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

(Joyce) #1
Issues of Jewish History as Reflected in Modern Egyptian Historiography · 247

not justify their joining the Zionist movement. Hereafter, we will deal
with ̔Ali Shalash’s stand in his book regarding the Freemasons in Egypt,
which seems to represent the approach of the others on this matter.
In the chapter “There Is No Jewish Problem in Egypt,” which he dedi-
cates to refuting the claim of the suffering of the Jews, Shalash describes
the acceptance of the Jews as equals by most classes of Egyptian society.
His point of view was that, in principle, a minority can prosper in any
country only as long as it is supported by the official policy of the rul-
ers and the public, who grant it an atmosphere of freedom. According
to him, this was the situation in Egypt, and the fact that the number of
Jews there increased considerably during the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries was the best proof for this. In the introduction to his research,
this tendency was expressed most clearly:

The reader of this research will finally come to the obvious conclu-
sion that the Jews prospered in Egypt in the modern age until 1948
to an extent comparable only to that in Germany during the period
prior to Hitler and in the United States from the very beginning.
Such prosperity of the Jews did not emanate from special genius
or from hereditary skill, as claimed by their historians, but came
originally from two vital factors: the official non-hostile approach
of the state they lived in and the popular and tolerant stand of its

Like Qasem ̔Abdu and Zubayda ̔Aṭa, who emphasize the fact that the
Jews were considered by the Egyptians as part and parcel of Egyptian
society in the Middle Ages, Shalash, too, wishes to prove that the Egyp-
tian rulers and intelligentsia considered the Jews an integral part of the
modern Egyptian nation. This point is connected to the approach that the
Jews are not a people and that they, too, considered themselves an inte-
gral part of the peoples among whom they lived. Shalash finds a decisive
proof for it in the feeling of a common fate shared by some of the Jewish
younger generation regarding the national problems of Egypt and the
cooperation of the Egyptian national leaders with the Jews born in Egypt
in the building of an Egyptian national consciousness. As an example, he
mentions the contacts of al-Afghani and the Jewish journalist Ya ̔akov
Ṣanu ̔a, united by their hostility toward the British and the policy of
the Hidaui Isma ̔il, one of the Turkish viceroys who ruled Egypt. In this
context he mentioned the role of Jewish youth in the establishment of

Free download pdf