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`Jews should return to Egypt`: MB remark welcomed by Israeli TV
Al Arabiya
December 29, 2012

Essam El-Erian, who is in charge of the Political Bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood Members of Egypt`s constitution committee, smiles at the Shura Council during the final vote on a draft new Egyptian constitution, November 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

A senior official from the Muslim Brotherhood has prompted a response from Israel`s Channel 10 after he said earlier this week Jews should return to Egypt.

Essam el-Erian, an advisor to the Egyptian president, was quoted as having said during an interview with the local Dream TV network on Thursday: “It is better for Jews to live in a country like Egypt rather than in a country contaminated by occupation.”

He added that Jews should return to Egypt to “make way for the Palestinian people” and said, “Every Egyptian has the right to come back to Egypt, no matter what his religion.

“Egyptian Jews should refuse to live under a brutal, bloody and racist occupation stained with war crimes against humanity,” Erian said.

Meanwhile, the Israeli television channel, which reported the news, expressed content at Erian`s comments.

“After thousands of years since Egyptian Jews left Egypt, finally someone has called for their return,” the channel said, according to a report from the pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper.

But according to the Channel 10 report, Erian`s remarks were criticized by Egyptian users on social media networks, who called Erian “an agent of Israel and America” and accused him of treason.

In recent months, Muslim Brotherhood members and Egyptian clerics have not held back on comments regarding Israel and Jews since their rise to political prominence this year.

Before the group`s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi assumed office earlier in the year, prominent Egyptian cleric Safwat Hegazy said if Mursi became president, Egypt`s new capital will no longer be Cairo, but Jerusalem.

“Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem with God`s will. Our chants shall be: `millions of martyrs will march towards Jerusalem`,” prominent cleric Safwat Hagazy said, according to a video aired by Egypt`s religious Annas TV in June.

But Israeli attacks on Gaza last month showed a more “cooperative” side to relations between Egypt and Israel.

Mursi was described as “a brother, not an enemy of Israel” in a report from Israel-based Haaretz newspaper in November.

The paper mentioned an excerpt from a letter the Egyptian President purportedly sent to the Israeli president. The excerpt read: “Your faithful friend, Mohammed Mursi.”

“If he is battling Hamas, he is a friend. If he is fighting terrorism in Sinai, he is our brother,” a Haaretz columnist wrote.

© 2012

Jews condemn statement by Egypt`s Muslim Brotherhood Spiritual leader urges Muslims to fight Israel
By DIAA HADID, Associated Press
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
October 14, 2012

Israeli lawmaker, Simon Wiesenthal Center call on U.S. and EU to take action

JERUSALEM - A fierce statement against Jews by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood`s spiritual guide drew criticism from an Israeli lawmaker Saturday, while a Jewish activist group called on Washington to cut contacts with Egypt over the issue.

Mohammed Badie said during his weekly message that Jews were spreading “corruption,” had slaughtered Muslims and desecrated holy sites. He further called on Muslims to fight Israel, saying Zionists understood only force.

Israel has increasingly become concerned over its relations with Egypt as the formerly repressed Muslim Brotherhood has risen to power with the election of an Islamist president after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The jitters come despite a pledge by newly elected President Mohammed Morsi that Egypt will abide by a 1979 peace accord with Israel.

Muslim Brotherhood members frequently make statements against Israel`s occupation of East Jerusalem, accusing Jews of trying to smother the city`s Islamic identity and calling on Muslims to rise up and protect the city and its holy shrines.

But Badie`s statement was the first time the group`s supreme leader has made such strong statements since Morsi`s election. Morsi has avoided speaking of Israel in public, making only pledges to respect Egypt`s international agreements.

Badie referred to long-standing Muslim calls to “defend” Jerusalem`s Al-Aqsa Mosque, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews. Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven from there, while Jews call the compound the Temple Mount because of the biblical Jewish temples that stood there.

“It is time for the Muslim (nation) to unite for the sake of Jerusalem and Palestine after the Jews have increased the corruption in the world, and shed the blood of (Muslims),” Badie said in comments published on the group`s website and emailed to reporters on Thursday.

“Muslims must realize that restoring the sanctuaries and protecting honor and blood from the hands of Jews will not happen through the parlors of the United Nations, or through negotiations. The Zionists only know the way of force,” he added.

Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon called on the U.S. and the European Union “not to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the worrying reality.”

