Egyptian Jewish Identities:
In July 1954, Israeli Military Intelligence
ordered an espionage network of Egyptian Jews it had formed three years earlier
to launch "Operation Susannah" -- a campaign to fire bomb the main
Alexandria post office, the United States Information Agency offices in Cairo
and Alexandria, the Cairo train station, and several movie theaters in Cairo
and Alexandria. The saboteurs (today we would call them terrorists, especially if
they were Arabs or Muslims acting against Israel
or the United States)
were quickly apprehended and brought to trial in December 1954. The verdicts
and sentences delivered in January 1955 spanned the range of options. Sami
(Shmu`el) Azar and Musa (Moshe) Marzuq were sentenced to death along with the
Israeli handlers of the network -- John Darling (Avraham Dar) and Paul Frank
(Avraham Seidenwerg) -- who were not apprehended and tried in absentia.
Me'ir Meyuhas and Me'ir Za`fran received seven years in prison. Victor Levy and
Philip Natanson were sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Marcelle Ninio and
Robert Dassa were condemned to life in prison. Caesar Cohen and Eli Na`im were
acquitted. Max Binnet, an Israeli spy apprehended with the network but not directly
involved in its operations, committed suicide in jail.
Here, I do not propose to revisit the perennial question in Israeli politics,
"Who gave the order?" -- the focal point of
a still unresolved political scandal labeled the "Lavon affair" or,
in the sanitized discourse of national security, "the mishap" [ha-`esek
Instead, I will use the apology for the operation offered in the name of four
members of the network -- Marcelle Ninio, Victor Levy, Robert Dassa, and Philip
Natanson -- to open a discussion of the identities and loyalties of Egyptian
After fourteen years in Egyptian jails, the
four reached Israel
in the prisoner exchange following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. Their presence in
the country was an official secret until 1971, when Prime Minister Golda Meir
announced her intention to attend Marcelle Ninio's wedding. Not until March
1975, when the four told their story publicly for the first time on national
television, did an Israeli government acknowledge that they had been trained
and directed by the Israeli army. Aviezer Golan compiled an authorized
collective memoir, Operation Susannah (the code name for the bombing
campaign), and explained that their actions did not constitute treason against Egypt because
The foursome -- like all the other heroes of
'the mishap' -- were born and brought up in Egypt, but they never regarded
themselves -- nor were they ever regarded by others -- as Egyptians. . . .They
were typical members of Egypt's
Jewish community. . . .It was a community with shallow roots. The Jews reached Egypt during
the second half of the nineteenth century or the beginning of the twentieth. .
. .[T]hey could not read or write Arabic, and spoke no more of the language
than was necessary for the simplest daily needs. . . .All of Egypt's Jews could have been considered Zionists
-- or, to be more precise, 'lovers of Zion.'
Golan, in the name of the four, emphasized the
lack of Jewish affinity to Egypt.
In contrast, at the press conference convened to announce the arrest of the
saboteurs, Egyptian Minister of Interior Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din stressed that
the majority of Egyptian Jews were loyal citizens like all other Egyptians. He
claimed that some Jews approached by Israeli agents had refused to act against
their homeland and that those who did succumbed to trickery or coercion. He
vowed that the government would deal harshly with the minority of Jews who
committed espionage and sabotage on Israel's behalf while continuing
"to treat the non-Zionists with the kindness and respect due to every
decent citizen." The
prosecutor at the Cairo trial of the network
summarized this official view in his concluding statement: "The Jews of
Egypt are living among us and are sons of Egypt. Egypt makes no difference between
its sons whether Moslems, Christians, or Jews. These defendants happen to be
Jews who reside in Egypt, but
we are trying them because they committed crimes against Egypt, although they are Egypt's
Photo essays on the trial in the weekly al-Musawwar and daily reports of
the proceedings in al-Ahram reiterated that the accused were not being
tried as Jews, but as spies and saboteurs, while loyal Jewish citizens
continued to live peacefully and without discrimination.
These contradictory representations of the
identity and consequent obligations of Egyptian Jews are products of the
national narratives of Israel
Both national projects required Jews to identify unequivocally with one or the
other. Any ambivalence was an unacceptable betrayal of the nation state and its
imperatives. But until the dispersion of the community after the 1956
Suez/Sinai War, Egyptian Jews maintained more complex multiple identities and
loyalties than can be accommodated by either of the contending national
narratives. Their responses to the demands for loyalty from the emerging
national states of Egypt and
were inflected by differences of class, ethnic origin, religious rite,
educational formation, political outlook, and personal accident. Yet few could
embrace fully the options of official state-centered identities. Forced to
decide between Egypt and Israel, most
chose neither. Decades after the liquidation of the community, some Egyptian
Jews have reclaimed their Levantine cosmopolitanism through nostalgic literary
reconstructions of Egypt
that challenge the canons of Zionist discourse and simultaneously resist the
discourse of Egyptian nationalism.
Between two homelands: Egyptian
Jewish representations of Egypt
The Jewish connection to Egypt, even if
partly mythological, is ancient. The Biblical stories of Abraham, Joseph, and
the Exodus incorporate Egypt
into the sacred geography of the Jewish tradition, and these narratives were
regularly invoked. The 1942 Yearbook of Egyptian Jewry, whose editor,
Maurice Fargeon, openly declared his Zionist sympathies, proudly reviewed the
Jewish bond to Egypt:
The history of the Jewish people has been
linked, since the remotest times, to that of Egypt. Already in the time of the
pharaohs of the first dynasties we find Joseph sold by his brothers becoming,
because of his great wisdom and profound judgment, a powerful minister in the
valley of the Nile. . . .the
children of Israel went to Goshen (a province
of Egypt) at the call of
Joseph. . . .Moses, the most sublime figure of Israel,
the first legislator, emerged from the womb of Egypt. . . .Thus the first
chalutzim [pioneers] of history were the Jews of Egypt led by Moses and then
According to Fargeon, some Jews did not leave Egypt at the time of Moses but remained and
moved to Asyut,
where they formed a tribe of warriors. They were later joined by refugees,
including the prophet Jeremiah and his secretary Baruch, fleeing the Babylonian
conquest of Judea. The
1945-46 edition of the Yearbook of Egyptian Jewry reiterated the
historic link between Jews and Egypt,
and risked offending religious sentiment by suggesting that the source of
Jewish monotheism was the ancient Egyptian cult of Ra. The anonymous author of
this article (probably Maurice Fargeon) claimed that many Jewish rituals, symbols,
and precepts -- circumcision, the candelabrum, the altar, the
design of the pillars of the Temple, even
several of the Ten Commandments -- derived from ancient Egypt.
These assertions are probably drawn from Renan's The History of the People
of Israel, a popular text among rationalist francophone Jews. The dubious
evidence supporting them does not diminish their significance in the
construction of the identity and self-presentation of Egyptian Jews. As Renan
himself noted, "Getting its history wrong is part of being a nation."
Recapitulating these stories affirmed the
ancient bond of Jews with Egypt,
hence the legitimacy of their residence there. This history implicitly disputed
the positions of Young Egypt and the Society of Muslim Brothers who were, by
the late 1930s, antagonistic to the Jewish presence, as well as the Zionist goal
of "negation of the diaspora." Referring to Egyptian Jews as pioneers
did link them to the Zionist settlement project in Palestine. Fargeon certainly knew that only a
small minority of Egyptian Jews supported political Zionism. Perhaps by noting
their contribution to the pioneering effort 3,000 years ago, he tacitly excused
then for neglecting this enterprise in the twentieth century. Moreover, since
even in the time of Moses some Jews remained in Egypt,
it would be unreasonable to expect all of Egyptian Jewry to emigrate
to Palestine in
the twentieth century.
Between the two world wars, many Jews felt no
contradiction between Zionist and Egyptian national commitments. In an open
letter to Haim Nahum Effendi, the Chief Rabbi of Egypt, the editor of the Arabic/French
pro-Zionist periodical Isra'il/Israël, Albert D. Mosseri, asked the
rabbi to, "Please explain to our brothers that one can be an excellent
patriot of the country of one's birth while being a perfect Jewish nationalist.
One does not exclude the other."
Rabbi Nahum, a consistent anti-Zionist throughout his tenure in office
(1924-60), did not accede to this request.
Several Egyptian Jews did participate in both national
movements. Léon Castro conducted propaganda for the Wafd party in Europe after
the 1919 nationalist uprising and founded and edited a pro-Wafd French language
Liberté, after returning to Egypt. He was
simultaneously the head of the Zionist Organization of Cairo and the
representative of the Jewish Agency for Palestine
Félix Benzakein was a member of the Wafd, a deputy in parliament, a member of
rabbinical court, and president of the Zionist Organization of Alexandria.
Despite his Zionist commitments, Benzakein remained in Egypt until 1960, when he emigrated
to the United States.
The intensification of the Arab-Zionist conflict in Palestine during the Arab revolt of 1936-39
strained such dual commitments, and they became virtually impossible after the
1948 Arab-Israeli war. Yet as late as 1965 Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon, a native of
Alexandria who emigrated to Israel in 1949 and eventually became a member of
the Knesset, published a book memorializing Shmu'el Azar -- one of the two
Egyptian Jews executed for their role in Operation Susannah -- whose central
argument, in contrast to prevailing opinion in Israel, was that an accommodation
and understanding between the Egyptian and Israeli national movements was
possible and desirable.
For Zionist historiography, the creation of
the state of Israel
and the 1948 war signal the end of the Egyptian Jewish community. Some 500
Zionist activists were interned in Huckstep, Abu Qir,
and al-Tur (along with several hundred communists, including many Jews, and
The property of those suspected of Zionist activity was sequestered,
pro-Zionist Jewish newspapers were closed, and Zionism was declared illegal.
