Egyptian Jews and the Muslim Brotherhood

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There is no question about it: the Muslim Brotherhood’s organizations all over the Arab world have stumbled on a foreign policy governing formula that ruling Arab families have stuck to for decades. It’s simple: an alliance between a governing party or a ruling family in the Arab world and the Western Zionists can bring about Western governmental support.

The House of Saud dealt with growing US public and congressional criticisms after September 11 by solidifying an alliance with Israel. Once the House of Saud worked to elevate the alliance with Israel, all public and congressional criticisms of Saudi Arabia – even its role in funding Islamic fanaticism around the world – died down. In Egypt, Anwar Sadat established a unique dictatorship that enjoyed unprecedented Western support because he surrendered to Israeli occupation and attained the Western “honor” of being the first Arab leader to sign publicly a peace treaty with Israel. (Of course, many Arabs before him, from the Maronite patriarchs to Hashemites had signed secret treaties with the Zionist movement.)

The Muslim Brotherhood is about to solidify its rule by striking a strong security-political alliance with Western Zionists and with Israel. It was not a coincidence that Mohamed Morsi released his Ottoman-style presidential decrees hours after gaining US approval for brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Gone are the grotesque speeches about jihad about the anti-Jewish chants about Khaybar and the threats to Jews, qua Jews. Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Tunisia (in the form of an-Nahda) to Egypt and Syria have been feverishly sending delegations (in public and in secrecy) to Washington to meet with the leaders of AIPAC (or of its research arm, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy) in order to reassure Zionists about the peaceful intentions of the Brotherhood toward the aggressive state of Israel.

The Muslim Brotherhood have enjoyed the taste of power in more than one country and they are – with Qatari support – wishing to extend their rule to several Arab countries. And just as the sponsoring Qatari royal family opened toward Israel in order to bolster its stance vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, and just as its ruling emir initiated negotiations with Haim Saban about the sale of al-Jazeera in order to deflect or postpone US congressional criticisms of Qatar (as the Emir himself admitted to me two years ago), the Muslim Brotherhood seems to increase the flirtation with Israel and Western Zionists with every increase in their grip on power.

The latest episode was about Egyptian Jews. Issam al-Arian, who has been negotiating with Western Zionists over the last few months in the hope of winning more Western support for Ikhwan rule, suddenly discovered the issue of Egyptian Jews and criticized Nasser’s regime for “expelling” Egyptian Jews. But al-Arian was clearly trying to score political points for the enjoyment of Western Zionists.

First, the Muslim Brotherhood is in no position to speak on the matter of any religious minority, in Egypt or elsewhere. This is a movement that poisoned public rhetoric even about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The founder of the movement, Hasan Al-Banna, may have been (according to my own research on the matter) the first Arab to ever threaten to “throw the Jews into the sea” (his statements were cited in al-Musawwar magazine in 1948). Its chants about Khaybar made it clear that the Ikhwan’s hostility has been directed against all Jews qua Jews, and not against the political project of Zionism.

Secondly, the laws affecting the economic status of Egyptian Jews were enacted under the Faruq monarchy, but the Ikhwan are loath to attack the monarchy as they do with Nasser. Al-Arian’s comments made no reference to Faruq. Attacks on Jewish interests took place in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 and before Nasser assumed power.

Thirdly, the Lavon Affair (in which the Israeli government recruited Egyptian Jews to perpetrate acts of terrorism in Egypt in order to sabotage Egyptian relations with Western governments) should be blamed on Israel, not Nasser. If there is one issue that made Egyptian Jews seem suspect in the public eyes, it was this dangerous conspiracy. And let us remember that the Nasserist prosecutor of the case made it very clear in his remarks before the court that Egyptian Jews as Jews should not be blamed for the affair and that they belong to Egyptian society just like any other community.

Israel has wittingly and unwittingly, purposefully and carelessly, jeopardized the status of Egyptian Jews by recruiting spies and terrorist from the ranks of Jews in Arab countries. In the US, the entire Muslim American community became suspect due to the deeds of 19 hijackers who were not even recruited from the American Muslim community.

Fourthly, Israel has made it difficult for Arabs and others to differentiate between Israelis and Jews when the state of Israel presents itself (bogusly) as the state of world Jewry. Israeli propaganda has aimed to make Israel the spokes-state for all Jews.

Fifthly, yes, some Egyptian Jews (who included many affluent Egyptians among them) were targeted by nationalization laws, but that was directed against Egyptians of different religious affiliations. Most nationalization and land laws of the Revolution targeted Muslim Egyptians.

Sixthly, yes, repression under Nasser affected Egyptian Jews, but it also affected Egyptian non-Jews as well.
Seventhly, there were Jewish victims of targeted repression in the Arab world, but they were victims of the repercussion and effects of the creation of the state of Israel. The laws and regulation against Jews, like the ones against their inclusion in the Lebanese Army according to a law drafted by MP Munir Abu Fadil, came after the creation of the state of Israel and should be seen as part of what Bernard Lewis called “political anti-Semitism,” as reprehensible as any discrimination against any group and with the understanding that discrimination can’t be justified.

Finally, the plight of Arab Jews should be discussed and even subject to legislative debates, but it can hardly be left in the hands of the bigots of the Ikhwan who still (in Arabic) refer to Jews and Christians as “the descendants of apes and pigs.”

The Ikhwan don’t have any credibility on the matter and they certainly are not qualified to offer criticisms of the Nasser regime, which deserves criticisms. Arab Jews (if there is evidence that they were forced to leave) should be allowed to return and even compensated if their properties were seized illegally. But the subject of Arab Jews has been shrouded with lies and fabrications by Zionist propaganda for decades.

