Israel’s release of Al-Ahram news archive angers Egyptians

Israel’s release of Al-Ahram newspaper archive angers Egyptian journalists
3 min read
29 October, 2021
Israel's national library launched this week a digital archive of Egypt’s long-standing Ahram newspaper, a move that stirred the outrage of Egyptian journalists.
Al-Ahram was established in 1875 by two Lebanese journalists living in Egypt [Getty-file photo]

CAIRO - Israel’s foreign ministry announced this week that the country’s national library in Jerusalem has launched a digital archive of Egypt’s long-standing Al-Ahram newspaper, a move that sent shockwaves among Egyptian journalists.

The ministry said a post on its Arabic-language Facebook page on Wednesday that the library had shared content published by Al-Ahram dating back to the 19th century, when the newspaper was established.

Egyptian journalists, widely known for being against normalisation with Israel, were quick to denounce the move, describing it as another type of theft of Egyptian heritage by the Israelis.

“This is a catastrophic incident that requires an immediate inquiry on the parts of Al-Ahram and the authorities in charge of the press in Egypt,” Khaled El-Balshy, a former member of the journalists’ syndicate board, told The New Arab.

“The looming questions now are: how they did acquire the archive or how did they buy it? Who can give away valuable content like this to Israel?” he asked. “Other than normalisation, the idea is about intellectual property rights.” 

Al-Ahram’s old archives are not available for Egyptians.

“It’s all about information accessibility. How come Egyptians can’t access this archived part of their history? It’s known that there are parts deleted from the archive, apparently for political reasons,” Bashy argued.

However, the Israeli foreign ministry released another post, explaining that “the archive is available on the Israeli national library only for students and researchers in Israel."

“We apologise for the misunderstanding,” the post said.  

The post was described by Mahmoud Kamel, a current member of the Egyptian journalists’ syndicate, as “raising new question marks.”

“An explanation under a comment on a post by the page of the foreign ministry of the ‘occupying state’ raises new question marks,” Kamel wrote on his Facebook page.

In another post, Kamel claimed that he contacted sources at Al-Ahram, whom he did not name, who told him that an American mediator bought the archive eight years ago for $185,000.

“The [same] sources said that back then the legal department in Al-Ahram ran an investigation that led to a dead-end,” he wrote.

Established in 1875 by Salim and Bishara Taqla, two Lebanese journalists living in Egypt, Al-Ahram was known for its independent voice.

The daily newspaper was taken over by the state in 1950, and became the mouthpiece of the government a decade later, after late president Gamal Abdel-Nasser nationalised the press.

The Egyptian government has yet to officially respond to the Israeli announcement.

Egypt and Israel have technically been at peace since the late 1970s, and share strong diplomatic and economic ties. However, the Egyptian public has been at loggerheads with their country's successive regimes over normalisation, as many view Israel as a coloniser of Palestine since the 1948 war, an oppressor of the Palestinian people, and as a former occupier of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.