No laughing matter

Israeli comic sparks diplomatic row

An Israeli comedian has sparked an international incident by parodying Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

Eli Yatzpan's impersonation is said to be striking, down to the way he sits, smiles and gesticulates.

But the Egyptian government has not been amused - and summoned Israel's ambassador for an explanation for "serious besmirching of the honour" of Mubarak

However, Cairo officials were told there was nothing that could be done about Yatzpan, who features the impression on his nightly show on Israel's independent Channel Three.

In fact, the complaint led to a show dedicated to Mubarak - including a sketch depicting the incident.

On his show, unrepentant Yatzpan said that he laughed at Mubarak, just as he had at Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and foreign minister Shimon Peres.

In a statement directed at the Egyptian leader, he said: "You too have received the honour. Next time pick up the phone and we'll talk, leader to comedian."

But in Egypt - where such satire is unheard-of, the government still failed to see the funny side.

Assistant foreign minister Mohammad Al Orabi said: "The programme insulted Egypt. Egypt rejects such vituperation."

However an Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post that the complaint was in retaliation of Israeli complaints about anti-Semitic attacks in the state-controlled Egyptian media.

Published: 19 Jun 2001

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