An Egyptian wishes a Happy Passover to ‘Arab’ Jews

This article by an Egyptian author wishing the Jews a Happy Passover is to be applauded: it is honest enough to admit that Jews, deeply rooted in the Middle East for millennia, were cruelly forced to leave Arab lands in modern times. (The author’s reference to ‘Jewish Arabs’ is, however, not historically accurate, given that the Jewish presence preceded the Arab invasion by a good 1,000 years.) Excerpts from MEMRI (With thanks Ida, Lily):

In an article on the Arab reformist websites Aafaq (April 9, 2007) and Middle East Transparent (April 8, 2007), Egyptian author Hisham Al-Tuhi rejects the view that Muslims should not convey holiday greetings to non-Muslims on their holidays, reviews the history of Jews in Arab countries in the 20th century, and wishes Jews still living in Arab countries a happy Passover.

“In my previous article, I gave holiday greetings to the Afghanis and the Kurds on the Norouz holiday, [as well as] the Egyptian Baha’is. The letters came in from the caves: a flood of racism, hatred, ugliness, and abuse.

“This is neither out of the ordinary nor new. Here, it is only to be expected.

“The strange thing is that most of these letters… came from the caves of the Saudi Kingdom and the ‘infidel’ Western countries, [in] Europe, Canada, and the U.S.! (…)

“Many of the sons of the Arab Middle East lived for more than 1,000 years as Jews, more than 1,000 years before the advent of Christianity, and before the advent of Islam.

“Today, many of the Arab Christians are the descendants of these Jews. Their ancestors were Jews, even if they curse them and say: ‘They crucified Christ!’

“And many of the Arab Muslims today are the descendants of Jews. Their ancestors were Jews, even if they curse them and say: ‘Monkeys and pigs!'”

“In Egypt in 1917, there were 59,581 Jewish Egyptians – Egyptians in flesh and in blood. They took part, together with the other Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, in the Egyptian liberal renaissance (nahdha)…

“In politics, there was Musa Qattawi, who was a member of the Egyptian Legislative Assembly, finance minister, and then transportation minister in the 1925 government. He founded the Aswan railroad line and the West Delta tramway…

“There was also Yousef Qattawi, head of the Egyptian Sephardi Council, and member of the Draft Committee for the 1923 Constitution…

“Others were members in the negotiations committee for the abolition of the capitulations [Ottoman-era accords that granted special rights to foreigners]. And then there was the lawyer Zaki ‘Uraybi, member of the Draft Committee for the 1956 Constitution.

“[Jews] founded the Salt and Soda Company… the Egyptian Petrol Company… the Rice-hulling Company… the Egyptian Real Estate Bank… the Family Bank… the Commercial Bank… and ‘Rico’ the Jewish Egyptian participated with Tal’at Harb in founding Bank Misr…

“In the arts, there were creators and performers who took part in the revival of music and singing and in the launch of Egyptian cinema and theater… For those who don’t know, Ya’qub Sanu’a, the Jewish Egyptian, was one of those who raised the slogan: ‘Egypt for the Egyptians!’…

“On October 25, 1952, following the military revolt, President Muhammad Naguib visited the temple of the Qaraite Jews to give felicitations to the Jewish Egyptians on Yom Kippur.

“In 1956, there were 60,000 Jewish Egyptians, who lived as Egyptians, in soul and in blood. Approximately 20,000 of them were forced to emigrate between 1956 and 1961…

“Their money was seized, and those of them who remained after the nationalization of 1961 were deported. Many of their homes and properties were distributed to army officers, after the renaissance ended and the eternal leader [i.e. Gamal ‘Abd Al-Nasser] came to despotically rule Egypt.

“Today, in 2007, there are no more than 300 of the Jewish Egyptians left…”

“In Iraq, Nuri Al-Sa’id gave a speech at the 1939 Round Table Conference in London, in which he said: ‘200,000 Jews live in Iraq, the majority of them in Baghdad.’ In 1950, they began to be forced to emigrate. In 1976, there remained of them fewer than 400 Jewish Iraqis.

“In Morocco, the number of Jewish Moroccans is estimated to have been 280,000 in 1950. Today, in 2007, the approximately 5,000 Jewish Moroccans live in fear of suicide bombers.

“On May 16, 2003, their possessions and cemeteries were subjected to a wave of bombings, which left 45 dead. In September 2003, one of them was killed in a stabbing, and another was killed in a shooting.

“In Tunisia, more than 3,000 Jewish Tunisians live in freedom, since the presidency of the late President Habib Bourguiba, who gave one of them, Albert Bessis, the position of minister in one of [his] governments.

“Nonetheless, they were not safe and sound -safe neither from the enmity of the Islamist Nahdha movement, nor from the suicide bombings. On April 2002, the oldest Jewish temple in Africa, which was constructed in 566 B.C. on the island of Jerba, was bombed, leaving 20 dead.”

“Despite this – despite the nationalization, the expulsion, the banishment, the bombings, the racism, the enmity, and the marginalization; despite their being reviled with the ugliest abuse in the prayers of the Muslims, in all of the Arab mosques and in some of the churches; despite their being called infidels and cursed, and being accused of treason, in the books, the newspapers, and the TV stations, [both] governmental and private – despite all this, they still live in Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, and in other countries of the Arab Middle East!

“And they still celebrate their holidays in silence, forgotten. And they still passionately love their countries who treated them cruelly, and will not accept any substitute [for them].

“Is not the least we can say to them: Jewish Arabs – happy Passover!?”

Read article in full


  • You are right. The use of ‘Jewish Arabs’, like ‘Jewish Egyptians’, is loaded. It implies that the Jews are ‘our Jews’ – they are ‘Arabs’ of the Jewish religion. The author would not admit that the Jews are a separate ethnicity with their own language and culture, let alone the right to self-determination in their own country, Israel – that would be a bridge to far. It is somewhat absurd that because of this blindspot towards Israel the author is reduced to greeting only those Jews still living in Arab countries, even though there are so few of them left. However, I feel the author should still be applauded because so many Arabs are in denial that the Jews were expelled and banished by Arab governments, and are ignorant of the important contribution they made. In fact the younger generation don’t even know Jews once lived in Arab countries.

  • The author acknowledges the antiquity of the Jewish presence in the Middle East, and states that it preceded Islam and Christianity. So I’m not sure whether his usage of the term “Jewish Arabs” is loaded and carries some ideological meaning.

    He is, though, unable to bring himself to acknowledge the existence of Israel, or to wish any Jews in Israel a Happy Passover. While acknowledging the expulsion and banishment of Jews from Egypt and other Arab countries, he only shows sympathy for those who still live in and love their (Arab) countries and will not accept “any substitute” (Israel?).

    So he wishes a Happy Passover to those who have been banished and expelled, but still live in, and love, the Arab countries that banished and expelled them!

    He’s a little illogical, I think. Or was something lost in translation?


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