The storming of the Israeli embassy may work like that in Egypt. Most Egyptians have never accepted the idea of diplomatic relations with Israel (even many of those who don’t want more wars also don’t want what they see as the shame and surrender of an Israeli embassy on Egyptian territory). Attacking the embassy sends a thrill through the masses — who are, by the way, increasingly unhappy with the failure of the revolution to deliver tangible economic benefits.

Attacking an embassy is a revolutionary act; it is a declaration that revolutionaries reject the international status quo and the current authorities who tamely agree to live within its limits. Like the Iranian seizure of the US embassy in 1979 it is an act that forces people to take sides. Parties and figures who condemn the attack on the Israeli embassy risk losing public support; those who accept it find themselves committed to an increasingly radical course.