Tahiya Karioka: A Journey of Art, Politics in Egypt

Karioka

Cairo – Egyptian art critic Tarek El Shinnawi has released a new 160-page book, “The Time of Tahiya Karioka,” on the artistic journey and memories of late Egyptian star Tahiya Karioka. The book was launched at the sixth edition of the Luxor African Film Festival, which honored Karioka, who left an exceptional mark on the Egyptian art scene.

Badaweya and Anwar al-Sadat

Tahiya Karioka was born in February 1919 in the town of Ismaïlia where she lived for 12 years. The writer reveals that the actress’s real name was Badaweya Mohamed Kareem, but chose to change it to Tahiya Karioka. In one of her interviews, Karioka told Shinnawi that during his years of struggle, former President Anwar al-Sadat used to seek refuge in her family’s farm. After being abused by her brother, who at one point shaved her head, Karioka left her family home and moved to Cairo, where a family friend helped her land roles as an extra in various theater plays.

Tahiya, the rebel

Shinnawi said that Karioka’s film career started in 1935 and she went on to act in 119 movies. Her first film role saw her perform a dance routine and she later became a prominent dancer. Karioka “rebelled” against being typecast by establishing a production house. She went on to star in three movies that were produced by her company, thereby proving herself as a serious actress.

Ballet and singing

In Shinnawi’s book, Karioka spoke about her working relationship with her mentor Najib al-Rihani, who encouraged her to learn French and English and take up ballet. He was also the first to nominate her for a singing role in film.

Spectacular works

Shinnawi noted that Karioka starred in movies alongside some of the most famous singers of the 1940s, such as Farid al-Atrash in “Ahlam al-Shabab” 1942 and Mohammad Fawzi in “Hob wa Jonoun” in 1950. The author said that Karioka gave her most memorable musicals during the 1940s and 50s, which saw her partner with several renowned Egyptian singers at that time.

Jilbab in the Cannes Festival

In one of the interviews featured in the book, Karioka recalled how she attended the Cannes film Festival wearing the traditional Egyptian “Jilbab”. There, she met some of the world’s most famous film stars, including Rita Hayworth. Shinnawi said that Karioka maintained her star allure throughout her career and showed her range in various roles under the direction of the likes of Youssef Chahine.

Politics and hunger strike

Shinnawi’s book also shed light on the actress’s little known political role in her country. He said that she practiced politics until the end of her life. Karioka led a protest for artists and in 1988, she was the only star to announce a hunger strike, but suspended it at the request of then President Hosni Mubarak.

Marriages and failures

The four-chapter book includes interviews with Karioka and a number of movie stars and directors. The interviews tackled her personal life and ties with various artists. They addressed her marriage to Jewish-American Gilbert Levi after he converted to Islam. Karioka thought the union would bring her closer to Hollywood, but it failed. She married 17 times, recalling that Rushy Abaza was her best husband because of his kind treatment.

In the second chapter, Shinnawi offered a critical review of Karioka’s works, noting the milestones in her cinema career. The third chapter tackles the actress’s humanitarian side, including her adoption of an orphan girl.

The book also includes an article by renowned Arab intellectual Edward Said about the first time he saw Karioka. He was 14 years old and she was performing a dance show at the Badia Masabni Casino. He described her as a woman who “avoided or tore down social barriers. She remained part of the society of her country due to what she discovered of herself as a dancer and performer.”

The fourth chapter includes a filmography of all of her works and a great collection of photographs from the most important stages of her career and alongside famous artists, such as Umm Kolthoum, Mohammed Abdul Wahhab, and others. Karioka passed away on September 20, 1999.

Hollywood Summer Movies Worth Hundreds of Millions

Los Angeles- A few years ago, the summer season was not dedicated for movies, except for films with no hopes of success. People, including cinema fans and even the owners of theaters used to invest their summers in long vacations.

However, this tradition changed when the Universal Company first showed “Jaws” by Steven Spielberg in June, a movie featuring swimming amongst sharks on sandy beaches during the summer. Nevertheless, the movie hit theaters in most countries in December, prior to Christmas in some countries and on Christmas day in others.

This experience succeeded in the United States and Canada, and summer shows increased every year, till all countries adopted this concept and planned to screen new movies during the summer.

A new phenomenon

As part of this phenomenon, the summer season has changed, especially in the second half of June; but, these weeks were not sufficient to screen all the movies directed during the year, therefore, they expanded the season to include weeks of May.

With this month’s movies, which were opened or those expected to kick off within the coming days, we can say that the spring has significantly joined the new concept.

