Sunday, June 12, 2011

Egypt claims to catch Israeli "spy." Um...not quite. (UPDATED)

From CNN:
A former Israeli military officer was questioned by Egyptian authorities Sunday and detained for 15 days on suspicion of spying for Israel, according to a spokesman for Egypt's general prosecutor.

Elan Chaim participated in the Lebanon war of 2006, and was relieved of field combat duties after being injured, spokesman Adel Saeed said Sunday. He was apprehended in a five-star hotel in downtown Cairo, Saeed said. Investigators had kept a close eye on his activities for months, and suspect he is involved in espionage, the spokesman said.

Chaim allegedly was sent to Egypt by the Israeli government, tasked with taking advantage of the security vacuum in the country following the January 25 revolution and instructed to recruit others to acquire military and political information, Saeed said. The revolution forced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power; he stepped down February 11.

Chaim was present at most of the protests, Saeed alleged, and encouraged demonstrators to engage in violence against the military. His aim, according to Egyptian authorities, was allegedly to help cause chaos between the Egyptian people and the military, Saeed said.

Chaim was questioned by the supreme state security prosecutor and will be temporarily detained, Saeed said. The general prosecutor will announce the results of the investigation when it is complete.

The Jerusalem Post quoted an unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry official as saying the ministry was "totally and completely unfamiliar with the story" and that it would be investigated.

Al Masry al Youm has a video showing this "spy" doing what looks like normal tourism in Egypt and trying to be a part of history in Tahrir Square. The video also shows images of him in Israeli army uniform with forboding music that is meant to make him look like a scheming, slimy enemy spy.

JPost has his name as Ilan Chaim Grabel. His real name is Ilan Grapel, and here is his Facebook page.  Most of the photos in the video come straight from there.

A little digging there shows that Grapel is no spy. While he does seem to be an Arabophile, he makes no attempt to hide his ties to Israel nor his time in the IDF. He clearly has made Arab friends, and even flirts in Arabic with Arab girls (who have no problem with him being Israeli.) He went to Johns Hopkins University.

This is a ridiculous accusation. Grapel makes no secret of all the activities he was doing in Cairo. It is a sad comment on the state of the news nowadays that the media cannot even figure out how to find his Facebook page to check out the facts.

UPDATE: He is also an American citizen.