Ashraf ‘The Angel’ Marwan’s Netflix film: The truth, or a one sided story?

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Ashraf Marwan, a national hero in Egypt and Israel for his role in the peace treaty between both countries... This is how the spy is depicted in the new hit Netflix film The Angel.

Based on the Israeli writer Uri Bar-Joseph’s book The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel, the film, which aired on Netflix on Sept. 14, questions what would motivate a man like Marwan (played by Dutch actor Marwan Kenzari) to betray his country.

But the film itself presents three reasons: To take revenge on his father-in-law who hated him, to make money, and the more controversial, debatable reason is to protect the lives of thousands of soldiers from the October War. The latter reason caused mockery and a doubt in the credibility of the film’s makers.

The Angel portrayed Marwan’s involvement as a spy for Israel as one that paved the way to the eventual Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, signed by Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in 1979.

However, other accounts claim that Marwan was a double agent whose sole motive was money and more power.

According to the Israeli produced and directed film, neither side was victorious in the 1973 October War that claimed the lives of 17,000 people, except for peace, which Marwan contributed to, and the treaty between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979.

Israel nicknamed Marwan The Angel, considering him the savior who tipped them off to a secret attack planned by Egyptian-Syrian forces during the October War as he was President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law and President Anwar al-Sadat’s top adviser.

Ashraf Marwan and Mona Abdel Nasser. (AFP)
Ashraf Marwan and Mona Abdel Nasser. (AFP)

The movie first started out by showing Marwan calling the Israeli embassy from a London telephone booth purely for revenge reasons after he heard his father-in-law Abdel Nasser belittling him, and telling his daughter: “How can this man be a role model for my grandchildren? His absence would be better, as soon as I saw him I knew he was an idiot.”

After Abdel Nasser passed away, Marwan was able to gain the trust of Sadat, and had access to top-secret military information.
The film didn’t mention the idea of Marwan being a double agent, even though the book that the film is based on did consider him a double agent for Egypt and Israel.

Among the things ignored by the film that were in the book was the important question posed by the writer: How did the Egyptian government not make any attempt to investigate this treason and take him to court, in the period between when the truth was revealed in 2002 and when he died in 2007?

What is the benefit for Egyptian presidents to hide this treason, some ask, while others say this secrecy was necessary to cover the trickery that two presidents went through.

Israeli filmmakers are no doubt succeeding in marketing the film, and getting it seen through Netflix, however the mystery of Marwan’s death and his motives behind playing on both sides still remains unanswered.

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