Egypt Lawmaker throws shoe at parliamentarian for hosting the Israeli Ambassador at his house – Heba Habib and Sudarsan Raghavan/The Washington Post
CAIRO — Heated exchanges are normal in parliaments the world over, but in Egypt one lawmaker expressed his anger toward his colleague by giving him the boot — quite literally.
Tawfik Okasha entered parliament for Sunday’s session and was greeted by a shoe flung at him by a colleague, Kamal Ahmed. That prompted the parliamentary speaker to expel both men from the session.
This was after Okasha, a popular television personality and owner of a satellite channel, hosted Israeli Ambassador Haim Koren at his home last week to discuss local and regional issues.
In a televised interview after the incident, Ahmed said Okasha “deserves 90 million shoes.
“I want to shoot him,” the unapologetic shoe-hurler said. “What I did reflects the nation’s opinion. I did what I did because I am an MP and a representative of the people. Every time I see him, I’ll hit him with a shoe — him and the Israeli dog.”
Egypt signed a peace accord with Israel in 1979, and official relations with Israel have warmed since Abdel Fatah al-Sissi became Egypt’s president in 2014. In September last year, the Israeli Embassy in Cairo reopened after being closed for four years, and just days earlier, Egypt sent a new ambassador to Tel Aviv after a three-year absence. However, the Egyptian public remains largely hostile toward the neighboring country, in large part because of the plight of Palestinians.
On Monday, the Egyptian Football Association reportedly turned down a request to play the Israeli national team in a friendly match. The aim was to “break the barriers between the two countries and to spread a peaceful atmosphere,” the Israeli soccer federation said, according to a report in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper. But a spokesman for the Egyptian soccer association said the Egyptian public would not tolerate even a friendly matchup.
He may have a point. Egyptian social media hailed Ahmed, the shoe-throwing lawmaker, as a hero. Many likened him to the Iraqi journalist who famously threw his shoe at then-President George W. Bush during a Baghdad news conference in 2008, saying, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog.”
Several Egyptian lawmakers soon called for Okasha to be referred to an ethics committee and even to be stripped of membership for hosting the Israeli ambassador. One of them, Mustafa Bakry, decried Okasha’s action as “treason” and “shameful.”
Many were surprised at the controversial TV host extending an invitation to the Israeli envoy, given that he regularly rails against the “American Zionist conspiracy to destroy Egypt” on his one-man show.
Okasha defended his meeting, saying that he had informed authorities about it beforehand and that Egypt enjoys diplomatic ties with Israel.
By Wednesday, Okasha no longer held his position. According to local news reports, a majority of Egyptian lawmakers voted to rescind his membership in parliament, permitted under the constitution in some cases.
This is just the latest controversy surrounding Egypt’s parliament, which has been derided even by pro-Sissi broadcasters as a “circus.” During the first session in January, lawmaker Mortada Mansour caused a ruckus by loudly refusing to recite the constitutional oath as written. Another legislator, not realizing his microphone was on, used expletives to describe his colleagues. The general rowdiness has led to the banning of several live broadcasts of parliament sessions.