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Ali Salem defeated them

Some intellectuals only see the late Egyptian playwright, Ali Salem, as a symbol of normalization with Israel

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Some intellectuals only see the late Egyptian playwright, Ali Salem, as a symbol of normalization with Israel, and strip him of all he has offered to millions of Arabs and to the Arab culture through his works which have become immortal. We do not want to withhold their right of criticism but it is not acceptable to terrorize intellectuals because of their political stands, to make them traitors, exclude and fight them. This becomes more than a right to expression and more than expressing an opposing opinion.

They overlook his history and productions, and try to defame him only because of their different political opinion. At the end, history is the only judge. It will remember him and forget them. Ali Salem was an amazing person who brought added value to art, culture and even politics. They didn’t succeed in shutting him up and make him reverse his position, as oppose to some artists and novelists who could not bear the attacks and decided to “repent.”

Salem held onto his unwavering belief, as an intellectual and a man of conviction, that a relationship with Israel did not mean at all to give up the rights of Palestinians and supporting them

Abdulrahman al-Rashed



Some of those who waged campaigns against him in his life, and after his death, are hypocrites who belong to circles with solid political and mediatic relations with Israel, while others are Israeli Arabs who shifted towards populism attempting to appease a certain public. What is left of them are Islamists belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood who, if they had lasted longer in governance, would be more like the Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who achieved war and peace more than anyone calling himself a nationalist and Islamist.

Immortalized in his work

Salem held onto his unwavering belief, as an intellectual and a man of conviction, that a relationship with Israel did not mean at all to give up the rights of Palestinians and supporting them. We have witnessed how Arab revolutionary forces used the Palestinian cause for other purposes that brought harm to the Palestinian rights for decades. Some of those who criticize him are in the same ranks as the al-Assad regime and Hezbollah, next to the remnants of the left-wing and Iran’s Islamists like Hamas. Their true face appeared during the revolutions of the Arab Spring as they were encouraging killing, displacement and injustice. In all cases, Ali Salem was an Egyptian citizen who exercised his right according to signed agreements. Even president Mohammad Mursi didn’t dare to disapprove or change this fact and insisted on respecting the Camp David accords signed with Israel.

When these intellectuals damage the reputation of a famous person such as Ali Salem in the course of his life and after his death, they reveal their falseness and fail to respect the most elementary rights of an intellectual person: his freedom of expression and the right to exercise it.

The late playwright left works that will immortalize him, more than twenty theatrical works which are still dominant on the scene and, therefore, do not need the approval of his opponents. I asked him once at lunch about his colleagues who reversed their open political opinions. He answered me: You know that the situation is difficult. They found it easier to cope with the demagogic movement instead of facing it. He himself was talking about immigrating to Turkey despite his reservations about its political preferences. Egyptians remain nostalgic about the days when Turkey was the preferred destination of politicians and intellectuals.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.