The government did little to protect Egyptian Jews and their property from
bombings and other attacks generally attributed to the Muslim Brothers during
the summer of 1948, not necessarily because it was in sympathy with them, but
because it sought to avoid a confrontation with its internal opponents on a
complex issue. It would have been difficult to explain vigorously defending the
Jews of Egypt to the public in the middle of a war against the Jews of
Palestine. Between 1948 and 1950, 20,000 Jews left Egypt,
of whom 14,428 reached Israel.
Conditions began to improve when Ibrahim `Abd al-Hadi became Prime Minister in
early 1949. By the time the Wafd returned to power in January 1950, all the
prisoners had been released from internment, and many Jews felt it would be
possible to return to life as it was before the war.
A Zionist activist who left Egypt in late 1949 reported to the Jewish
Agency's Department for Middle Eastern Jewry that many of his compatriots felt
there would be peace between Egypt
sooner or later and that neighborly relations would be resumed. He affirmed the
historic Jewish link to Egypt
in the same terms used by the Yearbook of Egyptian Jewry:
The Jewish people has taken root in Egypt and
the most beautiful Jewish figures resided in that country or came there seeking
refuge: Joseph, the first minister of supply in history, our great legislator
Moses, Philo of Alexandria, Saadia Hagaon, Maimonides. . . .Our Torah, the most
beautiful achievement of the spirit, the charter of humanity, was given to us
on Mt. Sinai,
land of Egypt.
A few months later Haim Sha'ul, a clandestine
Zionist emissary who returned to his native Egypt
to organize immigration to Israel,
reported that an important Jewish community would continue to live in Egypt and that
it was necessary to think about how to organize it.
Some 50,000 Jews remained in Egypt
until after the 1956 Suez/Sinai War. As late as 1961, when less than 10,000
Jews remained in Egypt,
long-time Zionist activist Félix Benzakein believed that "one day [Jews]. . . will come back in peace to resume our unalterable
friendship with the [Egyptian] people."
Ultimately, about one-third of all Egyptian Jews resettled in Israel; others reestablished their communities
in Europe and the Americas.
Millet, Minority and Citizenship
Aviezer Golan's desire to justify
Israeli-inspired espionage and sabotage led him to overlook much that was
significant, yet not easily contained by the Israeli national narrative. But
the Egyptian national narrative is similarly flawed because the secular-liberal
conception of the Egyptian nation invoked by Zakariyya Muhyi al-Din and other
Egyptian officials during the trial of the perpetrators of Operation Susannah
has never been fully realized. Until 1914, Egypt
was a part of the Ottoman Empire, and its
Jewish residents were juridically a religious community protected by a Muslim
state. The community's affairs were governed by autonomous institutions in
accord with the Ottoman millet system. Its members consisted of those
who accepted the authority of Jewish law [halakhah] as interpreted and
applied by rabbinical courts, though by the twentieth century few Jews resorted
to these courts except for matters of personal status -- marriage, divorce, burial,
This millet identity can be termed
communitarianism: the world-view and self-perception of Jews (and other
non-Muslims) living in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire. There was a high
level of toleration, communal autonomy, and cultural symbiosis among Muslims,
Christians, and Jews. Individual Jews achieved high positions in the political
and economic arenas in late Ottoman and monarchical Egypt. But Muslims occupied the
leading military and political positions, and their right to do so was not
seriously challenged. This is radically different from current American notions
of multi-culturalism because the Ottoman political field was defined by a
hierarchical relationship among religious communities and very few people
believed that individuals could or should be detached from their religious
communities. The installation of the formal apparatus of liberal democracy in
Egypt reformed the citizenry into a "majority" and
"minorities" and created new forms of hierarchy that were somewhat
less transparent because of the liberal discourse of equality.
The secularist slogan of the 1919 nationalist
uprising -- "Religion is for God and the homeland is for all" [al-din
li-llah wa'l-watan li'l-jami`] -- invited Jews to claim their place as
citizens of the Egyptian nation, and some did so. Yet even in the 1920s, the
hegemony of secular territorial nationalism was challenged on two fronts by the
persistence of colonial privilege and Islamic conceptions of the polity. From
1876 to 1949, the legal affairs of foreign citizens were adjudicated in mixed
courts, which Europeans commonly regarded as more "advanced" and
modern than the indigenous legal system. But preserving a zone of legal
separatism reproduced elements of Ottoman-style community autonomy that
undermined liberal notions of citizenship.
The legal autonomy of non-Muslims was not
solely a product of colonialism. Until 1955, Egypt recognized the communal
courts of all its religious communities. The state colluded in undermining its
sovereignty for over three decades because the authority of Islamic shari`a courts derived from the same
conceptual order that sustained the non-Muslim religious courts. Until Gamal
`Abdel Nasser, no political leader commanded sufficient authority to challenge
By the late 1930s, the limited character of
the independence achieved in 1922 and the inevitable reaction against it eroded
liberal territorial conceptions of the nation. British collusion with the
monarchy in undermining parliamentary democracy, the continuing British
military occupation, the privileged position of Europeans, the intensifying
Arab-Zionist conflict in Palestine, and the rise of fascism and communism in
Europe led many Egyptians to reject liberal conceptions of the nation and to
rearticulate their nationalism in either pan-Arab or Islamist terms, though
these had long been elements in the cultural repertoire from which Egyptians
drew their self-conceptions.
Such orientations implicitly excluded Jews from membership in the nation,
either because they were not Muslims or because Jews were uncomfortable with
militant pan-Arabist anti-Zionism and the pro-German sentiments of some Arab
At the turn of the twentieth century,
autochthonous Jews entitled to Egyptian citizenship by the 1929 nationality law
and its successors comprised at least half of the Jewish community.
But in 1948, only 5-10,000 of Egypt's
70-80,000 Jews held Egyptian citizenship. Some 40,000 were stateless, and
30,000 were foreign nationals.
Many of the 10,000 poor, Arabic-speaking residents of the Jewish quarter [harat
al-yahud] in the Gamaliyya district of Cairo or the 15,000 residents of the
port district [harat al-liman] of Alexandria
were among the stateless.
Jews with foreign citizenship typically acquired it in the colonial era, when
the category of Egyptian citizen did not exist, and did not believe that it
impugned their identity as Egyptians, though most Egyptians felt otherwise.
Establishing citizenship, like many other
transactions between the Egyptian state and its subjects, was a cumbersome
procedure. Until the enactment of the Company Law of 1947 requiring firms to
employ fixed quotas of Egyptians, those who did not travel abroad had no need
for a certificate of citizenship and rarely bothered to obtain it. Chief Rabbi
Nahum encouraged eligible Jews to apply for citizenship during the 1930s and
1940s, but despite the nominally liberal language of the law, their applications
were often subjected to bureaucratic delay and rejection.
Such practices were not directed specifically at Jews; members of other
non-Muslim communities long resident in Egypt
-- Syrian Christians, Greeks, Italians, Armenians -- were treated in a similar
Egyptian Jews, like others trapped by the
false promises of liberalism, blended elements of communitarianism and
nationalism in practices and world views shaped by the European presence in the
Middle East yet incompatible with the logic of
the nation state. In what follows, I examine sectors of the Egyptian Jewish
community -- the Karaites, the haute bourgeoisie, the Zionist youth movement ha-`Ivri
ha-Tza`ir [The Young Hebrew], and, to a lesser extent because I have
treated them elsewhere, the communists -- whose outlook and activities resist
incorporation into the national narratives of Egypt and Israel.
The Karaites: an Arab-Jewish
The Karaite Jews of Egypt, numbering about
5,000 by 1948, were part of a small minority within Judaism who reject the
validity of the Talmud as a source of Jewish law.
Karaites have lived in Egypt
for over 1,000 years, mainly in Cairo's
harat al-yahud. They were fully integrated into Cairo's ethnic division of labor and
typically worked as goldsmiths and jewelers. Remnants of their historic role
persist in the Karaite family names of firms in Cairo's gold market, like al-Sirgani, though
no Karaites remain in the trade, and few Egyptians are aware of the origin of
these names. In the twentieth century, wealthier Karaites began to move to
`Abbasiyya and Heliopolis
and to adopt elements of bourgeois, francophone, cosmopolitan culture. But in
all respects except religious practice, the daily life of the Karaites of harat
al-yahud was indistinguishable from that of their Muslim neighbors.
In March 1901, the Karaite communal council
was reorganized and recognized by the Egyptian state.
The somewhat archaic Arabic name of this body (majlis milli) expresses
the Karaites's self-conception as a communal-religious
The editor of the community newspaper explained, "Our community's
existence is based on religion so it is our first duty to preserve our religion
and to behave in accord with the law of our lord Moses" [shari`at sayyidina Musa].
When the shaykh of al-Azhar died in 1945, Karaite Chief Rabbi Tuvia Levi
Babovitch attended the funeral, and the community newspaper extended
condolences "to the Egyptian nation and the Eastern countries" [al-umma
al-misriyya wa'l-aqtar al-sharqiyya] -- a formulation implying that Egypt
was a Muslim country, not a liberal secular state in which religion was
irrelevant to citizenship.
The same conception motivated the congratulations offered to "the Egyptian
people" on the Muslim feast of `id al-adha.
Similarly, the community greeted "the Christian peoples" [al-umam
al-masihiyya] on the occasion of "the foreign new year" [ra's
The Karaites's historical narrative
legitimated their presence in Egypt
with reference to its Islamic history and the protected status of Jews
according to Islamic law. One account claimed that Karaites resided in Egypt
when it was conquered for Islam by `Amr Ibn al-`As, who gave them a plot of
land at Basatin (near Ma`adi) as a communal cemetery and exempted them from
paying the jizya tax. Another traced the Karaite presence in Egypt to the
eighth century, the time of Anan Ben David, whom Rabbanites consider the
founder of the Karaite sect.
Both versions affirmed that, except during the reign of the Fatimid Sultan
al-Hakim, Karaites enjoyed good relations with their Muslim neighbors.
