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Egypt: New Book Deals with Jews in Cinema

Egypt's cultural authority releases a new book examining the role of Jewish cinema makers and artists in the Egyptian and Arab cinema.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 11/22/2013, 5:16 AM

Egypt-Israel border
Egypt-Israel border
Flash 90

Egypt’s state-owned General Authority for Cultural Palaces has recently released a book on Jews in Egyptian cinema, the local Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper reported on Thursday.

The book, entitled “Jews and cinema in Egypt and the Arab world” was written by critic Ahmed Raafat Bahgat. It examines the role of Jewish cinema makers and artists in the Egyptian and Arab cinema, according to the report.

In its first chapter, the 490-page book discusses the Egyptian film industry in the context of a monopoly and the beginning of domination, studios, domestic production and distribution of foreign films.

Later, the book deals with artists and technicians, Jewish Egyptian cinema makers, their styles, the press and journalists at the time, and the relation between cinema and the Jews who still remain in Egypt.

The book also views Jewish characters in Egyptian movies through the first half of the 20th century, before the 1967 Six Day War, after the Yom Kippur War in 1973 war, and following the peace treaty signed between the two countries.

According to Al-Masry Al-Youm, the final chapter of the book discusses Jews and Judaism is relation to cinema in both the Palestinian Authority and Iraq.

In March, Egyptian security services banned a film about the Jews of Egypt on the eve of its scheduled release.

No decision was given for the ban, but the documentary film was later cleared for screening after its makers completed the necessary paperwork.

The film documents the lives of members of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century, exploring themes of identity and tolerance.

Much of the community left the country after the Suez Crisis in 1956 which saw then-president Gamal Abdel Nasser expel Jews who were deemed disloyal to the nation.

Today, Egypt's Jewish population consists of just a few dozen. The community keeps a low profile for fear of being persecuted. In April, the community’s long-time leader, Carmen Weinstein, passed away at the age of 84.

During the tenure of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, an official in his Muslim Brotherhood caused an uproar over his remarks that Egyptian Jews should leave Israel and reclaim their properties back at home.

The official, Essam al-Erian, said during a television interview that "it is better for Jews to live in a country like Egypt rather than in a country contaminated by occupation."

He added that the Jews should return immediately to Egypt to "make way for the Palestinian people" and said, "Every Egyptian has the right to come back to Egypt, no matter what his religion."

Erian later sought to dispel the controversy he caused by saying that the "ideology of Zionism" had ended in failure and predicting that Israel will cease to exist within a decade.

He subsequently resigned from his position and was arrested last month as part of the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood by Egypt’s new military-backed regime.