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August 5, 2015 0

Egypt’s New Interest in its Jewish Past

There has been much dis­cus­sion about  the recent Egypt­ian TV drama The Jew­ish Quar­ter, which depicts the Jew­ish com­mu­nity in Egypt in the 1940s through a love story between a Jew­ish woman and a Mus­lim Egypt­ian army officer.

ADL noted that despite some expec­ta­tions that it would depart from the usual anti-Semitic canards typ­i­cally found in Ramadan-period pro­duc­tions, The Jew­ish Quar­ter divides Egypt­ian Jews into two cat­e­gories:  “good” Jews and “bad” Jew.  The good Jews are loyal to Egypt and sup­port its war against Israel while Zion­ist Jews, are depicted as wicked, liars, evil and try­ing to betray Egypt.

At the same time, as flawed as The Jew­ish Quar­ter is, it appears to reflect a new inter­est among Egyp­tians in its once-thriving Jew­ish community.

Exam­ples include, the 2012 Egyptian-made film, Jews of Egypt , which doc­u­mented the  his­tory of the com­mu­nity and a num­ber of recent arti­cles which have exam­ined the Jews’ his­tor­i­cal role in the country’s success.

the jewish quarter egypt

“No one can deny the role played by Egypt’s Jews through­out its his­tory, a role con­sid­ered vital and impor­tant”, noted one arti­cle pub­lished in Egypt’s Al-Wafd news­pa­per (July 21), adding that “They’ve always been part of Egypt­ian cul­tural and social fab­ric”. Other news­pa­pers go even fur­ther in their superla­tives as they invoke promi­nent Egyptian-Jewish fig­ures from the past, such as leg­endary singer Layla Murad (who later con­verted to Islam and was out­spo­ken in her crit­i­cism of Israel),  a fea­ture about whom was recently pub­lished in the country’s Al-Yawm As-Sabi news­pa­per (July 13): “She is the voice of love in her days, in ours and in every day”, says the arti­cle. “She is capa­ble of bestow­ing upon you pos­i­tive energy through which to face life’s futil­ity; capa­ble of mak­ing you sense the beauty of life; and capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new heart between your ribs, one that will know a new mean­ing of love and life.”

Why is there now this renewed inter­est in Egypt’s Jew­ish com­mu­nity of seven decades ago?  An arti­cle pub­lished (July 18) about The Jew­ish Quar­ter TV series in Egypt’s most widely cir­cu­lated daily – Al-Ahram – sug­gests one pos­si­ble answer, which is that it’s not about the Jews in and of them­selves. Dr. Hala Mustafa writes, “Nat­u­rally, this isn’t a his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Jew­ish pres­ence in Egypt, but rather a demon­stra­tion of one fea­ture of Egypt­ian cul­tural lib­eral legacy. It is char­ac­ter­ized by diver­sity, wealth and plu­ral­ism in their fullest sense and exceeds the imme­di­ate polit­i­cal con­text. Jews were only part of a big­ger sys­tem which embraced cit­i­zens of non-Egyptian ori­gins and for­eign emi­grants, such as Greeks, Ital­ians, Arme­ni­ans, French and oth­ers. This nat­u­rally led to a mix­ture of West­ern and Ori­en­tal cul­tures, even­tu­ally pro­duc­ing a dis­tinct tol­er­ant Egypt­ian culture.”

It seems that in the midst of Egypt’s tremen­dous insta­bil­ity, with the country’s lead­er­ship mov­ing from sec­u­lar to Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and back again to a sec­u­lar regime; fight­ing Islamic ter­ror in Sinai; strug­gling over the country’s very ethos, the Egypt of the 1940’s sim­ply rep­re­sents a more lib­eral and tol­er­ant coun­try that some long for in these times of reli­gious extrem­ism and Islamic polit­i­cal awakening.

Whether this new inter­est will endure, much less trans­lates to a new approach to Jews and the Jew­ish State, remains to be seen.

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May 8, 2015 8

Gilad Atzmon and Yaakov Shapiro Condemn Israel and Zionism


Flyer adver­tis­ing the event

On May 6 in New York City, an anti-Israel event fea­tured Gilad Atz­mon, an Israeli-born anti-Semite based in Lon­don, and Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro, Spokesper­son for the anti-Israel group “True Torah Jews.” The stated goal of the event, titled “Judaism ver­sus Jew­ish Iden­tity Pol­i­tics: Reli­gion ver­sus Trib­al­ism,” was to help “unravel the tan­gled web of sec­u­lar Jew­ish pol­i­tics, right and left.”

In his remarks, Atz­mon claimed that there have been con­certed efforts to silence his views, but that the efforts were “not from Zion­ist bod­ies, but actu­ally from Jew­ish left bod­ies,” such as Jew­ish Voice for Peace. He stated that JVP’s stance took him “by com­plete sur­prise” because he had always worked towards “oppos­ing Israel.”

