثور على نمرة نتنياهو مسجلة بإسم:نتنياهو مهمة ملطوشة
@Gue3bara: After searching the spy's phone they found Netanyahu's number saved under “Netanyahu – Secret Mission”
The Spy behind Omar Suleiman

The Spy behind Omar Suleiman – Photo taken from the We are Sorry Mr. Spy Facebook group

In the early days of the revolution a Facebook group was made by Mubarak supporters under the name ‘We are Sorry Mr. President’, and since then whenever people want to mock anything they create a Facebook group with the ‘We are Sorry…’ naming style, and ‘We are sorry Mr. Spy‘ wasn't any different here.

Also the fact that Ilan Grapel had a public Facebook profile with all his information, his photos in Tahrir Square and different other places in Egypt, made people on Twitter more suspicious and they wondered if real spies are that naive.

@RAbdellatif: Excuse my skepticism, but would #Israel send a spy who was in their army AND posed in pics in his army uniform?

@NohaAtef: A spy was caught in #Egypt, ppl looked him on #FB , browsed his photos, some reported his profiles, others added him :D follow.

Away from all this mockery, and away from those who are saying [Ar] that Israel needn't any spies when they already had the likes of Mubarak and the likes of the IMF here, some do believe that the spy story might be true. Some others are blaming the revolution for all this fiasco.

@mrrizkallah: What if we're wrong? and he is a real spy?

@Gemyhood: سواق التاكس فرحان جدا بالقبض على الجاسوس بيقولى شوفت يا باشا اهى المظاهرات دى والثورة كلها شغل اسرائيل
@Gemyhood: A taxi driver was so pleased with the arrest of the spy, and was telling me: see, those demonstrations and the whole revolution is an Israeli thing.

Zeinobia also shares the same point of view with @mrrizkallah, and criticized those who are making fun of the story in her blog.

Of course some of our tweep revolutionaries are turning it in to a comedy in a way that amazed me as a person, it seems that they hate to think even in the possibility that there could be spies among us like any other county, as if Egypt is not that important, and what happened was nothing in strategic terms. Our revolutionary tweeps ignore the fact that this incident could harm Tahrir square as well, as they hate to admit that this incident will raise from the stake of SCAF and General Intelligence Service (GIS) high in the street. “Ironically people are saying that Police should learn from GIS”.

I hate to say it but there is difference between opposing SCAF for political reasons and acting in this way which I can't find a word to describe it.

And finally, Sama Habeeb tweeted…

@MissPharaoh: Humanity, if you think “Israeli spies” don't exist then you're naive. If you think “fake spies” do not either,then you're naive-er

This post is part of our special coverage Egypt Revolution 2011.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.