Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Opinion The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin (REVIEW)

    The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love. CreateSpace, 2015. The Syrian Virgin, by Zack Love, is a very interesting novel. Equally a political and romantic thriller, at times a real page-turner, it gets you intimately involved in the dire situation in today’s Syria, as well as in the romantic entanglements of its mostly New York-based characters — whose entanglements just might determine the fate of that dire situation in Syria. Along the way it introduces a really important idea that somehow […]

    Read more →
  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →