Suddenly the world is discovering that the leaders of Egypt are not afraid to
voice their hatred for the Jews and the Jewish state openly.
asking for clarifications regarding a blatantly anti-Semitic outburst from
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Essam Erian, one of the leaders of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt, has called on former Egyptian Jews living in Israel to
come back to make room for returning Palestinians after the demise of the Jewish
state, which he believes will happen within 10 years.
Erian thus puts
into words the deep-seated anti-Semitism of the movement he represents: There
cannot be a Jewish state, and Jews cannot aspire to be more than second-class
citizens in Muslim countries, dhimmis subject to Shari’a (Islamic) law and
living under the protection of Islam only as long as they accept their inferior
status. In the past, they and other non- Muslim residents had to pay a special
poll tax, the jizya; there are now calls in Egypt to revive that tax, which was
abolished in the late 19th century by a much-weakened Ottoman
Historically, Muslim hatred toward the Jews is rooted in the
latter’s refusal to accept Islam and its preeminence over all other religions,
as expressed in the shahada, the credo of the faithful: “There is no god but
Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”; Muhammad is the last of the
prophets and ushers in an era in which Islam will rule the world through
peaceful means – or through war.
Islam claims for its own both the Old
and New testaments, and Muhammad was incensed that the Jews, who had introduced
monotheism to the world, did not recognize him and accept his teachings. One can
find in the Koran far more attacks against Jews than against Christians, who did
not acknowledge Islam either. There are numerous verses vilifying the Jews,
calling for their abasement and humiliation and, for instance, branding them as
sons of pigs and apes, having to bear the wrath of Allah and being doomed to
hell on Judgment Day unless they accept the true faith.
Brotherhood gave a new slant to the age-old hatred. Hassan Banna, who founded
the movement in 1928, transformed what was a “passive” phenomenon into a
virulent doctrine, part of both his vision to restore the caliphate and his
fight against the British occupation and Western influence on his
The hand of the Jews was seen everywhere; they were allegedly
attacking Islam and targeting the whole world.
Adopting the message and
model of Christian anti-Semitism, the Brothers initiated a program of incitement
against Jews living in Egypt and fomented pogroms against the old Jewish quarter
of Cairo. In the 1930s and ’40s, Banna developed his theories in countless
writings, declaring the Jews the agents of change and Westernization, and
responsible for the decline of the West as well as of Islam.
There is an
inherent contradiction there, since the Brotherhood is fighting the West and its
democratic values, which are alien to Islam. However, Banna corresponded with
Hitler; there were contacts between the Brotherhood and the Nazis, and the
Brothers published a translation of Mein Kampf under the title My Jihad.
Caricatures from Der Stürmer and Nazi texts were translated and printed in their
publications. The Brothers found willing allies in the strong German community
living in Cairo in the ’30s, which included a number of Nazi
Those agents also helped the new pro- Nazi party, Misr Elfatat
(Young Egypt), established at that time to destabilize the regime and fight the
With the onset of World War II, Banna offered his services to
Hitler while asking him to help Egypt in its fight against the British and the Jews. The clandestine terror
organization he set up passed along information on the movements of British
forces. A young officer by the name of Anwar Sadat was a member of the
organization. King Farouk’s secret services ultimately found and killed Banna in
THE MAN who set down the religious basis for the fight against the
Jews and developed its propaganda themes was Sayyid Qutb, often called the
father of the Brotherhood ideology and grandfather of present-day jihadi
extremists. Former president Gamal Abdul Nasser had him sentenced to death by
hanging, and Qutb was executed in 1966.
In his best-known work,
Milestones, he wrote that Jews were working to erase “all limitations imposed by
faith and religion so that Jews may penetrate the body politics of the whole
world and may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list
of those activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind
end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions.”
