Sunday, January 13, 2013

Egyptians still riled over idea of Jews returning

Over two weeks after Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam el-Erian said that Jewish Egyptians should be allowed to return (to leave room for Palestinian Arabs to move to Israel), Egypt's media is still in an uproar about it.

Interestingly, it is also opening up a debate about the history of Jews in Egypt. Not that all these histories are accurate - many still claim that the Jews willingly gave up their property - but the role of Jews in Egypt and the fact that the Jewish community disappeared while being persecuted cannot be covered up.

Some newspapers are visiting the old Jewish Quarter of Cairo and interviewing older residents who remember their Jewish neighbors. One claimed that he bought the land of a fleeing Jew for the market price, but admits that others simply stole their land. Yet right after he described how much he loved his Jewish neighbors, he railed against the idea of them returning, saying that they are all now Zionist usurpers of Palestinian lands.

Erian's comments are also being used by opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some are arguing that it wasn't the Egyptian government that persecuted Jews - but the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which has been anti-semitic since its founding.

This was even noted on TV:

Some, also noting the historic Jew-hatred of the Islamists, say that now they want to get more support from the US by pretending to love Jews and attempting to fool American Jews into supporting them.

Others, playing on natural Egyptian anti-semitism, are accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of "embracing Jews."

Even more egregiously, the controversy is giving cover for people to make more explicit anti-semitic statements, such as a sports minister saying he would refuse to allow Jews to invest in Egyptian sports stadiums.

A newspaper poll shows that 79% of those responding would refuse to allow Jews back into Egypt.

For this to still be discussed so prominently for so long shows that the idea has definitely touched a nerve in the Egyptian public.

Keep in mind that in polls conducted in both 2006 and 2011, only 2% of Egyptians had favorable views of Jews.