This March will host super heroes and monsters, and the summer’s audience is expected to rush to movie theaters just like they would do to watch movies in July or August. Two weeks ago, “Logan” opened in cinemas and dominated the box office with USD82 million.

Another summer-like movie, the “Kong: Skull Island” also opened this week and topped the box office with USD61 million. Apparently, March has become a platform for the greatest movies. The coming week will see the launch of “The Beauty and the Beast”, followed by “Power Rangers” and the eighth version of “Fast and Furious” with a new title “The Fate of the Furious”.

Hollywood’s extension of the summer season has not been a random decision, and merging the spring months with it was a great investment.

“Guardians of the Galaxy 2” will see the light in May, featuring a fictional superhero team with a cat warrior, followed by “Prometheus 2” for a number of people stuck on the same draconian planet.

Before the end of May, we will also see Johnny Depp in a new adventure from his Pirates of the Caribbean movie series. In June, “Wonder Woman” starring Gal Gadot will hit theaters. Its first show will be on the second week of June, followed by “The Mommy” starring Tom Cruise in the third week, who as usual, acted some of the movie’s risky scenes.

July will start with “Spiderman: the return” starring Tom Holland, and has only one week to break records before the launch of “War for the Planet of the Apes” on July 14.

Animated films also have their share in the summer festival in cinemas; “Smurfs: The Lost Village” will kick off in April, followed by “Ballerina”, and the Baby Boss before the end of the month. Many animated movies will be screened in May including “Captain Underpants” and “Despicable Me 3”.

Endless millions

The best part of this year’s cinema festival is the display of new movies with new subjects. War movies are expected to steal the lights. On May 7, “Mine” will kick off featuring a war story from Afghanistan, followed by the “Sand Castle” starring Henry Cavill in his military costume fighting in Iraq in 2003. War Machine is another upcoming 2017 American war film starring Brad Pitt on Afghanistan.

All movies which will be screened this summer are part of a battle for huge budgets. The Hollywood movies for this year reportedly are worth at least USD2.5 billion.

Saudi Arabia and the Movie Theatre, Concerts Arguments

Saudi

Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh brought back the argument of entertainment projects, which is a part of the kingdom’s vision aiming to benefit from its developing plans to end 20 years of isolation.

Sheikh Abdulaziz said in an interview on al-Majid TV that singing concerts and cinemas are a depravity.

His statement creating a controversy – with some praising what he said and others criticizing it. But I think the Mufti’s statement is supportive and not against the new direction.

He didn’t say he is against movie theaters or parties, he rather said he has his discretion, in response to a question that was very hypothetical. Mufti only refused the idea if it was used to promote lewd and atheism films.

But the Mufti was not decisive in saying no or banning cinema, as did several extremist clerics who rush into rejecting such ideas.

Head of Saudi Supreme Council of Clerics wished the kingdom’s General Authority for Entertainment the best and hoped those in charge are guided to turn it from bad to good and not to open doors to evil.

The Grand Mufti has a prestigious religious position in Saudi Arabia. He is the Mufti of all Muslin Sunnis around the world, since Saudi Arabia represents and leads all Muslims religiously.

Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz is a moderate and tolerant person and his sermons are known for not including the language of extremist clerics that are everywhere nowadays. This doesn’t mean that he isn’t religiously committed, for he believes in the conservative values of Islam, which many Muslims don’t agree with.

Even though conservative, he is known for being against extremism and the use of Islam in terrorism.

The Mufti had very courageous positions against the ideologies of radical organizations like al-Qaeda since its formation when it was approved by several religious leaders.

Due to his anti-terrorist statements, terrorists attacked Sheikh Abdulaziz and tried to tarnish his religious figure.

The Grand Mufti is also against the Iranian religious regime that adopts political violence. He also contradicted many extreme Sunni clerics in debatable issues like suicide operations, which he rejected years ago.

The civil Saudi society is concerned with issues other than that of the nearby countries that are occupied with wars and political mayhem.

In Saudi Arabia most matters are social with the society trying to overcome traditions and habits that are not linked to religion – like women driving cars and establishing cinemas, which Muslims all over the world are practicing.

These are the political and social concerns of Saudi people amid the country’s transitional state.

Changes are inevitable for reasons presenting themselves like the young generations seeking change, spread of communication with other countries – accompanied by the positive governmental acceptance to the demands of the youth and modern age.

To meet this change, the government founded an official governmental body for entertainment, which could be rejected by people of the old generation.