These linguistic usages and historical
narratives are imbedded in the categories of Arabo-Muslim culture. By the 1940s
most Karaites had only partially assimilated the liberal notions of citizenship
and nationality recently introduced to Egypt. They saw themselves as a
protected religious minority in a Muslim country, employed concepts and
institutions derived from the Islamic cultural and political tradition, and
explained their Egyptian identity in those terms.
At the same time, educated Karaite youth,
responding to the mass murder of European Jews and the widespread hopes for a
new world in the post-World War II era, began to feel constrained by the limits
of communitarianism. Some were not particularly interested in religion, did not
pray regularly, did not observe the Sabbath scrupulously, and used Passover matzah
[unleavened bread] baked by Rabbanite Jews.
The Young Karaite Jewish Association (YKJA) was formed in 1945 by educated
youth seeking to establish a modern identity for their community. They
published an Arabic bi-monthly, al-Kalim [The Spokesman], which appeared
regularly until 1956 and promoted a program of communal reform including the
study of Hebrew and modern forms of sociability such as the Karaite boy scout
troop, the Karaite youth orchestra, theater performances, sports activities,
and outings of young men and women to the Pyramids, Saqqara, the Barrages, and
Ma`adi. Al-Kalim also campaigned to improve the status of women.
This orientation demonstrated considerable strength when the YKJA challenged
Rabbi Babovitch and the community council by supporting a slate of candidates
in the council elections of 1946. Seven of its ten candidates were elected.
Except for the particularity of Hebrew (which has its parallel in Muhammad
`Abduh's efforts to reform the study of Arabic), the activities encouraged by
the YKJA were the same as those embraced by liberal Egyptian nationalists
seeking to create modern, bourgeois citizens, though conducting them within the
Karaite community reinforced communitarianism as much as it promoted
In this spirit, an editor of al-Kalim,
Eli Amin Lisha`, criticized the Karaites's social isolation. He reproached
Rabbi Babovitch for failing to visit the newly appointed shaykh of
al-Azhar in 1946 or to greet King Faruq when he returned to Cairo
and urged the community to participate in Egyptian national holidays
"because our Egyptian citizenship requires this." This would win the
affection of "our Egyptian brothers" and increase their sympathy for the
Lisha`'s appeal to assume the responsibilities of national citizenship
acknowledged that Karaite practices and outlooks were still largely
communitarian. Moreover, his concern for the community's image in the eyes of
other Egyptians is itself a form of communitarian sentiment.
The editors of al-Kalim linked the
project of communal reform to the Egyptian national revival and regarded
Karaite Jews as Egyptians in all respects. The newspaper's front page often
featured the cartoon figure of "Abu Ya`qub" -- the Jewish counterpart
of "al-Misri Effendi," who symbolized the modern, educated, Egyptian
Sometimes the two were shown walking arm in arm; sometimes Abu Ya`qub appeared
alone, accompanied by an article on his Egyptian character. Al-Kalim
repeatedly referred to Karaites as "abna' al-balad" [sons of
the country], a populist term connoting authentic Egyptians. Language, dress,
and gender relations were commonly cited as markers of the Karaites's authentic
The language of instruction in the Karaite
communal schools was Arabic. Even today, many Karaites who live in Israel speak
Egyptian Arabic as their daily language. Al-Kalim proudly noted that
Karaite dialect and usage was indistinguishable from that of other Cairenes.
Even in referring to contested localities for which Jews and Arabs used
different names, al-Kalim used Arabic not Hebrew terms --
"Nablus" [Shkhem], "al-Quds al-sharif" [Jerusalem], and
"Filastin" [the Land of Israel].
Karaites were fully integrated into
Arabo-Egyptian culture. Al-Kalim often published poetry in colloquial
Egyptian [zagal], an art commonly considered a marker of cultural
The poet laureate of the community, Murad Farag, composed both zagal and
standard Arabic qasidas. His style was said to resemble that of Ahmad
Shawqi, a leading twentieth-century Egyptian poet. Al-Kalim's
editor-in-chief, Yusuf Kamal, was the son of Da'ud Husni (1870-1937), a major
figure in modern Arabic music and composer of the first Egyptian opera,
"Samson and Dalilah." Each year on the anniversary of his death, al-Kalim
celebrated Husni's artistic accomplishments, sometimes reprinting articles from
other Arabic publications affirming the nationalist contribution of his music.
According to al-Kalim, Karaite men wore
sharawil [baggy pants] and tarabish [fezes] like other Egyptians,
and there was "almost no difference in outward appearance between the
Karaite woman and her Muslim friend."
The Karaites, unlike their Rabbanite brothers, were "Eastern" and
"conservative" in their social customs. Karaite women did participate
in mixed cultural and sports clubs, but this was legitimate because it
encouraged marriage and did not violate propriety, as women of other
communities had already done the same.
This comment acknowledged changes in Karaite gender relations while affirming
the norms of Middle Eastern patriarchy and a communitarian outlook. The author
of this article in al-Kalim emulated the Egyptian nationalist movement
in assigning to women the burden of cultural authenticity while promoting
moderate reforms in their status so that they could become proper companions
for male citizens.
The relationship between the Karaite community
court and the Egyptian state illustrates the unstable amalgam of
communitarianism and the demands of citizenship informing Karaite practices by
the 1950s. Like all the non-Muslim religious communities, the Karaites opposed
the abolition of religious courts despite nationalist criticism of this
institution. Al-Kalim reprinted an article in al-Ahram arguing
that these courts were not an Ottoman innovation (hence not properly Egyptian),
but a valid Islamic institution established in the time of the Prophet.
Each year the link between the Karaite court and the state was renewed when the
governor of Cairo
confirmed its members, who were required by law to be Egyptian citizens. In
October 1949, the judges who had served the previous year were reappointed by
the community council. An official of the governorate sent to certify the
citizenship of the judges rejected their claims to be Egyptians and demanded
that they obtain certificates of citizenship. This official admitted that he, like
most Egyptians, did not have such a certificate. Jacques Mangubi, the head of
the communal council and a senior employee of Bank Misr, then explained,
"It is known that we are Egyptians. The government must determine if we
are foreigners or Egyptians. And as long as we are not foreigners, then we are
Egyptians." Yusuf Kamal affirmed that the members of the court were
Egyptians, but that it was difficult for them to obtain certificates of
citizenship "for reasons not hidden from anyone." He advised the government
to expedite the procedures for certifying citizenship and to facilitate
granting certificates to all Egyptians regardless of religion.
This was an unusually bold criticism of the government and a departure from the
loyalist quietism typical of the Karaite community.
Most Karaites were entitled to be and wanted
to be Egyptian citizens, but met with official resistance to their claim. Yet a
low-level state official might well be uncertain about the identity of even
this most Egyptian of all Jewish communities. As Eli Amin Lisha` acknowledged,
"some [Karaites] have French or Russian citizenship even though they and
their fathers have never left the country, and this is because citizenship used
to be sold, and a Karaite may have bought it though he is 100 percent
Egyptian" [wa-huwa masri lahman wa-daman].
This incident indicates, in a small but crucial way, that non-Zionist Jews were
not treated exactly like other Egyptians, as the government and press claimed
during the trial of the Operation Susannah conspirators, even though they might
have wished to be.
There is probably a measure of defensiveness
in al-Kalim's representation of the Karaite community, because articles
stressing its Egyptian character appeared after events threatening the status
of Jews in Egypt, such as the anti-Zionist demonstrations on the anniversary of
the Balfour Declaration on Nov. 2, 1945 that degenerated into anti-Jewish riots
and the start of the first Arab-Israeli war on May 15, 1948. But many such
articles were unconnected to any crisis.
Even if its insistence on the Egyptian identity of the Karaites was
strategically motivated, al-Kalim was an Arabic publication and the only
organ of the Karaite community from 1945 to 1956 giving substance to the claim.
The Karaite community was deeply imbued with Egyptian Arab culture while
remaining fully Jewish in its own terms.
This included a religiously based love of Zion but no organized
involvement with political Zionism.
The he-Halutz [Pioneer] Zionist youth movement (see below) tried to
organize Karaites and Rabbanites in harat al-yahud, but with limited
success. The Cairo Zionist Federation had no ties with Karaites, and few
residents of harat al-yahud belonged to Zionist youth movements.
Murad Farag, the leading intellectual of the
community, had long advocated closer relations between Karaites and Rabbanites.
He encouraged some of the educated youth around al-Kalim who were
unsatisfied by the communitarianism of their elders to seek contacts with the
Rabbanites, who were considered more "advanced." Stepping beyond the
boundaries of their community exposed these Karaite youth to the full range of
political orientations of the post-World War II era, and some became Zionists.
Farag's closest disciple, Maurice Shammas, wrote for the Rabbanite Arabic
newspaper, al-Shams [The Sun], between 1946 and 1948 and then for al-Kalim
before he emigrated to Israel in 1951. Several hundred
young Karaites emigrated to Israel between 1948 and 1956
against the advice of Chief Rabbi Babovitch.
The best-known Karaite involved in organized
Zionist activity was Moshe Marzuq, who was executed for his role in Operation
Susannah. He was a member of he-Halutz and the underground self-defense [Haganah]
organization established by emissaries from Palestine
in 1946 before becoming a spy and saboteur for Israel. As a physician in Cairo's Rabbanite Jewish
hospital, the son of a wealthy family, and a French citizen, his social and
cultural milieu was not limited to harat al-yahud, and this explains his
receptivity to Zionism.
Marzuq's arrest and execution had a chilling
affect on the community. Yet a significant proportion of the community remained
until the 1960s. Because most Karaites were thoroughly Arabized
and defined themselves in terms rooted in their experience as an Ottoman
millet, they tended to remain in Egypt longer than Rabbanites.
Ultimately, they could not resist the forces reshaping the Egyptian political
community in ways that effectively excluded Jews.
