The controversial Egyptian singer Mohamed Ramadan is once again causing a stir in the Arab world after a photo of him with his arm around an Israeli woman was posted to his TikTok account.
In the picture that was taken last week on the Greek island of Mykonos, Ramadan is posing next to a young woman named Maya Zecharia from Beit Shemesh.
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On Tuesday, Zecharia said in an interview with KAN 11 that she had been on a family vacation in Greece when she heard that the singer, who she’s a fan of, was on a concert tour on the island, and decided to try to find him. She said he was very nice and didn’t ask questions. “He didn’t know that I’m Israeli,” he stated.
After the picture was shared over and over again on social media, an item appeared on the website of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masri Al-Youm with the headline: “Mohamed Ramadan Embraces Israeli Woman Soldier in Greece.”
This photo is eliciting angry online reactions in Egypt, where it being described it as a stamp of approval for normalization with Israel. Khaled Refat Saleh, head of a political research institute, wrote on Facebook: “If you didn’t know [that she is Israel], then you’re stupid, and if you knew, then you’re a traitor. This is exactly what the Israeli singer did with you in Dubai, and you posted your pictures with him then, too.”
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Salaeh was referring to an incident in 2020, Ramadan had his picture taken with the Israeli singer Omer Adam in Dubai. The snapshot went viral and drew heavy criticism, especially among Egyptians; a lawsuit was even filed to revoke his membership in the country’s artists’ union.
Unlike that time, when Ramadan apologized and said that he would not have taken the picture had he known Adam was Israeli, this time he chose not to address the uproar directly and only posted videos and photos from his shows in Greece.
On Wednesday, Ramadan shared a tweet from Egyptian billionaire Naguib Onsi Sawiris, who wrote: “To all those who are angry at my friend Mohamed Ramadan, who had his picture taken with someone who turned out to be an Israeli, I have a question for you: If a beautiful woman like her asked to take a picture with me, can I reasonably be expected to ask to see her passport first?”
Music critic Mohamed Nasr also talked about the incident on his “Egypt Today” YouTube channel. “Mohamed Ramadan keeps getting into a scandal because of a picture or a video, and that’s part of his personality. It’s a lot like the rappers in America. How could he know who it was taking a picture with him?”
Ramadan gained fame in the Arab world for his mahraganat songs – a modern version of a type of music that arose in the 1970s and was popular mainly in impoverished areas. He has legions of young fans in the Arab world, thanks in part to his bold personality and provocative performances.