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Steve McDonald

It’s Sunday in Egypt

In the Palestinian territories, a particularly ominous line has been known to appear in graffiti: “After Saturday comes Sunday.” Ascribed to Islamic fundamentalists, the phrase is taken to mean that once the Jews are out of the way, the Christians are next.As developments unfold in Egypt post-Tahrir Square, many observers widely recognize that, for Coptic Christians, Sunday has painfully arrived. But many fail to realize that it was Saturday just a few generations ago.In the eve of the Second World War, there were more than 60,000 Jews in Egypt. By the 1970’s, this figure had collapsed to a few thousand. Today, only a handful remains as caretakers of an extraordinary Jewish legacy in Egypt, stretching from Moses of the Torah to Moses Maimonides.As happened elsewhere in the Arab world, an escalating stream of incitement and persecution brought Jewish history to an inglorious end in Egypt. The full emergence of Arab nationalism coincided with the establishment of the state of Israel. The resulting victims were Egypt’s Jews, who became a target for riots and bombings that killed dozens. Hundreds were arrested on accusations of “Zionist activity”, and 20,000 fled the country within a few short years.Of those who chose to stay, the 1956 Sinai War was to be another marker on the road to extinction. Burning with hatred for Israel, Nasser expelled 35,000 Egyptian Jews, confiscating property and nationalizing more than 1,000 Jewish-owned businesses. The dwindling community faced arrest and torture in the wake of the Six Day War – the humiliation of the Egyptian Army passed on to the country’s few remaining Jews.By this point, Cairo had become a world leader in anti-Jewish incitement. In 1965, it published a pamphlet for distribution across the continent, entitled “Israel, the Enemy of Africa”, featuring excerpts from the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders… Read More

A Zionist reading list

When The Herald asked me to write a column, I thought it would end up being like a lot of my writings on Israel and the Middle East – analytical and detached. Although I will aim to be informative, I think it would be a mistake to so limit myself here.I say limit because this column will explore concepts and trends concerning not just Israel and Zionism, but also Judaism – and these issues are nothing but personal. Regardless of whether one is Jewish, or whether one has even ever been to Israel, one who considers such matters finds they speak to our deepest empirical and normative understandings – of how life is and how it should be. These issues are for most of us points where our knowledge and worldview intersect with our aspirations, instincts and even spirituality. I will do my best to account for this.I decided to begin with a list of four sources (two books and two websites) as a very short list of recommended reading for Zionists. But beforehand, a definition is essential, as there are few words as horribly abused as Zionist. Indeed, many who support Israel themselves are not fully aware of what the term represents. The result is that those who are clearly motivated by hatred of Jews can easily say things about Zionists that they would never beyond close company say about Jews.Zionism was the movement to re-establish a sovereign Jewish national home in the ancestral land of the Jewish people in the Middle East. Since the re-establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, Zionism has continued as the principle that Israel as a sovereign homeland for the Jewish people should remain a legitimate entity.That is it, full stop. Zionism is not an endorsement of any particular Israeli political party… Read More