The story of Jews in the Middle East does not fold smoothly into a Jewish narrative of oppression, and many Egyptian Jews can trace their families’ arrival in Egypt to an escape from persecution, whether from pogroms or the Spanish Inquisition. The history of the Jews in Europe has been told such that it becomes the history of all Jews, and it is a deeply politicized narrative, its folds influenced by Zionism, such that the history of the Jews without a homeland is simply one of persecution, and that Israel offers a solution to that perennial condition.
The Jews of Egypt tell a different story. So different was this story that, even for those who did not oppose Israel for political reasons, it simply did not resonate or speak to them. As a French journalist, the daughter of an Egyptian Jew, says: “It did not occur to the family to go to Israel. That was a place for oppressed Jews, so it wasn’t for us.”
Or, as Browning says of her grandmother: “It’s not that she was against segregation, it just wasn’t who she was. Identity badges gave her an allergy. It would give her claustrophobia to be with the same kind of people. And she couldn’t understand why people would go to a country to put yellow stars on themselves.”"
Egypt Independent: A forgotten chapter in the history of Egypt and Jews
Some more from the article:
Albert Aryeh is one of the hundred or so Jews left in Egypt, and he knows he is Egyptian. The rest of the Jews gone. Their memories, as they recount them in Amir Ramses’ “The Jews of Egypt,” recall a time when their identity and allegiance were unquestioned.
They were Egyptian, and that’s all there was to it. And they were Egyptian in different ways, according to who they were. Archivist Essam Fawzi describes how the Jewish capitalists behaved like any Egyptian capitalists, and did not invest their profits abroad. Robert Grinsman recounts how he “became a communist as an Egyptian seeking change.” We learn about Yousef Darwish and Ahmed Sadek Sad, who converted to Islam in order to work more effectively, and that work was as lawyers defending workers, helping found workers syndicates and schools for the poor.
The film is a history lesson. We learn that Ciccurel, owner of large department stores, was a close associate of Talaat Harb and involved in the establishment of Egypt’s first national bank, Bank Misr. There are mentions of important Jewish figures in the country’s history, their major achievements — Laila Mourad in music, Yacoub Sanoua in theater and Togo Mezrahi in cinema. We learn that communist Henri Curiel somehow got the plan of the 1956 Tripartite Aggression and showed it to Gamal Abdel Nasser, who then declared it a fake.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in the article. The Egyptian Jewish community is so wasted away by now that at the big synagogue downtown they can’t even get a minyan (required quorum) together for regular Shabbat services, though I believe on the High Holidays enough extras come in that they manage. It’s not even open to tourists much anymore out of fear of vandalism or terrorists. At any rate, it’s good to see that this film was made, and apparently isn’t a travesty.(via fursasaida)
Downtown Cairo witnessed a spate of sexual harassment for the third straight day Tuesday, as activists and government officials have called for harsher penalties and increased enforcement. […]
Judges have called for imposing harsher penalties for harassment by adding a new article to the law saying that harassers would be sentenced to a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Meanwhile, youth from the Constitution Party formed a human chain stretching from Shubra to Talaat Harb Street Monday to protest against harassment. Participants raised banners saying, “No to harassment, all of Egypt’s girls are your sisters” and “Protect her instead of harassing her.” The party’s popular work committee coordinator Walid Gibril said that the goal of the chain was to send the message that harassment is a major crime."
Sexual Harrassment Wave Continues for Third Day at Egypt Independent
I’d not heard of this until just recently, but apparently there tends to be a wave of harassment right around Eid. A male friend of mine expressed his confusion over it: sure, you’re meant to avoid any form of sexual stimulation or thought while fasting, but once the sun goes down, you’re fine; so is there really that much steam to let loose?
And I had to explain, yet again, that sexual assault is never about desire. This happens for the same reason there was a spate of really scary harassment—I’m talking women trapped inside buildings because the crowds of men outside made them fear for their lives—during the protests/riots in response to the Mubarak verdict. It’s about letting off steam. It’s about saying, I can do whatever I want.
The idea of intensifying the anti-harassment law is…sweet. It won’t make any difference, because nobody cares about the law to begin with. Enforcement is, to my mind, one of the biggest issues regarding governance and civil society in Egypt: there are plenty of good laws and initiatives, but they don’t really matter. Even if that improved, I guarantee you this law would be one of the last to get any traction in the real world.(via fursasaida)
Friends are sharing that the Nile City towers along the Corniche in downtown Cairo were just attacked a little over half an hour ago. Still don’t know many details. If you have friends or family there, please check in with them. For everyone in Cairo, please avoid going to the Corniche.
This is the only source covering this right now (only for Arabic speakers).
Please keep Egypt in your prayers.
Two people dead in the fighting between NIle Towers Security and employers at Nile City.
He received his Ph.D. in Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1982. He was an Assistant Professor at California State University, Northridge from 1982 to 1985. In 1985, he returned to Egypt to teach at Zagazig University. His children were born in California and are U.S. citizens.
shit. i didnt know that. his children are us citizens. ha ha ha…irony.
