First Published: 2002-11-05

200 gather in Cairo to defend TV series

Screenwriters admit 'Horseman without a Horse' draws from overtly racist tract, deny charges production anti-Semitic.


Middle East Online

By Acil Tabbara - CAIRO

Mohammed Sobhi surrounded by fans during series conference

Almost 200 people, including scriptwriters, actors and artists, rallied Monday in Cairo in defence of an Egyptian television series which the United States and Israel want banned for alleged anti-Semitism.

The producer and two co-screenwriters of "Horseman without a Horse" stressed that the series was not meant to be anti-Semitic but simply to tell the story of the Arab struggle against Zionism.

Speakers at the Cairo meeting condemned US and Israeli efforts to ban the series, which will be broadcast from Wednesday, the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, by around 20 Arab television stations.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher has said his government complained to Egypt and other Middle Eastern states about plans to broadcast the series.

Officials said Washington was unhappy with the programme, which it believed to be drawn from "racist and untrue" sources and based on the 19th-century anti-Semitic tract, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion."

The screenwriters admit the series draws from the overtly racist tract but deny charges that their production is anti-Semitic.

The forged "Protocols", portraying a Jewish "plot" for world domination, was used notably in Nazi Germany and other parts of Europe as a pretext to persecute Jews.

"The campaign against this series is absolutely unjustified. It's scandalous," said actor Gamil Rateb, who plays a British high commissioner in the Egyptian production.

The production "speaks of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion without saying if it's true or not, but the series is not dedicated to that," he went on.

Co-actor Claude Cernay, a French antique dealer in the series, said it was "a satire against the English occupation, and the Elders of Zion business has a minimal role."

One of the screenwriters, Mohammed Sobhi, who plays a leading role, said the fuss was exaggerated.

"I apologize in advance to Arab television viewers. We have portrayed only one percent of the reality of Zionist acts in this series," Sobhi said.

"I am the first to say that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a forgery, but what is strange is that they (the Israelis) perhaps read it and decided to implement it," he added.

"If this series scares the United States and the Zionist entity, then we will make many more like it," Sobhi said.

Participants at the Cairo meeting said they will launch a petition against "the flagrant interference of the United States in the internal affairs of Egypt."

The Egyptian government daily Al-Akhbar on Sunday denounced the US-Israeli campaign against the series as an attack on freedom of expression amounting to "intellectual terrorism".

The series tells the story of an Egyptian who leads the struggle against the British colonisers until he finds a book written in Russian that turns out to be the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

It provides proof that the true enemy is not the British, but the "Elders of Zion," according to the screenwriters.

Egyptian Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif said last week that the series contained nothing which could be considered anti-Semitic and his government embraced a policy rejecting attacks on religion.


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