In the Kingdom, there is a healthy debate going on about cinemas, concerts and amusement parks.

Everyone is giving their opinion whether with they are with or against.

The problem is triggered whenever some people try to involve religious figures in the debate, which they failed to do when the Grand Mufti said he is against it when it promotes immoral or atheist movies, which conditions his approval.

Some religious clerics tried to impose their own conditions on the project asking for a referendum to include the people in the decision.

Although this is a very unconventional condition in Saudi Arabia, if a referendum was to be done in impartial conditions, we will find that the majority of the Saudi people are with these projects.

The Saudi population is mostly formed of youth with 60% under 30 living in cities.

Economic bleeding, youth living in void and the risk of misuse are issues that should be changed positively.

Alfuz Tanjour: “Asylum Seeking is a Painful Experience on Psychological, Humanitarian Levels”

Women walk in the war-ravaged town of al-Shadadi in Hasaka province, northeast Syria, on Friday.

Los Angeles- When the Syrian war ends, different movies will compete to tell its stories from different point of views. Yet, reviewing the past will be difficult without considering the battles and rough incidents that took place in Syria over the past six years. Nonetheless, many people don’t like to wait especially if they have something that should be said now before time passes; something that cannot be postponed or an exceptional incident which will be less important later.

Alfuz Tanjour is one of those directors who aims at discussing what is happening today. His documentary “A Memory in Khaki” was considered among of the best Arabic movies for this year, not because it discussed the hard conditions taking over Syria, but because he knew how to use the topic in an artistic way so people always remember it through a movie.

The Syrian cinema saw many other works inspired from the ongoing war like a “the Rain of Homs” for Joud Saeed, who highlighted the Syria war from another point of view.

However, Tanjour’s movie was the best because it shed light on the roots of the Syrian crisis, regardless of the parties fighting today. It shows years of silence, fear and terror, and it dives into the stories, which were behind the eruption of Syria’s society and the start of its revolution. In the movie, three people, two men and a woman, talk about the oppression they faced from the ruling regime.

The director succeeded in merging between the words of his movie stars and the photos of destruction and devastation left by the endless war in Syria.

During an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Tanjour revealed the following:

*How did you get the idea of your movie?

It took me three years since the Producer Loay Haffar called me and asked me to work with him on a movie that features the Syria war. From the beginning I knew that working on such topic would be a very hard mission. Many directors worked on this topic before in different ways and the world was watching the Syria crisis on TV channels. Back then, I was living in Beirut and started to choose topics, ideas, main chapters, and possible characters.
However, one day I woke up and started over from the very beginning; I used my memory and the collective memory of Syrians on what we lived for decades in the “Kingdom of Silence” (referring to Syria under Assad’s rule).

*What was the biggest change in your project?

-I travelled with my family to Europe and lived as a refugee; this change made me look at the movie from a different perspective. Therefore, I decided that the movie’s characters should be from my friends, who sought asylum and would openly talk about what they faced since the nineties, when they were exiled.

*How did you choose those friends?

I selected my friends based on their stories and their compatibility with the movie’s idea. I made many random and spontaneous conversations with the characters before shooting to discuss the idea and what I want to say.

*How did you write the scenario? Did you visit the locations? Did you have any idea on the stories of the people who starred your movie?

I studied cinema in its classic and traditional form. I never knew I will make documentaries one day. The main thing I have learned in the university is how to write a good scenario. I usually don’t like surprises, therefore, I prefer to know everything about characters, cameras, and locations, before starting my work. Yet, I didn’t know what will the movies stars say because I am always keen on catching moments of truth and reality.

*Did something urge you to change your movie’s path during shooting?

The most impressive thing was my asylum seeking; it was a very hard experience on the psychological and humanitarian level, which encouraged me to combat weakness through this movie. I wanted to face migration, fear, and maybe nostalgia with my work.

*How important was to you to shed light on the Fascist-like regime that ruled Syria in the past decades?

The regime in Syria has committed myriads of oppressive practices, which definitely pushed me to highlight them but not in a traditional and stereotypical way. I tried to show the regime’s practices by telling long stories that document the country’s status in the past half-decade.

*Some people consider that opposing the Syrian regime means that you support extremist forces that have fought on many Arab territories. What do you think about this?

I have watched many political analysts on TV and I have read people’s views on social media websites, and I think they are all liars. In my movie, I sought to avoid the discussion of political speeches and focused on simple stories we lived as Syrians. In this work, I didn’t try to answer questions or find solutions, but I asked questions on the oppression we witnessed and the reasons that forced us to live under it.

