Film Critic-Cum-Golden Globe Actress: Howaida Hamdy in English Vs. Arabic

Sept. 26 UPDATE:

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the company behind the Golden Globe Awards has expelled Hamdy in the wake of CAMERA's investigation. The hyperlink to her Golden Globes page has become inactive subsequent to the publication of our article.

Howaida Hamdy poses as a legitimate and professional film critic for Golden Globe's English-speaking audience, censoring her pro-terror and antisemitic sentiments

In his Paradise Now film […] Palestinian-Dutch director Hany Abu-Assad did not realize the difference between the terrorist and the self-sacrificing warrior [Arabic: "fida’i," from "fida’," redemption]. He produced a film condemning Palestinian resistance and presenting its men as terrorists who are set off [to perform attacks] unconsciously and under their commanders’ influence, rather than defending a stolen homeland, blowing themselves up in “terrorist” operations as they seek martyrdom and paradise while in truth they are murderers. This is a fallacious and fraudulent view of Palestinian resistance and of the resistance and the martyrdom-seeking operations [i.e. suicide bombings] – a message which the West promotes. It is natural [that this message] finds itself a supporter and a producer in the Netherlands or elsewhere, with international festivals welcoming it and granting it awards.

After sixteen years, Abu Assad presents us "Huda’s Salon," a new film, and as his cinematic language developed, so did his conflation between concepts. He no longer realizes the difference between resistance and occupation, the homeland and the enemy […] once again he is courting the West, cunningly twisting the truth’s neck …

It is with utmost proficiency that the director plays his favorite game, affirming the West’s allegations which tried and still try to tarnish the Palestinian cause by infiltrating consciousness and falsifying truth …

While Hamdy accused Abu-Assad of "courting the West," she herself engaged in this "game," as she put in. In Arabic, Hamdy criticized the allegedly negative portrayal of "resistance" "warriors" who originally intended to murder as many Jewish civilians as possible in the heart of Tel Aviv and lionized the "martyrdom-seeking operations" aimed at "defending a stole homeland." In contrast, her English review of "Huda's Salon," written for Golden Globe readers just weeks after her Arabic paean to Palestinian terrorism, was devoid of any sentimentalism for terrorism. Her neutered English-language review read ("Huda's Salon Wins the Dutch Movies Matter Award"):

… Sixteen years after his Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Film for his movie Paradise Now, which also earned him an Oscar nomination, Palestinian-Dutch director Hany Abu Assad presented his new film Huda’s Salon, based on real events about a female hair salon owner, who uses manipulation tactics to coerce Palestinian women to cooperate with a secret organization.

The film starts with Reem, a beautiful young wife and mother of a baby girl, entering Huda's salon for a hairstyling service. As they start chatting, Reem tells Huda that she is not happy with her husband and Huda quickly realizes that she got a new potential victim she can lure into her trap. “She offers Reem a cup of coffee which she had previously drugged. After waiting for Reem to fall unconscious, Huda strips her of all her clothes and photographs her with a young man she had hired for this purpose; she then uses the photos to blackmail Reem to force her to cooperate with the secret organization, which Reem refuses to do. She runs away from the salon, terrified.

When Huda falls into the hands of Palestinian men, they take her to a dark hideout and confiscate her phone. Upon examining the pictures on it, they identify the young man who helped her in blackmailing her victims. They arrest him and burn him alive without trial in an extreme, violent, and brutal scene.

In a dark interrogation room, the two rivals, Hassan - the leader of the Palestinians - and Huda sit at a small table. Hassan lays the photos of the naked women on the table like playing cards, and Huda sits, dignified and confident, across from him. Huda admits that she is the only culprit and insists that no blame should be put on her female victims as ultimately, they are all like her, victims of an oppressive husband. They all suffer under a patriarchal society of double standards and hypocrisy, that exercises systematic injustice over its weakest members.

It is easy to notice the difference in the portrayal of the two opponents, as Hassan is portrayed as a despicable and lousy traitor, while Huda shows nobility and bravery by appearing to take responsibility in order to protect her victims. The narrative shifts so Huda becomes the one investigating a sad and trembling Hasan.

The film dialogue is cleverly written. …

A month ago, the film was screened in the Arab world and the audience was angered, demanding that the film be banned and that the actress, director, and crew be brought to trial. Part of their anger was directed at a scene with a completely naked Palestinian actress, Maisa Abd Elhadi, regardless of its dramatic significance.

In a press release, the religious bodies in the Arab World demanded the withdrawal of the film, as they regarded it to be highly offensive and described it as a moral crime that breached public decency. The Palestinian Artists Association demanded on its official Facebook page that the film be banned and legal measures be taken against its creators … [Emphases added.]

Gone was her glorification of terrorism and her attacks on Abu-Assad for supposedly vilifying "martyrd0m-seeking operations" and kowtowing to Western sensibilities. (Bizarrely, for unknown reasons, Hamdy's English review failed to note that Huda the hairstylist framed her client into collaborating with Israeli secret services, despite the fact that this was the very crux of the film. Instead, Hamdy elliptically referred to "a secret organization.")

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Hamdy's antipathy of Jews drives her to some strange conclusions, such as her Sept. 6, 2013 statement that Islamic terrorism is a Zionist-American conspiracy:

Behind every Islamist-terrorist there is a Zionist-American planner who wiggles him. Removing the Islamists will not eliminate terrorism, the Islamists are just an instrument.

Then there's her denial of Jerusalem’s Jewish history. Responding to a 2018 tweet from Israel's official Arabic account announcing the finding of a 2,000-year-old ring near Jerusalem’s Old City and its possible connection to the Jewish pilgrims who visited the Temple at the time, the film critic fabricated: “They [Jews] have nothing there, it is the alleged Israel – [rhetorically] how old is it exactly?”

As for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the founder of the Golden Globe Award, this is not the organization's first encounter with a member tainted by antisemitism. More than a decade ago, the same HFPA threatened to discontinue the membership of another correspondent, Husam Asi, for writing for the antisemitic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi. Although his membership was eventually spared reportedly on the grounds that al-Quds al-Arabi’s professional level was “no different […] than Haaretz’s,” by August 2022 Asi was expelled from the HFPA reportedly due to alleged sexual misconduct. (In a December 2022 ruling, at an initial hearing during ongoing litigation between the HFPA and Husam Asi, the Los Angeles Superior Court found that: “From the evidence provided by [Asi] it can be inferred for purposes of an anti-SLAPP analysis that the HFPA acted extremely and outrageously by issuing a press release announcing an investigation into allegations of sexual assault without following the organization’s procedure and without any proof that plaintiff had committed any wrongful act.”) 

In 2021, HFPA came under criticism for its failure to include a single black member, among its membership of dozens. The organization subsequently hired six black members.

What corrective measures will the association take in Hamdy’s case?

Hat tip: SG

All translations, emphases and bracketed remarks are by CAMERA Arabic unless otherwise specified. Editing by Tamar Sternthal. This article was update on Aug. 20 with details about the ruling of the Los Angeles Superior Court and with information about 2021 criticism of HFPA due to its lack of black members.

Aug. 20 Update: Hamdy Deletes Two Antisemitic Posts

Following the publication of this post, Hamdy deleted her social media comment citing Hollywood as "the Zionists' stronghold" along with her view that positive portrayals of Israel and its citizens are "repulsive." The statements are archived here and here, respectively.

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