Egypt and the Jews

With Passover behind us, it's appropriate to take a look at anti-Semitism in modern Egypt. Michael Totten at World Affairs Journal writes:
Egypt is by far the most anti-Semitic country I’ve ever visited. It’s off the charts even compared with the rest of the region.

Everyone who posseses even a passing familiarity with Egyptian politics knows this is a serious problem, but the reasons why aren’t as widely understood as they should be. The three main theories—that Egypt’s Jewish problem is a result of the Islamic religion, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and state propaganda to deflect anger away from the government—are partly correct, but they don’t adequately explain what’s actually happening. There are other deeper reasons that should be more widely known than they are. ...
Totten refers us to Samuel Tadros in The American Interest for a better understanding:
To understand the roots of anti-Semitism in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, we must look much deeper. We must explore both the crisis of modernity in the Arab world and the importation of European ideologies and ideas.

The crisis of modernity in the Arab world began with the sudden realization of the West’s advancement and the miserable state of Arabs and Muslims by comparison. Isolated for centuries from developments in Europe, Egyptians—first their rulers and intellectuals but later on the general population as well—were shocked to discover that the Frenchmen led by Napoleon who had landed on their shores were not the same Franks they had defeated during the Crusades. The shock of the discovery of Western technological, material, and military superiority shattered the existing political order and demanded a response. The initial approach of simply importing and copying Western technology proved inadequate, as the gap between Egypt and the West grew wider. Occupation by European powers only aggravated the crisis. The crisis revolved around two questions: What went wrong, as Bernard Lewis accurately framed it; and how can we catch up.

For a while, copying the West in practice and appearance carried the day. This was the triumphant moment for modernization, liberalism, and Westernization in Egypt. Ahmed Lutfi El Sayed formulated an Egyptian nationalism, and the struggle for independence from Britain united the nation. But cracks started to appear. Egypt never managed to catch up to the West; the West, represented in Britain, proved unwilling to uphold democratic and liberal values in Egypt; and most importantly modernization was tearing society apart with little to show for it. The introduction of mass education, industrialization, and urbanization was breaking up traditional society, while modern society had not yet been created. Thousands were coming to the cities in search of a better future only to be shocked by the lack of opportunities available to them. This was the generation of Nasser, a generation described in Egyptian historiography as “the new Effendis.” The last straw was Western disillusionment with the promises of liberal democracy and the rise of communist and, more importantly, fascist regimes in Europe.

Replacing the belief in liberalism was a diverse set of ideas. Some lost faith in modernity itself and attempted to return to traditional forms of identity and behavior. Others became enchanted by the totalitarian ideas emerging in Europe. Across the political spectrum people argued that liberal democracy had failed and that only the state’s forceful hand, often guided by a dictator, could save Egypt from its woes and help it catch up with the rest of the world. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy became models for many. Most importantly for our question here, disappointment led to frustration. Egypt’s continual failures led to resentment of the West and a search for an explanation. It was at this moment that an indisputably European ideology—anti-Semitism—began to find fertile ground. Responsibility for Egypt’s failure to catch up with the West did not lie with Egyptians; it was because Jews were conspiring against us to keep us backward. ...
Read the rest at the link.