Antisemitism in Egypt is of comparatively recent vintage, given that intellectuals and politicians who sympathised with Jews and even Zionism were not so rare. Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Samuel Tadros sees antisemitism as a reaction to modernity in this must-read essay for American Interest:(with thanks: Eliyahu)
That anti-Semitism and its accompanying conspiracy theories are deeply embedded in Egyptian Islamist discourse is no surprise for those familiar with Egypt or Islamism, though familiarity does not lessen one’s astonishment at the bizarre and convoluted nature of the claims made in these and other stories. Perhaps more startling to outside observers is the prevalence of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories among Egypt’s non-Islamists, including its self-described liberals and even its Christian minority. Anti-Semitism is not only a dominant discourse in the country, but is rather the only common worldview shared throughout its political spectrum and among all levels of Egypt’s political class.
Given its widespread appeal and the fact that it elicits little disapproval among Egypt’s intellectuals and politicians, let alone its ordinary citizens, observers are not entirely at fault in assuming deep historical roots for the phenomena. Such assumptions, however, are misguided. Not so long ago, Egyptian intellectuals and politicians were not only, not anti-Semites; many of them were philo-Semites and even exhibited pro Zionist sentiments. In the 1920s it was not uncommon for a leading Egyptian intellectual to proclaim “the victory of the Zionist ideal is also the victory of my ideal.”
How has Egypt reached such a universal consensus on the existence of a Jewish conspiracy, with the only disagreement being on the question of who are its pawns? Why is Egyptian culture so drenched in anti-Semitism? And what are the ramifications of such an all-pervading belief on the country’s foreign relations and its future trajectory? To begin to answer those questions, one has to start by identifying the forms that anti-Semitism takes in Egypt and its foundations.