As Egyptian Officials Warm to Judaism, Popular Opinion Remains Hostile to Israel

Dec. 18 2018

The Egyptian minister of antiquities recently announced that President Sisi had allocated over $70 million for restoring and preserving Jewish sites in the country. Last month, Sisi stated that Egypt should build Jewish houses of worship. Currently only a handful of Jews remain in the country, home to one of the oldest diaspora communities; most Egyptian Jews were driven out during the 1950s and 60s amidst severe persecution. Haisam Hassanein comments:

On December 6, Khaled Salah, the editor-in-chief of al-Youm al-Sabaa—a news outlet with close ties to Egypt’s security services—tweeted praise for Hanukkah, calling it a victory for monotheism against “paganism” and advising his audience to read about the Jewish festival’s central historical figure, Judah Maccabee. This coincided with the first public Hanukkah celebration in decades at the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue in Cairo, attended by members of Egypt’s tiny Jewish community alongside an American delegation. . . .

Three motivations best explain the government’s positive discourse [regarding] Jews: [Egypt] sees American Jewish citizens and organizations as a gateway to U.S. policymakers, whom they perceive as overtly sympathetic to Jewish causes; . . . officials seem to believe that investing more money in restoring Jewish heritage will help market the country as a destination for global Jewish tourism; [and] the president’s advisers may be trying to burnish his image as a tolerant leader [worthy of staying in power]. . . .

Yet taking a friendly approach toward Jews and Israel also raises several challenges for Sisi. Historically, Islam has regarded Jews as a protected and tolerated religious minority with some civil and religious rights, but without political status. Hence, most traditional Muslims in Egypt have trouble comprehending or accepting the idea of a Jewish state, Jewish army, or Jewish political community. . . . Even those Egyptians who agree with Sisi’s attitude toward Jews would still have trouble accepting the idea of a neighboring Zionist state. . . .

Washington should continue encouraging Cairo to press Egyptian religious institutions to moderate their discourse [about Jews]. . . . At the same time, Sisi’s latest measures should not give Washington any illusions that he has become a . . . tolerant ruler.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Israel & Zionism, Mizrahi Jewry, Muslim-Jewish relations

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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Read more at Colonel Richard Kemp

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC