CAIRO -- When Egyptian actor Ayman Kandeel believes he has been tricked into appearing on an Israeli television network, he smacks the show’s producer and charges to slap the female host, throwing her into a corner.
He curses, tosses chairs, and single-handedly demolishes the set. Just before the famous actor reaches for his gun holster, the crew finally tells him he is a guest on a prank show and that everyone in the studio is actually Egyptian. A crew member admonishes Kandeel: “Shame on you for hitting a woman.”
Kandeel, who admittedly carries a gun in these uncertain times of political unrest, hugs the young host and apologizes: “You brought it upon yourself,” he said.
Presented by relatively unknown Egyptian actress Iman Mubarak, "Alhokm Baad Al mozawla," or “Judgment After a Prank” aired daily during the month of Ramadan as millions of viewers tuned in after breaking their evening fasts. The shows were taped in advance to guarantee no one was tipped off and the hoax was successful. Apparently, none of the guests leaked word of the spoof.
Arab celebrities and public figures have been invited under the pretense that they would appear on an Arabic-speaking German network. When the deception begins, the guests are unnerved after they’re tricked into believing that the show airs on an Israeli channel. Mubarak fools guests into believing she is of Jewish origin. Some of the guests, protecting their pride and turning theatrical, respond with anti-Israeli slurs and violence.
In one of the most volatile episodes, Mubarak started to provoke actor Mahmoud Abdelghafar by asking him why there can’t be peace and cooperation between Egypt and Israel on all levels, including television, art and politics. He rejects the idea nervously and suggests they should discuss another topic.
Abdelghafar, who claimed he was told he would appear on a program to boost Egypt’s tourism, said if he knew what he was getting himself into, he “wouldn’t have taken part in a show with Jews.” As the cast members continue to provoke him during the prank, Abdelghafar punches the producer -- an obscure actor -- and grabs him by the hair and yells: “I suspected you were a Jew.”
Compared to "Punk’d," the show exposes the lingering anti-Israeli sentiment in Egyptian and Arab societies. Televised on a privately-funded Egyptian satellite channel, the controversial program is widely discussed.
Egypt’s talk-show host Tawfik Okasha, who has been compared to Glenn Beck, also appears on the show. Okasha, known to be an ultra-conservative supporter of deposed leader Hosni Mubarak, received grating criticism for his unwitting reaction. Unlike most of the guests, Okasha said he supports Israel’s “right to land.” He further rattles Egyptian viewers when he asks the host: “What do Muslims have right to in Jerusalem except for Al Aqsa Mosque?”
Many Egyptians on Twitter and YouTube, primarily young activists, slammed Okasha, describing his episode as “scandalous" and even traitorous for his comments.
Describing Israel as an "occupying" force, other guests removed their microphone sets on air and refused to go on with the show. Others are more angered by the fact that they were lied to when they were told they would participate in a German show.
While the show's plot grapples with a deeply-rooted anti-Israeli sentiment, many of the guests are upset by the young producer who provokes them for added effect. Although Kandeel became flustered when Mubarak told him she was of Jewish origin, he lost his temper altogether when the producer said he was Israeli.
Speaking to Kandeel in a condescending tone, the young actor posing as the producer said: "I'm here trying to be peaceful. I am not provoking you." Kandeel responded: "The peace was decided on by governments. We as people have different criteria."
Since Egypt and Israel signed the Camp David treaty in 1979, Egyptians have grudgingly accepted the idea but many have called for revising or scrapping the document. The strained relationship between the two countries persists as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains unresolved.
-- Reem Abdellatif