Egypt actors' union investigating movie star for -- gasp -- working with an Israeli

Actors, like artistic types in general, tend to be among the liberals of whatever culture they’re in. Our entire Middle East project is predicated on the notion that if given democratic freedoms or at least shown that it’s possible for them to have such freedoms, the liberals of Islamic states will eventually rise up, throw off the yoke of sharia-based tyranny, and join the community of nations in hand-holding and song.

That may not work out.

The chairman of Egypt’s Actors’ Union said Thursday that the group planned to investigate one of the country’s brightest young movie stars for appearing in an upcoming miniseries with an Israeli actor.

The controversy began when the group discovered that Amr Waked, who starred in the Hollywood film Syriana, was in Tunisia filming a four part series on Saddam Hussein’s life opposite Yigal Naor, an Israeli of Iraqi descent.

“We found out Amr Waked was participating in a movie with an Israeli artist and so when he returns from abroad he will be investigated,” union chairman Ashraf Zaki said. “The Actors’ Union here is against normalization with Israel.”

Nearly a dozen articles have appeared over the past week condemning Waked for participating in the series, titled Between Two Rivers and backed by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Home Box Office.

“Who will hold Amr Waked accountable?” read a headline Monday in Egypt’s opposition daily el-Wafd.

A better question would be “Why should anyone hold him accountable, and for what?” But they’re not asking that question.

Waked declined to comment on the upcoming investigation, but in earlier interviews with Egyptian media, the actor said he did not know the nationalities of every person involved in the project.

Well how could he? The actors union is channeling Geraldo’s deepest fears. Go about three minutes into the clip to figure out what I’m talking about.

This whole story is illuminating. The actors’ union claims that it’s its leftwing politics that are driving this idiotic investigation.

Anti-Israeli sentiment flared in the country during the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, much of it led by left wing academics and artists who have long been Israel’s fiercest critics in Egypt.

“The [film] industry is in general very left wing and stays away from normalization as a whole,” said Richard Woffenden, the former cultural editor of the local Cairo Times weekly.

But how are they, fundamentally, liberals in the sense of believing in basic human freedom if they’re going to investigate an actor on something like this? They’re not. They’re agitated by some of the same issues that animate the jihadists, and they’re acting like them too. And the Egyptian press, presumably also run by either liberals or working wards of the state, is right there with them.