Cosmopolitanism and Egyptianism:
the Jewish Haute Bourgeoisie
If Karaites regarded themselves as Egyptians
on the basis of their long residence and Arabic culture, the Jewish haute
bourgeoisie did not believe that their lack of these attributes made them any
less Egyptian. This segment of the community was comprised largely of Sephardic
immigrants from Aleppo, Istanbul,
Izmir, Salonika, and Tunis
who found refuge and opportunity in the expanding economy created by the cotton
boom and the opening of the Suez Canal. These
locales were part of the Ottoman Empire, as was Egypt until 1914, so the Jewish
immigrants were not juridically foreigners. They were Arabic and, occasionally,
Turkish speakers, and their "Eastern" culture allowed them to
Kinship connections throughout the
Mediterranean basin, a long tradition of diasporic commercial activity, and
participation in the local cultures of the Levant and overseas French culture
enabled Jewish businessmen to function as commercial intermediaries between Europe and the Ottoman realms and to obtain foreign
citizenship in the process. In the shadow of British colonial rule, from 1882
to 1922, several Sephardic families established business enterprises on their
own and in conjunction with European, and then later Muslim Egyptian, partners.
These alliances became prominent institutions of the Egyptian business class
during the first half of the twentieth century and linked the prosperity of the
Jewish haute bourgeoisie to Egypt
and its future.
Yusuf `Aslan Qattawi (Cattaui) Pasha
(1861-1942), president of the Sephardic Jewish community council of Cairo from
1924 to 1942, was the most visible Egyptian Jew of the interwar era, not only
because of his leadership of the community, but perhaps even more so because of
his extensive business and political activity.
He studied engineering in France,
returning to Egypt to work
for a time in the Ministry of Public Works, and then left to study the sugar
refining industry in Moravia.
Returning to Egypt,
Yusuf `Aslan Pasha became a director of the Egyptian Sugar Company and
president of the Kom Ombo Company, which developed and cultivated sugar on 70,000 acres of desert
land in Aswan Province. Building from this base
in the sugar industry, the Qattawis established several industrial, financial,
and real estate enterprises in collaboration with the Suarèses and other Jewish
families, amassing considerable economic and political power.
Tal`at Harb, the founder of Bank Misr and
apostle of Egyptian economic nationalism, began his career in the employ of the
Suarès and Qattawi families, first at the Da'irah Saniyeh Company and then as a
managing director of the Kom Ombo Company.
He acknowledged his debt to the Suarèses and Qattawis and maintained close
relations with the Cairo
Jewish business elite. When Tal`at Harb established Bank Misr in 1920, he
invited two prominent Jews with whom he had collaborated on the Executive
Committee of the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce and the Commission on Commerce
and Industry, Yusuf `Aslan Qattawi and Yusuf Cicurel, to join him as founding
directors, and Qattawi became Vice-President of the board.
The Qattawi family claimed residence in Egypt since the
eighth century, and Yusuf `Aslan identified himself as an Egyptian of Jewish
faith. Under his leadership, the Cairo Sephardic Jewish community council
adopted a consistent non-Zionist position.
Though his grandfather apparently acquired Austrian citizenship, Yusuf `Aslan
was an Egyptian citizen, as this was a condition for membership on the board of
Bank Misr. His French education was not a marker of otherness or a political
liability; it was a symbol of modernity and progress common to the sons of the
landed elite, the business community, and many leading intellectuals of the
early twentieth century.
The Qattawi family's Egyptian identity was
reinforced by its ties to the royal family and political activism. Yusuf `Aslan
received the title of Pasha in 1912. He was an appointed deputy for Kom Ombo
from 1915 to 1922, and his parliamentary colleagues elected him to the
committee to draft the 1923 Constitution. He served as a minister in two
pro-monarchist governments in 1924-25, though he was forced to resign because
he maintained correct personal relations with Sa`d
Zaghlul. King Fu'ad appointed him to the Senate in 1927. His wife, Alice (née Suarès) was
first lady of honor to queens Farida and Nazli. Though he was a monarchist and
did not support the Wafd, Yusuf `Aslan Qattawi considered himself
an Egyptian patriot. His nationalism was socially conservative and business
oriented, not unlike that of Tal`at Harb.
His sons, `Aslan Bey (1890-1956?) and René Bey
(1896-?), succeeded him in both the political and
business arenas. Both were educated in Switzerland, but like their father
they insistently asserted their Egyptian identity and cultivated the family's
relationship with the royal family. When Yusuf `Aslan Pasha retired from the
Senate in 1938, King Faruq appointed `Aslan to take his father's place. The
same year René was elected deputy for Kom Ombo. Both retained their positions
until 1953, when the parliament was dissolved by the regime of the Free
René Qattawi inherited his father's leadership
of the Cairo Sephardic Jewish community. He urged Jews to see themselves as an
integral part of the Egyptian nation and in 1935 encouraged the formation of
the Association of Egyptian Jewish Youth whose manifesto proclaiming
"Egypt is our homeland, Arabic is our language" called on Jews to
take part in the Egyptian national renaissance.
The Association of Egyptian Jewish Youth and its newspaper, al-Shams,
supported René Qattawi for the presidency of the Cairo Sephardic Jewish
community council as the candidate best able to promote the Arabization and
Egyptianization of the community.
He was elected and served from 1943 to 1946.
René Qattawi aggressively opposed political
Zionism, which gained significant support for the first time during World War
II. In November 1944 he and Edwin Goar, vice-president of the Alexandria
Jewish community, sent a "Note on the Jewish Question" to a meeting
of the World Jewish Congress in Atlantic City,
arguing that Palestine could not absorb all the
European Jewish refugees and noting Egypt's exemplary treatment of its
In late 1944 and early 1945, Qattawi carried on a sharp correspondence with
Léon Castro demanding that Castro close the camps operated by the Zionist youth
movements. Qattawi was unable to impose his will on the Zionist elements of the
community council, and this was apparently the cause of his resignation in August
The Qattawi family maintained extensive
business relationships with all the leading Muslim families in the emerging
Egyptian bourgeoisie of the inter-war period. Such inter-communal business
alliances were common among other wealthy and powerful bourgeois Jewish
families: Adès, Aghion, Goar, Mosseri, Nahman, Pinto, Rolos, Tilche.
Other bourgeois Jewish families operated within an "ethnic economy."
This was the case of the Cicurel family after the 1920s. In 1909 Moreno
Cicurel, an immigrant from Izmir, opened a large department store in the heart of the
European section of Cairo. Moreno's three sons were born in Cairo, and the family must have become
Egyptian citizens by 1920, when his second son, Yusuf Cicurel, became a
director of Bank Misr. Although Yusuf Cicurel participated in several of Bank
Misr's ventures in the 1920s, his younger brother Salvator devoted most of his
attention to the family business. The Cicurel store became the central concern
of the family after the 1920s, when it developed into Egypt's largest and most
fashionable department store chain: Les Grand Magasins Cicurel et Oreco. In addition to his managing the family business,
his active sports life, and his service to the Egyptian state on various
economic commissions, Salvator was an active leader of the Jewish community. He
served on Cairo's
Sephardic Jewish community council and succeeded René Qattawi as president from
1946 to 1957.
The Cicurel store had a foreign cultural
character due to its largely non-citizen Jewish staff,
its exclusive and largely imported merchandise, and the use of French by
employees and customers on the shop floor. Nonetheless, a memorandum submitted
to the Ministry of Commerce described the firm as "one of the pillars of
our economic independence."
This apparent contradiction could not be indefinitely maintained. At the
outbreak of the Suez War, unlike in 1948, the Cicurel firm was placed under
sequestration. The store was quickly reopened, but the Cicurel family soon
ceded its majority holding to a new group headed by Muslim Egyptians. In 1957,
Salvator Cicurel left Egypt
Regardless of the character of their business
activity, most of the older Jewish bourgeoisie embraced loyalist, Egyptianist
sentiments -- a natural accompaniment to their comfortable lives and prominence
in many sectors of the Egyptian economy. In 1943, when Jews constituted less
than 0.5 percent of Egypt's
population, they comprised over 15 percent of all directors of joint-stock
substantial portion of the Jewish bourgeoisie remained in Egypt after
1948. The annual volumes of The Egyptian Who's Who list the most
prominent names in commerce, industry, law, and politics. Fifty-two percent of
those names I could identify as Jews in the 1947 edition remained in Egypt and
continued to be listed on the eve of the 1956 war. Over one hundred new Jewish
names were added to the directory during the 1950s, and as late as 1959, at
least 181 Jews were listed.
Thus, between the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948
and 1956 a
substantial portion of the Jewish elite remained in Egypt and continued to play a
significant, though diminishing, role in its economic
life. This elite did not, in the main, immigrate to Israel after leaving Egypt. Like Jews throughout the
Middle East in the 1950s who abandoned their countries of origin with the
intensification of the Arab-Israeli conflict, most of those who had a choice
went to Europe or the Americas.
French culture, radical
politics, and Jewish youth
In 1860 the Paris-based Alliance Israëlite
Universelle embarked on a Jewish "mission civilisatrice," to uplift
and modernize the Jews of the Middle East by
imbuing them with French education and culture.
French opposition to British imperial policy in Egypt throughout the nineteenth
century allowed many Egyptians, not only Jews, to embrace French culture as an
acceptable form of European modernity, and, by the late nineteenth century,
French was the lingua franca of the entire Egyptian business community.
Knowledge of a European language was virtually a requirement for a white-collar
job in the modern private sector of the economy and constituted significant
cultural capital, so many Egyptian Jews willingly underwent de-Arabization.