Two days before the second round of presidential elections, Egypt’s highest court on Thursday dissolved the Islamist-dominated parliament and ruled that the army-backed candidate could stay in the race, in what was widely seen as a double blow for the Muslim Brotherhood. The decision was denounced as a coup by opposition leaders of all kinds including senior Brotherhood MP Mohamed el-Beltagy who called it a “fully fledged coup”.
Egyptian politics is prone to exaggeration and panic, fueled by deeply felt frustration, endless political maneuvering, partial information spread through dense and contentious news media, and profound political uncertainty. Things are often not as desperate as they appear. Indeed, I was joking on Twitter yesterday that the expert consensus that today would be a big crisis day in Cairo probably meant nothing would happen, since everybody (including me) is always wrong. But today’s moves by the Constitutional Court on behalf of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) seem difficult to overcome and likely to push Egypt onto a dangerous new path. With Egypt looking ahead to no parliament, no constitution, and a deeply divisive new president, it’s fair to say the experiment in military-led transition has come to its disappointing end.
A few weeks ago, I dared to hope that despite “the stupidest transition in history,” Egypt might still end up backing into a minimally workable political outcome as long as the SCAF lived up to its promise to transfer power to an elected civilian government. Then, the first round of the presidential election went about as badly as it could have, leaving voters with a choice between the champion of the former ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) and the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, after the failure of the political center to unite on a candidate and the arbitrary disqualification of several top candidates from the race. Then, Egypt’s political forces failed, and after a last-minute deal failed again, to come up with a way to draft a legitimate constitution. And then, the SCAF discarded one of the real accomplishments of the transition, the end of emergency law, by restoring vast powers to security services to arrest civilians.
Today, Egypt’s constitutional court delivered the coup de grace by refusing to disqualify Mubarak’s former prime minister Ahmed Shafik from the race and effectively dissolving the elected parliament by declaring the individual election of one-third of its members illegal. The former decision was probably the right one, to be frank, though it was a missed opportunity for a “hail Mary” political reset. But the latter was absurd, destructive, and essentially voids Egypt’s last year of politics of meaning. Weeks before the SCAF’s scheduled handover of power, Egypt now finds itself with no parliament, no constitution (or even a process for drafting one), and a divisive presidential election with no hope of producing a legitimate, consensus-elected leadership. Its judiciary has become a bad joke, with any pretence of political independence from the military shattered beyond repair.
The SCAF’s power grab in the final days looks more like panic than the execution of a carefully prepared master scheme. It likely reflected a combination of fear of rising Islamist power, self-preservation, and growing confidence in its ability to control street protests. The prospect of the Muslim Brotherhood controlling Parliament and the presidency likely scared them more than many people conditioned by speculation about a MB-SCAF alliance recognized — a dynamic that Robert Springborg captured extremely well for Foreign Policy a few months ago. Of course it wanted to preserve its economic empire and political protections. But both of those were constant over the course of the transition, and don’t explain its heavy-handed moves at the climax of the process.
What was new, and which likely emboldened this reckless behavior at the end of the transition, was its belief that it had effectively neutered revolutionary movements and protestors. The SCAF likely believes that a renewal of massive, sustained protest is no longer in the cards through a combination of its own repression and relentless propaganda, along with the strategic mistakes by protestors themselves. It doesn’t feel threatened by a few thousand isolated protestors in Tahrir, and probably is gambling that they won’t be joined by the masses that made the Jan. 25 revolution last year. They may also feel that the intense rifts of suspicion and rage dividing the Muslim Brotherhood from non-Islamist political trends are now so deep that they won’t be able to cooperate effectively to respond. Or they may feel that the MB would rather cut a deal, even now, than take it to the next level. They may be right, they may be wrong. But I wouldn’t bet on stability.
Anyone who sees this as the culmination of a devious, effective SCAF master plan needs to take a step back and look at what they have “won,” however. The SCAF could have been approaching the end of a process that created reasonably legitimate, elected political institutions and restored confidence and security to the country without fundamentally threatening their core interests. Instead, their great success stands to be placing Shafik on an empty, wobbling throne. He will preside over a country in economic collapse, with little prospect of restoring investor confidence any time soon. The legitimacy of the judiciary has been burned, probably decisively. The dissolution of Parliament would remove any possible alternative source of democratic legitimacy. And the process by which Shafik comes to power ensures that he will provide no buffer for the SCAF since he is transparently their creature. This is “victory”?
The SCAF, in other words, may look to have won this seemingly decisive round. But it’s not the endgame. It’s only the beginning of a new phase of a horribly mismanaged “transition” that is coming to its well-earned end. What’s next? A replay of Algeria in 1991? A return to Jan. 25, 2011? Back to 1954? A return to the petulant slow fail of latter-days Mubarak? An alien invasion using nano-weapons and transgalactic wormholes in the Pyramids? Nobody really seems to know… but I’m pretty sure we’re not going to see a return to stable CloneNDP-SCAF rule. Of course, this being Egypt, maybe tomorrow the Court will just overrule itself and we can all go back to normal…