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

(Joyce) #1

246 · Rachel Maissy-Noy

of ̔Ali Shalash, ̔Arfa ̔Abdu ̔Ali, Siham Naṣṣar, and Maḥmud Sayyed
̔Abd al Ẓahir, who naturally concentrate on the Zionist activity of the
Egyptian Jews.
Like the research about antiquity and the Middle Ages, most of these
researchers show a common interest in three main issues. First: rejecting
the existence of a Jewish problem in the Arab countries, especially in
Egypt. Second: the ingratitude of the Jews toward the Arab countries that
hosted them generously and the part they played in facilitating Western
colonialism. Third: how the Zionist Movement ruined the good relation-
ship between Arabs and Jews and caused the Jews from the Arab coun-
tries to take a political misstep. Of these three we shall focus on the first
issue that is related to our topic.
The above-mentioned researchers are unanimous in claiming that the
integration of the Jews in commerce, industry, entertainment, press, and
politics was due to tolerant factors such as the royal courts, the nation-
alist movement, and the Egyptian man in the street. In order to dem-
onstrate this, Shalash and ̔Abdu ̔Ali ̔Arafa present, for instance, ten
pages with names of Jewish lawyers, doctors, and entrepreneurs who
worked in Egypt during the second half of the twentieth century.^44 In
this context the researchers point out that even in 1937, when Egypt was
influenced by anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda, 103 Egyptian companies
out of 308 were registered under Jewish ownership.^45 In addition, they
mention Jewish personalities who occupied important positions in the
parliaments of the Arab countries. The names mentioned were, for in-
stance, Moshe and René Qattawi, Rabbi Ḥaim Naḥum Efendi, and Joseph
Pichotto. This list of achievements is supplemented by the Jewish insti-
tutions that Egyptian rulers allowed the Jewish community to establish
and operate, such as synagogues, schools, hospitals, old age homes, and
various charity organizations.^46
The preoccupation with the claim of Jewish suffering in Arab coun-
tries that is characteristic of Egyptian historiography of the Middle Ages
becomes even more intense concerning the history of the Jews in modern
times. This is due to the emphasis found in the Zionist historiography of
Jewish suffering and persecution and the necessity for a national Jew-
ish movement. The polemics over this claim is especially prominent in
the research of ̔Abdu ̔Ali ̔Arafa, Siham Naṣṣar, and ̔Ali Shalash, who
declare that their aim is to expose the reader to the fact that the situa-
tion of the Jews in Egypt was comfortable to such an extent that it did

Free download pdf