Samy Cohen is an Egyptian-born Jew now living in Tel-Aviv. From time to time, he has corresponded with a lecturer at an Egyptian college he has never met, trying to avoid politics as far as possible in order not to get his correspondent into trouble with the authorities. Imagine his astonishment then, when, in the aftermath of the Merkaz Harav massacre in Jerusalem, this email arrived in his inbox:
I am writing you this email, Samy, to express my deep sympathy and send you my condolences concerning the criminal attack against the innocent students in the Jerusalem school.
I do condemn the killing of innocent civilians everywhere including the Palestinian children in Gaza, but at least this last crime is intentionally and deliberately meant against the little innocent kids, in all brutality and in an attempt at providing more fuel for hatred and the mutual killing.
I don’t even believe the criminals who did meant to avenge the dead among Palestinians; I believe they are simply hungry for more blood and wish the Israelis engage in the killing of more civilians too. All they want is war and hatred, without which, they will lose their grasp of the few deceived Palestinians who still believe in them.
They do not want an Independent Palestinian State next to Israel. All they want is the establishment of a fundamentalist Theocratic Princedom in Gaza, from which they set out to invade the rest of the Arab world! Please, accept my condolences and tell your fellow Israelis that there are several Egyptians who believe that such crimes are simply nothing but crimes. Take care.
This heartening little display of sympathy got me thinking:
Samy took care to remove the author’s name from the email. It is a pity that honourable Egyptians – despite their peace treaty with the Zionist entity – are not expected – or even allowed – to express their sympathies with Israel or Jews in the current climate of virulent anti-Zionism and antisemitism. Samy felt the need to protect his Egyptian friend, but what might have happened if he had not? At best, the Egyptian would have have been embarrassed before his friends and colleagues. Worse, sacked. At worst, arrested. At the very very worst, lynched.
Have the Arabs always been incorrigibly hostile to Israel and the Jews? The media love to describe the Arab-Israeli conflict as ‘intractable’: Arab hostility is a natural, even understandable reaction to the creation of Israel.
But it was not always thus. Arabs were not, from the very beginning, ipso facto hostile to the Zionist project.The Feisal-Weizmann agreement,signed in 1919, shows clearly that they welcomed it.
In the words of Matthias Kuntzel, author of Jihad and Jew-hatred:
“They (The Arabs) hoped that Jewish immigration would boost economic development thus bringing the Middle East closer to European levels. For example, Ziwar Pasha, later Egyptian Prime Minister, personally took part in the celebrations of the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
“Five years later Ahmed Zaki, a former Egyptian cabinet minister, congratulated the Zionist Executive in Palestine on its progress: “The victory of the Zionist idea is the turning point for the fulfilment of an ideal which is so dear to me, the revival of the Orient.”
“Two years later the Chairman of the Zionist Executive, Frederick H. Kisch, travelled to Cairo for talks with three high-ranking Egyptian officials on future relations. These officials “were equally emphatic in their pro-Zionist declarations”, noted Kisch in his diary. All three “recognized that the progress of Zionism might help to secure the development of a new Eastern civilization.”
“In 1925 the Egyptian Interior Minister Ismail Sidqi took action against a group of Palestinians protesting against the Balfour Declaration in Cairo. He was at the time on his way to Jerusalem to take part in the opening of the first Hebrew university.
“Twenty years later scarcely anything remained of this benevolent attitude. In 1945 the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Egypt’s history were perpetrated in Cairo.
“Around 1925 the Jews were an accepted and protected part of public life in Egypt: they had members of parliament, were employed at the royal palace and occupied important positions in the economic and political field; 25 years later, all that was in the past: in 1945, the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in Egyptian history took place. My book analyses “the reasons, why, between 1925 and 1945, a shift in direction was effected in Egypt from a rather neutral or pro-Jewish mood to a rabidly anti-Jewish one, a shift which changed the whole Arab world and affects it to this day.” (my emphasis -ed)
Two things had happened to turn Arab attitudes upside-down. The first was the appointment by the British of the viciously judeophobic Mufti of Jerusalem as leader of the Palestinians. The second was that Nazism inspired an exclusivist and authoritarian form of Arab nationalism on the one hand, and spawned the virulently Judeophobic Islamism of the Muslim Brotherhood on the other. Hamas is of course the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch.
And so we come full circle. How comforting that there are still decent and honourable Muslims who object to what is being done in their name.