In Egypt, Anti-Semitism Comes Back in Fashion

By Goldberg, Jeffrey | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

In Egypt, Anti-Semitism Comes Back in Fashion


Goldberg, Jeffrey, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


A travel tip: If you find yourself doing business in Egypt and you feel the urge to insult your interlocutor, 1) try not to insult your interlocutor; and 2) if you must, cast aspersions on the chastity of the person's mother or sister. This insult will be taken hard but may eventually be forgiven.

Whatever you do, don't accuse the person of being Jewish. That may cause an irrevocable breach and could even provoke violence.

Anti-Semitism is becoming the opiate of the Egyptian masses. And not just the masses. It's entirely acceptable among Egypt's educated and creative classes to demonize Jews and voice the most despicable anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Careerists know that even fleeting associations with Jews and Israelis could spell professional trouble.

The level of anti-Semitism in Egypt has consequences, of course, for Middle East peace and for the safety of Jews. But, importantly, it has consequences for the welfare of Egypt itself. The revolution that overthrew the country's dictator, Hosni Mubarak, held great promise, but it also exposed the enormous challenges facing Egyptian politics and culture. And anti-Semitism, if nothing else, has always been a sign of a deeply damaged culture.

As Walter Russell Mead has written on his blog, countries "where vicious anti-Semitism is rife are almost always backward and poor." Mead argues that they lack the ability to "see the world clearly and discern cause and effect relations in complex social settings." He calls anti-Semitism the "sociology of the befuddled."

Egyptian television is filled with such sociology. One popular series depicts an Egyptian diplomat stationed in Tel Aviv who robs Israeli banks on the side. The show was promoted by a Middle East satellite channel, which claimed that it would "surprise the audience with the sweetest jokes about the cheap Jew. …

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