Tomorrow afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama and the secretary of state, John Kerry, are scheduled to present the International Women of Courage Award to 10 women who have shown leadership in advocating for women's rights around the world. Among the 10 honorees is an Egyptian woman, Samira Ibrahim, who has battled against the Egyptian army's infamous "virginity tests."
Ibrahim, according to Samuel Tadros in The Weekly Standard, is also a rather ostentatious anti-Semite who frequently takes to Twitter to excoriate Jews:
On July 18 of last year, after five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed a suicide bombing attack, Ibrahim jubilantly tweeted: "An explosion on a bus carrying Israelis in Burgas airport in Bulgaria on the Black Sea. Today is a very sweet day with a lot of very sweet news."
Ibrahim frequently uses Twitter to air her anti-Semitic views. Last August 4, commenting on demonstrations in Saudi Arabia, she described the ruling Al Saud family as "dirtier than the Jews." Seventeen days later she tweeted in reference to Adolf Hitler: "I have discovered with the passage of days, that no act contrary to morality, no crime against society, takes place, except with the Jews having a hand in it. Hitler."
She has also apparently expressed hatred of America:
As a mob was attacking the United States embassy in Cairo on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, pulling down the American flag and raising the flag of Al Qaeda, Ibrahim wrote on twitter: "Today is the anniversary of 9/11. May every year come with America burning." Possibly fearing the consequences of her tweet, she deleted it a couple of hours later, but not before a screen shot was saved by an Egyptian activist."
Egyptian activists apparently alerted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about Ibrahim's Twitter history. According to museum spokesman Andrew Hollinger, the director of the museum's Initiative on Holocaust Denial and State-sponsored Antisemitism, Diane Saltzman, "alerted the State Department to Samira Ibrahim's tweets" on Tuesday. In an email response to my question, Hollinger also wrote, "On March 6 (yesterday -- Wednesday), we alerted them to some of her blog postings." (Her blog postings, at least the ones I have seen, have a general anti-American tenor, but are not as inflammatory as her tweets.)
In a follow-up email, Hollinger told me, "The Museum believed it was incumbent upon us to alert the State Department about the Tweets and posts we learned of. It is now up to them to research and verify them and decide how to proceed."
This is where the story gets even stranger. Tadros, in The Weekly Standard, wrote on
Tuesday Wednesday -- the day after the Holocaust Museum told the State Department about Ibrahim's tweets -- that, "Just today, apparently after having been warned that her vicious tweets might cause her trouble during her visit to the U.S., she has written on twitter: 'My account has been previously stolen and any tweet on racism and hatred is not me.'" Tadros went on to write, "However, in the past she never made any mention of her account being 'stolen.' The record of her anti-Semitic tweets is still available online."
It is entirely possible that her account was hijacked. These things happen all the time. But the tweets in question appeared over many months, and she is a regular user of Twitter. I've asked a State Department spokeswoman about this, and will report back when I hear from someone. I've also been trying to reach Ibrahim herself. The obvious question: Did the State Department look at Ibrahim's feed before it was decided to give her this award, and did the State Department ascertain that she was indeed the victim of a Twitter hijacking?
UPDATE: Veteran State Department reporter Nicole Gaouette just tweeted, "State officials tell me they've looked at 1000s of her tweets & believe her account was hacked." Waiting for more information from State.
UPDATE #2: The State Department has announced that it would be deferring the award until it could investigate Ibrahim's tweets. Which raises the question, why didn't anyone look at her Twitter feed before?
"...State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Thursday the US would hold off on awarding Ibrahim while officials investigate the tweets, which include support for attacks against US diplomatic installations and praise for a terrorist assault against Israeli citizens in Bulgaria.
Ibrahim, who has already arrived in the US, says her account was hacked, though the comments stretch back several months....
"We, as a department, became aware very late in the process about Samira Ibrahim's alleged public comments," Nuland told reporters. "In conversations with us in the last 24 hours, Ms. Ibrahim has categorically denied authorship. She asserts that she was hacked. But we need some time, and in order to be prudent, to conduct our own review."