The organisers of the Cairo Book Fair have condemned Israeli Ambassador David Goffrin after he attended their event, accusing him of attempting to encourage “a state of cultural normalisation”.
Photos shared on the Israeli embassy’s official Facebook page last week showed Goffrin perusing books at the Egyptian capital’s 50th international fair, with a statement praising the convention for the wide array of books on display.
“The ambassador is very fond of reading and was very impressed with the new location of the exhibition,” the statement read. “It is a bigger and more beautiful place, which gives the book its value and prestige.”
However, the Chairman of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO) Haitham Al-Hag said the visit was rejected by intellectuals and the Writers’ Union present at the fair, highlighting that it was carried out privately without informing the convention’s organisers. A statement released by the General Authority also affirmed that the ambassador’s call was an “informal visit and individual action”.
The Cultural Committee of the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate also condemned the visit, describing it as “childish behaviour” on the part of the Israeli embassy, which would not dissuade the Egyptian people from rejecting any form of normalisation.
The Egyptian government has maintained close relations with Tel Aviv, despite attempts at normalisation strongly rejected by Egyptian civil society. Cairo has acted as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi also maintains strong economic ties with Israel; last month, Israel’s minister of energy announced a controversial deal that will see Israel export gas to Egypt “within a few months”, despite Egypt possessing vast offshore reserves itself.
The Egyptian army also collaborates with Israeli forces in the Sinai, where it claims to be conducting operations against Daesh militants. However the operation has witnessed thousands of human rights violations, with the military accused of indiscriminately bombing civilian areas and conducting thousands of extra-judicial killings of residents, regardless of their affiliation.
The Cairo International Book Fair in the Fifth Settlement area is set to end today, having hosted over 600 publishing houses from across the world and over 2.5 million visitors over the past two weeks.