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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Egypt's anti-Semitic 'liberals'

In the Wall Street Journal, two 'senior partners' in the Egyptian Union of Liberal Youth try to explain they their country's liberals are so anti-Semitic. In the process, they prove the fact of anti-Semitism, but fail to come up with a rational explanation of it, presumably because no such explanation exists.
Take Ayman Nour [pictured. CiJ], who contested the 2005 presidential election under the banner of his own party and was subsequently jailed for nearly four years, becoming something of a cause célèbre among Western officials, journalists and human-rights activists.

Immediately after his release earlier this year, he attended a celebration organized by opposition groups—including the Muslim Brotherhood—in the northern city of Port Said, commemorating "the first battalion of volunteers from the Egyptian People setting off to fight the Jews in 1948." The word "Jews" was stressed in bolded black lettering on the otherwise blue and red banner hanging above the conference panel. Yet far from trying to distance himself from that message, Mr. Nour got into the spirit of the conference, talking not only about his solidarity with Palestinians but also "the value of standing up to this enemy, behind which lies all evils, conspiracies, and threats that are spawned against Egypt." [I took Ayman Nour as opposed to the other examples mentioned, because his was the only name I recognized. CiJ]


These examples are, sadly, just the tip of an iceberg. What makes them all the more remarkable is that, contrary to stereotype, they do not have particularly ancient roots in Egypt. Until Egypt's Jews were expelled by Gamal Abdel Nasser in the 1950s and '60s, Egypt had a millennia-old, thriving Jewish community. As late as the 1930s, Jewish politicians occupied ministerial posts in Egyptian governments and participated in nationalist politics.

But all that changed with the rise of totalitarian and fascist movements in Europe, which found more than their share of imitators in the Arab world, both among Islamists and secularists. When Egypt's monarchy was overthrown in 1952 by a military coup, anti-Semitism became an ideological pillar of the new totalitarian dispensation.

Since then, Egypt has evolved, coming to terms (of a sort) with Israel and adopting at least some elements of market-based economic principle. But anti-Semitism remains the political glue holding Egypt's disparate political forces together. Paradoxically, this is especially true of the so-called liberals, who think they can traffic on their anti-Semitism to gain favor in quarters where they would otherwise be suspect or unpopular. They have taken to demonizing Jews with the proverbial zeal of a convert.

Westerners, who tend to treat Arabs with a condescension masked as "understanding," may be quick to dismiss all this as a function of anger at Israeli policies and therefore irrelevant to the development of liberal politics in the Arab world. Yet a liberal movement that winds up espousing the kind of anti-Semitism that would have done the Nazis proud is, quite simply, not liberal.
No, it's not. But anti-Semitism seems to be creeping into Western liberal movements as well. Just look at the Democratic party (Jeremiah Wright, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and many others). So it's not an issue of totalitarianism.

George Gilder would argue that it's jealousy over Jewish achievements. He may be right. In any event, I haven't seen any better explanations.


At 10:27 AM, Blogger Mr. Gerson said...

It is what it is, there is no valid reason - which is why it is supernatural.

At 12:51 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Anti-Semitism is not rational. How you explain persistent Jew hatred in a country that doesn't have any Jews? And why is hatred of Jews such a persistent feature of Arab culture? There is no good explanation for it.


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