Is this law student a spy?

At this year’s Emory Law School commencement, Professor Sara Stadler urged graduates to think outside the box with respect to their career options: “You might not be able to land that [top-choice] job…. You might have to move to Nebraska.… You might have to join a small firm where they don’t make the big bucks.”

Or you might have to… become a spy in the Middle East? Emory law student Ilan Grapel has been detained in Egypt, by authorities who allege that he is a “highly trained” spy working for Israel.

Ilan Grapel is… pretty cute. Is he a spy?

Here’s a report from ABC News:

The U.S. State Department confirmed Sunday’s arrest of 27-year-old dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Ilan Chaim Grapel in a statement, but declined to comment concerning allegations voiced in Egyptian state media that he was working for the Israeli intelligence force, Mossad, “with the aim of harming [Egypt's] economic and political interests.”

Grapel’s mother, Irene Grapel, told ABC News the charges against him were “complete fabrications.”

Here’s a question for discussion: If you were a spy, would you tell your mom?

(I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m a mama’s boy; on the other hand, I wouldn’t want to worry her. And maybe it would be safer for her not to know about my secret life.)

Ilan Grapel does sound like a bad-ass. From the Jerusalem Post:

Grapel, originally from New York, moved to Israel after graduating from Johns Hopkins University in the US and enlisted in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces].

He was wounded during fighting against Hezbollah guerillas in the southern Lebanese town of Taibe in August, 2006. In an interview to the New York Daily News in 2006, Irene Grapel said her son decided to enlist in the IDF since he “didn’t want a boring life” and craved some adventure before enrolling in graduate school.

Specifically, Grapel served in the IDF as a paratrooper. Jumping out of planes into enemy territory sounds like good preparation for being a law student in today’s economy.

Here’s some nice commentary from Constitutional Daily, channeling Professor Stadler:

Now, we know what you’re thinking, with Egypt’s reputation for scooping up anyone they don’t happen to like and slapping any accusation on them that has a slight chance of sticking, there’s not really any reason to think the claims about him are true. But, we think focusing on the way the Egyptian criminal justice system is failing Grapel (and the rest of Egypt) isn’t productive. The only thing between Grapel and happiness is his sense of entitlement.

Get over it.

What do the Emory Law folks make of this episode? One of Grapel’s classmates finds the allegation flattering:

I’m glad that Egyptian officials think that someone from a (now) top 30 law school like Emory is capable of being a spy. If the hit cable television program “Covert Affairs” has taught me anything, spies are only hired from the best of the best. Maybe this will help our US News rankings?

Maybe so. There’s no such thing as bad publicity — to the extent that this raises Emory Law’s profile, it’s a good thing.

In any event, and in all seriousness, we hope that everything works out for Ilan Grapel and that he is released from custody unharmed. If you would like to express support for this handsome young lad, you can join this Facebook group, Egypt: Release Ilan Grapel.

UPDATE (6/14/11): Here is the latest news about Ilan Grapel.

American Law Student Arrested as ‘Spy’ in Egypt [ABC News]
Alleged ‘spy’ in Egypt is US citizen, IDF paratrooper [Jerusalem Post via Constitutional Daily]
Egypt: Release Ilan Grapel [Facebook]


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