An Egyptian reporter has published a hoax memo purporting to be an account of a meeting a Mossad agent held with Egyptian President-designate Mohammed Morsi the day before he assumed office. The memo claims that the agent was joined in the meeting by a U.S. diplomat.
— Alon Ben-David (@alonbd) October 20, 2016
Alon Ben David, Israel Channel 10 TV’s military affairs correspondent tweeted his strong suspicion that the document is fraudulent (“the forgery is impressive but the meeting never happened”). Among other things, it does not contain any information about who it was sent to or who wrote it. Also, the information in the memo about Morsi was copied verbatim from a Hebrew-language Wikipedia article about Morsi. Another Israeli source knowledgeable about intelligence matters said that no Arab head of state would meet with a Mossad field agent (even a station chief). Only the prime minister or Mossad director would meet with a head of state, if at all. Further, it seems unlikely an incoming Egyptian president would be meeting with Israeli intelligence the day before assuming office. I’d think he’d had a lot more important domestic matters to contend with. The reporter who first told this story was Walid Majdi.
The Times of Israel report originated with an Israel Army Radio story. It appears they’ve all been hoaxed. This sort of thing is quite common in some circles in Arab media. It’s less common in Israel, though publications like the Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel are regularly hoaxed, as I’ve reported here in the past. This Times of Israel blog post explicitly advocating genocide against Palestinians wasn’t a hoax, which makes it even more astonishingly embarrassing.
What might the purpose of the hoax be? Clearly, it would be beneficial for the al-Sisi junta to cast further dirt on the reputation of Mohammed Morsi, who faces a death sentence from an Egyptian court. The memo paints him as a collaborator with not just the Mossad, but the Americans. It’s what we call in American slang, a twofer. It also lifts the burden of the charge of collaboration from the shoulders of the al-Sisi regime, whose level of cooptation/collaboration by/with Israel is unparalleled in the history of their bilateral relations. If Morsi told the Mossad that Israel wasn’t the enemy, then surely al-Sisi is doing nothing wrong in following the same path. Much, though not all, of the Egyptian media are in bed with the regime and corrupt. It would involve little more than a payment into the pocket of the reporter or his editor to plant such a story.
But the use of a Hebrew language document raises questions: who and how was that concocted? Possibly, by an Egyptian intelligence officer fluent in Hebrew. However, Egyptian intelligence doesn’t win any awards for ingenuity among the world spook community. So my guess is that there is an Israeli hand in this. Perhaps an Egyptian intelligence operative approached his Israeli counterpart (the two agencies are on exceedingly good terms these days) and asked for a favor. Israel would be only to happy to oblige. One hand washes the other quite nicely.
What’s interesting about this theory is that the source who suggested that the memo contained verbiage lifted directly from Morsi’s Wikipedia article was none other than the IDF’s chief media spokesflack, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner. If Israeli intelligence did a “solid” for the Egyptians, why would Lerner be talking about it? Don’t have the answer to that one (yet).
Chalk this one up to the cluelessness of some members of the jingoistic Israeli media.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.