Lebanese and Syrian Jews, for example, left on their own and the Israeli government and Western Zionists lobbied the Syrian governments over the years to allow Syrian Jews to leave Syria. But once Syrian Jews left Syria, Western Zionists immediately claimed that Syrian Jews were kicked out. One has to treat the story of Arab Jews on a country-by-country basis and should not be in any way linked to the Arab-Israeli issue although the aggression and occupation by the state of Israel poisoned relations between Jews and non-Jews in the region as a whole.


A positive fundamental part of Arabo-Islamic history was a Jewish, numbers of famous Jews support establishing Islam in its early years as a good tool for Arabia tribes unication against both Rome and Farsi empires, and also it is well known that Jews are supported Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid Khilafat/s one after another, also Andalusia, in all those feudal and theocratic States Jews working as Advisers and Ministers. Also Jews win a great role in establishing and expanding Ottomans Empire. Moreover, Jews have a important role in establishing Arabs nationalism movements pro and post the "Great Arabs Revolt. 1914" but this nationalistic role was not well documented. In colonization time Middle East’ and North Africa Jews are divided two camps: one with colonizers system, and the other one developed National Liberation ideas and activities, at that time some Jews help and support establishing Muslim brotherhood and its activities mentioning Zionist staff within Foreign Office, Suez Canal Company, British embassy in Cairo, and some other famous individuals who have Zionist links as Historian Arnold Toynbee, Journalist Leopold Weiss (Muhammad Assad), the Rabbi of Geneva Alexander Saffran, and well respected Prof. Bernard Lewis who was UK-US coordinator of Princeton university’ conference about Islam 1953. Effective cooperation between Zionist and Muslim Brotherhood circles was rocketing during 1954-1956’s Suez Canal conflict and after, in particularly the role of Muslim Brothers against Egypt’ State during 1960’s.

Generally, we can say the foreign and internal conflict in Egypt help both Zionist and Muslim brotherhood to push Jews out of Egypt, later crisis of June 1967 and later 1974 declaration of Openness “Free-Market dictatorship”, Western capital’ media are all indirectly support the advance of MB that later speeding-up dismantling of Egypt start from MB rule 2012-2013.

So Arian's proposal is a bad idea which we have to oppose? Just because it comes from a Muslim Brother or for other reasons?

It's a very reasonable idea, but it's probably not going to happen for two reasons: Egypt has enough problems with uneven distribution of wealth without trying to compensate 60+ year expatriates for the current value of their lost property. What's more, Jewish-Arabs have shown little desire to return to their old countries. In fact, Morocco has tried several times over 35 years to win back Jewish Moroccans, and as far as I know, Jewish Tunisians and Lebanese have no legal barriers to return.

So while it's disingenuous to claim the migration of Jewish Arabs post WWII amounts to a population exchange between Israel and the Arab states (Because the Jews who left were not always forced out directly by the govt., many of them went to places other than Israel and some countries would in fact let them return), any discourse about restoring their community from a govt. official is likely to be met with cynicism.

But obviously the point is - what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

This issue of the Egyptian Jews is to be understood within colonial context. Egyptian Jews were and felt Egyptian for most of them. Some sympathised with Arab nationalism against the British rule, some founded even the Comunist Party, but very few symphatised with Zionism. Anyone could take the 9.30 train from Cairo and go to Jaffa or Beyrouth, as Henri Curiel, founder of the Comunist Party once said. My family fled to Palestine when Rommel was at the doors of Egypt in 1942... and came back very quickly. Of course, part of the jewish elite wanted to be European, and some where able to acquire european passeports, i.e italian ones, there was a time where foreigners had special tribunal to judge them, till 1936. The most important thing to know is that Egyptian Jews suffered no discrimination at all from their muslim neighbourgs and that problems started witht the parallel rise of Zionism and Arab Nationalism, but the author is right to say that the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 did put the Jews in a very uncorfotable position, and at that point their loyalty to Egypt was questionned. Most of the Jews started living Egypt then and the exod accelerated in the following decade. Those who could afford it went to the US, Canada, Uk, France or Italy, those who could'nt went to Israel, most of them not out of zionism conviction. Zionism remains an European idea, a colonial enteprise, born in XIX century antisemitic Europe. At this point it is not important if they where expelled or left freely: they felt they had no future in this country. But I can say one thing: for all them, it was a lost Paradise.

There is a modern Israeli writer Ronit Matalon, more or less "leftist". In her novel The One Facing Us she writes about a family of Israeli Jews who came from Egypt. It seems that they were well-to-do in Egypt and had servants - non-Jews. When a born in Israel girl asks her mother from Egypt about "Arabs" the mother does not quite understand - the servants were Muslims, of course, but it is clear that for her there was not "Jews versus Arabs", all were Arabs - Jewish, Muslim or Christian (there are some interesting staff about girls' school in Egypt where Muslim, Christian and Jewish girls studied before the WWII)

It's a very disappointing article, weak and lack the depth that this topic needs.

Arab-Israeli ISSUE?!!

Its also worth mentioning that some of the Egyptian Jews were descended from relatively recent immigrants to the country - both Sephardic and Ashkenazi. And that these families often had foreign passports and not particularly deep roots in the country compared to native Arabic speaking Karaites. And as non-citizens, they were most vulnerable to nationalization and citizenship laws, thus being among the first to go. Joel Beinin talks about this well.

"Arab Jews (if there is evidence that they were forced to leave) should be allowed to return and even compensated if their properties were seized illegally."

Those poor Jews who had to run away, leaving everything behind to go and occupy the land, houses and property of displaced Arabs in "Israel"?

The calls for right of return of Arab Jews seem a little perverse when you consider their endpoint (Israel) vs that of those they displaced (refugee camps, Gaza and the crumbling bantustans of the West Bank).

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