No Due Dilligence

State Puts Brakes On Award To Anti-Semitic Tweeter

Ali Gharib on why the State Department postponed an award to an Egyptian women's rights activist—and why they shouldn't have considered bestowing it in the first place.

Heidi Levine / Sipa Press

The State Department was apparently about to honor an anti-Semitic Tweeter from Egypt. Confused? Me too. But here are some facts, clear as day: one of the recipients of State's "Women of Courage" award, to be doled out tomorrow, was set to be Samira Ibrahim. Ibrahim is a victim of and activist leader against so-called "virginity tests" by the army still ruling over Egypt's transition—but she's so much more, including the apparent author of a series of tweets over several months that indicate clear anti-Semitism. In one, she called the terrorist attack on Israeli civilians in Bulgaria, which killed six civilians, "very sweet news." Rather incredibly, Secretary of State John Kerry and First Lady Michelle Obama were slated to bestow the honor upon this clearly dishonorable woman.

Until the Weekly Standard stepped in. On Tuesday, the Standard wrote up some of Ibrahim's nastiest tweets—including her support for attacks against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and a wish that the U.S. would "burn" on every anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. In other tweets, Ibrahim said the Saudi royals were "dirtier than Jews" and, in a clearly anti-Semitic tweet that doesn't really make sense to me: "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." What hand did Jews have in Hitler's horrendous crimes? I have no idea. Nonetheless, theStandard's Samuel Tadros concluded that State was, as he put it, "either incapable of doing the minimum amount of research required to find out who she is, or does not care that the secretary of state and First Lady are about to honor an anti-Semite who longs for violence against Americans." I'm guessing it was the former, but that's no excuse.

Jeffrey Goldberg reported today that, on the same day the Standard article came out, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington raised with the State Department Ibrahim's tweets. "The Museum believed it was incumbent upon us to alert the State Department about the Tweets and posts we learned of," a museum official wrote to Goldberg. "It is now up to them to research and verify them and decide how to proceed." And that's what State is doing: today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland reportedly said that the department was postponing Ibrahim's award until her tweets could be investigated. (Ibrahim, this week, tweeted that she'd been the victim of hacking: "My account has been previously stolen and any tweet on racism and hatred is not me.” That's a far from satisfying—laughable, in fact—attempt at explaining a long record of these hate tweets at various points in her timeline.)

The question is: why were they about to bestow the award in the first place? One imagines that in this day and age of Twitter diplomacy, various State employees on twitter—even the active, and sometimes controversial account of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo—followed Ibrahim's work. Perhaps that's how she even got on their radars. And if not, it's more than fair to expect a modicum of due diligence. By assigning a translator to flip through a few months of tweets, State could have avoided this embarrassing lapse. I'm not a huge fan of the Weekly Standard, but they, and their author Tadros, deserve credit for bringing Ibrahim's troubling history—and State's troubling negligence—to light, and putting the brakes on this misguided award.