Sunday, August 19, 2012

Egypt paper recalls how Jews and Arabs lived together, skips a few facts

The Al Ahram youth newspaper has an article on how Ramadan is now celebrated in the old Jewish quarter of Cairo and how Jews used to live there in harmony with Arabs.

It is a nice article, with interviews of old Arabs who recall fondly their Jewish friends and even their being asked to do things forbidden to Jews on Shabbat.

The old Jewish quarter is now a shopping district, but without any Jews:

While the article is certainly not anti-Jewish. it tries to distinguish between "Egyptian Jews" and the "Zionists who now live in Israel," who are presumably not the nice Jews that they recall.

However, the article contains a glaring mistake in its description of how the tens of thousands of Egyptian Jews disappeared. It merely says "since 1948, Jews began to migrate from Egypt, sold everything and migrated either to Israel or to different countries."

Of course, the Jews were stripped of their possessions, subject to violent and often deadly attacks, and eventually expelled from Egypt.

As Wikipedia summarizes:
By the 1940s, the situation worsened. Sporadic pogroms took place in 1942 onwards. In 1945, the Jewish quarter of Cairo was severely damaged. As the Partition of Palestine and the founding of Israel drew closer, hostility strengthened, fed also by press attacks on all foreigners accompanying the rising ethnocentric nationalism of the age. In 1947, the Company Laws set quotas for employing Egyptian nationals in incorporated firms, requiring that 75% of salaried employees, and 90% of all workers be Egyptian. As Jews were denied citizenship as a rule, this constrained Jewish and foreign owned entrepreneurs to reduce recruitment for employment positions from their own ranks. The law also required that just over half of the paid-up capital of joint stock companies be Egyptian.

After the foundation of Israel in 1948, difficulties multiplied for Egyptian Jews. That year, bombings of Jewish areas killed 70 Jews and wounded nearly 200, while riots claimed many more lives.[26] During the Arab-Israeli war, the famous Cicurel department store near Cairo's Opera Square was firebombed. The government helped with funds to rebuild it, but it was again burnt down in 1952, and eventually passed into Egyptian control.

In the immediate aftermath of trilateral invasion during the Suez Crisis of 1956, on November 23 by Britain France and Israel, a proclamation was issued stating that 'all Jews are Zionists and enemies of the state', and it promised that they would be soon expelled. Some 25,000 Jews, almost half of the Jewish community left, mainly for Europe, the United States and South America, and Israel, after being forced to sign declarations that they were leaving voluntarily, and agreed with the confiscation of their assets. Some 1,000 more Jews were imprisoned.

After the 1967 war, more confiscations took place. Rami Mangoubi, who lived in Cairo at the time, states that nearly all Egyptian Jewish men between the ages of 17 and 60 were either thrown out of the country immediately, or taken to the detention centres of Abou Za'abal and Tura, where they were incarcerated and tortured for more than three years. The eventual result was the almost complete disappearance of the Jewish community in Egypt; less than a hundred or so remain today.

I had not heard of the 1945 riots, and looked them up:

And it turns out that the Egyptian 1945 riots sparked a much larger pogrom in Tripoli a few days later:

It is so much nicer to recall how tolerant your country was and ignore how anti-semitic it ended up being as it ethnically cleansed its entire population of Jews.