The Egypt that Was
"That was Egypt’s 1936 multi-ethnic Egyptian delegation”,
… and the key
word is : was.
Images of the
Egypt that was genuinely point to a cosmopolitan and diverse
culture, now long gone. But a more thorough knowledge of history reveals
that these images also belie a sad truth: Even in this Belle Epoque,
ninety percent of Jews were denied citizenship regardless of how many
generations they lived in the country. More than half were stateless:
No citizenship. With time, no citizenship led to loss of livelihood[i].
And in the
Egypt that was, blood libels were not unknown…Blood libels
occurred in Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901-02), in Alexandria (1870, 1882), Port Said
(1903, 1908), and even in cities with a smaller Jewish population, like Mansura
against Jews was alive and well long before Israel and Zionism; No point
excusing anti-Semitism in Egypt with talk of Israel and Zionism as root causes.
were and still are cherished by many Muslim friends in Egypt rich and poor, two
ethno-centric, racist and anti-Semitic groups resented Jews and other
minorities: the fundamentalist Brotherhood (Al Ikhwan), and the
nationalist pan Arabists. While the two movements to this day are ardent
enemies of each other, their animus towards Jews and Israel was limitless.
The result is
today's Egypt: A society ethnically cleansed of Jews, … a society where anti-semitic
stereotyping of Jews and Holocaust denial are very respectable[iii].
was an Egypt whose modern infrastructure and culture was
the envy of Africa and Asia, if not Europe too. This, thanks in most part
to the Jewish community that introduced the textile and sugar industry during
World War I, built from scratch the retail sector, the modern banking and
a Jewish community that contributed to Egyptian culture way beyond its size and
gave Egypt Togo Mizrahi, Laila
Da'ud Husni, Murad Farag,
and many others, only to be rewarded with massacres, to see its property
confiscated, and its sons incarcerated and tortured for years in Abu Za'abal and
Tura, before being deported out of the country[vi].
thankful to countries like Israel, America, and Canada; they welcomed us with
open arms, and made it possible for us to rebuild our lives.
we are, we never forget that in the Egypt that was, Jews had and
still have Muslim and Christian friends whom they loved and for whose love they
are grateful; the friends protected Jews whenever they could, and cried as they
saw them deported to prison or out of the county.
could these friends do to keep bigotry from prevailing, and ethnic cleansing
from taking place. But they and we tell our children: If only Jews and
their non-Jewish friends were heard in Egypt, there would have been no massacres
of Egyptian Jews[vii]
nor Invasion of Israel in 1948, and no war thereafter, and Israel the Jewish
state and Egypt the largest state in the region together would have turned the
Near East into the Oasis of humanity’s dreams.
Rami Mangoubi, Ph.D.
Shimon Shamir, ed., “The Evolution of
Egyptian Nationality Laws and their application to the Jews in the
monarchy period,” in Shimon Shamir, the Jews of Egypt, A Mediterranean
Society in Modern Times, Boulder: Westview Press, 1987, pp. 33-67.
Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam, Princeton University Press,
Princeton, New Jersey, 1981, p. 158. See also El Kodsi, The
Karaite Jews of Egypt,Willprint, Pp. 256-257.
Maurice Mizrahi, "The role of Jews
in Economic Development", Ch. 6 in Shamir, Pp.86-87, and Maurice
L'Egypte et ses Juifs, le Temps Révolu, Lausanne, 1977.
For Murad Farag, see Sasson Somekh, "Participation of Egyptian Jews in
Modern Arabic Culture and the case of Murad Faraj", in Shimon
Shamir, Ch.9, and Murad el Kodsi, The Karaite Jews of Egypt,
Willprint 1987, Pp. 244-257. For Da’ud Husni, see Murad el Kodsi,
The Karaite Jews of Egypt, Pp. 258-266, and
http://www.hsje.org/comdaoudhosn_arabic.htm. For Togo
Michael Laskier, The Jews of Egypt,
New York University Press, 1992, Ch. 5-8. See also Marc Khedr,
My Life in Abu Za’abal and Tura, http://www.hsje.org/mylife.htm
One massacre took place on the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot (New York
Times, June 21, 1948, and New York Times), another one
near the High Holidays. Laskier, Ch. 5-6 provide