Finally, the writer insisted that despite all the changes and interferences that took place over the past years, the Syrian uprising that kicked off in 2011 was a decent revolution of a people that sought liberty, sovereignty, justice and equality. As a director, he said that artists should have a humanitarian position that highlights people’s suffering and struggle.

Arab Film Institute (AFI) Launched during DIFF 2016

DIFF

Dubai – In a step previously announced by Asharq Al-Awsat, the Arab Film Institute (AFI) was launched two days ago aiming to promote the Arabian cinema. According to its brochure, this institute intends to create a platform to exchange expertise and ideas among professionals from the Arabian cinema industry and to provide training programs that enjoy international levels for creative filmmakers in different fields.

During a press conference held as part of the fifth day of the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) held to launch the new institute, Antoine Khalife, Dora Bouchoucha, George David, and Hafiz Al Ali attended to reveal their ideas in this field and to announce Oscar-like contests starting 2018 to highlight best actors, directors, scenarios, and others.

How can this institute overcome obstacles which face production and marketing in this industry? Many other questions were posed with the launch of this institute to secure its success.

The establishment of such an institute is considered as a very promising step as long as the AFI stays away from personal interests; the Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) has also focused on uncovering many new talents – supported this year by “Screen” (publisher of the British Screen magazine released daily in both English and Arabic), which was keen to spotlight many talented Arab stars who just begun their journey in this field like the Lebanese Monia Akel directot of the “Beirut, I Love You” movie.

In fact, the Arabian cinema does not lack new talents, where a number of new directors emerge to show their works in the Dubai Festival, reflecting major creative and artistic attempts every year.

However, the DIFF also features a number of eminent signatures in the Arabian cinema like Elian al-Raheb who introduced “Mayl ya Ghzayel”, a movie from the core of the Lebanese community.

This year, the festival also dedicated a corner for the Syrian crisis by showing movies that sheds the lights on the tragedy lived of the Syrian people – facing war and asylum.

Arab Cinema to Participate in ‘Festival Del Film Locarno’

The Locarno International Film Festival (Festival del film Locarno) has announced the list of films participating in the official shows (in and out the contest), which included two Egyptian movies and three others produced with Qatari funding.

The two Egyptian films are “Water, Greenery, and Beautiful Face” directed by Yousri Nasrallah, who gathered a number of important Egyptian actors like Laila Elwi, Menna Shalabi, Bassam Samra, and Ahmad Daod, will be screened in the international competition that includes 17 movies from Greece, Portugal, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and other countries.

The second Egyptian movie is “Dry Green” directed by Mohammad Hammad who participates in another competition – “Directors of the Present” (which is interested in directors’ talents of both movies). The second movies features actors like Hiba Ali, Asmaa Fawzi, Ahmad Hammad, and others.

The festival also includes three non-Arab movies funded by Qatar, which apparently seeks to enter the core of the international cinema, aiming to enjoy a special artistic reputation.

*Distinguished Year

The world is changing. Arab movies used to stay behind the commercial screens, yet this year four Egyptian directors were allowed to participate in the shows of four international film festivals.

Yousri Nasrallah is the most experienced in this field and his previous films have been showed in international festivals like Cannes, Phoenicia, and Locarno. Although the Gold Award remains an unfulfilled dream till this date, the director made a remarkable presence in the Arab and international cinema zones that remind us of Youssef Chahine during the eighties and nineties.

Other new directors are Tamer Saeed who introduced the “Last Days of City” movie in Berlin Festival in the beginning of 2016, followed by Mohammad Diab and his movie “Clash” screened in Cannes in 2015.

This is not the first time Egyptian cinema participates in international festivals. It has shared lights with the Lebanese cinema in Cannes Festival in the fifties.

Festivals of Phoenicia and Toronto will certainly include Egyptian and Arab participation, which will distinguish Arab cinema this year.

As for the Gulf cinema, the initiatives remain individual and few. The Berlin Film Festival featured a movie for the Saudi director Mahmoud al-Sabbagh “Blessing versus Blessing”, which achieved a remarkable success. Saudi Mohammad Slaman also unveiled his short movie “Qari” in Palm Springs Festival, where it received good reviews.

However, individual trends don’t ensure success. The Doha Film Institute’s efforts through its financial arm are achieving a remarkable success for the country in the past few years. According to estimations, the institution contributes to around 40 movies per year with different success rates. Two third of these movies are Arabic (the UAE has the same contribution through its institutions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi), yet foreign funding is rapidly growing.