The political inflection of a French education
was often towards the left. Many French teachers, even in the Catholic schools,
were leftists participating in a national-secular program of cultural
imperialism -- the mission laique [lay mission]. Consequently, many
students in French schools -- Muslims and Christians as well as Jews -- became
Marxists of one sort or another. Marxism entered the Jewish schools through
French teachers or emissaries from Palestine,
where socialist Zionism was hegemonic. These schools became centers of the
Zionist youth movements, who proposed that Jewish youth transcend what they
were by becoming Jewish nationalists. The largest and most active of these
movements was ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir [The Young Hebrew], the Egyptian branch
of ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir [The Young Guard]. Ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir embraced
Zionism and internationalism simultaneously, though usually unsuccessfully. The youth movement and its kibbutzim of ha-Kibutz ha-'Artzi
[The National Kibbutz] federation had a strong pro-Soviet left wing which
strove to minimize the differences between their Marxist-Zionism and
Until November 29, 1947, when the United Nations General Assembly voted to
partition Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state, ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir
opposed establishing a Jewish state and favored a binational Arab-Jewish state.
Since their social background and political
positions had much in common, there were constant ideological debates between
members of ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir and the Jewish communists. The pressure of
constant debate with the communists and the personal influence of their
emissary from Palestine, Eli Peleg, a strong supporter of the movement's left
wing who eventually became a communist, led ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir to take its
Marxism very seriously. To be sure, Ha-`Ivri
ha-Tza`ir's conception of binationalism and Arab-Jewish coexistence in Palestine was naive and
paternalistic. Nonetheless, the Arab presence in Palestine and the surrounding countries was
far more concrete for Egyptian members of ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir than it could be
for their European or American counterparts.
Between 1938 and 1944, five branches of
ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir were established in Egypt, three in Cairo and two in
Alexandria, with 700-800 members.
Three groups of graduates left for Palestine
between 1945 and 1947 and eventually established Kibbutz Nahshonim, leaving
some 500 members in Egypt
by May 15, 1948. Unlike the other Zionist groups, ha-`Ivri ha-Tza`ir began to
operate underground in late 1947 (and to use the name ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir).
Consequently, only five of its leaders were apprehended in the roundup of
Zionist activists at the start of the Arab-Israeli war, and the movement was
able to maintain most of its strength. In 1950, after a large
group left Egypt
to join Kibbutz `Ein Shemer, ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir claimed 350 members, including
Therefore, while most of the Egyptian Zionist leadership was interned, the
leaders of ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir directed the entire underground effort to
organize Jewish immigration to Israel
during the second half of 1948 and early 1949. They reported to Eli Peleg, who
became director of the Jewish Agency's Department for Middle East Jewry in Paris, after he was forced to leave Egypt on May
In the spring of 1949, Eliyahu Brakha and Haim
Sha`ul, emissaries of the Jewish Agency's Mosad le-`Aliyah [Immigration
Organization] arrived in Cairo to assume responsibility for this work. Sha`ul
was a graduate of ha-`Iviri ha-Tza`ir in Egypt and knew the movement's local
leadership well, but Brakha had the confidence of the Israeli government and
the Jewish Agency which were dominated by MAPAI [The Israel Workers Party],
while ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir was a component of the rival MAPAM [The United
Workers' Party]. Brakha split the united he-Halutz [Pioneer] movement, which
before his arrival had sent its graduates to kibbutzim affiliated with both
MAPAI and MAPAM, by demanding that it be transformed into MAPAI's ha-Bonim [The
Builders] youth movement. About half the members refused and formed Dror --
he-Halutz ha-Tza`ir [Freedom -- The Young Pioneer], the youth organization
of ha-Kibutz ha-Me'uhad [The United Kibbutz] federation which was, until
1954, mainly affiliated with MAPAM, though it was less solidly left wing than
ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir's kibbutz federation.
Dror established a strong base at the Lycée de
l'Union Juive pour l'Enseignment of Alexandria
where, according to one graduate, the dominant ideology was Marxism-Leninism.
Alexandre Roche, for example, taught his students dialectical and historical
materialism in geography class, and Ms. Mizrahi had her nine-year-old pupils
conduct monthly sessions of criticism and self-criticism.
In preparation for MAPAM's second party congress in Israel, Dror members began to
discuss the positions of the party's two kibbutz movements on the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other political issues such as democratic
centralism. The left-wingers concluded that the kibbutz was not a revolutionary
institution at all, and many of them adopted communist positions. After a year
and a half of ideological ferment, Dror's leadership decided to liquidate the
movement in June 1952. Most of the senior members became communists in Egypt, Israel,
others joined ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir.
Similar debates raged in ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir, though because it was a more
disciplined formation with a longer tradition, the movement was not threatened
with ideological liquidation.
The indistinct boundary between fractions of
the middle class and the accidental factors influencing an individual family's
choice of school produced a large zone of intersection between the social and
cultural milieux of communist and socialist-Zionist Jewish youth. In the early
1950s the boundary between communism and socialist Zionism was permeable. The
same French cultural influences and the political ferment of the post-World War
II era attracted some Egyptian Jewish youth to Zionism while their brothers,
sisters, and cousins, embraced communism. Zionist nationalism and communist
internationalism, which was programmatically the left wing of the Egyptian
nationalist movement, both looked beyond the narrow confines of the Egyptian
Jewish community and sought to resolve the contradictions of being Jewish in Egypt by
alternative manipulations of the same categories of modernist political
discourse. Parents and older relations were often just as displeased by
youthful political activism whether it was Zionist or communist.
Rahel Maccabi's autobiographical memoir, Mitzrayim
sheli [My Egypt], was one of the first Hebrew books to portray Jewish life
for an Israeli audience. Maccabi grew up in an upper-middle-class family in Alexandria, but her life
history is exceptional. After several visits with her family, she emigrated to Palestine
in 1935, joined a kibbutz of ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir, and became an officer in the
Haganah and then the Israeli army. These pioneering Zionist credentials authorized
her to write about her youth in Alexandria
of the 1920s and 1930s.
Maccabi's childhood milieu was almost entirely
isolated from everything Arab or Egyptian. She made only the slightest effort
to learn Arabic in school; even her knowledge of colloquial Egyptian was
minimal, as is evident from the errors in simple Arabic words in her text. She
knew of a neighborhood in Alexandria
where Jews spoke Arabic, but never went there.
At an early age she "came to the conclusion that the world of the
Egyptians is frightening."
Her father's family, originally from central Europe, Arabized rapidly after her
paternal grandfather married into the Qattawi family and settled in Cairo. Her father was
educated in Arabic and had worked in the sugar industry. Rahel and her mother
and her father's family, which they constituted as the Egyptian other.
Rahel Maccabi's mother became a Zionist in
1904 by reading the British Jewish Chronicle. She belonged to a wealthy
Baghdadi family that emigrated to Bombay
to trade in precious stones and then came to Egypt at the time of Napoleon's
invasion. Though she was far more deeply rooted in the Arab world then her
husband's family, Rahel's mother had learned to regard everything Arab as
dirty, foreign, and barbaric. Internalizing this message, Rahel perceived
"an unfathomable distance that separated Cairo of those days, with its Jews dressed in
Eastern style and living in a quite traditional, patriarchal, primitive world,
from the atmosphere in which mother grew up."
For Maccabi, everything Egyptian was unreal, inferior, or frightening, except
for her exoticist memories of flowers, food, and rose water.
My Egypt affirms the Zionist national narrative: some Egyptian
Jews became good Zionists even before 1948; they were unaffected by contact
with anything Arab, and their Jewish identity was preserved by leaving Egypt as soon
as possible. In the triumphalist atmosphere following Israel's overwhelming victory in the 1967 war,
the publishing house of ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir found a ready market for this image
and its Jews. Conquest of a substantial piece of Egyptian territory in that war
stimulated a desire for knowledge about Egypt that explained military
victory as a consequence of civilizational superiority.
The first chapters of My Egypt were
written in 1965 and appeared as essays in Keshet, the journal of the
Canaanite movement, which rejected Zionism and the concept of a world-wide
Jewish people in favor of a native Hebrew identity rooted in the Middle East. In Israel
of the 1950s and 1960s, it was rare to find any cultural expression of the fact
that a high proportion of its residents were born in Muslim countries of the Middle East or children of those born there. Rahel
Maccabi's acknowledgment of her birthplace was apparently sufficient for Keshet's
editor, Aharon Amir, to find her writing of interest. He dubbed her essays My
She disliked the title's suggestion of a sentimental attachment she did not
feel toward Egypt and would
have preferred "Qantara-West" -- the last train station in Egypt on the way to Palestine. This title would clearly proclaim
her Zionist trajectory, but the reference was too obscure for the Israeli
Like Maccabi, Jacqueline Kahanoff was also
raised in an upper-middle-class family and educated in French schools where
Zionism was a rarity among the Jewish pupils. Many of her essays, including her
signature piece, "The Generation of Levantines," were written in
English, translated by Aharon Amir, and published in the late 1950s and early
1960s in the first issues of Keshet, whose outlook was far more congenial
to Kahanoff than to Maccabi. Unlike Maccabi, Kahanoff felt a strong positive
connection to Egypt,
noting with pride that her schoolmates were "pro-nationalist as a matter
of principle," though their parents were "pro-British as a matter of
business and security."
Sensitive to her location in a potentially explosive cultural and political
border zone, she consciously sought a creative Levantine synthesis.
. . . even though we
sympathized with the Muslim nationalists' aspirations, we did not believe them
capable of solving the real problems of this society, and for this they could
not forgive us. As Levantines, we instinctively searched for fruitful
compromises, feeling as we did that the end of the colonial occupation solved
nothing unless western concepts were at work in this world, transforming its
very soul. We knew that Europe, although far
away, was inseparably part of us because it had so much to offer. These radically
different attitudes toward Europe and towards
our conception of the future made the parting of our ways inevitable.
Although they wished to identify with Egypt, Kahanoff
and her schoolmates had no doubt that European culture was more advanced and
should be the dominant component in the Levantine synthesis she aspired to. She
"wondered how those young Muslims intended to change conditions in Egypt if they
did not realize that learning what the Europeans knew was the most important
thing of all."
