Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday forcefully defended a prominent Egyptian singer and actor who is facing a public outcry and legal charges after posing for photos with Israeli celebrities.
Photos emerged online earlier this week of Egypt’s Mohamed Ramadan posing with Israeli pop star Omer Adam and soccer player Diaa Sabia at a party in Dubai.
The images sparked public outrage in Egypt and charges on social media that Ramadan had “betrayed” the Palestinians. A lawyer filed a case against Ramadan, accusing him of causing “offense to the Egyptian people,” local media reported.
“He probably thought that the matter would blow over. But it hasn’t. People are furiously angry,” said pro-regime commentator Omr Adib.
Lior Ben Dor, who works on the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s North Africa desk, covering Egypt, blasted the invective against Ramadan.
He defended the celebrity in an Arabic-language video posted to the State of Israel’s official Arabic Twitter account.
“Do you seriously believe that the criticism against him serves the Palestinians? Are you aware that you’re ignoring the changes that are important? What are you afraid of?” he said in colloquial Egyptian Arabic.
“Don’t you see the positive changes happening around you, the dialogue and the cooperation?” Ben Dor continued, referring to the normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. “Isn’t it enough already? What are you so scared of?”
“Wake up! We’re in 2020. Israel lives in peace with four Arab countries and has contact with most Arab states… we’re not in 1956 anymore,” Ben Dor said.
The video has been viewed over 250,000 times. Ben Dor was formerly the Foreign Ministry’s Arabic media spokesperson.
On his own page, Ben Dor reposted the video, and wrote in Hebrew: “Really? Why? What happened? A picture with the Egyptian movie actor Mohamed Ramadan with the singer Omer Adam caused such an uproar. I responded in the Egyptian dialect. I hope that this will strengthen those that agree with us but are kept from having their voices heard.”
נו באמת? למה מה קרה? תמונה משותפת לשחקן קולנוע מצרי מוחמד רמדאן עם הזמר עומר אדם עוררה מהומה כה גדולה. הגבתי על כך בדיאלקט מצרי. מקווה שזה יחזק את ידיהם של אלה שמסכימים איתנו אך מנועים מלהשמיע את קולם https://t.co/cPKDU5lPfY
— Lior Ben Dor ???????? (@BendorLior) November 25, 2020
Ramadan, a 32-year-old actor and rapper, boasts millions of followers in the Arab world. He is a close friend of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and won the 2019 All Africa Music Awards prize.
In the past, Ramadan has also produced songs and music videos supporting the current Egyptian government and praising the Egyptian army.
Ramadan came under fire over the weekend after Emirati journalist Hamad Al Mazrouei tweeted a photo of the star embracing Adam during a trip to the United Arab Emirates. He captioned the shot: “The most famous artist in Egypt with the most famous artist in Israel, Dubai brings us together.” However, he later deleted the picture as outrage grew.
The picture gained further traction when it was retweeted by the State of Israel’s Arabic Twitter account under the caption “Art brings us together.”
الفن دوما يجمعنا.. عرض الإعلامي الإماراتي حمد المزروعي صورة للنجم المصري محمد رمضان مع المطرب الإسرائيلي عومير آدام في دبي ???????????????????????? pic.twitter.com/sv4X3r5nUb
— إسرائيل بالعربية (@IsraelArabic) November 21, 2020
Mediterranean music star Adam, 27, is one of Israel’s most well-known singers, with his “Shnei Meshugaim” single viewed over 61 million times on YouTube, and numerous other singles racking up over 30 million views. A dual US-Israel citizen, he has made several appearances in Dubai in recent months.
Another widely shared photo of Ramadan, with Arab Israeli soccer player Diaa Sabia, also caused a stir online, with the hashtag “Mohamed Ramadan is a Zionist” trending on Twitter.
Though Egypt officially has ties with Israel, its government has not encouraged a warm peace with the Jewish state and normalization remains frowned upon there. That is in stark contrast to the UAE, which has attempted to foster cultural exchange and warm relations between peoples in its brand-new normalization with Israel.
“We have peace between leaderships, not being peoples,” emphasized pro-regime talk show host Ahmad Moussa, a well-known political commentator.
Ramadan was also officially suspended from the Egyptian Actors’ Union as punishment.
“Our code of conduct bans any normalization with Israel,” union chief Ashraf Zaki told Egyptian media on Monday, although he acknowledged that there was some ambiguity in Ramadan’s case.
In what appeared to be an attempt at damage control on Saturday, Ramadan appeared to remark that he was unaware or unconcerned by Adam’s heritage. Ramadan posted a picture of himself with fans, saying: “There is no room for me to ask everyone about his identity, color, nationality, and religion.”
In Egyptian state media, however, that response did not satisfy the rounds of talk-show commentators who dominate the nightly news.
“Who’s benefited from this message which Mohammad Ramadan is sending? Not us. We’ve been insulted and humiliated. It was the Zionist entity who benefited,” Moussa said on Monday.
Ben Dor’s video drew angry comments on Arabic social media. Some Egyptian social media users even compared Israelis to Nazi Germany.
“This Israeli wants us to forget the past… the question is, what would happen if an Israeli singer or athlete took a pretty picture with a group of Nazis,” wrote one user.
“When the Zionists forget the Holocaust, the Egyptians will forget what happened in the 1950s and 1960s…You’re Zionists, and the only thing we share is some ink on paper,” wrote another social media user in reference to the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
الإسرائيلي عايزنا ننسى الماضي
وهما ذات نفسهم مستحيل هينسوا الماضي الاسود والجرائم اللي ارتكبها النازيين معاهم،
هل يستطع الإسرائيليين نسيان ما فعله المجرم هتلر؟
السؤال الان ماذا لو خرج مطرب او رياضي مشهور في اسرائيل والتقط صورة لطيفة مع مجموعة من النازيين؟ ????
— ???????? Sara Fahmy (@sarafahmmy) November 25, 2020
The landmark peace accord between Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin was signed in Washington on March 26, 1979, but has remained a cold peace between the two nations.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi welcomed the normalization deal between Israel and the UAE when it was announced, voicing his support for “any steps that would bring peace” to the Middle East.
Ramadan’s court case is set to be heard on December 19.