Since the 1978 peace treaty, the governments of Egypt and Israel have developed strong ties, and by all accounts military and security cooperation has never been stronger or more extensive. Yet popular anti-Israel sentiment in Egypt is intense; few Egyptians travel to Israel; and social, cultural, and economic ties are almost nonexistent. Haisam Hassanein explains that, paradoxically, much of this sentiment is generated by the Egyptian regime itself:
While Israeli tourism in Egypt has surged during periods of calm, Egyptian tourists have only trickled into Israel, partly because Egyptians who visit Israel risk harassment by Egypt’s security apparatus. . . . Israel often has been the target for protests within Egypt, as well as the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, making every high-level Israeli-Egyptian interaction politically risky for Egyptian officials. . . .
Simply put, an ordinary Egyptian cannot travel to Israel. The government . . . limits such travel to diplomats, journalists, and Coptic pilgrims who wish to visit Christian sites in Jerusalem, though those Christians must be over the age of forty. . . . Consider [also] that multiple public institutions, roads, schools and even cities are named to commemorate the 1973 war, but none honors the [peace] treaty; this reflects the Egyptian government’s refusal to inform its public about peace with Israel. . . .
Therefore, one of the biggest obstacles to full normalization is the Egyptian government, which still engages in anti-Israel rhetoric. The most obvious example took place this past Ramadan, when TV viewing was at its yearly peak. In a TV show sponsored directly by the Egyptian intelligence services, Jews and Israelis continued to be portrayed negatively—as spies, thieves, killers, and socially immoral individuals.
The indoctrination of hate that unfortunately gets passed down from generation to generation hinders opportunities for true peace. The history of the Middle East tells a tragic and cautionary tale that must not be forgotten, but what the region needs is real progress. It needs people who recognize the positive, and work toward a more collective and inclusive future.