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memri
September 26, 2018 No.
7686

Egyptian Writer Laments Extinction Of Egypt's Jewish Community, Extends New Year Greetings To Egypt's Few Remaining Jews

In a September 13, 2018 article in the daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Fatima Na'out, an Egyptian poet, writer and translator, praised the important role played by Egypt's Jews in their country and lamented their exodus from Egypt in the mid-20th century. Extending New Year greetings to the few Jews who still remain in Egypt, she also apologized to Egypt's Jews, saying that they contributed greatly to the country's culture and economy and were driven to emigrate by "blind and ignorant thugs" who persecuted them with violence and hatred following the establishment of the state of Israel. She noted that the tautological title of her article – "The Egyptian Jews of Egypt" – is directed at her compatriots who do not understand that Jews can be loyal Egyptians just like them and that there is no connection between an individual's religion and his national identity and citizenship.

The following are translated excerpts from her article:[1]


Fatima Na'out

"Is there anything wrong with the title [of this article – 'The Egyptian Jews of Egypt']? Of course there is! It is nearly ungrammatical, because it confirms what is already confirmed and defines what is already defined. It's like saying 'the Egyptian farmers of Egypt' or 'the garden butterfly in the garden,' 'or the room of the house which is inside the house.' All these awkward expressions apply the same description to an item twice, which is not linguistically acceptable... Therefore, I apologize for the title of this article; it is not directed at linguists or historians, but at young people who do not know that there are Jews who are native Egyptian citizens and have nothing to do with Israel, and whose attitude towards Israel is one of renouncement, no different from the attitude of all us Egyptians towards the occupying Zionist entity.

"As a matter of fact, the Jews of Egypt paid dearly for the establishment of the state of Israel, for they were persecuted and exiled from their homeland, expelled from their homes by force, and their institutions and factories were torched. [The Jews] experienced various disasters, until they almost completely disappeared from the Egyptian landscape. The awkwardly-phrased title [of this article]... is directed as those who do not know that religious faith has nothing to do with [national] identity and citizenship, and that a citizen's [religious] beliefs do not detract from his civil rights.

"Here I must present a simple political fact to those who are unaware of it: An individual is entitled to citizenship in a given country based on one of the following principles: 1. The principle of land, which states that an individual is entitled to citizenship in the country of his birth, regardless of the nationality of his parents; 2. The principle of blood, which states that a person is entitled from birth to be a citizen of his father's homeland. 3. The principle of immigration, which states that an individual can be naturalized in a country to which he has immigrated if he meets the criteria of that country's immigration [laws] and if the host country agrees to grant him [citizenship]; 4. [In the case of Jews, there is also] the Law of Return, which applies to every Jew in the world, regardless of citizenship or country of birth, and grants him an Israeli passport the minute he sets foot in occupied Palestine.

"Here we must pause and reflect: Why did the Egyptian Jews who live among us today on Egyptian soil, and have only Egyptian citizenship, forego [the right to] an Israeli citizenship that would grant them unlimited privileges, and prefer to remain in Egypt? It does not take [great] intelligence or analysis to answer this question. [They did this] because they are loyal Egyptians who cleave to their Egyptian identity just as they cleave to their [religious] faith. This is the main point of my article: for me, the honor of being an Egyptian is the only meaning of Egyptian citizenship.

"During the 1940s, Dr. Taha Hussein was chief [editor] of an excellent literary magazine called The Egyptian Writer, which cultivated the literary, philosophical, political and sociological [sensibilities] of the Egyptian reader. Who founded and funded this magazine? Seven Egyptian Jews. Just as they contributed to Egypt's cultural prosperity, they also promoted its industry and economy, when they founded land reclamation companies such as the Al-Behera Joint Stock Company and acted to industrialize Egypt's cotton sector, which was no. 1 in the world. They also founded diamond companies, textile companies such as Cicurel and Benzaion-Adas-Revoli, department stores like 'Omar Effendi, and so on. These were high-quality [businesses], and therefore the princesses of the world would come to Egypt to buy clothes and diamonds at the shops of the Egyptian Jews...

"The Egyptian lady Magda Haroun, the head of the Jewish community in Cairo, said to me sadly: "When I was a little girl and my father would take me to the synagogue to pray, we would not find a single empty seat in it. Today there are only four of us left. Before 1948 the number of Jews in Egypt was 11,000.[2] It is sad that half of the university graduates in Egypt think that a Jew is necessarily a Zionist or even an Israeli, and it is sad that many of us do not distinguish between Judaism as a religious faith and Zionism as [a form of] political fascism.

"The honorable Jews of Egypt, who loved Egypt with all their hearts, were persecuted with violence and hatred by blind and ignorant thugs until they were forced to leave [the land] where they had been born and bred, the land they had loved and helped to make prosperous. They knew no other homeland. On the occasion of your holiday [Rosh Hashana], which took place yesterday, I convey to you my love and my apologies. Even if there are only four of you left, history will never forget your patriotism, nor will Egypt. Someday soon the state of education in my country will improve, and Egyptian children will learn in school that the Egyptian Jews loved their homeland more than millions [of Egyptians] who do not appreciate it. May Allah curse those who mixed [the issue of religious] faith with [the issue of] citizen rights."

 

[1] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 13, 2018.

[2] As a matter of fact, according to estimates, the number of Jews in Egypt in 1948 was between 65,000 and 80,000. (rlp.hds.harvard.edu); today there are fewer than 100.