Police Shoot Dead Masked Man who Took Hostages in German Cinema

A masked man took hostages at a cinema in western Germany on Thursday before police stormed the complex and shot him dead, police said. No other people were injured, a police spokesman stated.

The attacker, who carried a rifle or “long gun”, acted alone and appeared to have been a “disturbed man”, the interior minister of Hesse state, Peter Beuth, told the regional parliament.

Police had not identified the man or established his motive, spokesman Bernd Hochstaedter said, adding that nothing immediately pointed to him having a militant background.

German television showed pictures of heavily-armed police, wearing helmets and body armor, storming the Kinopolis complex in Viernheim, south of Frankfurt, and a couple fleeing the building.

Cinema employee Guri Blakaj said that the gunman, who appeared to be aged between 18 and 25 and was about 1.7 meters tall, entered the cinema at around 3 p.m. and told workers to get into an office.

He then went into a cinema theater. Blakaj, who said there were about six workers and 30 cinemagoers in the building, then heard shots fired. Police Special Forces stormed the building and shot him.

There was still a heavy police presence at the scene into the late afternoon, and a helicopter circled overhead. The Darmstaedter Echo said 20 to 50 people had been wounded. But Bild daily said that according to police, about 25 people were hurt because of exposure to tear gas.

Earlier, Focus Online magazine reported that German police had arrested the man. Police were not immediately available for comment.

Cinema under a Bridge Provides Bollywood Escape for Delhi’s Poor

Bollywood

The poor rickshaw pullers and migrant laborers in India’s capital have found an escape of their daily hardships and struggle into a world of Bollywood’s love and romance; through a makeshift cinema under the 140-year-old double-decker bridge over the Yamuna river.

The cinema shows 4 films a day, people gather on the rusty iron floor, under a ceiling of old rags and a compilation of cheap curtains and mats.

The cinemas’ organizers collected their savings to rent an old TV set and a video compact disc player, and charge 10 rupees (15 U.S cents) admission – a hundredth of the price of entry at Delhi’s fanciest movie theaters.

One regular at the Cinema, Mohammad Noor Islam, who came to Delhi from the eastern state of West Bengal nearly four decades ago as a 10-year-old boy and currently works as a junk dealer, said watching these movies at this humble place saves them from falling to the vices of drugs and gambling.

“Films are much better. Many men get hooked on gambling, drugs and alcohol and they pass their time by drinking or smoking,” he said.

“But some of us, who do not indulge in these vices, come here and watch films. We are addicted to films,” said Islam.

It could count as nothing compared to the fancy theatres around the world, however this dim and breezy interior of the cinema hall is perhaps the one and only relief for daily laborers from their jobs on the city’s sweltering streets where temperatures have soared as high as 47 Celsius (116.6 Fahrenheit) this month.

“When we come to watch films, they help us forget our problems. I was tense earlier but when I sat down to watch the film I felt my tension easing,” said Manoj Kumar, a rickshaw puller from Bihar.

After dark, the cinema hall becomes a night shelter providing comfort in the scorching heat.
Ishfaq, one of the cinema’s co-founders, runs a small food stall nearby and said it was a great place for people to unwind after hours of hard labor.

“The place is wide and open, there is a cold and pleasant breeze here because it is so close to the river Yamuna – it feels like an air conditioner is on,” said Ishfaq, who offers meals for 5-10 rupees.

On an average day, about a 100 people use the cinema hall to watch films, rest and catch up on some sleep. Ishfaq worries that the cinema, which operates illegally, might be shut down by the authorities.

Tarantino Tackles Racism in All His Movies

Quentin Tarantino shooting  (Hateful Eight)
Quentin Tarantino shooting (Hateful Eight)

Palm Springs (California) – Hollywood’s infamous film director Quentin Tarantino told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that anti-racism is the common factor shared by his movies.

Among Tarantino’s masterpieces were “Reservoir Dogs”, “Kill Bill” (the first and the second, although Tarantino accounts them as one), “Jackie Brown” and “Pulp Fiction” which was his first grand hit in 1994. Tarantino’s work is notorious for containing ample violence, which he finds rooted inside human nature, “why avoid it?” he says.

The 53 year-old says that throughout his career, most of his work dealt with racism in one way or another, perhaps in just a glimpse, or a portrayed emotion at a moment during the movie.

“Frankly, I don’t try to make films on racism,” Tarantino says. But the subject is not far-off shore for him, he adds.

