Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whitewashing Egyptian antisemitism

Several prominent academics have fudged and distorted the history of Jews in Arab and Muslim lands in order to fit their political agendas. Joel Beinin of Stanford University is one: here his work is thoroughly deconstructed by Alyssa A. Lappen in Front Page:

"Beinin’s antagonism toward Israel pervades his commentary concerning the Jewish state. He maintains that exodus of Jews from Arab lands after 1948 resulted not from their forced expulsion by Arab governments but from “provocative actions by Israeli agents.”

"Despite the fact that Israel offered Jews a haven from mass murder in Europe, and atrocities and mass expulsion from Muslim lands,Beinin holds that “Modern Zionism is a revolution against traditional Judaism, not its fulfillment.” (He shares this view, ironically, with a tiny minority of anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox Jews.)

"Beinin’s specializes in Egyptian history. Here, too, his work bears an anti-Zionist tone and frequent contradicts the facts of history. "In opposition to “the Zionist project,” he instead favors “Levantinism,” an Israel-replacement ideology that calls for revitalizing the “fruitful compromise” of cultures he believes existed in the past.

"Scholars and Jewish refugees from Muslim lands both maintain that such idyllic harmony never existed, but Beinin romanticizes and politicizes their history. He also dismisses bona fide work on Arab and Muslim attitudes toward Jews by such writers as Yehoshafat Harkabi and Bat Ye’or, calling this perspective a “neo-lachrymose interpretation”that inexcusably has “distracted attention from Palestinian claims. ” "It appears that Beinin delves into history only to support his own preconceived theories.He ignores facts that contradict his ideas, sweeping certain events aside as if they never occurred.In his 1998 book on the fate of the Egyptian Jewish community, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry, Beinin ignores the 1730s riots that destroyed Cairo’s Jewish quarter, killing 5,000 to 10,000, at least half its population.

"He makes no mention of the 1901 blood libel leveled at a Cairo Jewish woman. He condescendingly informs a former Jewish resident that the harat al-yahud was “not a ghetto,” when in fact it was. He minimizes Egypt’s 1929 Nationality Law, which blocked citizenship for Jews and many Christians, making some 40,000 Jews apatrides—stateless.

"He downplays the 1947 Company Law that made it nearly impossible for minorities to work in Egypt.He insultingly twists Egypt’s Jews into “Arabized” nationalists who would have been happier without Israel’s existence.Beinin even neglects Egypt’s state-sponsored publication of hateful tracts like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an edition of which was issued by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s brother Shawki.

"He denies the inherently anti-Semitic nature of arrests of Egyptian Jews during the 1940s and 1950s on trumped-up charges.He asserts that Nazi officials in Egypt’s government cannot be traced – and anyway, that they had no political influence – ignoring a well-documented record of Nazis having moved to Nasser’s Egypt and their significant impact there.

"In 1956 and during 1967-70, Jewish males over 19 were imprisoned in the Abu Za’bal and Tura camps.They were tortured, forced to walk barefoot on broken glass and recite “I am a coward Jew. I am a Jewish donkey.”Beinin makes no mention of these camps.In Egypt, leaders of Jewish communities were forced to publicly denounce Zionism. Incredibly, Beinin takes these denunciations at face value.In fact, these Jews were Zionists; Cairo’s Jews fasted for Israel’s safety in 1967 and then massively resettled there."

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