"Israel has stolen our land, now they are stealing our heroes!"
That mantra has become a rallying call for many Muslims throughout the world.
There are those who will jump at any opportunity to attack Israel. It stems from true, unadulterated hatred. It's as unfair as it is typical and commonplace. Most often the cry is levelled at Israel for actions involving the Palestinians. Of late, the arena of Muslim hatred and vituperative speech has widened.
Now, it has ensnared Hollywood.
ParamountPictures has announced that Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who became a worldwide household name after starring in the movie Wonder Woman, will now star as Cleopatra in a remake of the 1963 blockbuster originally starring Elizabeth Taylor.
The Muslim world is not pleased.
The response to the announcement about Gadot’s new role has been met with severe criticism. The choice of actress been decried by many in the Muslim world.
When Elizabeth Taylor was cast in the role 57 years ago, the Muslim world had a similar response.
Is that life imitating art --- or is it art imitating life?
Either way, it shows little progress in the actions or thinking of large swaths of the Muslim world. And that is one of the most crippling strictures the Muslim world has imposed upon itself.
For many moviegoers, the 1963 movie put Egypt on the map. At the time, it was the most expensive movie made. Elizabeth Taylor earned an unheard of $1million for her role.
Her costume wardrobe alone cost $200,000.
The country of Egypt was glorified; each shot was a Hollywood spectacular.
And yet, despite the unpaid for publicity they received courtesy of Twentieth Century-Fox, Egypt banned the screening and put Liz Taylor on a no-fly list.
Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t born Jewish. The star converted to Judaism in 1957 to marry the famous and popular singer Eddie Fisher. After her conversion, the mega star became a major supporter of Israel buying a $100,000 Israel bond and raising over a million dollars for Israel.
Historically, Cleopatra was not actually Egyptian.
She was Ptolemaic. Her father was from Macedon. Her mother was unknown, but she was probably Cleopatra V Tryphaena, the king’s wife and possibly his half-sister.
There is no doubt she, Cleopatra, was born in Egypt.
But, unlike in Judaism, where lineage is traced through the mother in other cultures it is thought the father. It's clear to historians that Cleopatra could not have been Egyptian if for no other reason than that she was she a general in the army of Alexander the Great in his Conquest of Egypt.
Her name, Cleopatra, means Glory to my father. Kleos in Greek means glory.
Patra means father.
Cleopatra was a tremendous leader. Many, many years before the 1963 movie, her reputation was secured in all our minds by William Shakespeare in his classic work "Antony and Cleopatra."
That monumental literary achievement described Cleopatra as a powerful seductress and manipulator gaining her national, political and economic and goals through the power of intellect and charm.
The real life love triangle between Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra was the stuff that classics are made of. Even King Herod played a role in that relationship.
Assuming the throne at the age of 18, Cleopatra was one of the most powerful women in history. Some historians argue that her beauty was overstated. Coins that were minted with Cleopatra’s face depict her with a hooked nose and not very attractive at all.
She is also often depicted in male dress, looking as a king would look, not as a beautiful queen. One particular coin depicts her and her large nose on one side and on the other side there is an eagle and a lightening bolt with the inscription ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΗΣ ΚΛΕΟΠΑΤΡΑΣ meaning Queen Cleopatra.
There is no disputing that Cleopatra’s most powerful skills were her intellect and charm above her beauty. T.S. Eliot identifies the tension between Cleopatra, the seductress and temptress and Cleopatra, the strong powerful woman.
Eliot believed that focusing on her sexuality diminished her power.
Shakespeare, Elizabeth Taylor, and Gal Gadot all focus on the beauty of Cleopatra.
T.S. Eliot focuses on her power. Both perspectives are probably equal part truth and lore.
Cleopatra did what she had to do to accomplish what she wanted.
The character Cleopatra was, is, and probably always will be --- enthralling.
She was able to rise to the level as a peer of Julius Caesar. Obviously, Egypt wants to claim Cleopatra for herself --- she ruled Egypt as Roman leader.
And so, Rome claims her as well. Women claim her. Almost everyone claims her as theirs.
In today’s media world Cleopatra is stunning.
Our images of her are nothing like her images on the minted coins during her reign.
Our images of her are of Elizabeth Taylor and Gal Gadot.
In the end, Egypt was so stunned by the response to the movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, which mentioned their country 122 times and earned 4 Oscars, that they did a turnabout.
Despite Liz Taylor’s love of Israel and even her visit to Israel, they lifted their ban on the movie. It remains to be seen if the modern Muslim world will be swayed as Egypt was.
We will see if Cleopatra’s persuasive prowess rule today.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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