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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 12:07 GMT
Egypt airs 'anti-Semitic' series
A woman walks past a poster for Horseman Without A Horse
The series will run in peak Ramadan viewing time
Egyptian broadcasters have aired the first episode in a controversial television series - in spite of US and Israeli requests that it be banned as anti-Semitic.

Two Egyptian television stations began showing the 41-part Horseman Without A Horse across the Arab world on Wednesday night.


Beloved Palestine is lost, grabbed by Zion's sons through organised plundering

Voice-over, Horseman Without A Horse
The series is billed as a chronicle of the Arab struggle against colonial rule and against the establishment of the state of Israel.

But it includes a sub-plot involving a forged document - the Protocols of the Elders of Zion - describing an alleged Jewish plot for world domination, which was used by the Nazis as a pretext for the Holocaust.

"At a time when the Egyptian government is working to promote peace in the region, a program that promotes hatred would be extremely unfortunate and counterproductive," State Department spokeswoman Anne Marks said.

Forty-six members of the US Congress sent a letter on Monday to Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak expressing concern about the program.

Journalist's tale

The show stars Mohammed Sobhi in the role of journalist Hafez Neguib.

The first episode finds him wandering through the desert, dishevelled and exhausted, in the aftermath of Israel's creation in 1948 on what was once Palestine.
Comedian Ahmed Bedir at a meeting supporting the showing of the film
Egyptian stars - such as comedian Ahmed Bedir - have lined up in support

"The armies of the free have been defeated by treachery," he said in a sombre voice over.

"Beloved Palestine is lost, grabbed by Zion's sons through organised plundering."

Sobhi's character then shows what had happened to his father in Egypt in 1855 when he was abducted by a Turkish nobleman desperate for a son.

'Not offensive'

Egyptian officials denied that the series contained anything against Jewish people in general.

The State Department became involved after the US-based Jewish pressure group, the Anti-Defamation League, wrote to it, describing the series as the "latest manifestation of an ongoing pattern of anti-Semitic incitement in the Egyptian media".

A BBC correspondent in Cairo, Heba Saleh, said the Egyptian press had predictably hit back, portraying the US complaint as an insulting attempt to dictate to a sovereign nation what it can run on television.

The row is also being presented as yet another example of American submission to Israel and the Jewish lobby.

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20 Oct 00 | Middle East
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