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Emet m'Tsiyon

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jews as the Ultimate Underdog in Arab-Muslim Society -- Part 2

Previous posts have shown that the Jews in Jerusalem were at the bottom of the social ladder, low man on the totem pole. The post before this one showed that the Muslim population in the Ottoman Empire generally was unhappy with the Tanzimat reforms that made the non-Muslim [dhimmi] population almost equal in rights to the Muslims. It also showed that some in the Greek Orthodox Church were unhappy with their equality since it also meant that the Jews, previously lower in rank than themselves, were brought up to equality with them. This supports the argument that the Jews were the ultimate underdog in Ottoman society.

Egypt too was part of the Ottoman Empire, although the central government's hand was weaker there than in places closer to Constantinople, the Ottoman capital. Here is testimony from Egypt that the Muslims there hated and humiliated the Jews even more than the Christians.

The Jews, even more demeaned than the Christians, and few in number besides, are counted for almost nothing. [Tableau de l'Egypte pendant le sejour de l'Armee francaise, par A.G...D, membre de la Commission des Sciences et Arts, seant au Kaire, an XI, 1800, vol. I, p 14.]
Les Juifs, encore plus avilis que les Chretiens, et d'ailleurs en petit nombre, sont a peu pres comptes pour rien
The testimony above is from 1800, by a member of the scientific delegation that accompanied Napoleon and left so much important documentation about the Egypt of their time, and about the remains of ancient Egypt, which were far more numerous and in better condition then than today. The main written record of their research is La Description de l'Egypte in 25 volumes, of incalculable value for knowledge of all sorts of aspects of that country.

Here is the testimony of Edward Lane, a British observer who lived in Egypt for several years in the 1830s. The excerpt below has been translated back into English from a French translation [by Bat Yeor]. Readers are invited to check Lane's original.

In general, the Muslims feel towards them [the Jews] the most profound hatred and contempt, and accuse them of hating the Muslims and the Muslim religion more than any other people . . . Consequently, one cannot be surprised if the Jews are detested by the Muslims much more than the Christians. Not long ago they were often shoved in the streets of Cairo and sometimes beaten for merely having passed on the right side of a Muslim. Presently, they are less oppressed [Muhammad Ali eased the oppression of dhimmis generally], but they still hardly dare protest when they are insulted or unjustly struck by the most miserable Arab or Turk, since often a Jew has been put to death under the false and malicious accusation of having murmured words disrespectful of the Qur'an or the Prophet [Muhammad]. . . A Jew has often been sacrificed [by a court] in order to save a Muslim. . ." [E. Lane, The Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, 2 vol., London 1836]
Hence, the extreme, vicious hatred for Jews expressed in Egypt and other Arab countries --and by the PLO and its satellites-- has old roots, not imported from Europe and not because of anything that Israel may have done.

The quotations in this post were found in Yahudiya Masriya, Les Juifs en Egypte (Geneva: Editions de l'Avenir, 1971). Yahudiya Masriya [= Egyptian Jewess, in Arabic] is a pen name for a woman scholar now known as Bat Yeor [= daughter of the Nile, in Hebrew] who no doubt has a justified fear of using her legal name when writing critically of Arabs or Islam.
- - - - - - - -
More on the bottom-of-the-ladder status of Jews in Arab lands coming up.
Also, exploitation of Jews in Jerusalem both before and after the Crusades.


  • Shuny, sorry I didn't get to this before 25 May 2006, but "moderate comments" was enabled and I didn't know how to use it.

    Ibn Taymiyya by the way, rejected any holy status in Islam for Jerusalem. That's because he was more severe. As far as I know, the Umayyads only decided to view Iliya [= Aelia], the Arab name for Jerusalem after the conquest in the 6th century, in about 690 CE, when they had rivals who controlled Mecca and Medina. They wanted to have a holy place under their own control.
    Vittoria a noi

    By Blogger Eliyahu m'Tsiyon, at 11:13 AM  

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