Atz­mon claimed that there are three cat­e­gories of Jews:

  1. Jews who fol­low the Torah and see Judaism as the core of their identity
  2. Those who iden­tify as Jews because they have Jew­ish heritage
  3. Those who iden­tify polit­i­cally as Jews

Atz­mon, who referred to him­self as “a devoted self-hater,” stated that the first two cat­e­gories of Jews are “inno­cent” because reli­gious Jews “have never been involved in any col­lec­tive geno­ci­dal attempt against another peo­ple,” and that hav­ing “a Jew­ish mother doesn’t make you into a war criminal.”

Accord­ing to Atz­mon, the third cat­e­gory of Jews are “guilty” because they have sup­pos­edly been “at the cen­ter of too many dis­as­ters,” includ­ing the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, the Span­ish Civil War, and the “Nakba.” He added that in the U.S. there was “Jew­ish influ­ence within the neo-conservative school” and that Amer­ica is “pay­ing the price for those wars,” which he stated were not “rab­bini­cal wars.”

After Atz­mon con­cluded his ini­tial remarks, Rabbi Shapiro spoke, echo­ing much of what Atz­mon said, and adding his reli­gious anti-Zionist ide­ol­ogy to the dis­cus­sion. Like Atz­mon, he spoke against the cre­ation of Israel and called its for­ma­tion “a his­tor­i­cal anom­aly.” But, rather than focus­ing on the var­i­ous cat­e­gories of Jews that Atz­mon did, Shapiro instead spoke only about sec­u­lar Jews and reli­gious Jews.

Accord­ing to Shapiro, Zion­ism was cre­ated by sec­u­lar Jews who wanted to destroy Ortho­dox Judaism because they allegedly “absorbed the atti­tudes of the anti-Semites and looked at the Jews them­selves with the same dis­gust and loathing that the anti-Semites did.” He con­tin­ued and stated “the rea­son the Jews were dis­gust­ing is because they looked like me and they acted like me. And they blamed the reli­gious Jews for anti-Semitism.”

Shapiro added, “When Gilad says ‘the Jews do this and the Jews do that,’ he’s talk­ing about one type, those are sec­u­lar Jews…The Jews that stole our iden­tity. Nev­er­mind the Pales­tini­ans say they stole our land. They stole our Jew­ish name, they stole my iden­tity, they are not real Jews!”

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November 4, 2014 3

Islamic University Of Gaza Conference Promotes Anti-Semitism

A two-day inter­na­tional con­fer­ence at the Islamic Uni­ver­sity of Gaza titled “Future of the Zionist-Islamic con­flict in Pales­tine” included bla­tant expres­sions of anti-Semitism.islamic-university-gaza

While very few details about the con­fer­ence are avail­able, one of the pan­els, accord­ing to the University’s web­site, was called “The future of the Zionist-Muslim con­flict in light of ‘ThePro­to­cols of the Learned Elders of Zion.’”

An Al Jazeera report on the con­fer­ence, which con­cluded on Sun­day, quoted one of the par­tic­i­pants, Pro­fes­sor Riyadh Qas­sim, from the Islamic Uni­ver­sity in Gaza as say­ing that the defeat the Jews and the demise of the Zion­ist entity is a divine promise. Pro­fes­sor Qas­sim also report­edly listed 12 char­ac­ter­is­tics of “the Jew­ish per­son­al­ity” such as “absolute blas­phemy in faith, thirst for blood shed­ding, treach­ery, vio­lat­ing treaties, manip­u­la­tion, cor­rup­tion on earth, and racial supe­ri­or­ity.” Such qual­i­ties, accord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Qas­sim, will lead to the defeat of the Jews and a vic­tory for Muslims.

The University’s web­site also indi­cated that 23 research papers were sub­mit­ted to the con­fer­ence by schol­ars from around the world. The research papers report­edly prop­a­gated an Islamist per­spec­tive on the Palestinian-Israeli con­flict, to sup­port the pre­dic­tion of an Islamic vic­tory over the Jews.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who spoke at the open­ing ses­sion of the con­fer­ence, expressed his pride in Moataz Hijazi, the Pales­tin­ian gun­man sus­pected of the failed tar­geted ter­ror­ist assas­si­na­tion attempt of a Jew­ish man in Jerusalem last week.

The Islamic Uni­ver­sity of Gaza was founded by Hamas and includes var­i­ous schools such as Med­i­cine, Engi­neer­ing and Islamic law. The Uni­ver­sity was tar­geted by Israel in August of 2014 because, accord­ing to a spokesper­son for the Israeli army, the Uni­ver­sity “was a Hamas Qas­sam rocket man­u­fac­tur­ing facil­ity, an out­post, a cen­ter for weapons research and devel­op­ment, and a Hamas stor­age facility.”

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