He said that racism has had the upper-hand in affairs between white people and black people throughout history, and until this day.

Tarantino expressed how scary it is to discover that racism is spread world-wide. Wherever there is a present minority, the group is ultimately subject to racial discrimination.

When a reporter asked Tarantino on whether he saw himself as a black man with white skin, he replied with stating that he is of Italian origins, and then perhaps there could be a drop of Moorish blood flowing through his veins.

When asked about violence occupying a fair share of his films, especially that Sam Peckinpah was once criticized for the clear violence present in his works, he then directed a violence-free movie “The Ballad of Cable Hogue” and when the film failed he said “they criticize me, yet when I make a violence-free movie, no one watches,” so, is violence a cinematic characteristic?

Tarantino responded saying that Sam Peckinpah was right when he shot the violent scenes, regardless of their brutality, because he wanted to portray reality. He then explained that he shares Peckinpah’s perspective on violence.

When asked about the movie that he ever found influential, Tarantino said that he was about 12 or 13 years-old when he watched “Rocky”.

“Rocky” was very important to me. It was not the reason behind me becoming a filmmaker, but it pulled me towards cinema in general, he said.

Stallone’s story made me think about the character- and what got to me was that I read about Stallone writing the story and insisting to play the role, and wanting to direct too, Tarantino said.

Practically movies that pushed me towards considering cinema for a job were those by Sergio Leone and Mario Bava. After watching “Once Upon a Time in America” and “Black Saturday”, I decided to become a director.

Opinion: Gaza Enters the Cinema

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip enjoyed an evening at the cinema for the first time in 20 years. Amongst them was a girl called Alaa who had never been to the cinema before because she was an infant when the last cinema was burned during the fighting between Palestinian factions. She said she was “very happy” but asked where the popcorn was!

This innocent question is a very expressive message from a citizen to Hamas’ politicians who have abducted the strip and restrict people’s lives in an absurd and unsuccessful attempt to impose a particular lifestyle on its inhabitants. These politicians also engage in military adventures which have led to massive destruction and the displacement of tens of thousands. It is also a direct message to Israel which imposes an obstinate blockade on the Gaza Strip and uses force in an exaggerated manner there.

A series of investigations published by Asharq Al-Awsat ten years ago about Hamas’ rule in Gaza sums up the situation. The movement lost the tunnels and funds, swapped its alliances in the Arab world, expelled the movement’s leaders from Syria and became the homeless child of what is called the axis of resistance. The movement is in an unenviable position and in order to please its old friends, it has to conform to Hezbollah and Iran’s policies that clash with Arab interests.

Hamas has fought three wars against Israel during its rule of Gaza and after it expelled the legitimate authority. The results were disastrous because of the imbalance of power. During every war the strip was exposed to significant damage, the lives of ordinary people were negatively affected and jobs and even hope for the future were lost. Now the co-founder of Hamas Mahmoud Al-Zahar is saying that the movement does not seek war with Israel, that “no one in the region here seeks war” and that the network of tunnels that it is digging is for defence purposes.

The truth is that if Hamas wanted an honest review of its experience of governing the Gaza Strip for a period of ten years which has failed by all accounts, it must give up its obsession with tunnels. The idea of housing the two million Palestinians inhabiting the strip underground is a ridiculous one; tunnels are for mice and not for humans who yearn to breathe the air of freedom and open sea ports.

The tunnels were not for resistance purposes. Rather, hundreds of them were dug on the border with Egypt to smuggle goods, weapons and militants and are disrupting the economy and security of its large neighbour Egypt. The Palestinians have nothing to gain from being hostile towards or provoking Egypt as the movement used to do by deliberately publishing pictures of cows, calves and cars being lowered into tunnels to smuggle them.

All of this could have been done above ground but Hamas chose underground tunnels to conceal its illegal activities, and no sovereign state accepts tunnels under its land where it cannot control what passes through them. Hamas placed its bets on the Brotherhood government which was toppled in Egypt and I do not know if it was promised land in the Sinai to expand the geographical area of its control or not. Anyhow, it placed the wrong bet and if the movement really wants to review things, it must acknowledge that it made the wrong bet.

This is not the time for other adventures or political polemics because the residential situation of the Gaza Strip will be unsustainable in 5 years’ time according to the United Nations. If Hamas is serious, it must undertake reconstruction projects that seem to have remained on paper and not implemented and ease people’s lives by bringing back the cinema. If there is a desire to develop the economy, it must trade with Egypt above ground and not below it.