Yomna Kamel Special to the Middle East Times
(published Sept. 1997)
While Egyptian courts allegedly consider lawsuits against the Israeli embassy in Cairo filed by its neighbors, the embassy maintains that talk of legal action is just a rumor created by the Egyptian media.
Neighbors of the Israeli Embassy have filed suit against the diplomatic office after they received no response to their complaints and petitions filed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are demanding the embassy move from its 18-storey building, where it occupies the last two floors, the weekly Al Ahram Al Arabi reported on 16 August.
The paper reported that there are 14 lawsuits being reviewed.
Neighbors have been complaining about the daily annoyances that, they say, they and their visitors must endure from the embassy's heavy security. With the Israeli Embassy occupying the last two floors of their building, the plaintiffs said in their claims, their human rights are being violated as they cannot properly use the building's facilities, including the elevator.
The building is located in a busy area in Giza overlooking the Nile and University Bridge.
One man stated in his complaint that, since his son's school bus is not allowed to stop in front of the building to pick his child up, he was not accepted at the school. He said the current location of the embassy denies his children their right to an education, the paper added.
Neighbors also said it is not easy to enter or leave the building and that they are exposed to continuous surveillance. According to some of the families, relatives and friends have stopped visiting them because of the heavy security provided by the Israeli guards.
A collective complaint, as well as individual complaints, were filed by the embassy's neighbors at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to the semi-official magazine Al Ahram Al Arabi, the embassy was offered a new location in Maadi or any other area thought to be safe, but embassy officials refused to move. The embassy, the paper reported, said it could not give up its current location because it can be easily reached by diplomatic missions working in Cairo.
The embassy, however, denied receiving any note from the Egyptian court about the lawsuits.
"They are rumors created by the Egyptian media, since we do not have any problems with our neighbors. Moreover, we are having regular meetings with them to discuss the building's affairs. We know nothing about these legal cases," said Lior Ben Dor, press attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo. "We live with our neighbors very peacefully and we cooperate and coordinate with them. There are security procedures taken by the Egyptian police authorities to guard any embassy, but because we are the Embassy of Israel, they make them heavy procedures and that is why our neighbors are complaining."
"We are sorry to find the Al Ahram Al Arabi publishing such false information. Also, we are sorry that they did not contact us to check the information or to let us comment on it. It was not its first time to publish false information about Israel," said Ben Dor, who cited a time when the magazine ran a story claiming there is a list of 4,000 Israelis who are not allowed to enter Egypt.
"The magazine claimed this list was made by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior, but if this was [true], the Israeli Embassy would have been informed," he added.
"Al Ahram Al Arabi is taking a negative line against Israel, but it is the time to deny what it runs. Such false information spoils the peaceful atmosphere between the two states who have a complete peace treaty," Ben Dor said.
Ben Dor added that the Egyptian media has created a hostile environment and added that if the embassy's neighbors were approached by the magazine, they may have invented a complaint to avoid criticism.
"If they said they were peacefully living with us, they would have been heavily criticized by the Egyptian media. We do not know why we are being attacked all the time by Egyptian media, in their editorials, news and cartoons," Ben Dor said.