Protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February
Protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square in February AFP/File

Egyptian security services have banned a film about the Jews of Egypt on the eve of its scheduled release, the film's director told AFP on Tuesday.

"The film was banned by National Security," Amr Ramses told the news agency by telephone from New York.

The film, which documents the lives of members of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century, exploring themes of identity and tolerance, was meant to be screened in three cinemas on Wednesday, the report said.

"The head of the censorship board said National Security wanted to see a copy and they refused" to have the film screened, Ramses said.

The documentary had already received approval from the censorship board, and Ramses said he planned to take legal action to have the decision reversed.

The trailer had already created a big buzz in Egypt, with so little locally produced material about the Jews of Egypt.

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.

A Muslim Brotherhood official and a senior aide to President Mohammed Morsi recently caused an uproar in Egypt 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, with analysts saying that there was no doubt that he was pressured to quit.