“Incitement and anti-Semitism in Egypt must stop before the U.S. sends (Egypt) hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said in a telephone interview. “The direction of the new Egyptian government is very worrying, and we are following with great concern what is being said and done and what is not being done there against extremists.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, also said the U.S. could not pretend to conduct “business as usual” when the Brotherhood made such statements.

“We are not dealing with a YouTube video or a lone extremist imam, but a call to anti-Semitic violence by a man who has tens of millions of followers and leads the organization that controls Egypt`s future,” the center`s Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper were quoted as saying in a statement.

They called on the White House to condemn the speech and to sever official and unofficial contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood.

A leading member of the Brotherhood, Rashad Bayoumi, said the group couldn`t ignore Israel`s “offense” of Islamic shrines. He said official Egyptian policy toward Israel was a separate matter.

U.S. officials were not immediately available for response. Israeli government officials said they would not comment on the speech.

© Copyright 2012, St. Louis Post-Dispatch. All Rights Reserved.

When the Arab Jews Fled
By Lucette Lagnado
The Wall Street Journal Online
October 12, 2012

Anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox Jewish men protest against the removal of ancient tombs in the sea front town of Jaffa, just south of Tel Aviv, on July 13, 2010, where construction is due to take place at the site where religious men say Jewish graves are located.

A new movement insists that the founding of Israel created more than one set of refugees

Fortunée Abadie is still haunted by the day in 1947 when mobs stormed the Jewish Quarter of the ancient Syrian city of Aleppo, shortly after the United Nations vote that laid the groundwork for the creation of Israel.

Aleppo, a city where Jews and Muslims had lived together for centuries, exploded with anti-Jewish violence. Mrs. Abadie, now 88, remembers watching attackers burn prayer books, prayer shawls and other holy objects from the synagogue across the street. She heard the screams of neighbors as their homes were invaded. “We thought we were going to be killed,” she says. The family fled to nearby Lebanon. Mrs. Abadie left behind all she had: clothes, furniture, photographs and even a small bottle of French perfume that she still misses, Soir de Paris—Evening in Paris.

The Abadie family`s story is moving from the recesses of history to a newly prominent place in the debate over the future of the Middle East. Arab leaders have insisted for decades that Palestinian refugees who fled their homes following Israel`s creation should be allowed to return to their former homes.

Now Israeli officials are turning the tables, saying the hardships faced by several hundred thousand exiled Arab Jews, many forced from their homes, deserve as much attention as the plight of displaced Palestinians. “We are 64 years late,” says Danny Ayalon, Israel`s deputy foreign minister. “The refugee problem does not lie only on one side.” Mr. Ayalon, whose father is an Algerian Jew, led a U.N. conference last month sponsored by Israel and dubbed “Justice for Jews From Arab Countries.”

Before the establishment of Israel in 1948, an estimated 850,000 Jews lived in the Arab world. In countries across the Middle East, there were flourishing Jewish communities with their own synagogues, schools and communal institutions.

Life changed dramatically by 1948 as Arab governments declared war on the newly created Jewish state—and on the Jews within their own borders. At the U.N., an Egyptian delegate warned that the plan to partition Palestine into two states, one for Jews and one for Palestinians, “might endanger a million Jews living in the Muslim countries.”

Jews began fleeing—to Israel, of course, but also to France, England, Canada, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. Yemen was home to more than 55,000 Jews; in Aden, scores were killed in a vicious pogrom in 1947. An airlift dubbed “Operation Magic Carpet” relocated most Yemenite Jews to Israel. In Libya, once home to 38,000 Jews, the community was subjected to many brutal attacks over the years. In June 1967, there were anti-Jewish rampages; two Jewish families were murdered—one family clubbed to death—and schools and synagogues were destroyed, says Vivienne Roumani, director of the documentary “The Last Jews of Libya.” “We were there for centuries, but there is no trace of Jewish life,” she says.

Among the Jews forced out of their homes was my own Egyptian-Jewish family, departing on a rickety boat in the spring of 1963. Egypt had once been home to 80,000 Jews. My parents, both Cairenes whose stories I chronicled in two memoirs, were especially pained at leaving a country they loved, without being allowed to take money or assets.

Within 25 years, the Arab world lost nearly all its Jewish population. Some faced expulsion, while others suffered such economic and social hardships they had no choice but to go. Others left voluntarily because they longed to settle in Israel. Only about 4,300 Jews remain there today, mostly in Morocco and Tunisia, according to Justice for Jews From Arab Countries, a New York-based coalition of groups that also participated in the U.N. conference.

