Denationalisation of Jews in Egypt

 Jews have had a presence in Egypt since the dawn of civilisation. The modern community was made up of indigenous Jews (Rabbanites and Karaites) and more recent arrivals from elsewhere in the Ottoman empire. Here is a timeline showing how Egypt’s Jews were stripped of their rights, beginning with the right to nationality in the 20th century:

The recently restored Maimonides synagogue in Cairo

1880: ‘Real Egyptian’ cabinet formed. In spite of Tanzimat reforms, Jews still considered dhimmis. The middle and upper classes sought European consular protection and passports under the capitulationsregime.

1914: 10, 000 ‘foreign’ Jews expelled  from Palestine arrive in Egypt.

1918: 80 – 100, 000 Jews in Egypt. Ethnicisation of Egyptians into separate ‘races.’

1927: First nationality law. Individual citizens required to apply.

End 1920s/30s: Muslim Brotherhood (founded 1928) and nationalists launch sporadic attacks on non-Muslims (Syrians/Armenians/Greeks/ Jews.) After 1933 Nazis finance anti-Jewish campaign.

1929: Nationality law establishes jus sanguinis. Arab/Muslims given preference. Only 5,000 Jews receive Egyptian nationality, 40,000 remain stateless. The poor could not afford £5 for a nationality certificate.

1937: Capitulations abolished. After 1949, Egyptian government responsible for protecting minorities.

1938: ‘Young Egypt’ pro-Nazi youth movement leader meets Adolph Hitler and calls for expulsion of Jews.

1942: Muslim Brotherhood issues anti-Balfour Declaration

2/3 November 1945: Anti-Jewish and minority riots. Ashkenazi Great synagogue and other Jewish institutions in Cairo burnt down. Jewish shops looted. Six killed.

1946: 200 Alexandrian Jews leave for Israel in semi-legal emigration.

1947: Heykal Pasha, Egyptian delegate to the UN, threatens that a million Jews in Arab countries would be at risk if Palestine Partition goes ahead.

1947: Arabisation Company Law insists that 75% employees must be Arab/Muslim.

1948: police begin anti-Zionist witchhunt. Emigration to Israel goes underground.

May 1948: arrest and internment of 1,300 -1, 000 of them Jews. Sequestration of internees’ property. Jewish schools placed under government control and forced to implement Egyptianisation. Some Jews barred from higher education.

June 1948: martial law imposed. Local Jews considered a Fifth Column. Jewish assets, both communal and private seized during first Arab-Israeli war. Some 20, 000 Jews leave for Israel and Europe. Those with Egyptian nationality stripped of it.

20 June 1948: 22 Jews killed in bombings of Karaite quarter of Cairo.

 July 1948: 500 Jewish shops including Cicurel and Oreco department stores bombed. A ‘Zionist plane’ blamed. Some 200 Jews in all killed during rioting that summer.

September 1948 : 19 Jews killed. Jewish businesses looted.

November 1948. Jewish shops looted in Cairo.

1950 (revised 1951, 53 and 56) nationality law bans Jews from receiving Egyptian nationality and allows all ‘Zionists’ to be stripped of their nationality.

Black Saturday, 26 January 1952: nationalists and fundamentalists attack Greek, Armenian and Jewish property.

1956 – 57. Following rise to power of Nasser and the Free Officers, expulsion of 25, 000 Jews in wake of Suez crisis. (Greeks and Italians were not expelled).

1961 -62 nationalisation of remaining Jewish property.

1967 All Jewish males interned after Six-Day war. Number of Jews falls to 15, 000.

2014 Twelve Jews remain in Cairo, five in Alexandria.

Roughly based on Ruth Toledano Attias’s essay in La fin du Judaisme en terres d’Islam (Ed. S Trigano)

Other timelines: Yemen 




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