Why did your family leave Egypt?
We left as part of the big exodus of Jews from Arab-Muslim countries. Jews suffered from severe anti-Semitism, especially in Egypt. There was a powerful Nazi community, established by [then Egyptian president Gamal Abdel] Nasser. There were many anti-Jewish laws. There was a general feeling of insecurity. There was open hatred expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood, especially in relation to the Palestine issue. As early as World War II - particularly after the November 1945 pogroms in Egypt - Jews began leaving the country. Many went to Israel. At that time there was a Zionist underground. Zionism was made a criminal offense for which you could be jailed or even tortured. So, many young people left. For the old people, of course, it was difficult, because many were members of the bourgeoisie, and it was forbidden for Jews to take any money or assets out of the country when they left. My parents' assets were confiscated, for example, which created economic problems for our family.
Are you saying that as World War II ended, and in Europe Nazism became taboo, it was gaining strength in the Arab world?
Yes, but even before and throughout the war, both Nazism and fascism were strong in the Arab world. Hitler and Mussolini were heroes. The whole Middle East was in turmoil because the Arab-Muslim populations were all favorable to Nazism and anti-Semitic policies.
How much of what was going on in the death camps in Europe were you and other Jews in Egypt aware of at the time?
We knew everything. I remember my parents listening very carefully to the radio. And it was also in the newspaper. But also, my mother's family was in France, and they were forced to wear the yellow star. So we knew.
When you heard about the peace treaty that Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin signed with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1979, how did you feel?
I wasn't following it that carefully, due to family problems. Nor was I familiar with Israeli politics at the time. But I trusted Begin to do the best thing for Israel. So, I did have hope. Still, what you have to understand is that the problem is much larger than Egypt. The whole Muslim world is becoming more and more radicalized - more rooted in Shari'a, and less open to anything outside the religion. This is due to the policies of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), with 57 Islamic member states and a permanent delegation to the UN. At its last summit in December 2005, it decided upon a 10-year plan, one of whose resolutions was to root the Islamic uma - the world Muslim community - in the Koran and the [oral tradition of the] Hadith, which, of course, means Wahabbism. They also resolved to make the Palestinian issue the central issue of international politics. This is why we see relentless pressure on Israel from different countries. Because the OIC is an extremely powerful body, demographically, politically and economically.
The OIC is an Islamic body. How has it managed to turn the Palestinian issue into a Western focus? And to what do you attribute the political and cultural success of its ideology in Europe and the United States?
First of all, a distinction has to be made here between Europe and America, which have chosen opposite paths in relation to the Middle East.
As for OIC influence on Europe: It is visible in immigration policy toward Muslims, and in the Muslims' refusal to integrate into European societies.
The OIC considers nationalist-European movements, European history, European culture, European religions and European languages as Islamophobic. Why? Because Europeans have begun to feel that they are losing their own identity, due to their efforts to welcome immigrants who don't want to integrate. As a result, they have adopted measures to stop illegal immigration, to control legal immigration and to curb terrorism. Europeans fear losing their historical and cultural assets - particularly those of democracy and human rights - to Shari'a law. They want one law for everybody - and it's not Shari'a, which involves things like honor killings. It is thus that in all international forums, the OIC attacks Europe and demands that it apply multiculturalism.
Now, Europeans do not want multiculturalism. But this is a problem, because European governments - and especially the European Union - do not want to fight the OIC, and so they collaborate with it. Therefore, what we have inside Europe is a clash of interests between the European citizens and their governments.
A similar claim is often made about Muslim-Arab citizens and their governments - that a majority of the former is moderate, while the latter is extremist. Do you agree with this assessment?
No, I don't agree with it at all. In fact, the opposite is the case. In the Arab world, it is the governments - as we see so well in Egypt - that are at the mercy of the radicalized, Islamized, anti-Western, anti-American and anti-Israel masses who are in a dynamic of jihad. Certainly the majority of Muslims follow the ideology of conquest; it is in the Koran and the Hadith! And every time they go to the mosque, they hear it. I mean, the first shura, that is recited five times a day, is anti-Christian and anti-Jewish. So they cannot escape from it.
Unfortunately, the Muslims who are against this trend don't have the courage to make the effort to change it. And those who do have the courage are threatened with losing their jobs and having harm done to them and their families. So Islamism is the natural culture of the Arab-Muslim world. Even in Turkey an Islamist government has taken over. So, how can we deny the reality? And anyway, if the moderates were in the majority, they would be making protests and issuing manifestos against Osama bin Laden, instead of against America and Israel.
The environment is one of jihad on the one hand and of dhimmitude [the state of being a non-Muslim subject living in a country governed by Shari'a law] on the other. European countries are becoming dhimmi countries, and people don't realize it, because they don't know what jihad and dhimmitude are, so they don't recognize what condition they're in. When you have an illness, but are unfamiliar with its symptoms, you don't know that you are sick. You feel sick, but you don't know what you've got. You therefore can't make a diagnosis or embark upon a method of treatment to cure yourself. This is the current condition of Western civilization right now.
How, then, do you explain the electoral victories of France's Nicolas Sarkozy, Germany's Angela Merkel, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi and London's replacement of mayor Ken Livingstone by Boris Johnson? Wouldn't you consider this phenomenon as indicative that Europeans are making a diagnosis of and seeking a cure to the illness you say they suffer from?
Oh yes, they are extremely important developments which prove what I am saying about European citizens having had enough of this attempt to merge - culturally, religiously and demographically - the Arab and European sides of the Mediterranean. But the pressure exerted by the OIC on European governments is very strong. In addition, there is the pressure of terrorism inside and out of Europe, and that of the oil. So the task of these new governments you refer to will not be easy, to say the least. I don't doubt their good intentions. But I don't know if they will succeed in bringing about the change their citizens want.
Furthermore, unlike President Bush - who recognizes that Israel has a legitimate right to exist as a normal nation in its homeland - the Europeans think that Israel's legitimacy should be granted by the Palestinians and the Arab states. In other words, Europe is putting Israel into a position of dhimmitude, whereby it will be recognized by Muslims if it abides by certain rules and duties.
This is in keeping with its own mentality. When the European community, in December 1973, published its document on European identity in the Copenhagen Declaration, they themselves were adopting a dhimmi mentality toward the Arab League countries. After World War II, Europeans decided that they didn't want any more wars. Then, when they suffered aggression, such as the oil boycott and Palestinian terrorism that emerged in Europe in the late 1960s, instead of fighting, they joined their aggressors. This was their concept of multilateralism - thinking that by joining those who attacked them, they would be protected. This is when a tremendous Muslim immigration into Europe began.