Egyptian-born Canadian actor Mena Massoud, who has recently been warmly celebrated in the Arab world after starring in the new record-breaking Disney film 'Aladdin', has faced heavy criticism on various social media platforms this week over what many Arabs felt was his “recognition” of Israel.
During his promotional tour for the film, Massoud sat down for an interview with the website Ynet, the online outlet for Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.
"I visited Israel when I was in Jordon. I crossed the borders just for a few hours. It was such a process… because I am Egyptian, and born in Egypt, they had to do their research," the 27-year-old actor, who has frequently expressed pride in his Arab origins, said in a video published by Ynet on Sunday.
"It was lovely. We only spent a couple of hours there. I definitely want to go back and visit Jerusalem and walk in the path of Christ and kind of do all the big stuff," Massoud told the interviewer, who opened the interview by saying "originally, we're neighbours."
The Israeli embassy in Egypt posted a screen capture from the interview on its Facebook page on Monday, "wishing the Egyptian star success in next projects," in a post that has received hundreds of comments from outraged Egyptians and Arabs expressing anger against Massoud.
Earlier this week, Massoud was also heavily criticised for a video posted on Instagram where he interviewed the owner of an Israeli vegan restaurant named Aviv in Portland, Oregon.
In the video, Massoud said that the restaurant offered “all the Mediterranean classics,” causing many to slam the actor on social media for promoting “Israeli food,” saying that most of the dishes were appropriated by the 70-year-old nation from Levantine cuisine.
The video was originally posted last year but has recently been making the rounds online.
In response to the criticism, Massoud said in a tweet, “Don’t really understand the politics of it, I was honestly shocked to see the response,” adding that he was not paid to promote the restaurant.
Numerous Arab news websites have levied strong criticism against Massoud and have called for a boycott against the actor.
Although Egypt and Israel have stable diplomatic relations, many in Egypt and other Arab countries still reject the idea of “normalising” relations with Israel over its continued occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians.
Despite the signing of a peace treaty between the two nations in 1978, most people in Egypt, including members of the media, artists, religious authorities, as well as government authorities within the country, have refused to recognise the Israeli state and view any cultural exchange as a tacit recognition.
Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church has banned its members from embarking on religious pilgrimage to Israel, with limited exceptions including for Egyptians living abroad.
The film Aladdin is an adaptation of the popular tale 'Alaa-Uddin and the Magic Lamp', which is one of the stories from the 18th century book ‘Alf Laila w-Laila’ (Arabian Nights).
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