November 30, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10346

Egyptian Writers' Union Expels Three Members For 'Normalization With Israel'

November 30, 2022
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 10346

The Egyptian Writers' Union recently took disciplinary proceedings against three Egyptian authors for what it called activities involving normalization with Israel, in advance of the expulsion of the authors from the union. The writers are Alaa Al-Aswany, who was interviewed by the IDF's radio station about his new book; Youssef Ziedan, who announced his intention to deliver a lecture at Tel Aviv University, and Mona Prince, who posted a picture of her 2018 meeting with former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin, which was covered by Israel's Makan television channel in December 2021.[1] The union's president, Dr. 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Hadi, explained that the disciplinary measure was mandated by a decision of the union's general assembly that forbids normalization with "the Israeli enemy" and views it as a crime. Following the disciplinary proceedings, Ziedan announced his resignation from the union, and Prince published a post in which she expressed support for normalization with Israel, as she has done more than once in the past.[2] Al-Aswany, for his part, stated that he had not granted an interview to an Israeli radio station but had been interviewed by his literary agent in London as part of promoting his new book, The Republic of False Truths.[3]

It should be noted that Al-Aswany and Ziedan often criticize the Egyptian regime, which may be one of the reasons for their expulsion from the union. Furthermore, in September 2022, an Egyptian court upheld the decision of the Suez Canal University to expel Mona Prince from her post as a professor in the university's English Department. Prince was dismissed from her position for posting videos of herself belly-dancing on her personal Facebook page in 2017. The videos, which sparked controversy, may have been another factor in the writer's union's decision to expel her.[4]

It should also be noted that this is not the first time Egyptian writers have been ostracized by the union on grounds of normalization with Israel. The most well-known case involved the novelist and playwright Ali Salem, who was expelled from the union after he visited Israel.

Former Israeli Ambassador to Egypt David Govrin with Mona Prince in 2018 (Source: Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Egypt, December 4, 2018)

This report reviews the responses to the recent decision by the Egyptian Writers' Union to expel the three authors.

President Of The Egyptian Writers' Union: The Union Forbids "Normalization With The Israeli Enemy"

Dr. 'Alaa 'Abd Al-Hadi, president of the Egyptian Writers' Union, explained that the three authors had been summoned to the disciplinary committee in advance of heir expulsion from the union on grounds of involvement in normalization activities with Israel. The measure, he explained, was mandated by a 1995 decision of the union's general assembly which forbids "normalization with the Israeli enemy" and views it as a crime. He asserted that boycotting "the Zionist entity is a effective weapon that should not be underestimated."[5] Khalil Al-Gizawy, a member of the union's board of directors the and the head of its publishing committee, added that in February 2022 the union's general assembly had renewed its commitment to the rejection of normalization with Israel, and that any writer found to be promoting or supporting normalization would be expelled from the union. He stressed that the union has a recording of Al-Aswany's interview with the Israeli radio station.[6]

Egyptian Writers: There Is A Consensus Against Normalization, Except For A Small Gang

Egyptian writer Refky Badawy, a former member of the union's board of directors, supported Al-Hadi's decision, and described it as a historic step clarifying that any union member who engages in normalization with "the occupation state" must be expelled. There is a consensus among patriotic Egyptian writers against normalization with "the Israeli enemy," he said, except for a small gang that seeks publicity and profits and thinks it can attain them only by means of [relations with] Israel."

Mentioning that writer 'Ali Salem had also been expelled from the union after he visited Israel, Badawi  told the online daily Rai Al-Yawm that he once met Salem in the market and the latter told him that he would get a court ruling mandating his return to the writers' union.  However, said Badawi, although the court indeed issued  such a ruling, it remained unimplemented until Salem's death in 2015.[7]

Youssef Ziedan Responds: I Announce My Resignation From The Union, Which Never Did Anything For Me

In response to the statement from the writers' union, writer Youssef Ziedan preempted the union's intention to expel him by announcing his resignation from it. In a post on his Facebook account he wrote that the union had never helped him in any way and that it was entirely the union's loss. He wrote, "I hereby announce my resignation from the so-called Egyptian Writers' Union after some 40 years during which I was obligated to pay membership fees equal to two percent of my earnings. I did this willingly and wholeheartedly so as to contribute to its budget. [But] in return, I never requested or received any help from this organization (union) the entire time I was a member. As the famous poet [Al-Mutanabbi] said, 'If you were made to leave people who could have prevented your departure, it is they who have departed.'"[8]

It should be noted that Ziedan criticized 'Ali Salem's expulsion from the writers' union at the time, calling it an "aggressive and extreme" measure and stating that the union had not given Salem a real opportunity to defend his position.[9]

Ziedan's Facebook post announcing his resignation from the Egyptian Writers' Union

Mona Prince Responds: "Yes! I Am For Normalization"

Mona Prince also responded to the union's announcement of the disciplinary measures against her and her fellow writers. Among other things she wrote sarcastically, "This [announcement] was issued by the Office for Combating Normalization [i.e., the writer's union]. At least we are not [called] terrorists or dealers in drugs, antiquities or weapons. Furthermore, I think that instead of penetrating Egypt by way of the Emirates, Israel should do this through us [writers], on the basis of equality and not dependency… Yes! I am for normalization in culture, academia, sports, technology, tourism, economy and trade, [for] in politics and security, it is [already] happening in practice. "[10]

Mona Prince's post, featuring a photo of her fellow writer Youssef Ziedan  


[1], November 23, 2022.

[2], November 21, 2022.

[3], May 23, 2022. The Israeli radio station clarified that the interview was not conducted directly. Questions were sent to Al-Aswany in advance and he recorded his answers.

[4], September 12, 2022.

[5], November 23, 2022.

[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 22, 2022.

[7], November 23, 2022.

[8], November 22, 2022.

[9] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2624 'Roz Al-Yousuf' Special Supplement: Normalization with Israel – For and Against, November 2, 2009.

[10], November 24, 2022.

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