He also wrote an
essay called “Our Battle against the Jews,” in which he states, “The Jews have
confronted Islam with enmity from the moment the Islamic state was established
in Medina... the Muslim community continues to suffer the same Jewish
machinations and double- dealing which discomfited the early Muslims... This is
a war which has not been extinguished... for close on 14 centuries its blaze has
raged in all the corners of the earth and continues to this moment.”
added that “the Jews have installed... a massive army of agents in the form of
professors, philosophers, doctors, researchers... some even from the ranks of
the Muslim religious authorities... intending to break the creed of the Muslims
by weakening the Shari’a in many ways... with this and that they fulfill
the ancient rule of the Jews.”
And there is a reference to the wellknown
historical fake, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion: “Jews are behind
materialism, animal sexuality, the destruction of the family and the dissolution
of society. Principal among them are Marx, Freud, Durkheim and the Jew
One could go on and on. Qutb even wrote that Allah had
sent Hitler to punish the Jews.
IT WOULD be impossible to enumerate the
countless books, essays, pamphlets and fatwas that the Muslim Brothers have
published against the Jews – and are still publishing.
Sheikh Yusuf Kardawi, who lives in Qatar, is the Brotherhood’s main theologian.
He attacks the Jews relentlessly; in an Al Jazeera interview on January 28,
2009, he declared, “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people
who would punish them for their corruption.... The last punishment was carried
out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they
exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine
punishment for them.... Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the
Interestingly the Koran acknowledges the claim of the Jews to
the Holy Land. However, Caliph Omar Khattab, who conquered the Holy Land,
subsequently decreed that any land conquered by Islam would henceforth be
forever part of the Islamic caliphate. Therefore, the rebirth of Israel was
considered unacceptable to Arabs and Muslims – all the more because they were
used to seeing Jews as a subservient minority and could not adjust to the new
reality in which the Jews were “tearing away” a territory deep inside Muslim
The fact that the small Jewish state defeated the armies of five
Arab states during the 1948 War of Independence was seen as an added insult, and
anchored hatred of the Jews in Arab and Islamic culture.
In Egypt and in
the Arab world as a whole, Jews, Zionists and Israelis are generally seen as one
and the same. And since the Jews were cursed by the Prophet, all their deeds are evil, and the creation of the State of Israel is worse.
Egyptian media – the written press, television and radio – use “the Zionist
enemy” and “the Zionist entity” interchangeably with “Jews” and
When former president Hosni Mubarak took office, Egyptian
anti-Semitism included all the above-mentioned elements. The new president did
not try to curb this phenomenon, and incitement went on in the media and in the
mosques, though they were under state control.
For instance, it was
forbidden at the time to criticize the president or the army, or to mention the
existing discrimination against the Coptic Christian minority, but one could
attack the Jews at will.
Thus there was a daily outpouring of hate
against the Jews and against Israel; it was an unwritten rule that no item
presenting Israel and/or the Jews in a favorable light could be aired. Whether
it was planned at state level or not, this policy was intended to demonize the
Jews and Israel and to bring about the delegitimization of the Jewish state and
prevent normalization between the two countries.
News was deliberately
distorted. Following the 2001 terror attack at the popular Dolphinarium
nightclub in Tel Aviv, headlines in the state-owned Al Gomhuria daily screamed,
“Pieces of Israeli flesh were thrown in the air as a result of the heroic
Then, too, state news agencies used various terms to avoid
calling Israel by its name: “the occupation,” “the Zionist entity” or “the
Zionist enemy.” Israeli cities were called “settlements” wherever they were;
reports would describe “a fedayeen operation in the Haifa settlement,” blunting
the effect of a terror attack on a peaceful city in the heart of
Israelis are usually called “el Yahud,” the Jews. Whenever Israel
replied to an accusation or tried to set the record straight, the Egyptian media
used the word “alleges” to illustrate their rejection.
Editorials in the
Egyptian media routinely accuse Jews of all crimes under the sun, including
treacherous actions such as “infiltrating into Africa to incite Africans against
Egypt.” A recurrent theme is making the Jews responsible for the ongoing
struggle between Egypt and upper Nile countries regarding the distribution of
the river’s waters.
