The Angel: Netflix Movie, Ashraf Marwan and the Egyptian-Israeli Conflict
By: Noureldin Mohamed/Arab America Contributing Writer
The Egyptian-Israeli War was one of the largest conflicts in the Arab World. The 1978 Camp David Accords settled the conflict, and this peace treaty still stands, halting a heated struggle between the two countries. Although there has been peace between Israel and Egypt since 1978, the conflict remains discussed on both the Israeli and Arab sides. In 2018, Netflix released a film called The Angel which highlights the famous double agent, Ashraf Marwan, who spied for both Egypt and Israel. Each side claimed they had Marwan under their wing. Was Ashraf Marwan a traitor or did he really help to bring about peace between the two countries?
Ashraf Marwan: A Hero or Traitor?
The Angel introduces Ashraf Marwan, Gamal Abdel Nasser’s son-in-law, as he helps Palestinian rebels shoot down an Israeli plane. In 1969, Marwan served in Nasser’s Presidential Office as aide-de-camp, and to assist in de-escalating crises and conflict resolution. He was influential during the Suez Crisis, which exhibited Nasser’s strength against the British and French forces. However, Marwan often disagreed with Nasser regarding how to go about winning the Egyptian-Israeli conflict without losing lives.
Marwan’s life became complicated as Nasser faced the War of Attrition against Israel. When the War of Attrition ended in a ceasefire in 1970, Marwan was studying in London. He tried to cut ties with Nasser and his work in Egypt; however, he was unsuccessful given his financial need and family ties. He resorted to contacting the Israeli ambassador, Michael Comey, in London in hopes of providing information about Egyptian plans. Unfortunately, the ambassador did not make contact, leaving Marwan worried and hopeless.
Later, when Nasser died, Marwan brought important information regarding corruption in Nasser’s cabinet to Nasser’s successor, Anwar El Sadat. This strengthened Sadat’s trust in Marwan; however, Sadat was still wary of Marwan’s intentions due to his connections with Nasser. At this point, the Israeli embassy also contacted Marwan. His role with the Israeli embassy was to deliver information, which proved reliable. When Israel shot down a Libyan commercial plane filled with civilians, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi wanted vengeance, but Sadat was not willing to attack civilians.
Knowing it would anger Gaddafi and the other Arab nations if Egypt did not support Libya, Marwan came up with a ploy to stabilize the situation. He met with Gaddafi to pledge Egypt’s support. However, he made sure that Egypt’s retaliatory attack would not be successful.
The scene returns to the failed Palestinian rebel attacks on the Israeli plane as Marwan removes the pin from the launcher right before the exchange. However, the Israelis began to doubt him when Egypt’s plans to attack did not follow through. Marwan also told the Israelis about an imminent attack by the Egyptians.
Having lost trust in Marwan, the Israelis shouldered it off as a false alarm. Between October 6 and 26, 1973, Egypt and Syria led a coalition of Arab states against Israel to recapture some of the territories lost to the Israelis during the Six-Day War. The war began with a surprise joint attack by Egypt and Syria on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
6th October War on Yom Kippur Day
The 6th October War, also known as the Tishrin War, proved costly to the Arab states, as well as to the Israelis. The Arab states were rather humiliated by the great loss, but still aware of the early victories in the conflict, which included reclaiming the Sinai Peninsula. On the other hand, Israel realized that they could not pursue the Arab states militarily, and a peace process was put into place. Though most heavy fighting ended on October 28, the fighting did not fully stop until January 18, 1974. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan stated that “The cease-fire existed on paper, but the continued firing along the front was not the only characteristic of the situation between October 24, 1973, and January 18, 1974.
Marwan’s Death and Movie Portrayal
The Angel (2018)
The Angel is a sensationalist retelling of the story of Ashraf Marwan; it favors a more modest recollection of events as opposed to the harsh truth of Ashraf Marwan being labeled as both a hero and a traitor. Egyptian film critic Josh Fahim explains, “Vromen casts Arabs as the perpetrators, an uncaring horde blinded by their pride and their thirst for a vacant victory.” The movie is merely to entertain, though it does shine light on Egyptian-Israeli relations to date.
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Introduction: Netflix movie The Angel provides insight on the Arab-Israeli conflict, specifically the Egyptian side through Ashraf Marwan—an Egyptian double agent for Israel. Arab America Contributing Writer Noureldin Mohamed examines a controversial topic Marwan who remains an important historical figure for both sides.