Until 1956 she could have found many good Egyptian nationalists who agreed with
her. Decades after Egypt
attained formal independence, its elite classes
retained much of the culture of imperialism. The Suez War initiated a new and
perhaps inevitable phase in the process of decolonization in which Europe was decisively repudiated.
Since they felt they could not be full
participants in the Egyptian national movement, Kahanoff and her Jewish friends
tried to realize their youthful ideals by starting a clinic in harat
al-yahud. Despite their initial success, they had to abandon the project
because the head of the Jewish community in the hara accused them of
advocating birth control and Zionism, to which they responded that the second
allegation was a lie. Blocked in both the Egyptian national arena and in
reforming the Jewish community, Kahanoff left Egypt in 1940, recalling, "I
loved Egypt, but could no longer bear to be part of it, however conscious I was
of its queer charm, its enchantment, its contrasts, its ignoble poverty and
After living in the United States
and Paris and establishing herself as an English
novelist, Kahanoff moved to Israel
Keshet was a highly regarded literary journal, though very
few Israelis embraced its cultural politics. Kahanoff's celebration of
Levantinism was abhorrent to the dominant Ashkenazi Zionism that required the
mass migration of the Middle Eastern Jews to Israel to populate the country but
detested their culture and regarded Levantinism as a curse to be avoided at all
costs. Critics praised Kahanoff's sensitivity and emotional range, but
Levantinism was not an idea that could elicit a serious response from the
militantly Eurocentric Israeli cultural establishment.
Until Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's visit
to Jerusalem in 1977, the centrality of Egypt in the Arab confrontation with Israel made it difficult for Egyptian Jews to
say anything positive about Egypt
or their lives there. The Sadat visit created a receptive audience in Israel for those from middle-class backgrounds
in Cairo and Alexandria
who chose to contest Rahel Maccabi's representation of the Jewish experience in
in a positive light allowed them to reclaim their places as cultural, and in
some cases economic, intermediaries. Post-1977 memories of Egypt generally reject Maccabi's colonialist
Orientalism and insist that there was much that should be valued in Jewish life
For this generation, Jacqueline Kahanoff's work is a point of departure. In the
hopeful atmosphere following Sadat's visit to Jerusalem, her essays were collected in a
warmly received book, Mi-mizrah shemesh [From the east the sun]. A
review in what was then an avant-garde literary magazine endorsed her
revalorization of Levantinism.
Such critical receptivity was encouraged by the soaring hopes for peaceful
normalcy in Israel,
though it was far from unanimous.
Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren's Kayitz Aleksandroni
[Alexandrian summer], a semi-autobiographical novel recalling his family's last
summer in Alexandria before they emigrated to Israel
in December 1951, also appeared during the post-Sadat visit euphoria. Like
Kahanoff, Gormezano-Goren relishes the hybrid Mediterranean identity of
Egyptian Jews. His story begins with a sardonic lesson in cultural geography.
Yes, precisely Mediterranean. Perhaps it is by
virtue of this Mediterraneanism that I sit here and spin this tale. Here, in
the Land of Israel,
which lies on the shores of the Baltic
Sea. Sometimes you wonder if Vilna is really the Jerusalem
of Lithuania or if Jerusalem is the Vilna of the
Land of Israel.
The novel is suffused with unstable dualities
and shifting identities. The narrator is and is not Robbie, the-ten-year-old
son of a mid-level employee of the Ford Motor Company. The middle-class
propriety of Robbie's Jewish family is undermined by homoeroticism, which his
mother identifies as Arab.
The Muslim servants of the family speak French. Many of the central characters
of the novel are not exactly who they seem to be and slip easily in and out of
ostensibly incompatible roles. The retired jockey, Joseph Hamdi-`Ali, is a
Turkish Muslim who has converted to Judaism. His son, David Hamdi-`Ali, is also
a jockey but does not have his father's single-minded passion to win. He will
marry Lili al-Hadaf, a Muslim. David's rival, Ahmad al-Tal`uni, embodies Muslim
Egyptian aspirations and resentment of the privileged foreigners and
minorities. The competition between them ignites chauvinist rioting. Yet,
al-Tal`uni is not a typical Egyptian, but a bedouin favored by the wife of the
British Consul. Because of al-Tal`uni's appetite for victory, Joseph Hamdi-`Ali
regards him as his spiritual heir and a more worthy successor than David. Rabbi
Ferrara consistently refers to Joseph by his Muslim name, Yusuf. Towards the end of his life, Joseph Hamdi-`Ali worries that Allah
may punish him for converting. In the style typical of the rationalist
intelligentsia of the Iberian convivencia, the one God shows different faces to
Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
Alexandrian Summer received several positive but patronizing reviews that
avoided engagement with the themes of the book and treated it as a light and
pleasant diversion or background to current political developments.
Reviewers who noticed Gormezano-Goren's valorization of Mediterraneanism were
distressed by it. One did not understand the passage about Vilna and Jerusalem and wondered if it could mean that Israel was a foreign implant in the Middle East.
Another found nothing positive at all in his memories of Alexandria
and concluded, "if this is Mediterraneanism, then
it is better for us for now to remain on the coast of the Baltic
Perhaps in response to such arrogant
Eurocentrism, the second volume of Gormezano-Goren's Alexandria trilogy, Blanche, has a
more sharply anti-Ashkenazi tone. Unlike Jacqueline Kahanoff, Gormezano-Goren
is not sure that Europe should be the dominant
element in the Mediterraneanism he advocates. But he is not naive, and Blanche
directly engages the historical processes that led Jews to "leave the
flesh pot of Alexandria in exchange for the food
ration books of the early 1950s in Israel." But Gormezano-Goren
is equally conscious of the loss of his community's distinctive heritage.
Raphael Vital, who sang in the taverns of Alexandria,
lost his voice "in the desolate desert between Alexandria
Although it has been modulated by years of accommodation to the hegemonic
Euro-Zionist discourse in Israel,
the resurgence of Middle Eastern Jewish culture following the 1977 electoral
victory of the Likud and the peace with Egypt enabled Yitzhak
Gormezano-Goren to attempt to retrieve this Egyptian Jewish voice.
Blanche was not well-received by reviewers. The influential
Dan Miron dismissed it as "Alexandrian kitsch" and pronounced the
entire genre of Mediterranean Jewish writing
to be "an entirely marginal phenomenon" in Hebrew literature.
Tamar Wolf also denounced Blanche as "Alexandrian kitsch"
(perhaps one of these critics was less than entirely original), and, with
unwarranted self-confidence, she scolded Gormezano-Goren for anachronistically
inserting Flash Gordon and Superman cartoons into Alexandria cinemas of the
She believed that they, like so much that is valued and recognized by Israeli
yuppie culture, could only be a product of the 1980s.
I suspect that one element of Blanche
that offended the critics, though none of them dared to refer to it, is the
portrayal of Zionist activity in Alexandria in the late 1940s as a dilettantish
and ineffectual Ashkenazi-initiated project with no appeal to the young members
of Robbie's family except for cousin Rosie and the superficial and flighty
Raphael Vital. Characters in Alexandrian Summer and Blanche
acknowledge that there is no future for Jews in Egypt, but Gormezano-Goren is
ambivalent about the Zionist resolution of their problem. In an interview after
Blanche appeared, Gormezano-Goren ridiculed the heroic pretensions of
Zionism: "Operation Susannah in 1954, during which Jews were arrested and
hung in Egypt,
revealed the infantile Zionist base there."
And so we return to Operation Susannah -- the
Israeli-led campaign of espionage and sabotage -- with which we began. Robert
Dassa spent fourteen years in an Egyptian prison for his role in that fiasco.
In 1979, eleven years after his release, he returned to Egypt as a journalist for the Arabic service of
Israeli television to cover Prime Minister Menahem Begin's visit to Alexandria. Thirteen
years later he finally wrote about his memories of Egypt in his own name. Be-hazarah
le-kahir [Return to Cairo]
is a report of his twenty-some return trips since 1979 interwoven with a
recapitulation of the events of Operation Susannah, the trial of the
conspirators, and their experiences in Tura prison. Publication of this book by
Ministry of Defense represented both a long overdue repayment of a debt to the
author and supervision over its contents. Did Dassa, once he was permitted to
speak in his own voice about his identity, confirm Aviezer Golan's assertions
with which this essay began?
Dassa's central preoccupation is his repeated
accusation that Israeli military and political authorities have never assumed
full responsibility for the operations he and his colleagues undertook on
behalf of the state. He accuses the mythic figures in the history of Israel's
security establishment -- David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan -- of failure to
request their release in the prisoner exchange following the 1956 war because
they were a political embarrassment, causing them to spend twelve more years in
These charges ultimately reinforce the national security discourse regulating
discussion of the Lavon affair in Israel because of the questions
Dassa never asks: What was the purpose behind the orders he executed? Was it
justified to endanger the entire Egyptian Jewish community by ordering him and
his colleagues to bomb civilian targets in Egypt? What does this activity
imply about Israel's
policy priorities? What was the effect of the Lavon affair on Israeli-Egyptian
Dassa oscillates between recapitulating
well-worn elements of the official narrative -- the Cairo judicial proceedings
were a show trial;
Paul Frank was a double agent who betrayed the network;
he felt no connection to Egypt
-- and disclosures that undermine it. He grew up in a mixed Alexandria neighborhood with no apparent
His parents, both twentieth-century immigrants to Egypt,
were Middle Eastern Jews from Jerusalem and Yemen. Zionism
was "quite an exceptional thing in the Egyptian Jewish community."
No other members of his family were Zionists. His sister married a Muslim
Egyptian and lived with him in the fashionable Muntazah district of Alexandria
as of the writing of his book.
Return to Cairo is bracketed by Dassa's confessions that he craves
connection with Egypt.
