The mere fictional depiction of Jewish traces found in Jordan led to the halt of an American movie that was about to be filmed in the country.
Jaber is about a young Bedouin boy who discovers a rock with Hebrew lettering during road construction in the area around the famous archaeological site Petra. The artifact, considered to be of great value, is hunted down by gangsters, governmental agencies as well as multiple organizations looking to get their hands on the "prize".
The plot of the international movie was not welcomed by Jordanians - and even actors in the movie - for portraying signs of Jewish history in Jordan, which they believe could result in territorial claims by Israelis.
"While there is ample archaeological evidence of a Jewish presence in Jordan, only an extreme-right fringe of Israeli society seeks both banks of the Jordan River as part of Israel. An overwhelming majority of Israelis make no claim to Jordanian land and place high value on the peace accord," AP reported.
Prime Minister Omar Al-Razzaz ordered the film's production to be paused until the script is fully revised.
In 1994, a peace accord between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and "The State of Israel" was signed and is still in place to this day. Nevertheless, such topics are considered sensitive — which was proven true with the resignation of several actors, first of whom was Ali Elayan, an actor meant to play a Jordanian police officer.
"This is about historical rights and the political implications. It may be a fictional movie, but cinema is also a visual document – people believe what they see. To not only film in Jordan but to present this story with Arab hands reinforces these false facts and this is very dangerous," Elayan told The National.
Soon after backing out, the actor reported the contents of the script to the Jordanian Artists Association (JAA).
Sari al-Asaad, the former head of JAA, emphasized his stand on the matter, saying "we are not against Jews as Jews but we are against Israel as an occupying power which uses religion to take others' land."
Israel's Foreign Ministry made no public comments yet.
The Royal Film Commission (RFC) approved the film's production in Jordan — the same organization that approved Netflix's first Arabic original series Jinn and was criticized for it.
RFC is again under fire, though it has stated it does not have the authority to reject scripts but instead "encourages local productions, attracts foreign productions and facilitates production in general."
According to UK-based Jordanian director Muhyiedeen Qandour - director of Jaber also the author of the book of the same name - "many civilizations passed through historical Jordan. You don't see them now returning to claim parts of the country because they were here once in the past."
"The argument made by some about the movie is simply naive and even childish," Qandour added.
He also believes the true reason Elayan walked out on the movie and reported its script to the JAA is because he was "denied a bigger role."