Some editorials explain that the very existence of
Israel is illegal and that the country should be eliminated.
denial is the norm, though it takes different forms:
• Regarding the event
itself, deniers say that it never happened; that there was something, but on a
far smaller scale, and the Jews are deliberately inflating numbers; that Jews
are exploiting the event. They ask why Arabs should have to pay for something
that involved Europe and the Jews. In any case, they say, Jews are worse than
• Caricatures show Palestinian women and small children confronted
by soldiers with machine guns and steel helmets marked with the swastika to show
how cruel they are. Other caricatures, similar to those of Der Stürmer, depict
religious Jews with oversized noses killing Palestinian children.
are books, films and television series based on The Protocols of the Elders of
Zion, showing the Jews as monsters, and on the books of European Holocaust
deniers such as Roger Garaudy and David Irving.
In addition, Koran verses
and Hadith are used to demonstrate the wickedness of the Jews and the way they
attacked Muhammad and Islam, as well as the dire fate awaiting them on Judgment
ONE CANNOT minimize the impact of these concerted measures on the
Egyptian public, which is deprived of objective information and led to accept a
Repeated protests from the Israeli government have met
with the bland reply that the media in Egypt are free. Here are three
• When Pope John Paul II visited Egypt in February 2000, a
scathing February 26 editorial in the state-owned daily the Egyptian Gazette
accused the church of having yielded to Israeli blackmail and American
intervention in issuing the Vatican II document “acquitting the Jews from the
charge of killing Jesus.”
• In 2009, a self-proclaimed historian, Dr.
Abdel Wahab Messiri, published his Encyclopedia of the Jews, Judaism and Zionism
– eight volumes totaling 3,000 pages. In a television interview, he explained
that he had undertaken this work to demonstrate that there was no such thing as
a Jewish people. He received an award from Mubarak for his efforts.
When Shimon Peres visited Egypt in April 2001, a photomontage in the Nasserist
weekly Al Arabi showed him wearing a Gestapo uniform.
fall of Mubarak did not usher in a new era. Protesters brandished pictures of
the president with a Star of David to show that he was a puppet of the Jews.
American journalist Laura Logan was assaulted in Tahrir Square by a mob yelling,
“Jew! Jew!” Focus on Israel and the Jews grew as the Muslim Brothers emerged as
the leaders of the revolution, yet the West, blinded by what it saw as a spring
of hope and democracy, was reluctant to mention the fact. In January 2012, the
Brothers made an all-out – and successful – effort to block the annual
pilgrimage to the tomb of Abu Hatzera, a Jewish holy man buried in a small
village not far from Alexandria – a pilgrimage that attracts Jews from all over
Gamal Hashmet, a newly elected parliament member from the
Brotherhood’s not-so-aptly named Freedom and Justice Party, proclaimed that for
the Israelis to come would be “suicidal,” adding that “the Abu Hatzera problem
is that of a people who rejects normalization [with Israel] and the presence of
any Zionist on Egyptian soil.... No one can force the inhabitants of
Damanhour to accept normalization.”
The Egyptian Supreme Council of Armed
Forces ordered all Egyptian representations not to issue visas for the
Now that the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of
the Muslim Brotherhood, is in power, Islamic anti-Semitism, which is at the core
of the group’s doctrine, has become part of the regime’s ideology. Though there
is a measure of continuity in anti-Semitism from Mubarak to Morsi, the impact is
now far greater.
Clerics, feeling that they have the support of the
government and can look forward to the elimination of the Jewish state in the
near future as a step toward the establishment of a renewed caliphate, rant
against the Jews on a daily basis from their pulpits in mosques or in the media.
Since he became president, Morsi has been careful not to voice openly his hatred
for the Jews and for Israel, and when confronted on some of his more extreme
outbursts – such as those quoted in The New York Times this past January 14 (see
below) – he declares blandly that they were “taken out of context.”
the Brothers had no such qualms. Already during the campaign for the
parliamentary elections, they had organized a mass rally “to fight the
Judaization of Jerusalem” at Al-Azhar University.