Many of the Palestinians who fled Israel wound up stranded in refugee camps. Multiple U.N. agencies were created to help them, and billions of dollars in aid flowed their way. The Arab Jews, by contrast, were quietly absorbed by their new homes. “The Arab Jews became phantoms” whose stories were “edited out” of Arab consciousness, says Fouad Ajami, a scholar of the Middle East at Stanford`s Hoover Institution. “We are talking about the claims of the Palestinians,” he says. “Fine, but there were 800,000 Arab Jews, and they have a story to tell.”

Palestinians bristle at the effort to equate the displacement of Arab Jews with their own grievances. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization`s Executive Committee, says Mr. Ayalon “opened up a can of worms for political purposes” with the U.N. conference. She says that Israeli officials are trying to use a “forced and false analogy…to negate or question Palestinian refugee rights.” The Palestinians, she says, “have nothing to do with the plight of the Jews or other minorities who left the Arab world.” Still, Dr. Ashrawi recently proposed that Arab Jews should also have a “right of return” to the countries they left.

At the U.N. conference, Mr. Ayalon called Dr. Ashrawi`s suggestion to have Jews return to Arab countries “totally ridiculous.” Mr. Ayalon and the Israeli government are pushing ahead with efforts to raise the profile of Arab Jews. Israel has pledged to establish a national day in honor of Arab Jews and build a museum about their lost cultures. Mr. Ayalon has decided to make the Arab-Jewish refugees part of any negotiations, which has never been the case before. Looking ahead to a settlement, he would like to see both Palestinian and Jewish refugees compensated by an international fund. Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Ron Prosor, has called on the U.N. to research the refugees` history.

Mrs. Abadie attended the conference with her son Elie, now a physician and rabbi who leads Congregation Edmond J. Safra, a Manhattan synagogue attended by Lebanese and Syrian Jews. Until 1947, Syria had an estimated 30,000 Jews living in Aleppo and Damascus. But like Mrs. Abadie, many departed in the wake of the violence that left 75 dead and synagogues in ruin.

The Abadies were refugees twice. After leaving Aleppo, the family ended up in Beirut, Lebanon. For a time, life was good in the cosmopolitan city. But by 1970, the climate had turned hostile. Armed militants appeared in the streets. Rabbis, including Elie`s father, Abraham, had their pictures posted in the city`s mosques, identifying them as “Zionist-Jewish leaders,” an act the family took as a death threat. The Abadies decided once again it was time to move.

Some Jewish refugees, like Sir Ronald Cohen, find hope in the new initiatives to call attention to Arab Jews. Mr. Cohen, a London-based businessman, was a student at a French Catholic school in Cairo in 1956, friendly with his Muslim and Christian classmates. His father owned an import-export firm that specialized in appliances, and “Ronnie,” then 11, loved to visit him and play with the radios.

Then in October 1956, Israel, France and England waged war against Egypt over the Suez Canal. Mr. Cohen`s parents pulled him out of school after another Jewish boy was injured. His mother, a British citizen, was placed under house arrest. His father`s business was “sequestered”—effectively taken from him—and he wasn`t welcome at his own office. In May 1957, the family left on a plane bound for Europe. Mr. Cohen still remembers his father crying on the plane. “There is nothing left here,” he recalls his mother saying. “It is all over.”

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jews continued to pour out of the Muslim countries. When Desiré Sakkal and his family left Egypt as stateless refugees in 1962, he says, “there were very few Jews left.” Stranded in Paris in a hotel, Mr. Sakkal`s little brother was diagnosed with cancer, and he still remembers how his parents went to the hospital every day. The brother died a year later in New York, at the age of 10. Mr. Sakkal went on to found the Historical Society of Jews from Egypt, which seeks to recall the life left behind.

The Six-Day War of June 1967 brought some of the most violent anti-Jewish eruptions. As Arab countries faced defeat by Israel, they turned their rage on their own Jewish residents—what remained of them. In Egypt, Jewish men over 18 were rounded up and sent to prison. Some were kept for a few days. Others, like Philadelphia Rabbi Albert Gabbai, a Cairo native, remained imprisoned for three years. Rabbi Gabbai was only 18 when he was thrown in jail, along with three older brothers. He still remembers the cries of his fellow prisoners—Muslim Brotherhood members who were being tortured—echoing through the jail. He and his brothers feared that they were going to be killed. After three years of “despair,” he says, they were driven to the airport and escorted to an Air France flight.

