Congressman: Free Grapel

New York Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman is working behind the scenes to convince Egypt to release Ilan Grapel, the “unlikely Israeli spy.”

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu , | updated: 10:27 AM

Ilan Grapel
Ilan Grapel
Israel news photo: Facebook

New York Democratic party Congressman Gary Ackerman is working behind the scenes to convince Egypt to release Ilan Grapel, the “unlikely Israeli spy” who was arrested in Cairo last week on suspicion of working for the Mossad; he has not been formally charged.

 “I have been assured from the highest levels in Israel... this kid had nothing to do with espionage,” Rep. Ackerman, the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, said in a conference call with reporters. “It’s an unfortunate mistake we’re trying to straighten out.”

Grapel’s family lives in the same district served by the Congressman. He has been treated well by Egyptian authorities, mainly because he is an American citizen as well as a citizen of Israel, where he lived for several years and served as a paratrooper in the IDF. He was wounded in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Grapel was an activist for Arabs through a program sponsored by Georgia’s Emory University, where he is a law student. He left Israel for Egypt, where he wanted improve his Arabic, according to his mother.

His activities and conduct in Egypt make him a very unlikely spy. He entered the country with his own passport in his own name and even wore an IDF uniform.

“That’s not what a spy does,” said Rep. Ackerman. “He may have been too cute by half by exhibiting a liberal sense of humor.”  

Analysts have noted that the provisional Egyptian regime is acting like ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and other Muslim country regimes threatened by public protests.

The new regime has been under pressure to show that it is acting differently than Mubarak, who approved and allegedly pocketed millions of dollars from an agreement to export gas to Israel. Egypt also has had to deal with increased attacks by Muslims on the Coptic Christian community.  Rigging a charge against an alleged Israeli spy has helped divert public attention away from domestic problems.

The Al-masry Al-youm newspaper last week published an article condemning “reporters [who] sometimes seem to stretch the truth, adopt conspiracy theories and spread rumors rather than stick to the facts” of the arrest of Grapel.

“The mukhabarat 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,” a blogger wrote on another Arabic language website.