Guardian frames Egypt ‘Spy Stork’ row as sign of increased xenophobia under military regime

In terms of entertainment value it’s hard to beat recent reports that Egyptian police placed a stork under arrest late Friday after a mysterious device was found attached to its feathers, fueling accusations that it might have been used for Zionist espionage.  Evidently, the stork was taken to a police station, and ‘interrogated’, but soon cleared of wrongdoing after veterinarians realized that the bird was bearing nothing but a wildlife tracker installed by French scientists.

stork
A migrating stork was held in an Egyptian police station after a man suspected it of being a spy. Photo, AP

However, the story doesn’t end there, at least not if you’re a blog which monitors the Guardian.  Almost as enjoyable as the story itself was the account of the episode by the Guardian Cairo correspondent, Patrick Kingsley.  

Though his story, Eyes on storks? Egyptian fishermen thought bird was a foreign spy, Sept. 2, was, in fairness, mostly light-hearted and cheeky, being the Guardianista he is, he naturally somehow failed to note reports that some thought the bird was spying for Israel, while imputing the following political significance:

But the stork’s treatment comes amid a wider rise in xenophobia in Egypt this summer. Since the army forced out ex-president Mohamed Morsi in a widely backed move on 3 July, the country has been consumed in a wave of pro-military nationalism.

One side-effect has been the blaming of the country’s ills on foreigners – from American diplomats, to Syrian refugees and western journalists.

Whilst blaming the stork’s apprehension on the current mood of jingoism – in contrast, presumably, to the ‘enlightened internationalism‘ under the Muslim Brotherhood – is itself quite comical, those of us who’ve ‘covered’ previous instances of spy animals can refute the reporter’s thesis by noting other examples of Egyptian ‘xenophobia’.

A couple of years ago there were reports that some Egyptians were blaming Israel for a shark attack that killed a German tourist in the Red Sea. Such suspicions were best articulated by the South Sinai Governor, Mohamed Abdel Fadil Shousha, who said the following:

What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark in the sea to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm”.

This all prompted Chas Newkey-Burden to illustrate the anti-Zionist paranoia the following way at his blog, (using a graphic by Jonathan Sacerdoti):

shark1
Just when you thought it was safe to go in the water

Oh, and finally, contrary to the Guardian reporter’s theory on a military regime-inspired fear of migratory foreigners, the “Zionist shark attack” took place in 2010, before the military regime and before Morsi, undermining the suggestion that the stork arrest can be tied to societal fears stoked by the current ‘wave’ of militant nationalism.

(You can get up to speed on the complete list of Zionist Spy Animals here.)

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