CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Abdel Wahab Al-Meseri, who led an Egyptian movement demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, has died. He was 70.
Al-Meseri died of cancer Wednesday night, Hossam Tokan, director of the Palestine Hospital in Cairo, said Thursday. Al-Meseri, a professor at Cairo’s Ain Shams University, was elected coordinator of the Egyptian Movement for Change, or Kifaya, in 2007.
During a Kifaya protest against the government’s economic policies in January he was beaten by police who grabbed him with his wife to be found later abandoned in the desert outside Cairo.
“He was subjected to harsh and despicable treatment by the regime but remained defiant and courageous to the moment of his death,” said George Ishaq, a co-founder of Kifaya and his predecessor as leader of the movement. Ishaq said al-Meseri will be buried in his Nile Delta hometown of Dimnhour later Thursday. He said the movement’s leadership will meet soon to elect a new coordinator. The state-run Middle East News Agency described al-Meseri’s death as “a great lose for the Arab and Islamic nations.”
Al-Meseri was also considered one of the Arab world’s leading experts on Jewish and Israeli affairs. Over a quarter century, he compiled the eight-volume “Jews, Judaism and Zionism Encyclopedia.”
In the 3,500-page work, Al-Meseri theorized that the problem is not with the Jews but rather with Zionism. He looked on Zionism not as a national movement for Jews but as a racist “phenomenon.” He viewed Israel as a colonial stronghold imposed by Western powers to defend their interests in the Middle East.
Al-Meseri rejected the notion of excluding Jews and called for the coexistence of Arabs and Jews in a democratic country.
Al-Meseri also published half a dozen books on Zionism and topics related to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He graduated from Columbia University in New York and later earned a doctorate in English literature from Rutgers university in the U.S. state of New Jersey. Al-Meseri was survived by a son Yasser, a daughter Noura and wife Huda Hijazi.