Mr. Cohen, who left Egypt in 1957, grew up to become a pioneer in European venture capital and private equity. In recent years, he has worked to develop the Palestinian private sector. He believes that the focus on Jewish-Arab refugees could spur the Arabs and Israelis toward peace. “There are refugees on both sides, so that evens the scales, and I think that it will be helpful to the process,” he says. “It shows that both sides suffered the same fate.”

© Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Voices of Egypt`s Jews Resurface in Film
Sayed Mahmoud
Al Akhbar
November 02, 2012

Egyptian director Amir Ramses recently screened his latest documentary, Jews Of Egypt, at the Panorama of European Films in Cairo.

The documentary`s title implies a neutrality which does not really reflect the film`s clear stance, both on Israel as a colonizing entity, and on the need to defend the ethnic and religious diversity of the Arab world.

The film, produced by Haitham al-Khamissi, is a risky endeavor at a time when the debate over “Egypt`s identity” and the role of its minorities it heating up, especially following the electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood.The film, produced by Haitham al-Khamissi, is a risky endeavor at a time when the debate over “Egypt`s identity” and the role of its minorities it heating up, especially following the electoral victory of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A simplistic interpretation of the film would regard it as a eulogy for the diversity of Egypt before the 1952 revolution; a common, nostalgic theme that became prevalent in the last quarter of the 20th century when a number of novels and films were produced on the subject, the most famous being Birds of Amber by Ibrahim Abdul-Majid and the television series Zizinia by Osama Anwar Okasha.

The film opens with the well-known physician and politician Mohamed Abou el-Ghar, author of the acclaimed The Jews of Egypt: From Prosperity to Diaspora, describing Jewish life in Egypt up to 1956, when the Tripartite Attack forced many Jews to leave. As Ghar speaks, the camera shows commercial buildings that used to belong to Egyptian Jews.

Through a series of short interviews with ordinary Egyptians, the film reveals the complexity underlying the dominant image of Jews in Egypt, and particularly the conflation of Jews with Israelis in the minds of many. This confusion is seen by some as the result of a deliberate misinformation campaign encouraged by the Nasserite regime at the end of the 1950s. This perception was also encouraged by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, as well as the Young Egypt movement, a fascist party established in 1929.

The film then turns to a story which could have easily been the focus of the film, that of the leftist Albert Raeel, a prominent Egyptian Jew who refused to leave Egypt.

In the film, Raeel tells his story with humor and warmth, speaking of his years of struggle and how he was imprisoned together with many political leaders, most notably the former General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Mahdi Akef. Raeel was also in the audience during the screening.

The film goes on to explore the lives of some of those Egyptian Jews who did leave Egypt, such as the French journalist Alain Gresh, and how their lives changed once they had left. A romantic picture of Egypt emerges, one tinged with nostalgia.

The film depicts how class determined Egyptian Jews` emigration options. While the upper and middle classes could afford to emigrate to Paris or San Francisco, the poor had to go to Israel. Those who relocated to Israel were forced by the Egyptian government to give up their nationality and any property rights in Egypt.

Through a series of short interviews with ordinary Egyptians, the film reveals the complexity underlying the dominant image of Jews in Egypt, and particularly the conflation of Jews with Israelis in the minds of many.Visually, the film is enhanced by the still photography of John Hakim and the editing of Ramses. However, the reduction of the documentary to a series of interviews robs it of character. This style, along with the film`s protracted length, negatively affects the rhythm and in many instances it feels more like a television program than a film.

Normalization With Israel?

Amir Ramses has not been spared criticism for his work, some of which is based on accusations of normalization with Israel.

“These accusations have no basis in reality,” Ramses said. “Anyone who claims that the film seeks to normalize relations with Israel could not have seen it or has interpreted it wrongly, because it is against Israel and against normalization.”

The director went on to say he refused to screen his film in Israel “because the film is about Egypt and Egyptians, and screening it in Israel takes away the importance of its cause.”

He added that the film has been well-received by critics, journalists, and audiences in Egypt, and that there are ongoing negotiations to show the film in a number of European countries, particularly in Spain.

Jews of Egypt will be released in Egypt in December 2012.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

© Copyright 2012. Akhbar Beirut sal.





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