Egyptians quit French film festival over Israeli entry

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CAIRO: Egyptian filmmakers who were to sit on the jury of a French film festival in Cairo are boycotting the event because of an Israeli entry, saying they refuse to normalize relations with the Jewish State.

Director Kamla Abu Zikri and actor Asser Yassin told AFP they were boycotting the Rencontres de l Image festival organized by the French embassy s cultural centre (CFCC) in Cairo from April 8-15 after finding out that one of the directors, Keren Ben Rafael, is Israeli.

The festival program had not mentioned Ben Rafael s nationality, only that she graduated from a prestigious French film school.

The decision to quit is not anti-Jewish, it is to protest against Israeli policies, Yassin told AFP.

I respect France s freedom to choose the films it wants to show in a festival it is organizing, but I also have the right to take a decision which I feel is right, he added.

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel in 1979, but the decision has always been unpopular, particularly in cultural circles that reject such ties and refuse to show Israeli works in Egypt.

Abu Zikri said she withdrew because she rejects any sort of normalization with Israel.

Filmmaker Ahmed Atef also resigned from the festival last week, prompting the CFCC to remove the Israeli film Almost Normal from the list of entries.

But in Paris the foreign ministry insisted that the film in question is indeed on the program of the event before the film reappeared on the CFCC list of entries on its website.

The French embassy in Cairo has not commented on the boycott.

Most professional associations in Egypt, including the film and actors unions, have taken a position against normalization with Israel. Members of these unions who go against this, risk being expelled.

Prominent journalist Hala Mustafa received a stern warning from the journalists union in February after she hosted Israel s ambassador to Cairo in her office. -AFP

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