The Divergence of Judaism and Islam. Interdependence, Modernity, and Political Turmoil

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Issues of Jewish History as Reflected in Modern Egyptian Historiography · 239

hers, in fact, reflects the opinion of most Egyptian historians who regard
Judaism as a religion, not a nation.
So far we have discussed the question of the Jews being a nation. Now
we come to the second thesis regarding the existence of a Jewish problem
in the Islamic countries.

There Is No Jewish Problem

The reason for the creation of the theory of Jewish suffering lies, accord-
ing to Egyptian researchers, in the tactical purposes of the Zionist Move-
ment. According to them, the Zionists wanted to awaken the national
conscience of the Jews and at the same time address the conscience of the
world, hoping to mobilize international support for the Zionist enter-
prise. This approach was adopted especially by historians dealing with
the modern age. In fact, ̔Abdu ̔Arfa ̔Ali and Maḥmud ̔Abd al-Ẓahir
mention the educational network Alliance Israélite Universelle and the
Society for Israeli-Egyptian Research as making use of the theory of Jew-
ish suffering in the Arab world.^24 This opinion is reflected also in the re-
search of ̔Ali Shalash and Siham Naṣṣar, who present the Jewish press in
Egypt as a propaganda machine and a mouthpiece of the Zionist Move-
ment. Similar opinions can also be detected among historians who dealt
with the Middle Ages. One example is Zubayda ̔Aṭa, who says that “the
Zionist Movement invented the claim of a persecuted nation in order to
awaken feelings of guilt in the Europeans and thus overcome their objec-
tion to the Jewish enterprise.”^25
The above-mentioned researchers react to the Zionist claim about
the living conditions of the Jews in the Diaspora by stating that the
Jews enjoyed a life of affluence and prosperity in all the Muslim territo-
ries for most of the time. As evidence, they present a list of achievements
in the fields of economy, culture, and politics where Jews had been suc-
cessful during their stay in the Diaspora. This reaction, as we shall see
later on, was unanimous in most of the research literature regarding all

Jewish History Prior to Islam

Jewish life in Egypt in antiquity has been researched, among others, by
Muṣṭafa Kamal ̔ Abd al- ̔Aalim and al-Khashab Abd al-Muḥsin.^26 Both
studied the history of the Elephantine community that settled in Egypt

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