Thursday, June 18, 2020

Our weekly column from the humor site PreOccupied Territory.

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pyrCairo, June 18 - Authorities in this country of nearly 100 million dismissed concerns today that the movement to dismantle monuments glorifying racist or oppressive regimes and figures will affect their state's archaeological and cultural sites, because in the popular conception, Hebrew slaves built those wonders of the ancient world, and it's OK to oppress Jews so no one will care.

Officials at the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which administers the tourism and archaeological aspects of the various Pharaohs' tombs, told reporters Thursday they see little danger of protesters taking down statues and monuments in Egypt of people deemed problematic, since the adherents of the protest movement do not include Jews in their list oppression victims, seeing the targets of the world's oldest hatred as somehow deserving of genocide, pogroms, forced conversion, blood libels, and the like. While in fact Hebrew slaves did not build the pyramids - the structures largely precede the estimated dating of Israelite enslavement in Egypt - in many people's minds the forced labor those slaves performed involved construction of pyramids. The falsehood of the popular belief, officials explain, does nothing to diminish its effectiveness in preventing mass movements to dismantle the pyramids.

"We normally spend a not-insignificant portion of our educational efforts emphasizing that the pyramids have a far more ancient pedigree than the Biblical episode," explained Deputy Minister of Cultural Affairs Salman Moussa. "There persists, especially in the West, a misperception that the Jews built them. The Biblical text itself, the historicity of which is in dispute anyway, never once even mentions the pyramids; in fact it says the Israelites built 'cities,' and even names those cities. The timing of the Exodus narrative according to its traditional dating - say, the middle of the second millennium BCE - places it centuries later than many of the pyramids."

"Under normal circumstances we and our educational partners throughout the world - in museums, academia, for example - would be trying to combat the 'The Jews built the pyramids' nonsense," he continued. "It's a problem for us as scholars, of course, but as Arabs and Egyptians in particular, it would be pretty galling to owe anything to Jews, just speaking honestly. Stripping most of them of their assets and expelling them after Israel refused to let itself be destroyed, well, you can understand why Egyptians might get upset at them. But we're toning those educational efforts down for the moment, for the sake of preserving these ancient, imposing links to the past. If saving the pyramids requires allowing the mob to think it was the Jews who built the pyramids so that was a good kind of slavery, we can let that historical inaccuracy slide."

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