Two recent videos-gone-viral should cause pause to anyone still harboring hope about the direction that Egypt has taken since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
The first of these clips, released and translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), was taken from Egyptian broadcasting for the Ramadan holiday. The second was produced and circulated by the Israel-based Temple Institute, in honor of Tisha B’Av.
Let’s begin with the former — an Arabic version of “Candid Camera” — in which celebrities are invited to what they think is a serious talk show ostensibly conducted by German TV. When the guest arrives at the studio and the interview begins, he (or she, since there is also a segment with a female interviewee) is told that the program is actually Israeli. This is the point of the prank: to watch how each reacts to this news and to film them doing it.
One of these Egyptian celebs goes so ballistic that he begins punching a camera man — whom he now believes is an Israeli Jew — and then smacks the woman interviewer so hard that she is flung a few feet into a wall. Before he manages to kill someone on air, the crew hastily informs him that he has been the butt of a joke — and then they all have a big laugh together. No hard feelings. It is understandable that he should want to murder Jews, after all. Ha ha.
The second star engages in similar behavior. Again they all hug and make up at the moment that things start getting mega-violent.
The third is a cloaked and head-covered woman whose rant against Israel and the Jews merely goes up about a thousand notches when she is told that the crew is not German, but rather Israeli. It’s all in good fun. And it all goes on TV — with the permission of the people on whom the prank was pulled. They were probably happy to be shown exhibiting such open hostility to the Jewish state — you know, the neighboring country with which their incarcerated, comatose former president had upheld a peace treaty for decades.
Which brings us to their current “democratically elected” leader — Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood — and his response to the second video clip that has made the rounds on the Internet this week.
Titled “The Children Are Ready,” this 90-second clip — created by an organization whose stated aim is to build a Third Temple — is geared towards Jewish audiences marking the three weeks leading up to the fast day of the Ninth of Av, the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temples of Jerusalem.
What is seen in the short film is a man with his young daughter and son at the beach. While the children frolic at the edge of the water and build a sand castle, their father is sitting in a chair and reading what appears to be the international news section of The Jerusalem Post. As the camera zooms in on the children’s construction, the viewer can see that it is a replica of the Temple. Proud of their achievement, the kids run to their father and pull him toward their edifice. He folds the newspaper and puts it under his arm. But when he sees the sand Temple, he lifts his arm, and the paper falls to the ground. The end. Or, rather, the beginning — of a huge outcry on the part of the Egyptian people, who evidently have been spending much of their Ramadan fast surfing the Web.
And what is their fuss about? Get this: The newspaper that has fallen onto the sand at the conclusion of the clip has a photo of Morsi on its front cover. Uh, yeah. This was an actual daily paper, and Morsi’s picture has been in all the dailies regularly before, during and since the Egyptian presidential elections last month.
This fact has not prevented the Egyptians, and Morsi himself, from seeing deeper symbolism in it. Their interpretation is that the film is a pernicious attempt on the part of Israel to assert that it is the Jews — not the Muslims — who have full control of the Temple Mount.
Now that’s even funnier than Egyptian Candid Camera.
In the first place, it is the likes of Morsi and his Islamist brothers who keep harping on dominating the Temple Mount. Indeed, erasing the Jews’ historical and religious connection and claim to the holy site is part and parcel of radical Islamist strategy and ideology.
Secondly, it is Jews who are hindered from praying at their holy site, while Muslims have had free reign there since the aftermath of the Six-Day War, when Israel gave the Islamic waqf jurisdiction over it. Rather than protect it for peoples of all faiths, the waqf has been conducting a concerted campaign of what former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Dore Gold has termed “Temple denial.”
Morsi is a “Temple denier” if there ever was one. His election reflects what the revolution in Egypt was all about: the “Islamic Spring” gone viral.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” now available on Amazon.