"I do not come to Egypt
as a tourist. I never was and never will be a tourist there. I come to it as a
free citizen, and only there can I express the full feeling of
Throughout his years in jail he yearned for Alexandria, and after leaving Egypt he dreamed and hoped for the
moment he would return.
When he did revisit Alexandria, he felt as though he never left
it. Dassa concludes his account of his travails by revealing that "In
order to feel complete freedom, I need to walk freely in the streets of Cairo. Only there do I
feel that I really have been released."
Thus, Robert Dassa's admission that his
well-being requires continuing contact with Egypt is a sharp repudiation of
Aviezer Golan's effort to contain Operation Susannah within the boundaries of
the Israeli national narrative. Even as he justifies his acts of espionage and
sabotage against Egypt,
Dassa, like Jaqueline Kahanoff and Yitzhak Geormezano-Goren, acknowledges that
his well-being requires him to maintain a strong connection to Egypt. This may
seem almost schizophrenic in a modern political universe defined by the
proposition that individuals must be loyal to only one state. Dassa's
contradictory sentiments suggest exclusivist conceptions of national identity
and national sentiment are a relatively recent construction
that do not necessarily conform to previously existing forms of
political community in the Middle East.
Aviezer Golan's imposition of the Zionist representation of Jewish identity on
the "heroes" of Operation Susannah obliterates the complex
multi-vocality of Egyptian Jewish identities.
This is more than a historical curiosity. It
points to the continuing failure of state-centered discourse and essentialist
conceptions of the nation and citizenship in both Egypt
Recalling the experience of a communitarian Middle Eastern environment of ethnic
and religious pluralism invites us to consider whether multi-culturalism is
compatible with the liberal conception of a nation-state composed of loyal,
individual, equal citizens. Finally, it suggests ways that Jews, by claiming an
identity as indigenous inhabitants of the Middle East,
can conclude a cultural peace more substantial than any diplomatic agreement.
This essay was first presented to the workshop on Rethinking
Nationalisms in the Arab World held at the University
of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
on September 21-24, 1994 and sponsored by the National Endowment for the
Humanities. This research was assisted by a grant from the Joint Committee on
the Near and Middle East of the Social Science
Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies with funds
provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation.
1. Marcelle Ninio's lodger,
Armand Karmona, was arrested by the Egyptian police. Though he was apparently
uninvolved in the network, he either committed suicide or was beaten to death
by his interrogators. For a fictionalized account of his fate, see the French
novel by his daughter, Marcelle Fisher, Armando (Tel Aviv: Yeda Sela,
2. Eliyahu Hasin and Dan Horwitz,
Ha-parasha (Tel Aviv: `Am ha-Sefer, 1961); Hagai Eshed, Mi natan et ha-hora'ah (Jerusalem: Edanim, 1979); Iser Harel, Kam
ish `al ahiv: hanituah hamusmakh ve-ha-mematzeh shel "parashat lavon"
(Jerusalem: Keter, 1982); Shabtai Tevet, `Onat ha-gez (Tel Aviv: Ish
3. Aviezer Golan, as told by
Marcelle Ninio, Victor Levy, Robert Dassa, and Philip Natanson, Operation
Susannah (New York: Harper, 1978) 5-6. Original Hebrew version: Mivtza`
Suzanah (Jerusalem: Edanim, 1976).
4. Al-Ahram, 6 Oct. 1954:
5. The Story of Zionist
Espionage in Egypt
(Cairo: Ministry of Information, 1955) 25, 61.
6. Don Peretz, "Egyptian
Jews Today" (an unpublished report compiled for The American Jewish
Committee, Committee on Israel, January 1956) 35-36, quoting Foreign Broadcast
Information Service, January 6, 1955; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (New
York), American Jewish Committee Records (RG 347), Foreign Affairs Division
7. Al-Musawwar, 15 Oct.,
29 Oct., 17 Dec., 1954 and especially Hasan al-Husayni, "Ma`a jawasis
isra'il fi al-sijn," Jan. 7, 1955.
8. Annuaire des Juifs d'Egypte
et du proche-orient, 1942, ed. Maurice Fargeon
Société des Editions Historiques Juives d'Egypte, 1943) 117.
9. Annuaire des Juifs 1942:
10. Annuaire des Juifs
11. Ernest Renan, Qu'est que
c'est une nation?, 7-8, qtd. in
Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780 (Cambridge: Cambridge
UP, 1990) 12.
12. Albert D. Mosseri,
"L'espoir d'un vieux sioniste," Israël 6.12 (20 mars 1925):1,
qtd. in Michael Laskier, The Jews of Egypt,
1920-1970 (New York: New York UP, 1992) 51.
13. Maurice Mizrahi, L'Egypte et ses Juifs: Le temps révolu, xixe et xxe siècle
(Geneva: Imprimerie Avenir, 1977) 37-44; Gudrun Krämer, The Jews in Modern Egypt,
1914-1952 (Seattle: U of Washington P, 1989) 126, 128.
14. Shlomo Kohen-Tzidon, Dramah
be-aleksandria ve-shnai harugai malkhut: Mehandes Sh. `Azar ve-doktor M. Marzuq
(Tel Aviv: Sgi`al, 1965).
15. Anon., letter of a Jewish
prisoner in El-Tor, Yad Tabenkin, Kibutz Me'uhad Archive (Efal), Ha-makhon
le-heker ha-tnu`ah ha-tzionit ve-ha-halutzit be-'artzot ha-mizrah,
"Mitzrim, El Tor, Huckstep," anonymous letter of a Jewish prisoner in
El-Tor (where conditions were much worse than in Huckstep or Abu Qir) to Jewish
prisoners in Huckstep asking them to help free them (Henceforth YT). Other
sources state that as many as 1,000 Jews were interned, but this usually
includes Jewish communists and a certain inflation due
to distance from the spot.
16. Laskier 187.
17. "Rapport presenté à
l'Agence Juive Department du Moyen Orient sur la situation actuelle des Juifs
en Egypte par un Juif d'Egypte ayant quitté l'Egypte
vers la fin de l'année 1949," 13. Central Zionist Archives (Jerusalem)
S20/552, Jewish Agency, Department for Middle Eastern Jews, Matzav ha-yehudim
be-mitzrayim, 1948-1952/no subdivision (Henceforth CZA).
18. CZA, S20/552/851/71/28754
Haim Sha'ul le-mahlelket ha-mizrah ha-tikhon, Cairo, Mar. 12, 1950.
19. Felix Benzakein, "A
History in Search of a Historian," The Candlestick (monthly
publication of Congregation Sons of Israel, Newburgh,
NY) reprinted in Goshen: alon moreshet yahadut
mitzrayim, 7 (December 1988): 11. The 1960 census reported 8,561 Jewish
20. For a survey of these
orientations see Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski, Beyond the Nile Valley
(Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995).
21. Shimon Shamir, "The
Evolution of the Egyptian Nationality Laws and Their Application to the Jews in
the Monarchy Period," The Jews of Egypt: A Mediterranean Society in
Modern Times, ed. Shimon Shamir (Boulder: Westview, 1987) 41, 58. The
census of 1947 gives the figure of 65,639 Jews, but most Jewish sources regard
this as an underestimate.
22. Shamir 34.
23. Arkhion ha-Haganah (Tel Aviv)
14/1024, "Pe`ulot ha-haganah be-mitzrayim, 1947," Avigdor (Levi
Avrahami) le-ha-ramah, Sept. 1, 1947.
24. There are no statistics
available, but the testimony of Egyptian Jews is nearly unanimous on this
25. On the communists, see Joel
Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics
and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt
1948-1965 (Berkeley: U of California P, 1990).
26. For comprehensive modern
histories of the Karaite Jews of Egypt, see Mourad El-Kodsi, The Karaite
Jews of Egypt, 1882-1986 (Lyons, NY: Wilprint, 1987) and Yosef Algamil, Hayahadut
hakara'it be-mitzrayim be`et he-hadashah (Ramla: Ha-Mo'etzah ha-'Artzit
shel ha-yehudim ha-kara'im be-yisra'el, 1985). As of this writing, there are no
more than a dozen Karaites left in Egypt.
27. Al-Kalim, 1 Mar. 1945:
2; 1 April 1950: 2-3.
28. In a discussion with Maurice Farid Musa (Maurice Shammas), Chief Rabbi
Haim Nahum noted that in Turkish milla means "a people" and
not a religious community and that for this reason the Rabbanite Jews called
their communal council al-majlis al-ta'ifi. See al-Kalim, 16 June
1950: 6. Regardless of its etymology, the phrase used by the Karaite community
could not but invoke the late-Ottoman millet conception.
29. Al-Kalim, 1 April
30. Al-Kalim, 1 Sept.
1945: 10. A
more secular formulation might have offered condolences to the Muslim umma
or to Egyptian Muslims.
31. Al-Kalim, 16 Nov.
32. Al-Kalim, 1 Jan. 1946:
33. Al-Kalim, 1 June 1948:
34. Matatya Ibrahim Ridwan,
"al-Qara'un fi al-`asr al-islami," al-Kalim, 1 Dec. 1945: 5.
35. Yusuf Zaki Marzuq,
"Sama`tu. . . walakin lam usaddiq," al-Kalim,
1 June 1948: 5. The observations of this article were confirmed by Maurice
Shammas, interview, 5 May 1994.
36. For example, the editor of al-Kalim
interviewed five young women during a trip to Ma`adi sponsored by the YKJA and
printed their pictures in the paper. He considered this a bold step because of
the many conservative ideas and social restrictions on women prevalent in the
community. Al-Kalim, 1 June 1945: 6-7.
37. Al-Kalim, 16 Nov.
1946: 12. See also the introduction to Tuvia ben Simha Levi Babovitch, In lam as`a li-nafsi fa-man yas`a liyya
(Cairo: Jam`iyyat al-Ikhwan al-Qara'in, 1946).
