Sunday, March 14, 2010

No True Egyptian

Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosny is an interesting fellow. He had run to be chief of UNESCO, but ran into trouble after he had been reported as saying he wished to burn any Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries. He recanted that stance, but was rejected anyway, after which he blamed a global Jewish conspiracy for his defeat.

One of the things I observed was most distressing at the time was Hosny's conflation of "Jew" and "Israeli", as when, for example, he declared his opposition to building a museum of Egyptian Jewish heritage so long as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was ongoing. Recently, we saw another example of this two-step, regarding the financing of restoration of Jewish synagogues in Cairo. Hosny declared, accurately, that these locations were as much a part of Egyptian culture as any Church or Mosque. So, good. Except that now, the Egyptian government has nixed a re-dedication ceremony, citing "Israeli aggression" against Palestinian protesters (it isn't clear, to be sure, if Hosny had any role in that decision).

Again, if Egyptian Jews are Egyptian, then it's not altogether clear what Israel's actions have to do with the rights of the Egyptian Jewish community. Unfortunately, the actions of the Egyptian government make it clear that it doesn't consider its country's Jews to be true citizens, but essentially representatives of a foreign power, and valid pawns in its diplomatic proceedings.


N. Friedman said...


Which Egyptian Jews are you referring to? As of 2004, there were fewer than 100 Jews in Egypt. By now, the number is likely much smaller. Consider..., if the Egyptians considered Jews as their brethren, the country would not have turned so harshly against its Jewish citizens.

This attitude, I might add, is probably not wholly related to Israel although that is certainly part of the issue. In the 1950's, the Egyptian government and people turned on the portion of its Christian population having Greek ethnic roots, resulting in hundreds of thousands of Greeks being displaced. Similar things are occurring, to this day, throughout the Muslim and most particularly Arab regions, with non-Muslim populations being the object of periodic pogroms and hate campaigns and worse. Tens of millions of Christians have, over the last number of decades, been pushed out of the region.

Which is to say, what happened to Egypt's Jews (and Iraq's, Libya's, Algeria's, etc., etc.) is better seen as part of a process of religious purification, with outsider groups being pushed aside.

So, it is not much of a surprise that Egyptians do not distinguish readily between Jews and Israelis.

N. Friedman said...

By the way, I hope you did well on your exams.