In August 22, 2015, Tel Aviv University held its annual graduation ceremony for international master’s students. The event unfolded like most of its kind, with the school’s academic officials offering the assembled students congratulations on the occasion and wisdom for the wider world. But then the year’s valedictorian took the stage and delivered an address that was anything but the usual predictable platitudes.
Haisam Hassanein was born and raised in rural Egypt, probably the last place one would expect an Israeli university’s valedictorian to hail from. In his speech, Hassanein recalled how he had been surrounded from childhood by anti-Israeli stereotypes at home and in the media:
‘If you think you heard a million reasons why not to come to Israel, I heard a million and a half. Growing up in Egypt, the entire country had opinions about Israel, and none of them were positive. All we knew was that we had fought bloody wars, and that they were not like us.My first exposure to Israel was through music and television. On the radio, there were anthems about the destruction Israel had caused. In the movies, Israelis were depicted as spies and thieves. In spite of the fact that the two countries struck a famous peace accord in 1979, the Israelis, I was told, were our eternal enemies.'”
Nine days later, BBC Trending produced a video relating to the same topic which was promoted on social media and in the ‘Features’ section of the BBC News website’s Middle East page. Audiences then see an unidentified woman saying: “I find no fit between what he said and what I see in my everyday life.” ...