Threatening Shadows Over Egypt

January 11, 2012 12:04 pm 1 comment

Alexandria, one of the main hubs for Egypt's protests, is a port city that is a Muslim Brotherhood stronghold. Photo: CBS

The Muslim Brotherhood did not initiate the current upheavals in the Middle East, but the Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of long-standing authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa. In Egypt itself, the two largest Islamist groups (the Brotherhood and the Salafists) won about three quarters of the ballots in the second round of legislative elections held in December 2011, while the secular and the liberal forces took a battering. The Brotherhood (which garnered over 40% of the votes) is an organization founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher, Hassan el Banna, back in 1928. It has never deviated from its founder’s central axiom:

“Allah is our objective; the Prophet is our leader; the Koran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

It is this radical vision which animates all those in the region who seek a fully Islamic society and way of life.

The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly antisemitic – points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the “Arab Spring.” Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own. This is especially true of Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi, undoubtedly the most celebrated Muslim Brotherhood cleric in the world. The still vigorous 84-year-old, often misleadingly depicted in the West as a “moderate,” flew in from Qatar to Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 18, 2011 to lead a million-strong crowd in Friday prayers, thereby ending 50 years of exile from his native land. He called for pluralistic democracy in Egypt while at the same time offering the hope “that Almighty Allah will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem].”

Two years earlier, in a notorious commentary on Al-Jazeera TV (January 28, 2009), the “moderate” Qaradawi had provided religious justification for both past and future Holocausts:

Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the Jews people who would punish them for their corruption…The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them…Allah willing, the next time will be at the hands of the believers.

In other words, the loathing of Jews, the Holocaust and the destruction of Israel by Muslims were linked by Qaradawi as things mandated by God himself.

Regarding Israel and the Jews, fundamentalist Muslim attitudes have never deviated since the 1940s. Islamist ideologues, despite their virulent anti-Westernism, have had no problem in drawing on Western sources for their radical anti- Semitism – whether these libels come from Protocols of the Elders of Zion forgery, Henry Ford’s The International Jew, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, fantasies about Judeo-Masonic plots, or have their origin in Christian anti-Talmudism, medieval blood-libels and the slanders of contemporary or Holocaust deniers in America and Europe.

The current swelling of Islamist ranks within Egypt and across the Arab world has hardly improved matters. At a vocal Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo’s most prominent mosque on November 25, 2011, Islamic activists ominously chanted “Tel Aviv, judgment day has come,” vowing to “one day kill all Jews.” The rally, which sought to promote the “battle against Jerusalem’s judaization,” was peppered with hate-filled speeches about the “treacherous Jews.” There were explicit calls for Jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews. Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University (the most senior clerical authority in Sunni Islam) even claimed that Jews throughout the world were seeking to prevent Egyptian and Islamic unity, as well as trying to “Judaize al-Quds [Jerusalem].”

This kind of incitement and the pressure from the Egyptian street does not mean that the fragile peace treaty with Israel will be cancelled overnight. But calls for such a step have been repeatedly heard in recent months even from the “liberal” and more “progressive” sectors of the political spectrum as well as from the Islamist parties.

Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, bluntly told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on the first day of 2012 that his organization will never “recognize Israel at all”, whatever the circumstances. Israel, he emphasized, was a “criminal enemy” with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place. If this treaty is not to be abrogated, much will depend on the United States making clear to Egypt how dire the economic and political consequences for its well-being would be.

It is particularly chilling to note that the Islamic wave already dominates not only in Iran, which is on the verge of nuclear weapons, but also in Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, the Gaza strip under Hamas and the Lebanese state, currently in the iron grip of Hezbollah. Apart from seeking to impose Shariah law, and to further downgrade the status of women – while repressing Copts and other non Muslim minorities – the neo-Islamist movements and regimes remain as determined as ever to wipe out Israel and to radically reduce American influence in the region. Needless to say, like the Brotherhood itself, Islamists consider themselves to be the sole authentic interpreters of the Divine will.

In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the utmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable “risks for peace.” At the same time it will have to develop a new regional strategy that takes into account the seismic changes currently shaking the Middle East.

Prof. Robert S. Wistrich is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism (SICSA) at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House, 2010).

1 Comment

  • If the Egyptian Brotherhood abrogates the peace treaty, Israel would be well within her rights to demand the return of the Sinai and the oil and gas fields found therein.

    Further, if Egypt will not honor treaties signed by previous regimes, America and Europe reserve the right to abrogate any treaties and aid commitments made to previous regimes based on certain assurances and agreements.

    The new Egypt will determine the quality of her future based on the decisions she makes now.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.