It has been a tough peace for Ali Salem. His plays don't have a stage. Intellectuals shun him; the writers union refuses to pay his pension. He sits in a cafe window, typing on his laptop and defending his choice long ago to cross the border into Israel and make friends.The handshake between Al Azhar Sheikh Tantawi and Shimon Peres is still reverberating, and Egyptian officials are trying to make sure that no one ever sees any similar photo-ops:
Egypt and Israel made peace in 1979, but that treaty remains as agitating to Egyptian artists and intellectuals as a sliver of glass beneath the skin. Most of them don't accept it, and those who do are often vilified, their artistic voices muffled by condemnation.
"Producers are afraid to come near me," said Salem, who in 1994 drove his car across Israel and wrote what critics considered a sympathetic book about the journey. "I anticipated there would be a strong reaction, but I didn't expect it would be so mean. It's hard and this is the wound."
Salem, a columnist for Al Hayat newspaper and a co-founder of the Cairo Peace Movement, added: "Peace is the right idea. But Egyptian intellectuals are afraid and can't get rid of their ancient fears. They still think Israel and the U.S. will inflict something bad upon us."
Occasionally, an artist unwittingly becomes the target of screeds and opinion page vitriol. Filmmaker Nadia Kamel’s recent documentary about her mother's Jewish roots was attacked as a call to "normalize" relations with Israel. Opera singer Gaber Beltagui had his membership in the musicians union suspended in 2007 when he sang at the 100th anniversary of a Cairo synagogue.
"How can he go sing at a synagogue while they [Israelis] are killing our sons?" Mounir Wasseemy, the head of the Musical Artists' Syndicate, said, denouncing Beltagui. "What glory was he seeking?"
Egyptian security officials are reported to have prevented a top Israeli defence official from meeting the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, in Cairo. The local daily, al-Misr al-Youm, said that Amos Gilad, advisor to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, had sought to meet Moussa (photo) while both were passing through the airport.Which makes this cartoon even more amazing, not only for its truth but because it was printed in an Egyptian newspaper:
Security officials were apparently trying to avoid a repeat of the recent controversy when Egyptian cleric Sheikh Mohammad Sayyid Tantawi shook hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres.
The bald man is an ultra-conservative Muslim character in this daily comic strip (who does not know that "Brother Levy" is Jewish.)