i'm proud to say that years ago I met, in Cairo (and later in Israel), with a brave and famous Egyptian writer who had been ostracized and had been expelled from the Egyptian Writers association, because of his support for "normalcy" with Israel. It was during Mubarak's Presidency and rabid antisemitism flourished (with President Mubarak's approval) in Egyptian media. That brave (and talented) writer was Ali Salem. We had long talks and met several times. I consider him a friend but I've lost contact with Ali and have long worried about his safety. Ali is suddenly in the news and I could not resist joyfully reporting on his wise words:
Famous Egyptian writer says Hamas is “the real enemy,” not Israel,
Egyptian writer and playwright Ali Salem, who has a record of peaceful statements regarding Israel, said Israel is Egypt’s “friend” and Hamas is “the real enemy.” It is not in Israel’s interest for Egypt to suffer from a lack of security, Salem said on Al-Arabiya TV in an interview Wednesday, the Egyptian El-Watan website reported.
The intellectual said Hamas and Islamic State present the most serious threat to Egypt.
Salem has visited Israel and called for the normalization of relations, drawing strong reactions from critics.
The real enemy is also poverty, ignorance, and disease, he said, adding, “Egypt will defeat terrorism no matter how long it takes.”
There are currently Israeli factories in Egypt and normalization with Israel is necessary, the playwright said.
In 2001, the Union of Egyptian Writers expelled Salem. He had “visited Israel several times and published a book on those visits, in addition to several articles supporting normalization, which contradicts the general bent of union members and the resolutions of the general assembly in several sessions,” said a union statement reported in an article about the writer in The Middle East Quarterly journal in 2002.
Salem has written 25 plays and 15 books, and some of them Egyptian classics, said the article.
In 1994, after the Oslo agreement, Salem drove to Israel and later published a book about it, “A Drive to Israel.”
“Now I was crossing the border, Egypt was behind me, for a long time I wouldn’t use the Egyptian dialect that I love. I set out on the road to Tel Aviv, in my car with its Cairo license plates: white Arabic numbers on a black background,” wrote Salem according to translated excerpts.
“I admit it: when they left me the Egyptian plates, I felt happy. And I began to exploit the chance to proclaim my nationality … With Egyptian plates and a high-pitched jeep engine I was shouting, without opening my mouth: Hey, folks!… Egypt is your neighbor!… I am an Egyptian coming forth from Egypt.”
In an Egyptian TV interview last year on Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV, reported by MEMRI, Salem said it disturbs him when people call Israel the enemy.
“The Israelis are not an enemy – at least not of the Egyptians.”
Pressed by the interviewer if Iran or Israel is more of threat to Egypt, Salem responded that Iran was, “absolutely.”
“Because [Iran] has an extremist religious regime."-more
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