Producer Allen Funt turned his “Candid Camera” show where unsuspecting people were filmed while being subjected to pranks into a television institution that lasted for decades. It spawned modern, and often less gentle successors, such as “Punk’d” as well as foreign imitations. But, as Memri.org reveals, the Egyptian version of this genre found a way of freaking out their victims that seems to be straight out of a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. Al-Nahar TV tricked three Egyptian celebrities into coming in for an Arabic-language interview that they were told was for German television. But once the cameras were rolling, the interviewer and the staff on the set let it slip that they were really Israelis. As they say in the world of comedy, complications ensued.
All three of the prominent victims of this stunt were outraged at the thought of even being in the same room with people they presumed to be Jews, let alone appearing on an Israeli program. Two grew violent, with one burly male even assaulting the young female interviewer. The prank speaks volumes not only about the level of hatred for Jews and Israelis in Egyptian popular culture but about what is considered acceptable behavior in the Muslim world.
Viewing the invective about Jews and Israel being spewed on the show by three apparently prominent members of the Egyptian arts community is damning by itself. It says a lot that the show’s producers thought one of the most outrageous things they could do to Egyptians was to trick them into sitting down with Jews. Nor is it surprising that the response generated hate speech about the character of the Jewish people and the authenticity of the Holocaust.
But the punch lines of each segment in which the subjects are informed they are on a candid camera show, which was required in two cases to avert more violence if not bloodshed, is also illustrative. There were no reproaches from the hosts for the violent behavior that followed when the guests were told they were on Israeli TV. It was only when they were pretending to be Israelis that they tried to push back against the slanders. Once they were back in their own identities, all was forgiven. The host only had praise for her dupes — even the one who slugged her — for demonstrating what she described as “patriotism” by their anger about being set up to talk with Jews.
To be fair to the Egyptian actors who were subjected to this prank, had they really been tricked into appearing on Israeli TV, there would have been serious consequences for their careers. Egyptians who appear to be friendly with Israel or with Jews are often blacklisted from their professions.
Nevertheless, the show tells us all we need to know about the depth of Egyptian and Muslim anti-Semitism. Those who believe peace with the Arab world can be bought by territory or by Israeli concessions continue to ignore the current of hatred that runs through the political and arts culture of the Muslim world, even in a country supposedly at peace with the Jewish state.