Jews Portrayed Sympathetically in Egyptian TV Series; Public Backlash Causes Actors, Directors to Deny Support for Normalization With Israel
For the second year in a row, Egyptian television is portraying Jews in a positive light during Ramadan, much to the chagrin of some of the public and members of the country’s media, pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon reported on Tuesday.
According to the report, this year’s series that is relatively sympathetic to the Tribe – through one of its characters — is called “Mammon and Associates.” Egyptian press coverage of the backlash the show has elicited includes a “defense” of the show’s directors, who – Elder of Ziyon paraphrases – “are generally uniformly anti-Zionist and against any sort of ‘normalization’ with Israel,” quick to make a distinction between Jews and the Jewish state.
Last year, as Elder of Ziyon reported at the time, an Egyptian actress portraying the role of a Jewish woman in a series launched on Ramadan, released a statement to assure viewers that the show’s intention was not to “beautify the face of Israel.”
Menna Shalabi, co-star of “Haret al-Yahood” (“Jewish Quarter”) – a historical drama about Egypt’s vanished Jewish community – “pleaded for critics and the public not to rush to judgment on the work before its full release.”
Elder of Ziyon quoted a Times of Israel description of the series, launched on June 18, 2015 for the Ramadan holiday:
The plot … unfolds in Cairo between two landmark events in 20th century Egyptian history: the 1952 Revolution — which replaced the ruling monarchy with the militaristic Free Officers Movement led by Muhammad Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser — and the 1956 Suez Crisis, known in Israel as the Kadesh Operation and in Egypt as the Tripartite Aggression.
It depicts a love story between Ali, an Egyptian army officer played by Iyad Nassar, and Laila, a young Jewish woman, played by Mona Shalabi. As one might expect, the romance is marred by the rising wave of Egyptian nationalism and the social tensions brought about by the creation of Israel.
According to Elder of Ziyon, Menna said that there is a difference between the state of Israel “that adopts the idea of occupation” and the Jewish religion and Jews as human beings — as citizens who have lived a long time in Egypt. He concluded: “One doesn’t have to read between the lines to see that she has been criticized in social media for the role and she is worried that she might be a target.”
The TV dramas, he said, have emerged in a sea of otherwise antisemitic sentiment expressed in Egyptian newspapers. He cited an op-ed that appeared in the most widely read daily, Al Ahram, last month, which uses the following classical trope:
Jewish Talmudic plans and their desire to enslave the world are written in the Talmud…The goal of the hidden conspiracy of the Jews is the actual control of the world, having has economic control and flood the world with their financial loans. America is living under a debt of $ 15 trillion, and France, hundreds of billions more, and like England, Italy, Spain and others, the question is: who lent these countries this money? Actual control does not come from conventional military occupation, but by placing all the existing governments and peoples under a unified global government.