38. Eli Amin Lisha`, "Makanat ta'ifat al-qara'in fi misr," al-Kalim,
1 Jan. 1947: 3.
39. Al-Kalim, 16 Dec.
1945, 1 June 1948 and many others.
40. Ridwan, "al-Qara'un fi
al-`asr al-islami" 5.
41. Al-Kalim, 1 Mar. 1947:
1; Ridwan, "al-Qara'un fi al-`asr al-islami," 1 June 1948: 2.
42. See Joel Beinin,
"Writing Class: Workers and Modern Egyptian Colloquial Poetry (Zajal),"
Poetics Today 15.2 (Summer 1994): 191-215.
43. Al-Kalim, "al-Qara'un
fi misr," 1 June 1948: 2.
44. Al-Kalim, 1 Dec. 1945:
3; 1 Jan. 1951: 4-5; 16 Dec. 1953: 2; 16 Dec. 1954: 2-3; 16 Dec. 1955: 6.
45. Ridwan; "al-Qara'un fi
misr," al-Kalim, 1 June 1948: 2.
46. Eli Amin Lisha`, "al-Qara'un fi misr," al-Kalim, 16
June 1946: 8.
47. Ahmad Safwat Basha
al-Muhammi, "Quda' al-tawa'if al-milliyya wa-tashih khata' sha'i`
`anhi," al-Kalim, 16 Nov. 1950: 4, 14. When communal courts were
abolished in 1955, the community publicly supported the decision. See Abu
Ya`qub, "Tawhid al-quda'," al-Kalim, 1 Nov. 1955: 2.
K.[amal], "al-Jinsiyya al-misriyya wa-a`da' al-majlis al-milli," al-Kalim,
1 Mar. 1950: 6.
49. Lisha`, "al-Qara'un fi
misr," al-Kalim, 16 June 1946: 8.
50. Al-Kalim, 16 Aug.
1947; 15 Oct 1949; 16 May 1951; 16 July 1951; 1 Feb. 1952; 1 Oct. 1952.
51. The only reference to
anything that could be considered Zionism in al-Kalim between 1945 and
May 15, 1948, when Zionist activity was legal in Egypt, is a letter to the
editor by Lieto Ibrahim Nunu, on 1 July 1945: 11, encouraging Karaite youth to
settle in Jerusalem because only one Karaite currently resided there, and he
could not perform his religious obligations alone. This suggestion is framed
entirely in religious communal terms and does not use the vocabulary of
political Zionism. The proponent was neither a regular
contributor to al-Kalim or a recognized leader of the community.
Krämer 214 refers to this as a call for `aliyah. I suspect she relied on
the opinion of Siham Nassar, al-Yahud al-misriyyun bayna al-misriyya
wa'l-sahyuniyya (Cairo: Dar al-`Arabi, 1980) 75. Like many Egyptians,
Nassar does not sufficiently appreciate that political Zionism sought to
transform Jewish religious devotion to Palestine
into a secular national bond.
52. YT, testimony of Lazare
Bianco (interviewed by Shlomo Barad, 6 Mar. 1985).
53. YT Bianco; Nelly Masliah,
interview, 8 May 1992.
54. See Eric Davis, Challenging
Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian Industrialization, 1920-1941
(Princeton: Princeton UP, 1983) 93-97 and L'Annuaire des Juifs d'Egypte et du proche-orient, 1942: 248.
55. Davis 91-97.
56. Krämer 95, 195.
57. Israël, Nov. 18 1937,
qtd. in Bat Ye'or, "Zionism in Islamic Lands: The
Case of Egypt,"
Wiener Library Bulletin 30.43-44 (1977): 27.
58. Krämer 101-2.
59. CZA S25/5218, R. Cattaoui et E. N. Goar, "Le point de vue des communautés Juives
d'Egypte: Note sur la question juive."
60. Krämer 201-202.
61. For the definition of an
ethnic economy, see Edna Bonacich and John Modell, The Economic Basis of
Ethnic Solidarity (Berkeley: U of California P, 1980) 110.
62. On the Cicurel family and the
early history of the store see Krämer 44-45, 101, 107, 213; Robert Tignor, State,
Private Enterprise, and Economic Change in Egypt (Princeton: Princeton UP,
1984) 60, 66, 102; Mizrahi 64-65; L'Annuaire des Juifs, 1942 250; Nabil
`Abd al-Hamid Sayyid Ahmad, al-Hayat al-iqtisadiyya wa'l-ijtima`iyya
li'l-yahud fi misr, 1947-1956 (Cairo: Maktabat Madbuli, 1991) 38-40.
63. Ahmad, al-Hayat
al-iqtisadiyya wa'l-ijtima`iyya 39.
64. Thomas Philipp, The Syrians in Egypt, 1725-1975 (Stuttgart:
Franz Steiner Verlag, 1985) 137.
65. E. J. Blattner, ed., Le
Mondain égyptien: L'annuaire de l'élite d'Egypte (The Egyptian Who's Who)
[title varies] (Cairo: Imprimerie Francaise, 1947, 1952, 1954, 1956, 1959).
66. Aron Rodrigue, French
Jews, Turkish Jews: The Alliance Israëlite
Universelle and the Politics of Jewish Schooling in Turkey, 1860-1925 (Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 1990).
67. For the political history of
ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir and MAPAM, see Beinin, Red Flag.
68. Yad Ya`ari ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir Archive (Giva`t Haviva) 18-2.1 (4)
Mitzrayim, Tnu`at ha-shomer ha-tza`ir [same as 97.10 (5 `ayin)],
"Nahshonim -- Erev zikaron le-Aharon Keshet za"l be-30 le-moto,
69. CZA S20/112/230/71/18394,
"Din ve-heshbon `al ha-tnu`a be-mitzrayim" from hanhagah ha-rashit
shel ha-shomer ha-tza`ir, mitzrayim, no date, received in Jewish Agency 23 Jan.
70. Jacques Hassoun, interview, Paris, 30 May 1994.
71. Hassoun interview; YT Hativa
2- Hu"l. Mekhal 1. Tik 2, "Hitkatvuyot shel va`adat
hu"l `im shlihim ve-`im snifim," especially "Du"ah `al
ha-tnu`ah be-mitzrayim ve-hisulah," 9 July 1952; Hativa 2-Hu"l.
Mekhal 1. Tik 3 "Hitkatvuyot shel pe`ilim `im ha-merkaz
72. Laskier 155, cites an
anonymous report from the Office of the Advisor for Special Tasks of the
Israeli Foreign Ministry claiming that in June 1951 thirty senior members were
expelled from ha-Shomer ha-Tza`ir because they considered that their primary loyalty
was to the Soviet Union and Marxism rather than to Zionism and the State of
Israel. See CZA S41/449/bet/1/851/71. June 20, 1951. Several of the movement's
leaders (Albert `Amar, Ninette Braunstein, Beni Aharon, et. al. [interview,
April 28, 1994]) who were on the spot emphatically denied that this occurred.
Laskier's source may have been a fictitious report composed to impugn the
reputation of MAPAM.
73. Rahel Maccabi, Mitzrayim
sheli (Tel Aviv: Sifriat ha-Po`alim, 1968) 90.
74. Maccabi 9.
75. Maccabi 30.
76. Maccabi 10, 60, 83, 84-86.
77. Rahel Maccabi,
"Mitzrayim sheli," Hotam, 14 Aug. 1968: 12.
78. Jaqueline Kahanoff, Mi-mizrah
shemesh (Tel Aviv: Yariv-Hadar, 1978) 17.
79. Kahanoff 29.
81. Kahanoff 31.
82. Ya'irah Ginosar, "`Otzmat
ha-kfilut," `Iton 77. 8-9 (May-June 1978): 14.
83. Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren, Kayitz
Aleksandroni (Tel Aviv: `Am `Oved, 1978) 9.
84. Gormezano-Goren 134.
85. Gormezano-Goren 136.
86. Shulamit Kori'anski,
"Kmo shahar she-nirdam," Maznayim nun 1 (Dec. 1979): 151-52;
Yisra'el Bramah, "Aleksandria, hazarnu elayikh shanit," Akhshav
39-40 (Spring-Summer 1979): 341-44. Gershon Shaked adopts a similar attitude,
explicitly consigning Alexandrian Summer and other novels of the same
genre to the "margins of literary life" by designating it as
"nostalgic-folkloric," in his authoritative history of Hebrew
fiction, ha-Siporet ha-`ivrit, 1880-1980, 4 (Tel Aviv: Kibbutz Meuhad
and Keter, 1993) 173, 187.
87. Izah Perlis, "Sipurah
shel aleksandria," `Al ha-Mishmar, 29 Dec. 1978.
88. Ester Etinger, Yerushalayim
13.3 (Spring taf shin lamed tet): 92.
89. Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren, Blanche
(Tel Aviv: `Am `Oved, 1987) 80, 81.
90. Dan Miron, "Ha-genrah
ha-yam-tikhoni ha-yehudi ba-safrut ha-yisra'elit," Ha-`olam ha-zeh, 8
April 1987. Miron also discusses Amnon Shamosh's novel, Mishel `Azra Safra
u-banav, set in Aleppo.
91. Tamar Wolf, "Kitsh
aleksandroni," `Iton 77.87 (April 1987): 7.
92. Anat Levit, interview with Yitzhak Gormezano-Goren, Ma`ariv, 6
93. Robert Dassa, Be-hazarah
le-kahir (Tel Aviv: Misrad ha-Bitahon, 1992).
94. Dassa 100, 102, 105, 106.
95. Dassa 7.
96. Dassa 18, 30.
97. Dassa 14.
98. Dassa 11, 12.
99. Dassa 13.
100. Dassa 15.
101. Dassa 8.
102. Dassa 10.
103. Dassa 111.
The Article were first published on: SEHR, volume 5, issue
1: Contested Polities