On November 25, 2011,
5,000 protesters heard Sheikh Azhar, who does not belong to the Brotherhood,
warn that Al-Aksa Mosque was under attack by the Jews. “We shall not let them
Judaize Al Quds,” he declared, adding that the Jews had attempted at the dawn of
Islam to embroil the followers of Muhammad in civil war, and “today they are
trying to prevent the union of all Muslims.”
Speakers for the Brotherhood
called for a jihad to free Palestine and quoted a famous hadith: “The day will
come when we shall kill all the Jews, and even the trees and the stones will cry
out, ‘There is a Jew hiding behind us, come and kill him!’” This event will be
remembered as one of the strongest recent demonstrations of hatred by the Muslim
For all his caginess, Morsi himself swore, during the campaign,
to deliver Jerusalem and listened with apparent complacency to the violent
diatribes of local clerics.
The aforementioned New York Times article
quoted him as saying Muslims needed to “nurse our children and our grandchildren
on hatred for Jews and Zionists.”
The Times added that in a television
interview months later, the same leader had described Zionists as “these
bloodsuckers who attack the Palestinians, these warmongers, the descendants of
apes and pigs.”
After Morsi’s election, there was a sharp increase in
attacks against the Jews in the Egyptian media from intellectuals, journalists
and clerics. The most extreme can be found on the site of the Middle East Media
Research Institute (MEMRI).
MEANWHILE, THE Brotherhood is openly pursuing
its religious aims while allegedly leaving Morsi to lead the country
“pragmatically.” However, all the members of the ruling Freedom and Justice
Party are senior members of the movement. Last October, movement leader Mohamed
Badie, who holds the title of “supreme guide,” renewed the tradition of Koran
and Shari’a teachings that Banna had initiated and that had stopped with his
In one of his first lessons, he called on all Muslims to conquer
Jerusalem by jihad, since according to him, it was not possible to do so through
negotiations or the UN. He added that it was the duty of every Muslim to do
Badie alleged that “the Jews have dominated the land, spread
corruption on earth, spilled the blood of believers and in their actions
profaned holy places, including their own.” In June of the same year, he stated
that “Allah had warned us about the treachery of the Jews and their dangerous
role in fomenting wars. The war in Sudan and the partition of the country is
their work, as is the fight between Ramallah and Gaza.”
Hatred toward the
Jews sometimes takes the strangest forms. Thus on November 5, Freedom and
Justice, the party’s official newspaper, quoted a learned sheikh as saying, “If
Islam had been fated to disappear from the world, then it would have disappeared
the day rose the star of the accursed Jew [Mustafa Kemal] Ataturk... who
committed the greatest crime against the Caliphate.... But it did not happen,
because the Caliphate still burned bright in the heart of the
During the mass protests in Tahrir Square during the IDF’s
Operation Pillar of Defense in the Gaza Strip, Brotherhood fighters were
chanting, “Give us guns, give us guns and send us to Gaza.”
also a recurrent theme during the campaign of the referendum on the
constitution. The preacher of one of the largest suburbs of Cairo called on the
faithful to go and vote, since the Jews were trying to destroy Egypt by paying
huge sums of money to Egyptians so they would vote against the
Last year, the Egyptian pavilion at the Frankfurt book
fair, the largest in the world of publishing, displayed a number of anti-Semitic
books with lurid covers announcing their content. The Simon Wiesenthal Center
protested, but to no avail.
ANOTHER EXPRESSION of the boundless hatred of
Israel and the Jews in present-day Egypt was evident in an episode that took
place last August. Well-known actor Iman Kandil was invited to a television
studio for what he had been told was an interview with a German television show.
There, the pretty Egyptian interviewer told him it was in fact for Israeli
television. It was a joke, of course, but Kandil did not wait for an explanation
and reacted violently, pushing her against the wall and hitting her while
cursing until the penny dropped. He did not really apologize, and explained that
it was her fault.
The same thing happened with an actress, who also
started shouting that Allah cursed worms and moths as he cursed the
Anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel are now part of Egyptian
culture, among both devout and secular people.
Unfortunately, as Islam is
on the rise both in Arab countries and in the West, no change for the better can
be expected – unless the West sits up and takes notice at long last, and decides
to do something about it.
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for
Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.