Egyptian activist Maikel Nabil Sanad, who spent ten months in military jails following Egypt’s revolution in early 2011, is in a controversial visit to Israel and Ramallah to call for peace, Al Arabiya reported.
Sanad's visit includes an appearance at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, The World Union of Jewish Students and Tel Aviv University. He also plans to visit the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Ramallah.
“After years of calling for peace, I decided that practicing peace is more important than talking about it. My visit is a message from the peaceful society of Egypt. We went through enough of violence and clashes and this situation has to end,” Sanad wrote in a statement on his blog, according to the Al Arabiya report.
“We want to both live like human beings without violence, racism or walls,” he added.
“The main goal of my visit is to end my government’s monopoly on the peace process. Even If I fail, their feeling that there is a competitor will prompt them to work more seriously toward peace,” Sanad said.
Two months after the January 25, 2011 uprising, Sanad was arrested by military forces for criticizing the then ruling Supreme Military Council for violence against pro-democracy protesters.
In January 2012 and amid mounting anger at the ruling military, Sanad was released along with 2,000 others in a move to appease protesters.
On Sunday, as he began his trip, he held a press conference in Jerusalem where, according to an Army Radio report, he said, "Every dictatorship and every dictator needs enemy, and Israel is a convenient case to become the enemy. Do not let Egypt do this to you."
He claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement to which current President Mohammed Morsi belongs to, is trying to impose a religious dictatorship in Egypt, calling its members "fascists." He said that former President Hosni Mubarak was considered a friend by Israel, but that he was in charge of the anti-Israel propaganda in Egypt.
Sanad said that Egyptian schools teach students to see Israel as an enemy, and urged the Israeli government to "pull its hands from the dictatorial regimes in the region."
He added that he came to Israel to convey a message to the government in Cairo that it cannot silence him and people like him, the likes of which there are many across the Arab world.
During Mubarak's time, said Sanad, he asked for permission to visit Israel. "I went to the Israeli embassy in Cairo and asked for a visa," he recalled. "They asked me, 'Do you have permission from the Egyptian intelligence to go to Israel? ' When I said no, they said they could not give me a visa."
Army Radio noted that Sanad refused to answer a question from its reporter, claiming, "I do not want to have contact with representatives of the army, no matter which army it is."
Sanad's trip to Israel is being organized by the Geneva-based advocacy group UN Watch. The group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, told CNN that Sanad is a role model and "a true hero who inspires hope around the world."