Sarah El Deeb
The Associated Press
March 12, 2013 - 12:00am

Egyptian security agencies have stopped the screening of a documentary on the Egyptian Jewish community a day before it was due to debut in local cinemas, the film producer said in a statement Tuesday.

He said no reasons were given.

The "Jews of Egypt", a documentary that follows the lives of the Egyptian Jewish community in the first half of the 20th century until they left under duress in large numbers in the late 1950s, was screened in Egypt last year in a private film festival and had been approved by censorship, a regular procedure in Egypt.

Film producer Haytham el-Khamissy said he heard from the chief of the censorship authority that a security agency asked to view the movie before granting it a license to be shown in theaters.

"I was shocked when he told me this and when I learned that this had already happened" before the 2012 festival screening, el-Khamissy said in a statement posted on the film's official Facebook page.

"There is no excuse for this except delay and obstruction," he said. "I announce the delay of the screening of 'Jews of Egypt' until a solution is found for this inexplicable problem, inherited from long years in the parlors of the Egyptian state securities and which aim to terrorize thought and repress creativity."

Under the former regime of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, security authorities kept a tight lid on discussions of religion and minority groups, occasionally banning books or rejecting movie scripts that dealt with such issues.

It was not possible to reach officials for comments late Tuesday.

The film was also screened in the U.S. It was due to debut in three theaters in Egypt Wednesday.

The film director Amir Ramses describes it as a documentary about the cosmopolitan Egypt in the early 20th century, asking, "how did the Jews of Egypt turn in the eyes of Egyptians from partners in the same country to enemies?"

The film is based on testimonies of researchers, political figures and exiled Egyptian Jews.

Egypt's once thriving Jewish community largely left Egypt more than 60 years ago amid hostilities between Egypt and Israel. Estimates say about 65,000 Jews left Egypt since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, most of them traveling to Europe and the West. Some settled in Israel.

Their departure was fueled by rising nationalist sentiment during the Arab-Israeli wars, harassment and some direct expulsions by then-President Gamal Abdel-Nasser, and attacks on Jewish properties.

Only scores of Jews, most of them elderly, remain in Egypt. Synagogues are heavily guarded and are mainly tourist sites now.


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